How to Create a Subway Tile Backsplash

Hello Friends! How was your weekend!? I was able to knock-out a couple organizational projects (I love to deep clean in January!) one of which we will be sharing – soon… I hope! But today we are going to show you how to tile a subway tile backsplash!

For this project you can use any rectangular tile you want and adjust the measurements as necessary. We picked out a White Daltile 3” x 6” tile from Home Depot. I am not sure how much they are per tile, but a box is only $22! We bought 4 boxes and had more than enough. The best part is that we could bring back the tiles we didn’t use. Okay… that’s not the best part… the best part is our amazing white tile subway backsplash… the returning part is just a fun little perk!

For our backsplash we used 1/8” tile spacers. We had a mixture of purple ones and white ones. I tried to take pictures with the purple ones so you can see them better. We like to dump ours in a paper bowl for easy access.

The mortar we used is a thin set pre-mixed mortar that we bought at Home Depot. I loved this because there was no mixing and no mess – we could just get to work! You also want to make sure you use thin set mortar on your backsplash. It is the perfect consistency so your tiles stay put and isn’t too thick.

You also want to make sure you use a slotted blade! Why? Because the cutouts create space between the tile and the wall and when you press the tile onto the wall it “sucks” it on so it stays better! Simply put your mortar on your tile and when you scrape off the extra, the slots will make the lines for the mortar you need to use.


Set your tile saw up somewhere close and outside since it is a water saw and let’s get to work!

For our backsplash, we started on the side of the kitchen with a bar top counter and a window and went from there. The most important part of tiling is making sure you are inline and straight. You want to make sure all your lines line up both horizontally and vertically. One of the best ways to do this is to take your level and make a line on your wall so you know where your tiles should line up.

How to Create a Subway Tile Backsplash (19) copy How to Create a Subway Tile Backsplash (3) copy

You may also want to play around with your design to make sure you like how the tiles will fall. I wanted a longer tile to overhang the bar top so we started there and made our lines and cuts based off that tile. Since our tile is 6” we have a line drawn at 6” and at 9”.

(Sorry about the awesome picture… taking a picture into the light of the window is a challenge for me!)

How to Create a Subway Tile Backsplash (4) copy

With our lines drawn we cut and mortared up our first tile! To mark your tile, simply take a permanent marker and mark the tile where it touches the pen line. This makes it easier to get an accurate cut then trying to measure and mark from under the bar top.

At first we thought we wanted a little space between the countertop and the tile (you can see the purple spacers), but after placing a few we decided against it and simply put the tile onto the counter. Our counter is level so it makes a good starting “line.” After placing the first few tiles, we were on a roll.


We had a few outlets and light switches to cut around. You can find the tutorial on how to cut out the outlets here.  Remember to step back every so often and make sure all your lines are lining up.

Whenever we came to a “tricky” spot, we would bust out the level, draw a simple little line and keep on going. This ensured we would cut the tile where it needed to be cut and ease the pain of screwing up.

How to Create a Subway Tile Backsplash (23) copy 

After all the tile was done and set and before we grouted, we sealed the tile to the counter with a premium waterproof (clear) permanent silicone. We didn’t want to take the chance of something getting under the tile and since it is the kitchen – you want it waterproof!

Apply a small bead and then simply smooth it out with your finger.


Now we wait for the mortar to cure and then we grout!! I am so excited about this project that I feel like I have been in a permanent state of “happy dances!” since we finished it!

Want to know how to grout? Good!! Because we a a tutorial for that too!!


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Hey there! We are Spencer and Amanda, a DIY husband and Wife team, sharing projects we build and create together for our home. Since buying our home in 2007 we have had the saying that Spencer builds it and makes it work and Amanda makes it look good. We hope you will stick around because we always have projects in the works!

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