How Much Wall Tile Do I Need? A Guide to DIY Backsplashes

June 20, 2019

how much wall tile do i need a guide to diy backsplashes

Do you leaf through home improvement magazines or browse Pinterest for ideas — and think, “I could do that”? While some projects are best left for the pros, there are plenty that can be done by a handy DIY-er over a weekend. One of the best DIY home projects is installing a wall tile backsplash!

Sometimes the toughest part of a project is figuring out where to start. Let’s jump right in and discuss the first step, at least after you’ve chosen a wall tile design. How much wall tile do you need for the backsplash project? After all, you want to make sure you don’t order too much, because it may be non-returnable. You need to have enough before you begin, or else you’ll need to head back to the supplier for another few boxes. You’ll also want to have some left over when the project’s done in case you need to replace it one day. Even if it’s a simple, basic type of modern tile, it might be difficult to match it a few years from now.

Measuring Your Backsplash

Whether you’re installing a straightforward square or rectangular area or have a complicated design in mind, by measuring carefully you will know exactly how much wall tile to purchase. Most boxes of tile contain 10 square feet of tile, though this can vary, so check your box to be sure before you leave the store or place the order. Grab a measuring tape, calculator, and a pen and paper.

stacked stone kitchen backsplash with quartz countertopCreate a similar look with MSI's Sparkling Autumn (Photo Credit: Houzz)

Straightforward Designs

If you are installing square or rectangular backsplash designs, calculating the amount of tile you need is simple multiplication:

· Measure the length of the area you will be covering with tile.

· Measure the width of the area.

· Multiply the two measurements; this is the total square feet.

· If the total amount is not an even number of feet, measure the inches and convert them into feet with decimal places.

· Divide this number by 10, or the number of square feet in each package of tile.

Examples: The length of the backsplash is 20 feet, and it will be 2 feet tall. The total area is 40 square feet, and there are 10 square feet of tile in each box. You will need at least four boxes of wall tile.

The length of the backsplash is 250 inches. The height is 18 inches. Convert the measurements into feet: 250 / 12 = 20.83 feet length, 18 / 12 = 1.5 feet height. Multiply: 20.83 x 1.5 = 31.25 square feet. Order at least four boxes of tile.

hotel look bathroom wall mosaicFeatured: Saddleback Canyon

Complicated Areas

Many backsplash designs are a combination of areas. For example, your backsplash may extend around a corner, or you may want to cover a larger area behind the stove. In such cases, just divide the area up into separate rectangular areas and do the calculations for each area separately, then add up the total.


The backsplash area from the corner to the cabinet edge is 8 feet long by 18 inches tall (area A). There is a 3-foot-long space between the cabinets for the stove and range hood, and you want to cover the wall up to 26 inches (area B). On the other side of the stove, the backsplash area will be 5 ½ feet by 18 inches tall (area C).

Area A: 8 feet x 1.5 feet (18 inches) = 12 square feet

Area B: 3 feet x 2.17 feet (26 inches) = 6.51 square feet

Area C: 5.5 feet x 1.5 feet (18 inches) = 8.25 square feet Total: 12 + 6.51 + 8.25 = 26.76 square feet total.You will need at least 3 boxes.

How Much Extra?

You will need extra tile. For one thing, there’s always a chance that a tile will be damaged either in storage or during the installation process. If you are using a type of wall tile with a fancy shape, or a complex mosaic, you will want extra tile to make sure everything lines up properly, especially around obstacles such as outlets and switches. Tiles may need to be cut to fit.

Another reason to buy extra tile is for repairs. If a tile cracks and needs to be replaced, you may have trouble finding an identical tile to match. Even if it is a basic, solid-colored type of tile, the new tile could be slightly lighter or darker than the rest.

We recommend purchasing at least 10% extra to keep on hand. If you’re using wall tile with a fancy shape or pattern, we recommend 15% extra.

When installing tile diagonally, measure the area as usual and add an extra 20% to the total amount of tile needed for the project. This is in addition to the 10-15% extra you will want to have on hand for any type of installation.

dramatic subway kitchen backsplashFeatured: Metallic Gray

Common Mistakes Math errors:Sure, it looks simple, but it’s still not a bad idea to have someone check over your calculations.

Different lots of tile: Most tile is stocked in lot numbers, and tiles in the same lot are identical in shade and pattern. However, it’s not unusual to find more than one lot on the shelf of a store. Even if your tile is delivered by a supplier, mistakes happen. If your tile lots are different, one may be visibly lighter or darker than the other.

Wrong number of tiles in the box: Most boxes of tile contain 10 square feet, but this is not always the case. Double-check the number of tiles in each box of the tile you have selected before making your purchase. Using the wrong equipment: If you need to cut tiles to fit, make sure you have the right type of saw. Otherwise, there’s a higher risk of breaking tile, in which case you will need more.

Buyer’s remorse: The last thing you want is to install your tile and discover that you don’t like it as much as you thought. It’s hard to picture what a whole backsplash will look like just by looking at a few tile samples. MSI’s backsplash visualizer will show you the big picture!

Most DIY projects are done on a tight budget with a limited amount of time, so it can be tempting to cut corners or jump in without adequate preparation. Be patient and measure carefully before ordering or purchasing your tile. You will then be ready to do the job with confidence!