Whether you’re renovating your kitchen or installing a backsplash for the first time, choosing the right backsplash tile can be a daunting task. With so many options to pick from – ceramic, porcelain, glass, metal and more – it’s enough to make your head spin! Floor tile is one option that you may be considering for your backsplash project. But is it a good idea to use floor tile for your backsplash? There are a few things to take into account.
Pros of Using Floor Tile for Backsplash
There are some benefits to using floor tile for your backsplash:
Floor tiles are made to be more durable than regular wall tiles. They are less prone to cracking or chipping when installed on walls in high traffic areas like behind a stove or sink. Floor tiles are fired at higher temperatures and usually have higher PEI ratings. This makes them more impervious to damage.
Larger Sizes Available
Floor tiles come in larger sizes – 12×12, 16×16, 18×18 or even larger. This can make installing a backsplash go faster since there are fewer grout lines and less cutting required. The large tiles can also create a striking visual impact.
Using floor tiles for the backsplash can help tie it in with existing flooring in the kitchen or adjoining rooms. The backsplash will seamlessly coordinate if both areas utilize the same tile.
More Design Options
Since floor tile needs to withstand more wear and tear, there are more design options available. From bold patterns and colors to varied textures, there is plenty to choose from. Distinctive designs like encaustic patterned tiles can make for an eye-catching backsplash.
Potential Cost Savings
In some cases, floor tile may be cheaper per square foot than decorative wall tile. If you choose a durable porcelain or ceramic floor tile rather than a more delicate wall tile, you may save some money on your project.
Cons of Using Floor Tile for Backsplash
On the other hand, there are some potential downsides to keep in mind as well:
Thickness and Weight
Floor tile tends to be thicker and heavier than wall tile. Standard wall tiles are usually around 1/4″ thick. Porcelain or ceramic floor tiles are typically 1/2″ thick or sometimes more. This added thickness and weight means a strong supportive backer board is essential.
The mortar used to set the tile also needs to be suitable for heavy tile. The weight can put added stress on the backsplash area which could lead to cracking or tile popping off if not properly installed and supported.
Harder to Cut
The extra thickness of floor tile equates to it being harder to cut and work with. Special tile cutting tools will be required. It can be more difficult to get clean precise cuts, especially around outlets or other openings.
May Need to Level Out Uneven Areas
Floor tiles will readily show any unevenness underneath them. The wall surface will need to be as even and smooth as possible. Any bumps, ridges or imperfections will likely necessitate grinding down or building up the subsurface so the tiles don’t crack or become unbonded.
Grout Lines More Noticeable
Floor tiles typically have a square or rectangular shape. This means there will be obvious grout lines in a grid pattern. For some tile designs or colors, the grout lines may stand out more and be distracting on a backsplash versus a floor.
Harder Surface Not as Practical Behind Stove
The durable, non-porous surface of floor tiles make them ideal for high traffic floors. But the hardness and non-absorbent nature is less practical behind a stove. Spatters and cooking residue are more likely to stay on the surface rather than soak in. A rougher textured wall tile may be better suited to hide inevitable cooking stains.
Slippery When Wet
Floor tiles are chosen to be slip-resistant for floors where water can puddle and cause falls. But when used vertically on a backsplash, the impervious glazed surface becomes slippery when wet. This can make cleaning above the backsplash uncomfortably dangerous, especially if stepping onto the countertop.
Cold to the Touch
Floor tile maintains its temperature unlike softer wall tile materials. That means the hard glazed surface will feel cold and uncomfortable if you brush up against it. This could be an issue in a small kitchen where the backsplash is right behind a sink or prep area.
Factors to Consider When Using Floor Tile for Backsplash
If you decide to use floor tile for your backsplash installation, there are some important factors to consider:
Select Appropriate Location
The hardest, most durable floor tiles are best suited to a backsplash area behind the stove or away from daily use. Avoid using ultra-slippery glossy tiles directly behind sinks.
Get Proper Support
A cement backer board designed for tile should be used to ensure proper support. Thinset mortar appropriate for heavy tile should attach the tiles to the backer board substrate.
Check for Even Surface
Make sure the wall area is as smooth and flat as possible so the heavy tiles don’t crack or come unstuck. Use a level to identify any uneven spots that may need to be remedied.
Use Suitable Grout
Choose an epoxy-based grout or one specifically made for floors. Make sure it will stand up to heat near stoves and moisture near sinks. Unsanded grout is easier to apply between floor tiles.
Consider Added Weight
When supported properly, the additional weight of floor tiles is not a concern. But for backsplash areas with questionable framing, the weight could be an issue. Consulting a structural engineer is recommended in these cases.
Allow extra time and go slowly when cutting floor tiles to avoid cracking or chipping. Use a wet saw with a diamond blade designed for tough porcelain or ceramic. Ensure outlet cutouts are precise.
Sealing the tiles and grout is essential to prevent staining and discoloration when used in a kitchen. Annual re-sealing will be needed.
Make sure floor tiles specified for the backsplash have a high enough PEI rating and can withstand heat if installed near the range.
Ease of Cleaning
Consider the ease of cleaning the floor tile before installing behind appliances or near prep areas. Textured tiles shed grease and food spatters better than glossy surfaces.
Best Types of Floor Tile for Backsplash
If you want to use floor tile for your backsplash, these are some of the best options:
Porcelain tile is very dense, impervious to moisture and resistant to scratches, chips and cracks. It comes in a wide variety of colors, shapes, sizes and finishes. A porcelain backsplash can replicate the look of other high-end materials like marble or granite for less.
Glazed ceramic tiles provide an inexpensive option for backsplashes. Their durable fired clay composition resists moisture and stains. Simple white ceramic subway tiles are a classic backsplash look. Vibrant colored or artisan designed ceramic tiles can create visual interest.
Quarry tile is made from natural clay and is kiln-dried rather than glazed. The resulting texture makes an attractive rustic or Old World style backsplash. Quarry tile comes in earthy red, brown and grey hues.
Cement floor tiles are handcrafted and known for elaborate painted designs. Geometric patterned encaustic cement tile creates a colorful focal point. Keep in mind that the grout lines will be more visible.
Mosaic sheets of small tiles are a simple way to install a backsplash. The mesh backing makes installation straightforward. Mosaics come in various materials like porcelain, ceramic, glass and natural stone. Using mosaic floor tile sheets can create a pixelated look.
Durable natural stones like granite, slate and travertine can be installed on backsplashes. While heavier, their attractive veining and texture can make a statement. Make sure any polished stone has a good amount of traction when wet.
Floor Tile Backsplash Design Ideas
From sleek and modern to old world antique, floor tile backsplashes can match any kitchen decor. Here are some inspiring floor tile backsplash design ideas:
Large format glossy porcelain tiles in solid whites or blacks create a dramatic contemporary vibe. Shiny metallic tiles like copper, bronze or stainless steel also work for modern backsplashes.
A glossy white porcelain floor tile backsplash creates a streamlined contemporary look.
Warm tones and visible textures create cozy farmhouse charm. Try natural stone slate tiles, terracotta, or handmade subway tiles. Using varying tile shapes adds interesting lines and patterns.
Rustic ceramic tiles in variations of size and color provide farmhouse style.
Reclaim used floor tiles or parquet pieces to produce an eclectic vintage backsplash. Using different eras of salvaged tiles including black and white checkered, colored hexagons, or Art Deco designs exudes retro charm.
Salvaged floor tiles and parquet pieces create an eclectic vintage backsplash.
The clean lines of a white subway tile backsplash provides balance to two-tone modern farmhouse kitchens. Shiny modern metals paired with classic white tiles bridge old and new.
Crisp white subway tiles strike a balance in this modern farmhouse kitchen.
For a global vibe, use geometric patterned encaustic or mosaic tile. Bold colors and intricate designs inspired by Moroccan, Spanish or Mediterranean tiles can craft a cultural backsplash.
Vivid colors and hand-painted patterns create global flair.
Brick-shaped quarry tiles laid in offset rows provide the natural look of an urban brick wall. Red, brown and multi-colored options recreate exposed brick backsplash style at a fraction of the cost.
Brick-shaped floor tiles mimic a weathered urban brick wall.
For a graphic pop of color, try glossy black, white or boldly colored tiles in varying geometric shapes. Combining triangles, circles, squares, or slim rectangles in bold patterns makes a graphic statement.
A handmade encaustic cement backsplash tile creates modern graphic appeal.
Installing Floor Tile Backsplash
Installing a floor tile backsplash takes careful planning and patience but can provide a durable, seamless finished look. Here is an overview of the floor tile backsplash installation process:
Step 1: Prepare the Surface
Remove any old backsplash material and make sure the wall surface is clean. Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle. The area must be completely smooth and level.
Step 2: Install Backer Board
Cut cement backer board to size and fasten it to the wall framing with backer board screws. Seams should be taped and mudded.
Step 3: Lay Out Tiles
Dry lay the tile on the backer board to determine the layout and make cuts before attaching with any mortar. Make sure the floor tiles are completely level.
Step 4: Mix Mortar
Mix thinset mortar suitable for large format floor tile per manufacturer instructions. Only mix small batches so mortar doesn’t dry out before tiles are set.
Step 5: Spread Mortar
Use a notched trowel to spread a thin layer of mortar onto the backer board where tile will be installed.
Step 6: Set Tiles
Working in small sections, press tiles firmly into the mortar bed. Use spacers between tiles for consistent spacing and straight grout lines.
Step 7: GroutTiles
Once the tile mortar has cured per directions, mix grout and apply it over the tiles to fill in all joints and gaps. Take care to fully grout floor tile edges.
Step 8: Seal & Finish
Remove any excess grout with a damp sponge once it has begun to cure. Use grout sealant once fully dried for maximum stain protection. Apply silicone caulk along counter and tile edges.
Taking the time to correctly prepare the subsurface and fully support floor tiles leads to a cohesive finished backsplash designed to last.
FAQs About Using Floor Tile for Backsplash
Can you put 12×12 tile on a backsplash?
Yes, 12×12 inch tiles can work well for backsplashes but may require additional support. Make sure to use cement backer board and fortified thinset mortar rated for the tile’s weight.
What thinset do you use for large tile?
For heavy floor tiles, use a polymer-modified mortar which provides more flexibility and adhesion. Unsanded thinset is best for floor tile less than 15×15 inches. Large/heavy tile mortar contains additives to prevent sagging.
Do you need to seal tile backsplash?
It is highly recommended to seal porcelain, ceramic, or natural stone backsplash tiles. Sealing prevents stains and damage from water and steam. Re-apply sealant periodically. Use a grout sealer on cement grout lines for further protection.
Can you use rectified tile for backsplash?
Yes, rectified floor tiles with precisely cut squared edges can be installed for backsplashes. The minimal grout lines and smooth flat shape provide a modern sleek look. Make sure to follow all recommendations for supporting the tile properly.
Is there such thing as backsplash caulk?
Yes, silicone caulk made specifically for backsplashes is formulated to resist mold and mildew growth. It flexes rather than cracks when the backsplash area expands and contracts. Backsplash caulk in matching grout colors provides a seamless finish between countertops, walls and tile.
Installing floor tile on a backsplash is certainly an option if planned and executed properly. The durability and design choices make floor tile enticing. Just be sure to consider the practical aspects for your specific kitchen space. With proper subsurface prep and installation materials, floor tile can provide a functional and beautiful backsplash surface. If choosing floor tile, take steps to ensure it will stand up to daily use behind sinks, stoves and prep areas. With careful tile selection and skillful installation, floor tile can be an attractive, high performing backsplash.