Avg/approx labor charge for backsplash tile installation

boone_2009July 21, 2013

This is our first kitchen remodel; we are not DIY-ers, and we've been getting estimates that are all over the place, for cost *per square foot* for tile backsplash installation ( from $50 to $15 for the *same* basic ceramic 3 by 6 inch subway tile ).
Please give us an idea of average, reasonable price per sq. ft. - please.
I feel simultaneously ignorant, amazed, shocked, surprised...depending on the price quoted!
Thank you, all!

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You should post a Metro area of where you live or which part of a State you live in.

Rural Kansas and NYC have different labor rates.

I don't remember how much I paid but your estimates sound high to me. I live in suburban Los Angeles. But I used a humble mom and pop Kitchen Reno shop and their suggested sub-contractors.

BTW I also used 3x6 ceramic subway tile. Mine was beveled and crackled and they used a special grout to stay clean and special pre-install wash so the grout would not get stuck in the "cracks."

This post was edited by deeageaux on Sun, Jul 21, 13 at 23:15

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 11:10PM
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Those rates are high for a sf charge. How many sf is the backsplash? That should read more like $5/sf, not $50!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 11:30PM
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For a small job, it's not about the square feet. It's about the time needed. A half day's labor for setting, and a half day's labor for grouting. Around $600-$800 total depending on location. Anything under that, and they're either not a skilled tile expert, or they're not going to be in business long.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 11:31PM
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My GC is charging me $600. I have somewhere between 35-40 sq ft I think and that's assuming a basic installation. If I were to choose a fancy mosaic I'm sure it'd be more. Or a delicate material may be more too.
I'm in SE PA.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 11:51PM
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Thank you, everyone!

I'm in suburban Los Angeles, too, deageaux. If you don't mind, could you please tell me which shop you used?

I have a total of 100 sq ft --- 30 plus approx. 70 for the main cooktop area ( which includes walls on three sides above base cabinets plus the ceiling area which houses the light and exhaust fan ).

That's why I'm going with basic ceramic subway tile, basic installation.

All the estimates I quoted above were based on price per sq ft.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 2:25AM
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Funny you should ask this since I was recently second guessing my GC price of $1000 for install only of 3x6 marble on about 35sqft. Being a remodel rookie as well, I got a highly rated tile co to come out and do a free estimate. It was $1300. Needless to say, I'm using my GC guy who is also highly rated. I'm in Northern CA area. I agree it's more about meeting the minimum day rates than sq footage. I'm running into this for other areas of work as well. It's like Linda Evangelista, only with a tool belt.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 3:29AM
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If that is the only tile work being done, it likely represents more of a minimum charge. I know mine was -- 30-something sq ft of subways with a pencil liner. install was about $600.

You may be picking up the higher bids from folks who don't really want small jobs or don't want to do the installation to the ceiling.

This post was edited by lascatx on Mon, Jul 22, 13 at 9:05

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 9:02AM
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My cost was $1,500 for 50 sq. feet of bs. This included the demo, redoing walls with hardie backer, installation and sealing. Mine was a complex design with fragile materials so I feel it was money well spent.
Btw, I'm in California. Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 10:28AM
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I live in the SF Bay Area (North Bay). I paid $875 for just under 40 sq.ft. of 3x6 crackled subway, finished with bullnose, nothing fancy. When I immediately hated the first grout color, they took it out and came back a day or two later to regrout. The cost for that was $125, which I gladly paid since the original color was my bad call. The tile guy was one of several recommended by the tile shop.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 10:41AM
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Boone, I am also thinking of doing backsplash tile to ceiling. Did you post a picture of this recently? If so could you
Link to the thread. I can't find the picture I saw. It had a hood and dark greenish or brownish brick pattern to ceiling. Thanks

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 10:42AM
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I'm in the twin cities area and I'm paying about $55 per sq foot. I think it's really high and the cost of the tiles in the tile store had a sticker of $13 per sq. ft. I'm so worn down though by this custom kitchen contractor that I just want it finished.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 11:20AM
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suburbanjuls: "It's like Linda Evangelista, only with a tool belt" - LOL!
NorCal rates are always higher than SoCal's - we have friends there and they say I'm 'lucky'. (!)

lascatx: I think you're correct - especially regarding the ceiling area.

sanjuangirl: Your price is in the mid-range of what I was quoted - however, my prices are for tile installation only. The demo and hardie backer are being done by a drywall guy and my tile design is the most basic ( white subway with thin grey grout). Thanks for your good luck wishes - I'm going to need it. I feel so frazzled already and all these price variations for the same apples don't help!

linelle: thanks for your input - it helps me to know what others paid.. plus I have a better ( more balanced) perspective of both "sides" , mine and the installer's.

dilly_ny: Aw, sorry, I think you have me confused with someone else. I did post a pic of my cooktop area in its pre-demo days but no work has been done yet to the ceiling which used to be white.

julesl: Wow! I didn't know prices could be so high in the Twin Cities :-( . Isn't it crazy to pay so much less for the tile than the actual installation? A large part of our kitchen budget has been consumed by labor costs. I know how you feel - I, too, just want it over and done with but it also bothers me that I have no idea of what a "reasonable" price is unless I call in several estimates - and that is such a time-consuming process in itself.

We understand that people have to make a decent profit on the work they do and we think we are pretty generous, generally speaking, but when I get hit with such wide price swings, I feel kinda taken advantage of. ( Okay, I ended that sentence with a preposition... sigh).

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 2:17PM
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I found this site through a Google search and thought it might interest you - you can put in your zip code and the number of sq ft and find avg costs for installation. Of course, I don't know how reliable it is!!


    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 4:39PM
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Just had this done. Something under 50 SF of subways. Labor only was around 600. We bought the tile. Puget Sound area.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 4:59PM
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That's not bad, lori_inthenw - 12 dollars per sq ft, that's great. Did you use your GC or a separate tile installer?
I've been wondering about the big box stores - if anyone has done tile installs through them and how they found the quality of the work.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 8:58PM
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