How to Install Herringbone Tile

Everyone loves a gorgeous herringbone tile backsplash but it can become quite expensive not only because it is more labor intensive but also because of the extra waste material from cutting all these tiles in so many different places. Not every tile installer is skilled enough to install a Herringbone pattern, it can be a bit more complex than traditional tile layouts due to the diagonal pattern. It’s easy to mess up if you don’t know a few essential tips and tricks to installing tile. So we have our Certified Tile installer, Andy, with us showing us exactly how you can DIY your own herringbone tile backsplash or tile shower, without breaking the remodeling bank.

Keep in mind that specific steps may vary depending on the type of tile, your surface, and other factors.

Materials You’ll Need:

  • Long Rectangular tiles (You will need 20% Extra for Waste)
  • Tile adhesive (We used Mastic)
  • Trowel
  • Tile spacers
  • Carpenter's Square (This set is Sara’s Favorite)
  • Level or Laser Level
  • Tile cutter and/ or Wet Saw (This is Andy’s Favorite)
  • Notched trowel
  • Grout
  • Grout Float
  • Sponge
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Mortar mixing tools (bucket, mixing paddle)
  • Clean, dry cloth

Follow this pattern every step of the way:

 Preparation:

  • Ensure your surface is clean, and dry.
  • Measure and mark the focal point of your backsplash. This will serve as your starting point for laying the herringbone pattern.
  • Cover floors and countertops to protect them from any dripping mortar or grout.
  • Check how level your countertops and cabinets are by using a laser level or by drawing a straight line on the wall. This will guarantee that your tile doesn’t start to get lopsided due to a countertop being off level.

Dry Layout:

  • Lay out a few rows of tiles on a flat surface so that you can visualize the pattern and make any necessary adjustments. This step helps you plan how the tiles will fit at the edges and corners. Use a carpenter’s square for the angle of the tiles.
  • Use a sharpie to draw the cutting lines on your tile. Mark the tiles also so that you don’t get confused with the scrap vs. the real tile you will use.
  • Draw on the wall, where your trim piece will go. Make sure you check it with a level.
mortar must provide full coverage and all in one direction

Applying Thin-Set Mortar/ Mastic:

  • Apply Mastic to a section of the wall and spread evenly in different directions at first to ensure that the area is fully covered, this will also make sure to get rid of any air bubbles.
  • Once you have sufficient coverage, hold the trowel at a 45-degree angle and create ridges in the Mastic, all going in one direction.
  • Press a tile into the mortar, aligning it with the centerline and using tile spacers to maintain uniform gaps between tiles.
herringbone tile going around window sill

Building the Herringbone Pattern:

  • Place the next tile at a 45-degree angle to the first tile, creating the herringbone pattern.
  • Use tile spacers to maintain consistent gaps between tiles. Adjust the tiles as needed to ensure they’re properly aligned and level.
  • Check the level often to make sure you don’t end up with a lopsided pattern.
a grinder can cut tile too

Cutting Tiles:

  • As you reach the edges of the room, you’ll likely need to cut tiles to fit. Measure and mark tiles that need cutting, and use a tile cutter or wet saw to make precise cuts.
  • Watch our video above on how to approach different tight cuts on your tile.
herringbone tile in corners

Completing the Installation:

  • Continue laying tiles in the herringbone pattern, working in small sections and applying mortar as needed.
  • Remember when you get to the corners to cut 1/8 of an inch off the tile before creating the bend on the wall. This will give the tile the illusion of having been bent in half.
grouting tile

Grouting:

  • Once the tiles are set and the mortar has cured (follow manufacturer’s guidelines), remove the tile spacers.
  • Mix the grout according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Remember to add water very slowly, you want a thick consistency.
  • Use a grout float to apply grout diagonally across the tiles, pressing it into the gaps. Work in small sections.
  • Wipe off excess grout from the tile surfaces in an opposite direction from the tile line. For Herringbone go left to right and right to left, for subway tile pattern go in a downward X pattern.
using sponge to wipe grout haze

Cleaning and Sealing:

  • After the grout has been applied, use a damp sponge to gently wipe away grout haze from the tile surfaces.
  • Use color matched silicone to finish your edges against the countertop and any window sills.

DIY Herringbone Tile Backsplash or shower is not as scary as it seems, it just needs careful planning and a little bit more time to install.

Remember, proper preparation, careful measurements, and attention to detail are essential for a successful herringbone tile installation.

Happy Remodeling!

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