DIY Subway Tile Backsplash

*Update:  You can see our entire kitchen remodel with links to tons of DIY projects here!

Raise your hand if you thought a tile backsplash would be too expensive for your budget? ME!!! And I was so wrong.  I have always loved the classic look of a white subway tile {pretty, timeless, and classy} but never thought we could afford it.  Why did I think that? I have no idea. I just assumed tile=moola.  Wrong.  We found simple 3×6 white subway tile at Home Depot for $0.23 a piece.  For all you nonmathematicians out there, that’s cheap.  We tiled our whole backsplash {including mortar, grout, tools, and tile} for around $70! We thought that was pretty good.  Here’s how we did it.

Step 1: take off old backsplash {if you have one}.  We had to remove the beadboard we put up last year.  Then lightly sand your walls.  Lightly. This should not be time-consuming.

Next, we patched in our phone jack.  Huh?  That may sound weird but we don’t have a home phone anymore and don’t plan on having on in the future so we patched it in.

If, at some point, we want that back, we can remove the tile in front and open it back up but it was just an eye sore and unnecessary so we just covered that baby up. Now it’s time for tile.  We laid out our tile first to make sure we wanted to go with a brick pattern.

The brick style required a few cuts to get started.  Rather than renting some sort of tile saw, Mike just bought an attachment for his Dremel that is meant for cutting tile {cost: $12}.  This was the perfect tool for the job because we had to make a lot of small cuts on tiles that go around light sockets and this little guy easily did that.  To cut the tile, we started by taping the area with masking tape.  This just gives it a little protection as you cut.

Then we cut a tile in half to start our rows.

After we cut the first tile, it was time to put them up.  We decided to use the bottom of our upper cabinets as our straight line.  We checked to make sure they were level first and then started to stick the tiles on.  We did around 5 at a time across the top and then started working our way down.

Our spacers helped us figure out where the line up the row underneath.  We basically just eyeballed it as we went and it turned out very straight.  See the space between our bottom tile row and our counter backsplash?  We decided to tile first and then make our counter backsplash to the height of our tile {we made our own concrete counters so we were able to adjust those rather than cut a bunch of bottom tiles}. This way we wouldn’t have to cut an entire row of tile to fit.  Here is how it looked after we had all the tile up and spaced.

We let that sit for 24 hours before removing the spacers and starting the grout.  I used a rubber trowel to fill in the spaces with the grout.

I did about a 2 foot space at a time and then started wiping down.  I used a dampened sponge and wiped away all the excess grout off the tiles.

Once all the grout dried {about 4 hours later}, I went back over the tile again with the damp sponge to get it clean and shiny.   I would say it took about 3-4 hours to tile the backsplash and another 3-4 hours to apply the grout.  It definitely adds a touch of class and give our kitchen a high-end look.



It was much easier and much cheaper than I expected and we love the result.  What about you? Have you ever DIY’d a backsplash?  Think you might now? :)


  1. It’s looks great and I just love the wall plates you chose.

  2. Wendilou says:

    Great job! The finished kitchen is spectacular! I would never have thought to use my Dremel to cut tile; what a great reminder. I have some horrible faux brick (pieces of wood cut and placed to look like brick, except it doesn’t) as my backsplash and I assumed it was a bigger project than it was. I know what I’m doing this week! :) Thanks for the inspiration and motivation.

  3. Looks great! We plan to replace our current tile backsplash with something new and I wanted to do it myself, but wasn’t sure about cutting the tile. I bought hubby a dremel for Christmas so knowing I can use that is great news! Pinning this! :)

  4. What an absolutely adorable DIY! Well done.

    I hope that you will stop by and enter my giveaway.

    Happy Monday!

  5. Looks amazing. I’m having a party today and every Monday at Would love for you to stop by and link up this project and any other projects.

  6. This looks GORGEOUS!!! Gonna bug my hubbs in the morning for subway tiles!!!

  7. Loved the tile work, had it done, but don’t know how/what to finish the open edge of the wall. One edge goes behind refrigerator. What did you use? thanks

  8. Hi Jessie. Just bought a house and totally forgot to see if they had a backsplash in already and they don’t! Can you explain how you got rid of the gap between the bottom row and the counter backsplash?

    • Hi Louise! I swear I answered this question when you wrote it the other day and it never showed up! I’m sorry, I just now noticed it! Let’s try again…

      We made our own concrete countertops so we were able to make our counter backsplash higher so it met up with the tile. I know this isn’t a luxury most people have, so there are a couple options out there if you need to work with a set counter. I would probably start my tile just above the backsplash and work my way to the top. This way, if you have to cut any tiles, the small ones would be at the top and not the bottom. The other option would be to work with your spacers to fit. You can get larger or smaller spacers {where your grout will go} to make the spacing of the tiles fit with the area you have to backsplash. We filled the bottom of the tile with a clear silicone to fill the small gap we had between the tile and the counter backsplash. I hope this helps! Good luck:) I’d love to see what you do when it’s finished!


  9. albertagirl says:

    Hi Jessie,
    Love it , love it , love it- this was exactly what I was looking to do in our kitchen( and even better you have the same microwave with vent hood and what appears to be kitchen as me so this is great).
    I have read thru the instructions you give but could you better explain the part where you say ,” We decided to tile first and then make our counter backsplash to the height of our tile. This way we wouldn’t have to cut an entire row of tile to fit.” I am not quite understanding the statement.
    Also if I am correct and wrt to Louise’s question above mine- it looks like the gap was filled with silicon ,correct?

    Again what a great job

    • Hi Kim!
      We made concrete countertops after we tiled, so we were able to make our counter backsplash taller to meet up with the bottom of the tile. If your tiles do not fit evenly from the counter backsplash up to your upper cabinets, you may have to cut some tiles lengthwise to fit. I told Louise you could also make your grout spaces larger or smaller to fit the same area so you wouldn’t have to cut any tiles. Does that make any sense? And, yes, the small gap that we did leave at the bottom was filled with a clear silicone. Let me know if you have any other questions and I’ll do my best to explain:)


  10. Hi Jessie! Wow – that backsplash change looks great! We did a similar thing to our kitchen but it was more of those smaller glass tiles. I love the look you chose. Looks beautiful! Would it be ok to link to your post? I love your step-by-step instructions. And like displaying images of people’s DIY work. :)

  11. This is great info! I have granite going in on April 6th and then I will start this project….yikes.

  12. Where did you get the outlet covers? I love the framed look but can’t figure out where to get them. Thanks!

  13. This came out great! Thank you for sharing on my FB page :) White subway is definitely in the running :)

  14. I am considering doing subway tile for my kitchen rang and maybe behind sink as well. I assume the tile you used is ceramic and wonder if you had much breakage with this in lieu of porcelain.

    I currently have stained cabinets(similar to the color of yours)and plan to paint those a white/grey color. Seeing your gorgeous “new kitchen” has served to inspire me.

    • Hi Lynn,
      We didn’t have any breaking during the process. Mike accidentally chipped a couple when he was cutting around the edges for the outlets, but that was user error:) I would recommend the ceramic-inexpensive and look just as nice. Good luck with your project!

  15. Hi! We are currently doing subway tiling now for our back splash as well. I was wondering what kind of grout you used. Sanded or unsanded?


  16. Hi! Jessie, I’m a first timer here. I am doing a subway tiles backsplash, the same one as yours. I was browing for ideas and reinforcement, and found you! What a great surprise. When I started reading your instructions , I found out you made your concrete countertops. We did that as well. So sad I read these afterwards because it did not occur to me to make the concrete backsplash piece too : (. But well!!!
    What I would like to know is which sealer did you use for the counter. We made the counters on late August, and in just 2 months, we’ve already sealed it twice with 2 different sealers. We have envionmental concerns, however we are not still happy with the results. Were you lucky with your sealer choice? Can you share which brand did you use?

    • I’m curious to know this as well… We tried miracle sealants impregnating sealer and have been pretty disappointed. Kitchen looks great by the way. We are actually doing nearly the same thing with the subway tile in our kitchen.

  17. Hi there! We are about to do our own subway backsplash this weekend and I was so happy to come across this blog! A couple questions:

    1. We also have to patch up our phone jack (!), did you do anything special to accomplish this or did you just treat it as filling in any regular hole in your wall?

    2. Would you mind if I posted a link to your site on my craft / DIY blog? I love the step-by-steps and want to give you credit.


    • Hi Beth! That’s awesome. To cover the phone jack, we just patched the hole with wood and then tiled over it. You just need to have something there to tile onto! And you are more than welcome to link over-I appreciate it!


  18. Could this be done over old tile already on? Or on smooth surface only?

  19. Hi Jessie!
    This looks great, what type of dremel tool did you use? 100/200? Thanks!

  20. Hi Jessie ! What a great job you folks have done. I was wondering what type of Dremil bit you got to do this job. I am ready to tile my backsplash and the guys at my local home improvement store are no help at all. They are unsure what bit I should use. I don’t live near a Home Depot or other store like that so I will have to have the order on line . Thanks

    • Hi Jean! Mike said it was a glass and tile bit. We have since done another subway project and used our Dremel SawMax with the bit that came on it. Hope that helps!

  21. Jessie, From the pictures, it looks like you just applied a tile adhesive directly to the drywall on the wall, correct? I’ve always used some sort of concrete backer board in place of drywall (ie: cut a strip of drywall out and replace w/ 1/2″ backer). Have you had any issues with your tiles falling off?


    • Nope! We’ve done this in two homes and with a backsplash, applying to the drywall is fine.

    • Hi Liam,
      We used concrete board when tiling shower walls and floors. However, for a kitchen backsplash it hasn’t been necessary. No issues falling off!

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