How to Measure for Tile

We shall not be here very long... so let us help one another while we may. ~William Morris

Length Times Width Is Not Enough

William Morris Woodland Weeds fireplace, hearth

Some people will tell you to divide the area by the size of the tile, but this is a bad idea for patterned tile as it relies on cutting tiles by the installer, which may or may not go as well as one hopes, and results in more wasted tile. It's also helpful to know the dimensions before you choose to align your pattern and avoid mishaps such as having an angel's face cut in half. You can measure for tile yourself!

Measuring for tile is a little harder than measuring for flooring, but not very much. Here are the steps:

Overview of Steps

  1. Divide your project into rectangular shaped areas. Don't worry if you have an arch, arches require cutting so you can take the longest point as your length.

  2. Measure the width and length of each area. Write these down.

  3. Get the number of tiles for each area (coming up...)

  4. Add up the number of tiles.

William De Morgan Birds and Beasts backsplash, Charleston, South Carolina


We usually have a single rectangle or square for a backsplash so the only thing we need to work out is the size of the tiles we want. If, say, we have some wall or cabinet constraints, we might want to go with a larger or smaller tile to avoid cutting off someone's tail. We can also consider a backsplash border tile.

For example, if we have 34 inches across, five 6-inch tiles will leave us very short, and six will have us over. But eight 4.25-inch tiles will work out to 34 inches, so we might want to go with that.


William Morris 'The Forest' border

With borders, we may only want a single row of tile in which case we don't worry too much about the height. For a multi-row border with a repeating pattern, the height between the countertop and the cabinet determines how many rows will work. If the pattern does not repeat, then it tells us how big the tiles can be, where to center the row, and helps us determine if we need or want border tiles.

William Morris 'Golden Lily' close up


We need to know the measurements of all the "rectangles" on your fireplace. For example:

So.... How Many Tiles Do I Need?

Once you have your measurements, you can estimate your number of tiles. If you're not sure the size tiles you need, just send me the measurements for each direction and we'll figure out how to make it work with the tile design you like.

  1. For each area you just defined, divide the width in inches by the size of the tile. This tells you how many tiles in one direction. Round up to the next highest number.

  2. Multiply the number of tiles in the length by the number of tiles in the width. Write this number down.

  3. Then...

  4. Add the number of tiles from all areas where you measured the length and width.

It's traditional to order 10-15% more tile than you exactly need, but I find this can be too much. You probably won't need more than 2-3 extra tiles at most, unless there will be a lot of cutting in your installation. In that case, maybe 5%.

Putting it All Together

The left pane, width by length, are the only steps that really must be done before ordering a surround. Especially if you have a mural or need different size tiles, you may find it easier to just send me the measurements.

How to measure for tile

One More Thing!

You can, if you like, order tile as shown. If you want to change things slightly, or want bespoke tiles, well probably half the people who visit here also want that. Finding the right set for each person is the best part of making tile. If it's a slight modification, there are no additional charges; go directly to How to Order Tile. If you want something I don't have here or require help with a design, Custom and Bespoke Tiles are for you.


Warranty and Terms and Conditions: Tile lasts almost forever and I'll make replacement tiles, if it doesn't. There's a limited warranty (meaning one can't abuse them, or use them for another purpose than they were intended, such as installing them as floor tile). Anything that goes wrong will go wrong in the first few months. What can go wrong? Not following the installation instructions and failing to use unsanded grout that results in the glaze being scratched and dulled during installation -- this has never happened but I worry. Or the installer fails to read the installation instructions provided and leaves adhesive on the glaze over the weekend and tries to chisel it off on Monday morning (Glaze is not stone). Or faulty venting behind the fireplace, a fire hazard in itself, causing bubbles of air in the ceramic to force their way out through the glaze.

By ordering tile, you're agreeing to the Terms and Conditions. They're pretty standard (my inspiration).

William Morris Tile on Houzz