How Much Does It Cost to Install a Ceramic Tile Backsplash?

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(30 square feet of handmade subway tile, installed)

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How Much Does It Cost to Install a Ceramic Tile Backsplash?

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Reviewed by Isabel Maria Perez. Written by

While it is the last thing to be installed in the kitchen, the backsplash is arguably one of the most important parts of the kitchen’s style and design. Unlike any other component of the kitchen, the backsplash serves no practical purpose. It only adds color, detail, and design.

Ceramic tiles can be machine-made or handmade. They come in multiple shapes, sizes, and colors and can be installed in numerous patterns. There is also a wide range of costs to install a ceramic tile backsplash. The national average ranges from $600 to $1,200, with most homeowners spending around $900 on a 30-square-foot handmade subway tile backsplash with no border. At the low end, you can install 30 square feet of basic machine-made tile in a straight pattern for $225. At the high end, 30 square feet of installed decorative, hand-painted, handmade tile in a complex pattern costs $3,000.

Ceramic Tile Backsplash Costs

Ceramic Tile Backsplash Installation Costs
National average cost$900
Average range$600-$1,200
Minimum cost$225
Maximum cost$3,000

Ceramic Tile Backsplash Cost by Project Range

30 square feet of basic machine-made tile in a straight pattern, installed
Average Cost
30 square feet of handmade subway tile, installed
30 square feet of decorative handmade tile in a complex pattern, installed

Ceramic Tile Backsplash Cost by Type

Ceramic tiles costs vary depending on the size, thickness, and manufacturing process. These tiles can be machine extruded and machine-cut, which makes them very even. They can be machine extruded and hand-cut with a hand-applied glaze. They can also be hand-pressed into molds with a hand-applied glaze. The more human interaction with the tile, the higher the costs.

Likewise, the tile’s size decoration also influences the price. Ceramic tiles can be ⅜ to 12 inches. They can be plain or carved, rustic or smooth, or have an inlaid or hand-painted design. Some of these characteristics also influence how much they cost to install. A machine-made tile is more even and quicker and easier to install. A rustic handmade tile is uneven, meaning the installer must use a wider grout joint and go slower, increasing the installation cost.

The following costs are for the tile only, broken down by glaze type and style. All ceramic tiles are glazed during production, but that glaze comes in several finishes:

Ceramic Tile Backsplash Cost Chart

Ceramic Tile Backsplash Cost Chart

TypeAverage Costs (Machine-made)Average Costs (Hand-made)
Glazed (glossy)$1.25 - $10/sq.ft.$10 - $50/sq.ft.
Glazed (matte)$3 - $15/sq.ft.$15 - $50/sq.ft.
Glazed (crackle)$3 - $15/sq.ft.$15 - $50/sq.ft.
Hand-paintedN/A$20 - $100/piece
Metallic$10 - $30/sq.ft.$30 - $50/sq.ft.
Large Format$15 - $30/sq.ft.N/A
Mosaic$20 - $50/sq.ft.$30 - $50/sq.ft.
InlaidN/A$50 - $100/sq.ft.

Glossy Glazed Ceramic Tile

Glossy glazed ceramic tiles are the most common type. They come in many colors, with white being the least expensive. If you opt for a machine-made tile, the glaze’s color should be consistent and solid. If you opt for a handmade tile, you may get color variation from piece to piece and even within one piece. This varies from subtle to dramatic, depending on the manufacturer. Some companies also make “watercolor” glazes that shift in tone across the tile. Machine-made ceramic tiles cost $1.25 to $10 a square foot on average, while handmade tiles range from $10 to $50 a square foot.

Matte-Glazed Ceramic Tile

If you like a flat appearance or want the look of an unglazed ceramic tile, you want a matte-glazed tile. These tiles have a glaze, but it is flat with no gloss or shine. They still come in many colors, but machine-made matte tiles can be more limited than handmade. The color of handmade matte glazed tiles still varies, depending on the company. Machine-made matte ceramic tiles cost from $3 to $15 a square foot, while handmade matte ceramic tiles cost from $15 to $50 a square foot.

Crackle-Glazed Ceramic Tile

All ceramic tile - even the matte-glazed tiles - can craze over time. This means that tiny cracks develop in the glaze. Some glazes are designed to craze, which is a crackle finish. Crackle finishes need to be sealed to prevent staining. They come in many colors, but your choices may be limited with machine-made tiles rather than handmade tiles. Handmade crackle tiles also vary in color. Machine-made crackle finish tiles cost between $3 and $15 on average, while handmade crackle finishes cost between $15 and $50 a square foot.

Hand-Painted Ceramic Tile

Many handmade ceramic tiles can also be hand-painted with decorative designs and images. Some may have 3D images embossed on the tile, and these are painted by hand to bring out the details. Others may be flat tiles painted to create a mural that you piece together. You can choose the exact colors you want to use since hand-painted tiles are made to order. If you are creating a Tuscan kitchen and want 3D tiles of grapes in several colors, you can order hand-painted tiles. Hand-painted tiles cost from $20 to $100 each on average.

Metallic Ceramic Tile

Many ceramic tiles come with a metallic glaze. This gives the tiles the appearance of different metals, including steel, copper, and bronze. Depending on the manufacturer, some of these glazes may contain actual metal like copper. When using these on your backsplash, keep in mind that copper is reactive with lemon and other acids. If you accidentally splash your backsplash with lemon juice or tomato sauce, it discolors. Metallic glazes cost around $10 to $30 a square foot for machine-made tile and $30 to $50 a square foot for handmade.

Large Format Ceramic Tile

While not as common as porcelain, large format ceramic tile exists. This tile is usually available up to 16-inches square, and it may be ⅜ to ½-inch thick. It requires special installation to prevent the tile’s corners from sticking up. This means it can be difficult to cut and install. Large format ceramic tiles are only available machine made. They cost between $15 and $30 a square foot, depending on the color and pattern.

Mosaic Ceramic Tile

Mosaics are tiles measuring 2 inches or smaller. There are many mosaic ceramic tiles. Some can be one color, others a blend, pattern, or small handmade decorative tiles. Mosaic tiles come mounted on a sheet, with most ceramic tiles netted on the back. This makes for an easier installation. You can also cut the sheet into strips to use for borders. Some companies allow you to choose the color blends for a mosaic sheet. Expect to pay around $20 to $50 a square foot for machine-made and $30 to $50 a square foot for handmade tiles.

Inlaid Ceramic Tile

If you want a special and unique backsplash, consider getting inlaid ceramic tile. This is a handmade tile with sections carved from the wet clay. These sections are added back with a different colored clay. Then, the entire tile is given a clear glaze so that the colorful patterns show through. The effect is full of depth and dimension and can give you a backsplash with personality. These tiles cost between $50 and $100 a square foot.

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Ceramic Tile Backsplash Cost by Pattern

Ceramic tile is great for its range of shapes and sizes and can be installed in countless patterns. However, there are several common sizes, shapes, and patterns that most people use. Depending on the tile and pattern, you need to order at least 10% to 20% more to account for breakage and cuts. Complex patterns require a minimum of 20% extra. Always have a few extra tiles left over for future repairs:

Ceramic Tile Backsplash Patterns

Ceramic Tile Backsplash Patterns

Subway Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Subway patterns are one of the most popular patterns for backsplashes. This pattern is a running bond and can be created with square or rectangular tiles, although the 3”x6” rectangle is the most common. The tiles are installed off-set from one another by half a tile. Because the 3”x6” tile is the most common, and the backsplash is 18” high, you can get 6 courses of tile into the backsplash with minimal cuts.

Straight-Set Ceramic Tile Backsplash

The straight-set pattern is the least expensive. You can use square or rectangular tiles for this pattern and a single color or blend of colors. You can also use two or more colors to create a color pattern within the shape pattern, such as a checkerboard or using rows of tile to create stripes. The number of courses you can fit into a backsplash depends on the tile’s size. Most backsplashes are 18” high, so the most common way to install straight set tile is to lay one course of 4” tile at the counter, then install a 2” border, followed by 3 more courses of 4” tile. The same applies to a 4”x8” tile, while a 6” tile could have 3 full courses, and a 12” tile would have 1½ courses in this layout.

Diagonal Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Many people also like to install backsplash tiles diagonally. This gives the backsplash a more decorative look than a straight-set square tile. This pattern requires cuts on every tile on the backsplash’s sides and cuts at least every other tile at the top and bottom. Depending on how the installer starts the pattern, there may be cuts around the entire perimeter. You pay considerably more money for this installation, and you need considerably more material to account for the cuts.

Herringbone Ceramic Tile Backsplash

The herringbone pattern is made out of rectangular tiles. The most common size for a backsplash is 3”x6”, but 2”x4”, 4”x8”, and mosaics of 1”x2” can also work. The tiles are installed set at 45-degree angles, with the short ends abutting the long ends. This creates movement in the backsplash. It is most common to see this pattern installed behind the cooktop, with a subway pattern on the countertops. A chair rail tile or a border tile can be used as a picture frame around the herringbone to set the two apart.

Cut-Corner Pattern

A cut-corner pattern is not as common on the backsplash as on the floor, but it is still used sometimes, particularly in tone-on-tone patterns. For example, if you use two sizes of white tile, the pattern creates a subtle dimension. In this pattern, the larger tile corners are cut, and the smaller tile is set in that place. An octagon-and-dot pattern is an example of a cut corner pattern, but not all corners need to be cut. The pattern can also be created by cutting just one corner of each tile and aligning the cut corners. This pattern takes a lot of time to properly put together, with the necessary cuts. For this reason, these patterns cost more.

Step Pattern

Step patterns combine two sizes of tile in a backsplash without all the cuts. This is a more modern way of mixing sizes than the cut-corner pattern and works better in contemporary settings. This pattern is made with two sizes of square tiles. The smaller tile is installed at the top, side corner of the larger tile. The next course of the larger tiles are offset by the smaller one, so they move across the backsplash in a series of “steps.” The placement of the tiles creates movement across the area. If you want to make the pattern interesting, substitute the smaller ceramic tile for a glass tile to pop out against the larger ceramic tile.

Ceramic Tile Backsplash Sizes

Ceramic tiles come in many sizes. They also come in circles, thin “stix” of ½”x8” inches, diamonds, beveled edges, and multiple sizes of rectangles and squares. You can find ceramic tiles up to 18”, but these are rare and made for flooring. Most backsplashes are made of tiles ranging from 1 to 4 inches. You can also blend the tiles in different sizes to create a unique look. Below are some of the average cost ranges for the most common sizes:

Ceramic Tile Backsplash Price Chart

Ceramic Tile Backsplash Price Chart

Tile SizeAverage Cost Range (Material Only)
4-inch$1.25 - $30/sq.ft.
3 x 6-inch$1.25 - $30/sq.ft.
2 x 4-inch$10 - $50/sq.ft.
2-inch$10 - $50/sq.ft.
1-inch$20 - $100/sq.ft.

Ceramic Tile Backsplash Cost by Shape

Ceramic tiles come in several sizes and shapes. Many companies make their tiles in several shapes to mix and match to create different patterns. The tile’s shape does not impact the cost as much as the type, size, and color. Some shapes may lend themselves better to certain patterns, increasing labor costs, but the shapes themselves have little impact on the tile’s cost.

Ceramic Tile Backsplash Shapes

Ceramic Tile Backsplash Shapes

Square Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Square tiles are the most common. They come in the most colors and the most sizes in some cases. They can be installed straight, offset in a running bond, or turned on the diagonal. They can be laid in a single color or in a mixture of colors to create a unique backsplash. Square tiles are also the easiest to install, particularly when laid in a straight pattern.

Rectangular Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Rectangular tiles are very popular for backsplashes, particularly in the 3”x6” size when installed in a running bond or subway pattern. Rectangular tiles can be installed in several ways, from the running bond to a horizontal stack to a vertical stack and even a herringbone. This means that you can create a unique backsplash to fit your needs. Rectangular tiles also come in other sizes from mosaic to 4”x8”, all of which work well on the backsplash.

Diamond Ceramic Tile Backsplash

While most people create the look of a “diamond” backsplash by turning a square tile on its end, you can also find tiles shaped like an actual diamond. These tiles are longer than wide, with a traditional diamond shape. They are most commonly installed straight up and down but can be installed at angles as well. If they are smaller than 2”x4”, they are usually mounted on mesh for easier installation.

Mosaic Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Mosaic tiles are any tile measuring 2 inches or less. Ceramic tiles can be found in mosaics down to ⅜” and in ½”, 1”, and 1”x2” sizes. To make them easier to install, they are usually mounted on a mesh sheet measuring around 12 inches. Mosaics take more work to install because the mortar needs to be smoothed out before putting up each sheet, increasing the installation cost.

Penny Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Penny tiles or “dots” are round circular tiles. They are ⅝ to 3 inches in diameter. Some companies mix sizes on one sheet for an interesting mix of color and size. The tiles can be found in sheets of a single color, or you can custom order a blend of colors to perfectly complement your home. Penny tiles install like mosaics, with a smooth mortar, so they may cost more to install.

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Cost to Install Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Labor costs are generally priced per square foot but vary depending on a few factors. For example, a machine-made tile is easier to cut and install. Thinner tiles are also easier to cut and faster to install. The thicker and more rustic the tile, the more difficult and time-consuming the installation is, leading to higher costs. Typical labor costs for a tile backsplash installation range from $5 to $10 a square foot. For a 30-square-foot installation of a handmade ceramic tile backsplash, the installation cost is around $300 of the $900 total.

Ceramic Tile Backsplash Installation Process

The installation process varies depending on several factors, from the tile’s type and size to the kitchen’s shape. But most installations are carried out similarly.

The backsplash is measured, and an area is marked off of equal size and shape. The positions of the outlets are noted and marked in the floor layout. The tiles are now laid out in this area, called a dry fit or dry layout. This is important for handmade tiles because the glazes must be mixed for an even look. Any cuts are made, and then the tiles are returned to the dry fit for quality control. Outlet box extenders are installed to allow the covers to fit over the new thickness of the backsplash.

A thin layer of mortar is applied to the wall and keyed. This is the process of dragging the mortar to a consistent depth with a trowel. The tiles are pressed into the mortar in the same pattern determined in the dry fit. If necessary, grout spacers may be inserted between them. The tile can sit undisturbed for about 24 hours. At this point, if the tile is crazed or textured, it will be given a grout release sealer or a coat of oil soap to make cleanup easier.

The grout is applied to the backsplash, and caulk is added to the corners and 90-degree angles. The grout needs to dry for an additional 24 hours, and your new backsplash is ready.

modern ceramic kitchenware and utensils on the black granite counter top

Pros and Cons of Ceramic Tile Backsplashes

Like any material, ceramic tile backsplashes have positive and negative attributes to consider. Ceramic tiles are lightweight, attractive, and easy to cut and install. They come in numerous colors, patterns, sizes, and styles so that you can create a custom backsplash for your home.

Ceramic tiles are easy to clean, so any splatters do not harm the tiles. Most ceramic tiles are also easy to remove and replace. So if you choose to have a new backsplash in a few years, this is not difficult to accomplish.

Ceramic is a clay tile covered with a glaze. Any glaze may craze over time, meaning getting thin cracks in it. Sometimes this is a design choice, but even solid glazes may craze, especially those installed above the cooktop because heat can contribute to crazing. Crazed tiles must be sealed to prevent staining and can be higher maintenance than other materials.

When using a handmade tile, your grout joint is probably wider than with some other materials. Some grouts can stain, which means choosing a pre-sealed or epoxy grout that is harder to install or choosing to seal the grout yearly.

Finally, if you choose to use a hand-painted or decorative ceramic tile, these can become dated quickly.

Ceramic vs Porcelain Backsplash

While the names sound similar, a ceramic and porcelain backsplash look very different. Ceramic tile is a glazed tile made from wet clay. It may be fired, then glazed and fired again (bicottura), or glazed and fired once (monocottura). While there are floor-rated ceramic tiles, most backsplash tiles are designed for wall use. They may have bright colors, different shapes, and the glaze may be matte, glossy, rustic, watercolor, or crazed.

Porcelain tiles are made from compressed clay dust that has been fired to high temperatures. They are not usually glazed, but they can be. The tiles usually come in 2”, 6”, 12”, and larger sizes, so there is less size and shape variation. The tiles may be textured, smooth, or polished, but they lack the decorative nature of the ceramics. A porcelain tile is usually longer-wearing, so they are designed for flooring.

You can use porcelain on the backsplash, and some porcelains have color variation between the tiles. This can give your backsplash the look of stone, wood, glass, or fabric, rather than the look of tile.

Porcelain tends to be more expensive than ceramic tiles, starting at $7 a square foot. It is harder to cut and install, so installation costs usually start higher at $10 to $12 a square foot. Porcelain is maintenance-free and does not require sealing because there is no glaze to crack or craze.

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Enhancement and Improvement Costs

Removal of Old Backsplash

Backsplashes are relatively easy to remove and change out, so it is common to replace them when the kitchen needs updating. Backsplashes are removed with a pry bar and can be done DIY. Or, the installer can remove the old one for around $2 to $3 a square foot, or about $60 to $90.

Drywall Repair

If the drywall is damaged, it may need to be repaired or replaced before the new tile can be put on. This costs between $60 and $100, depending on the repair’s extent.

New Countertops

When giving your kitchen a new look with a backsplash, you may also want to replace the countertop. New countertops cost between $1,200 and $6,000, depending on the material, with an average cost of $3,000 for granite countertops.

Additional Considerations and Costs

  • Discounts. Some installers may offer discounts on the backsplash if you have it tiled at the same time as a countertop, floor, or another project. Always ask about available packages.
  • Colors. Use a contrasting or bright color or decorative pattern in your backsplash to create a focal point in the room. This is particularly true if you have a larger area to tile, such as behind the cooktop.
  • Maintenance. Ceramic tile is very easy to maintain. The grout may need to be sealed to prevent staining, particularly when using a handmade tile that needs a wider grout joint. After that, the backsplash can be washed with soap and water unless the glaze begins to craze. If cracks are present in the glaze, it should be sealed yearly with an impregnating sealer. Otherwise, there is no additional maintenance.
  • Extending Countertops. While ceramic tile is a fairly inexpensive way to create a backsplash, you can also have your stone or quartz countertop extended to create a backsplash. This costs around $150 a square foot or $4,500 for 30 square feet.
  • Bathroom Ceramic Backsplash. While less common, you can also install a small backsplash in your bathroom. This can be a single row of tiles behind the sink or frame the mirror and extend to the ceiling. Ceramic tile works very well here because it is water-resistant. If you have tile in the shower, consider using the same on the backsplash.


  • How much does it cost to install ceramic tile per square foot?

Costs range from between $5 and $10 a square foot on average for installation, depending on the type of tile.

  • How long does it take to install a ceramic tile backsplash?

​The tile itself can go up in just a few hours, but it takes 24 hours before grouting can occur and an additional 24 hours for the grout to cure.

  • Is ceramic tile good for a kitchen backsplash?

Yes, ceramic tile makes an excellent material for kitchen backsplashes due to the many colors and patterns available.

  • How do you clean a ceramic tile backsplash?

Clean a ceramic tile backsplash with your favorite cleaner unless the tile has a green glaze. In this case, use a pH-neutral cleaner to avoid discoloration.​

  • Can you install a ceramic backsplash over wallpaper or paneling?

If you have wallpaper or paneling where you want to install a backsplash, you need to remove it first. The ceramic tile is only as stable as the material behind it. Adding the weight and the tile’s wet mortar to another substrate could cause that substrate to delaminate off your wall. This would cause the tiles to fall off, along with bubbling wallpaper or peeling paneling. Always install tiles on drywall or cement backer board and not on wallpaper or paneling.​

Cost to install a ceramic tile backsplash varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

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Cost to install a ceramic tile backsplash varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

The information provided by our cost guides comes from a great variety of sources, including specialized publications and websites, cost studies, U.S. associations, reports from the U.S. government, contractors and subcontractors, material suppliers, material price services, and other vendor websites. For more information, read our Methodology and sources