Backsplash Tile Layout

By Todd Fratzel on Kitchens

Laying Out A Tile Backsplash

As I pointed out recently we’re going to be writing several articles about how to install a tile backsplash for kitchens. Our first article focused on selecting a tile backsplash so for this article I’d like to discuss how to lay out a tile backsplash. In a perfect world that backsplash would be a length that’s a perfect dividend of the individual tile lengths. Furthermore in a perfect world that major appliances, windows and architectural features would also fall perfectly on the tile lines. Well folks as we all know nothing is perfect especially when it comes to construction.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Before jumping feet first into a project like this you really do need to take your time and develop a plan. Picking out backsplash materials can be fun but trying to incorporate your new “idea” into a real working design can be a tall task. Without a plan you’re likely to start at one end and soon realize that nothing is lining up and your beautiful design isn’t all that beautiful anymore. Take the time to identify and recognize all the obstacles and issues that might impact your tile layout.

Draw A Sketch

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and that’s so very true when it comes to a sketch! There are several ways to create a useful sketch from using graph paper to a full blown CAD drafting software. The reality is a piece of graph paper can work just as well as anything. For this project I’ve decided to use Google’s Sketchup because it’s a piece of software that I’m used to.

For our backsplash project the difficult wall is the one with the bar top on the left, window and stove in the center. The trick here is centering on focal points and making sure there are no really small odd pieces left over. For this project I’ve decided to start the tiles centered on the window which is also the center of the kitchen sink.

The tan tiles represent the 3 inches tall by 6 inches long tumbled marble tiles and the gray represents the accent tiles which are 2-3/4 inch by 8 inches long. Vertically there wasn’t much to decide, I’ve started with full height tiles along the top of the granite backsplash. Then I follow with another 3 inch tall marble tile, followed by the 2-3/4 inch tall accent, followed by another full marble tile and then a partial tile cut to fit.

For this layout the trick was working with the staggers between the 6 inch wide marble tiles and the 8 inch long accent tiles. After playing with the design it seems to work best by starting the full 8 inch tiles on either side of the window and working towards the ends. What I wanted to avoid was having grout lines match up and this design creates that look.

Take Your Time

As you can see this can be quite complicated. The key is to take your time and try different layouts. It’s much easier to figure this out on paper instead of putting tiles on the wall and then tearing them all down. Once you’ve come up with the design that you like you can use the sketches to transform the design onto the wall with pencil as a guide during the installation.

If you’d like to see the final pictures of our new backsplash along with a summary of all the backsplash articles then visit our complete guide on how to install a kitchen backsplash.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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  1. Really good points for planning a backsplash. We help our clients with this and it does take careful planning. Yes, choosing the tile is the fun part. Making it work for the dimensions of the backsplash is sometimes a challenge. You can not emphasize planning too much!

  2. robert robillard says:


    Nice post I’m looking forward to seeing your choices. I love the Travertine sub way tiles.

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