Tiling a kitchen backsplash can add style and protection to the walls behind a stove or sink. However, when there are electrical outlets involved, extra care must be taken to ensure a safe and professional result. With some planning and preparation, tiling around kitchen outlets is a manageable task for any DIYer. In this comprehensive guide, we share tips and techniques to help you achieve a stunning backsplash that incorporates outlets seamlessly.

Choosing Tile Materials for a Backsplash with Outlets

When selecting tile for a backsplash that will have electrical outlets, it’s important to consider:

Tile Size

  • Smaller tiles like mosaics or 4×4 inch tiles are better suited for working around outlets than large tiles, which require more cutting.

Tile Material

  • Avoid natural stone tiles like marble or travertine, which are prone to cracking during cuts. Porcelain and ceramic tiles are better options as they can be cleanly cut with a wet saw.
  • Glass tiles can also be tricky to cut around outlets neatly.

Tile Texture

  • Smoother, glazed surface tiles minimize the visibility of any imperfect outlet cuts. Avoid tiles with an uneven handmade look.

Tile Color

  • Match grout color closely to the tile color to help any outlet cutting seams blend in. Neutral grout colors also minimize the visibility of seams.

Accent Tiles

  • Use small accent tiles or mosaics around the outlets, with larger tiles on the rest of the wall. This disguises any imperfect cuts.

Preparing the Backsplash Area for Tiling

Proper planning and prep work is key to achieving a professional-looking tiled backsplash installation with integrated outlets.

Mark Electrical Box Locations

  • Use a stud finder to locate and mark the edges of outlet electrical boxes before tiles are applied. This will serve as a cutting guide later.

Consider Electrical Needs

  • Decide if you need to relocate any outlets higher or lower to accommodate backsplash tiles. This may require an electrician.

Remove Outlet Covers

  • Take off existing outlet covers and switches before tiling. New covers will be installed after.

Clean Surface Thoroughly

  • Remove any old backsplash material, caulk, or residue from the wall surface so tiles adhere properly.

Make Any Repairs

  • Fill any holes or imperfections in the wall with spackle to create a smooth tiling surface. Allow time to dry completely.

Prime the Surface

  • After repairs, apply painter’s tape around the edges and prime with a paint primer. This helps adhesion for the tile mortar.

How to Tile Around Kitchen Outlets

When tiling, extra care must be taken around any outlets to achieve clean results. Here are some step-by-step tips:

Apply Mortar and Tile

  • Spread thinset mortar on the lower portion of the wall first, up to the bottom of the outlets. Then embed tiles in the mortar as usual.

Cut Tile for Outlets

  • Once the lower section is tiled, measure and cut L-shaped outlet opening tiles to fit around the boxes. Mark cuts carefully.

Use Oscillating Tool to Cut Outlets

  • Use an oscillating tool to neatly cut out the outlet opening in the tiles. Take care not to damage the boxes.

Test Fit Tiles

  • Have a helper hold the cut outlet tiles in place so you can test the fit and make any adjustments needed with the oscillating tool.

Apply Mortar Around Boxes

  • Spread mortar near boxes and carefully embed custom-cut outlet tiles. Make sure tiles are straight and align with the rest of the pattern.

Grout as Usual

  • Once all full tiles are placed, grout them normally. Use a grout bag to carefully fill in around the outlet gaps. Wipe away excess.

Finish with New Covers

  • After grouting, remove painter’s tape from edges. Finally, install new outlet covers and switches to complete the professional look.

Tips for Cutting Tiles Around Outlets

Cutting porcelain, ceramic, or glass tile can be tricky. Follow these pro tips for clean outlet cuts:

  • Use a wet saw adjustable to 45-degree mitered cuts for outlet corners.
  • Cut outlet openings slightly larger than the actual box. It’s easier to adjust small gaps later with grout than to force ill-fitting tiles.
  • Use an oscillating tool held perpendicular to the outlet box edges to carefully cut tiles flush after mounting them on mortar.
  • Make several light passes with the oscillating tool rather than one aggressive pass to avoid cracking tile.
  • Use a tile nipper on curved cuts to nibble away small fragments for a precise fit around rounded boxes.
  • Wear safety goggles and gloves when using any power tools or nippers to cut tile.
  • Work slowly and cautiously for best results. Rushing increases the chances of breaking tiles or damaging electrical boxes.

Creative Designs for a Backsplash with Outlets

With careful planning, outlets don’t have to detract from a backsplash design. In fact, they can become a focal point. Consider these creative ideas:

Accent Tile Outline

  • Frame each outlet with decorative accent tiles or mosaic tiles to disguise cuts and make outlets a feature.

Pattern Play

  • Arrange a pattern like subway tiles vertically so outlets intersect between tiles and simply align with grout lines.

Contrasting Squares

  • Try a trendy geometric pattern using contrasting squares of different tile colors or textures. Let outlets form another “tile”.

3D Tile Effects

  • Some 3D tile styles like stacked or fishscale shapes will camouflage cut outlet seams. Grout color is key for a seamless look.

Extend Backsplash to Outlets

  • Bring the entire backsplash surface to the level of the outlets for a streamlined look. This avoids potentially messier overhead cutting.

Tile Outlet Covers

  • For a completely integrated look, remove old outlet covers and replace with covers designed to be tiled over.

Tiling Backsplash Outlets: Dos and Don’ts

Follow these dos and don’ts when tiling around kitchen outlets:


  • Turn off power at the breaker before working around outlets.
  • Use painter’s tape to protect edges and outlet boxes.
  • Carefully cut tiles with wet saw and oscillating tool.
  • Test fit cut tiles before permanent placement.
  • Grout carefully by hand near outlet gaps.


  • Tile over outlets before cutting tile openings.
  • Rush through outlet tile cuts.
  • Force ill-fitting tiles around boxes.
  • Grout over a powered outlet (turn off first).
  • Use large format tiles that require complex outlet cuts.
  • Tile directly over older outdated outlets. Upgrade them first.

FAQs About Tiling a Backsplash Around Outlets

How do I cut tile around an outlet?

Use a wet saw to make initial angled cuts to fit around the outlet box. Then use an oscillating tool with a tile blade to carefully trim cut tiles for a precision fit flush to the box.

Do you have to turn off power to tile by an outlet?

Yes, you should always turn off power at the breaker when working around electrical outlets. Test with a non-contact voltage tester to be sure power is off.

What is the minimum clearance for an outlet behind a backsplash?
Outlets located behind a backsplash must have at least 1 1/2 inches of clearance from the wall surface to meet electrical code requirements.

Should I remove old outlets before tiling a backsplash?
It’s best to replace outdated outlets with new tamper-resistant GFCI outlets before tiling. This allows you to align them properly and have fresh electrical boxes to tile up to.

Can you put tile over electrical outlets?
No, tile should never completely cover an existing outlet. The outlets must be accessible and the plates must be removed before applying tile. The tiles must be precisely cut to fit around outlet boxes.

How much does it cost to tile around outlets?
Having an electrician update outlets prior to tiling will add $200-500 to project costs. Tiling around outlets yourself only requires tile, tools, and time. An oscillating cutter tool starts around $100 for DIYers lacking one.


Tiling a kitchen backsplash around electrical outlets adds an extra layer of complexity. But with the right materials, tools, and techniques, you can achieve stunning results that seamlessly incorporate outlets into the design. Carefully cutting tile to fit outlets, grouting, and replacing plates can transform outdated outlets into professional-looking features. Follow our tips when planning your kitchen backsplash tiling project, and take particular care when working around electrical components. With some patience, precision, and attention to detail, you’ll have a magazine-worthy backsplash that safely integrates necessary outlets.