Backsplashes are a popular design element in many kitchens, providing both form and function. Located on the wall between countertops and upper cabinets, backsplashes protect the walls from water, oil, grease and food splatters while cooking. They also serve as an attractive focal point that can tie the whole kitchen together.
With so many options for materials, patterns, colors and textures, backsplashes allow you to add personality and visual interest to your kitchen décor. But with all these potential benefits, you may be wondering – is a backsplash required? Or can you opt to skip it altogether?
The short answer is no, a backsplash is not absolutely mandatory. However, there are some important factors to consider when deciding whether or not to install one in your kitchen remodel or new construction. We’ll explore the pros and cons so you can determine if adding a backsplash is the right choice for your home and lifestyle.
What is the Purpose of a Backsplash?
Before weighing whether or not you need a backsplash, it helps to understand the benefits this kitchen feature provides:
Protection for Walls
The primary function of a backsplash is to safeguard the walls from splatters, drips, splashes and stains while cooking and cleaning up. It prevents food, oil, grease and water from causing damage to drywall and paint. Tiled backsplashes are especially resistant, providing a durable barrier between the countertops and wall.
In addition to preventing stains, a quality backsplash also makes the wall area much simpler to clean. Backsplash materials like metal, glass, tiles or stone can be easily wiped down with a sponge or cloth. It’s simpler to remove grime, oils and food debris than scrubbing stains out of drywall or paint.
Backsplashes provide the opportunity to add eye-catching style to your kitchen. Whether you prefer a colorful mosaic tile, rustic wood plank, marble slab, chic metal or handpainted ceramic, a backsplash serves as a blank canvas for your design creativity.
Strategically selecting backsplash materials, colors and textures that coordinate with your countertops, cabinets, floors and other kitchen elements creates a harmonious look. The backsplash ties the whole space together, enhancing the aesthetic.
Should I Add a Backsplash in My Kitchen?
Now that you understand the value a backsplash can provide, how do you decide if installing one is right for your kitchen? Here are some tips for determining whether or not to splurge on this detail:
Consider your Budget
In a kitchen remodel or new build, you likely have a budget you need to work within. Backsplash materials can vary greatly in cost from DIY-friendly peel and stick tiles for a few dollars per square foot to high-end materials like marble or semi-precious stones ranging $50-$100 or more per square foot installed. Evaluate what you can spend before falling in love with a look that busts your budget.
How Much Cooking Do You Do?
Avid home chefs who cook frequently will get more value from a backsplash than those who rarely prepare meals. If you cook daily, the protection a backsplash provides could be worth the investment to prevent oil splatters and food stains on your walls. Minimal cooking won’t require as much splash protection.
What’s Your Decor Style?
Do you want your kitchen to have a strong design aesthetic or follow the latest trends? Backsplashes are a relatively affordable way to achieve specific looks from modern to farmhouse, industrial, mid-century and more. If style and visual appeal are low priorities, you can likely skip it.
Consider Ease of Cleaning
Look at the wall material behind your kitchen counters. Paint or wallpaper will be prone to staining and require frequent scrubbing. Meanwhile, a wipeable backsplash allows you to maintain the area with minimal effort. Prevent stubborn grime with an easy-clean material.
What Are Your Alternatives?
If you decide against a backsplash, assess your options. Painted drywall will need frequent touching up. Stainless steel provides a sleek look, but loses the opportunity for colorful design. Be sure the alternative provides the stain resistance, style and cleaning convenience you desire.
Assess Your Skills
Installing a tile or stone backsplash requires some DIY skills, though large-format materials like marble slabs or metal sheets can be less labor intensive. Peel and stick backsplash panels offer easy application for anyone. If you aren’t up for a challenging installation, seek easy alternatives.
By evaluating these factors, you can determine whether investing in a backsplash is right for your kitchen. Let’s look at the pros and cons in more detail.
The Pros of Installing a Backsplash
Here are the most compelling benefits you’ll gain from adding a backsplash:
Excellent Protection from Stains and Splatter
Without a doubt, a backsplash offers the best protection for your wall from inevitable spatters of oil, grease, food debris, water and soap scum while cooking and cleaning. Stovetop splatters in particular can travel several feet from the cooktop. Over time, these accumulate and stain your walls, requiring frequent repainting. A backsplash acts like a sacrificial shield, keeping those spots off your wall for easy wiping.
Tile, metal, glass, marble and other non-porous materials are ideal because they don’t absorb stains. ust wipe splatters away before they have time to dry and harden. A backsplash prevents permanent damage, keeping your walls pristine for years.
Creates an Attractive Focal Point
Backsplashes enable you to infuse color, texture, shape and visual interest through your choice of materials. Options like glass tile, metal sheets, marble slabs or ceramic mosaic make for an eye-catching focal point.
Adding style need not be expensive. Peel and stick backsplash panels cost around $10 per square foot, providing an affordable design upgrade. Use a bold backsplash to establish a theme for your kitchen, like modern, industrial, eclectic or rustic. Mix and match materials for extra appeal.
Makes Cleaning the Kitchen Easier
Rather than scrubbing and repainting your walls repeatedly, simply wipe down your backsplash to remove splatters, drips and smudges. The non-porous materials commonly used are much easier to keep clean compared to drywall or wallpaper.
Cleaning is further simplified if you select a backsplash with grout lines. This creates ridges that prevent stains from spreading across the surface. Individual tiles, metal sheets or other materials are easier to clean than a wide expanse of wall.
Plus, soap scum and hard water deposits come off much easier from backsplash materials than drywall. Keep your cooking zone spotless with minimal effort.
Ties the Whole Room Together
A properly selected backsplash harmonizes beautifully with your cabinetry, countertops, appliances and other kitchen elements. It prevents your decor from looking piecemeal.
Consider wall colors, cabinet and countertop finishes, flooring and hardware finishes when selecting your backsplash. Then echo one or more of those elements through material, color, shape or texture. Your backsplash will seamlessly integrate into the overall design scheme.
Inexpensive Kitchen Update
If your existing kitchen is dated or boring, adding a fresh new backsplash provides an easy style boost. Peel and stick backsplash panels offer tons of colors and patterns from sleek subway tile looks to decorative mosaics.
Switch out an outdated backsplash for on-trend materials like blues, grays, marbled looks and metallics that enrich your space. The transformation can be dramatic without the cost of a full renovation.
DIY Installation Options
With some basic skills and time, you can tackle a peel and stick tile or panel backsplash installation over a weekend. This allows you to customize your kitchen without the expense of contractor installation. Watch online tutorials to guide your project.
Some large format non-porous backsplash materials like a marble slab, metal sheet or glass panel can also be manageable DIY projects, especially if you have help. Kits are available with all the specialty tools and materials needed.
Increases Resale Value
A backsplash is not only an enjoyment while living in your home but also an investment that can pay off when you go to sell. The protection, easy cleaning and style a quality backsplash provides are perks buyers will appreciate. This can set your listing apart.
Stylish, on-trend backsplash materials in great condition help new buyers envision putting their own stamp on the kitchen down the road. Your backsplash may even inspire design choices throughout the rest of the home.
The Cons of Installing a Backsplash
Despite the many excellent benefits, there are also a few potential drawbacks to consider before deciding on a backsplash:
Even smaller backsplash projects require several hundred dollars in materials and tools. Large, lavish designs in materials like natural stone can cost thousands and significantly eat into kitchen renovation budgets.
Labor expense comes into play if you cannot DIY the installation. Be sure to allocate adequate funds if you want a backsplash. Peel and stick products provide the most budget-friendly options.
Installation Learning Curve
For the DIY crowd, proper backsplash installation takes some learned skills. Materials like tile and stone require more precise cuts. Grout application and sealing processes must be followed. Hanging a large format panel takes finesse.
Be ready to invest significant time watching how-to videos and reading guides before tackling a backsplash yourself. Mistakes mean wasted time and supplies. The learning curve is steep.
All backsplashes require some degree of regular maintenance to prevent grease buildup, hard water deposits and soap scum accumulation. Tile grout also takes extra upkeep to prevent staining.
You’ll have to put in minimal effort keeping the backsplash clean. Let grime build up, and it becomes much harder to remove. Be ready to wipe it down regularly.
Weight Adds Up
Natural stone backsplashes in materials like marble, granite, travertine and slate can get extremely heavy, quickly. Large expanses require extra structural support to prevent cracking, collapsing and pulling away from the wall.
In a kitchen island or peninsula situation, the weight compounds on the floating side. This often requires pricey structural enhancements to provide adequate support.
Limits Some Kitchen Modifications
If you opt for a high-end, customized backsplash using rare designer tiles, specialty shapes or inlaid materials, future kitchen updates will be limited. Removing and replacing a complicated backsplash usually means destroying it.
You’ll also want to avoid any cabinetry or layout changes that alter the backsplash space since it can’t be easily modified to fit a new footprint. Limiting cabinet and appliance alterations may constrain future options.
Pattern Could Grow Tiresome Over Time
While that burst of colorful mosaic or geometric tile pattern may catch your eye now, its allure can wear off over years in your home. Tastes change and trends fade. What once felt exciting and fun may eventually feel dated and ready for replacement.
If you’re hesitant about committing to a permanent style choice for the long haul, limit backsplash elements to those you’re unlikely to tire of. Take a versatile approach.
Key Questions to Ask Yourself
As you weigh the pros and cons for your home, here are some important questions to ask yourself to help guide your backsplash decision:
How Does It Enhance Functionality?
Remember that a backsplash’s main role is protecting your walls while cooking. Will the material options you’re considering provide that protection from splatters, drips and spills? Does the texture make for easy cleaning?
Don’t let design win out over functionality and durability. Prioritize materials that will truly safeguard your walls for years to come.
What Design Statement Will It Make?
Are you attempting to achieve a certain visual appeal with your backsplash like industrial, modern, retro, rustic, homey or sleek? Be sure your backsplash choice enhances (rather than detracts from) the style you have in mind.
Also consider if the material, color, texture and other elements harmonize with cabinets, countertops, flooring and other details. Align your backsplash with your overall vision.
Does It Fit My Skill Level?
Assess what DIY projects you have successfully tackled in the past. Don’t take on a backsplash installation that stretches your abilities too far. Yet don’t underestimate yourself either – with online tutorials and time, you can likely achieve more than you expect.
Find the sweet spot between your skills and the complexity of the backsplash design. Expand your limits or simplify the project as needed.
How Long Do I Plan to Stay?
If this is a forever home where you anticipate decades of cooking, cleaning and living, the backsplash investment makes sense. If your next move is only a few years out, peel and stick tiles that go with you may be the better option.
Likewise, a unique custom backsplash makes the most sense in a home you won’t outgrow soon. Take your expected longevity in the home into account.
Can I DIY or Install It Myself?
Assess how much sweat equity you can contribute. Look at the tools needed for the material you want and whether you have the space to take on the project. If you’ll be hiring out labor, get quotes first so you know the impact on your budget.
Many backsplash materials are within reach for DIYers. Watch online tutorials to determine if you can tackle the project. Know your limitations and only take it on if confident.
Backsplash Materials to Consider
Once you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided to move forward with a backsplash, selecting the right material is the fun part! Here is an overview of popular backsplash design options:
Ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tile in shapes like subway, mosaic, penny round, hexagon and more. Choose matte, glossy, textured, patterned and handpainted styles. Available in endless colors and designs. Grout provides texture.
Pros: Durable, easy to clean, classic look, affordable, DIY friendly
Cons: Grout needs sealing, tile patterns can look dated if trends change
Stainless steel, tin, copper, brass sheets plus textured, perforated and patterned metal tiles. Provides modern, industrial, rustic or distressed looks.
Pros: Extremely durable, heat and water resistant, easy to clean, trendy
Cons: Can dent, expensive, tricky for DIY installation
Small glass mosaic tiles, longer subway style rectangular tiles or large sheet panels. Available in nearly any color and finish from glossy to frosted.
Pros: Radiant shine, easy to wipe clean, sleek and modern
Cons: Expensive, grout staining, challenging for DIY
Natural stone varieties like marble, travertine, granite, slate, limestone or quartzite. Available in tile, sheets or large slabs. Rustic to elegant.
Pros: Beautiful stone patterns and colors, natural material, luxurious
Cons: Heavy, requires sealing, expensive, professional install best
Real wood planks, shiplap, butcher block or reclaimed boards. Rustic, warm, natural material. Can also use peel and stick wood-look tiles.
Pros: Rich wood tones, real or faux texture, rustic/homey feel
Cons: Sealing required, not as durable as other materials
Peel + Stick Panels
Thin backsplash panels with adhesive backing for simple “peel and stick” application. Come in ceramic, metal, wood, mosaic and stone looks.
Pros: Very affordable, easy DIY install, limitless design options
Cons: Less durable than real materials, limited large sizes
Skip the backsplash and paint your drywall instead. Choose high-gloss sheens for wipeability. Add an accent wall color for visual pop.
Pros: Cost effective, easy, color flexibility
Cons: Shows stains/marks, requires frequent repainting
Consider how each option fits your budget, design aesthetic and skill level to narrow in on the best backsplash solutions. Visit showrooms and design centers to view options in person.
Design Ideas to Inspire Your Backsplash
Once you select the right backsplash material for your kitchen, it’s time for the fun part – choosing colors, patterns, arrangement and other design details to bring your vision to life.
Bold Colors and Patterns
Make a vibrant style statement by selecting eye-catching hues like emerald green, sapphire blue and citrus orange or opting for dynamic patterns with diagonal shapes, zigzags, graphic prints and mosaics.
[Example photo of colorful patterned backsplash]
Photo from: [Link to original image source]
Mix and Match
For extra interest, combine different tile shapes (subway, honeycomb, square), materials (stone + glass) or colors in your backsplash design. Create accent sections, borders, geometric configurations or scatter assorted tiles.
[Example photo of mixed blue, gray and marble backsplash]
Photo from: [Link to original image source]
Wood, stone, marble and travertine backsplashes lend organic, earthy elegance and harmony. Let the inherent beauty of the raw materials shine through by limiting synthetic stains and sealers.
[Example image of marble slab backsplash]
Image from: [Link to original image source]
From sleek stainless steel to galvanized tin penny tiles, copper sheets and bold geometric designs, metal backsplashes inject modern flair or industrial edge.
[Example photo of stainless steel backsplash]
Photo from: [Link to original image source]
Use shapes strategically in your backsplash design. Glass subway tiles, rectangular ceramic bricks, hexagon stone mosaic and circle penny tiles all make different visual impacts.
[Example photo of circle penny tile backsplash]
Photo from: [Link to original image