Adding a backsplash to your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. But how do you know if a backsplash is right for your kitchen? There are a few key factors to consider when deciding if you need a backsplash or not.
What is a Backsplash?
A backsplash is a decorative wall treatment that protects the wall space between the countertops and upper cabinets in a kitchen. Backsplashes are typically made from tile, metal, glass, or stone and serve both decorative and functional purposes.
From a decorative standpoint, a backsplash adds visual interest, color, and texture to the kitchen. It allows you to infuse personality and style into the space. Backsplashes come in an endless array of colors, materials, and patterns so you can customize the look.
Functionally, a backsplash protects the walls from splatters, spills, and stains. The backsplash takes the brunt of the mess instead of your drywall or paint. Food, grease, and liquids can stain or damage drywall. A backsplash creates a protective barrier that is easy to clean.
Key Factors to Consider For a Backsplash
When evaluating if you should add a backsplash, there are a few key factors to take into account:
Do You Cook Frequently?
How often you cook and what type of cooking you do should significantly influence your decision. If you rarely use the kitchen, then a backsplash is probably not essential. However, if you cook elaborate meals daily, then a backsplash can save you from constantly having to repaint or repair walls.
Frequent frying, sautéing, broiling, and baking can all lead to oil splatters and food stains on the walls. The more cooking you do, the higher the likelihood you will benefit from a backsplash.
Is Your Kitchen Prone to Moisture?
Kitchens naturally tend to be damp spaces. From steam caused by boiling water, running the tap, or even a dishwasher, moisture buildup can damage paint and drywall over time. A properly sealed backsplash protects the walls from moisture penetration.
Also consider if you have young children who may frequently spill drinks or bathe pets in the kitchen. Any source of excess moisture is a good reason to consider a backsplash.
Do You Need to Extend Wall Protection Above the Counter?
Standard backsplash height is 4 inches above the counter. If you tend to make large splashes or work with overflow, you may need extra wall protection. An 8-inch or full height backsplash may be recommended.
Deep frying turkey, working with canning jars, or tossing pizza dough could all warrant a taller backsplash. Evaluate your cooking style and goals.
Are Your Walls Already Damaged?
Examine your existing walls for any signs of damage. Look for stains, paint chipping, cracking, or peeling. If the walls are already compromised, then a backsplash is an easy way to refresh the look and prevent further damage.
Cover up any unsightly areas and gain a clean backdrop. A backsplash offers a stylish update that improves function.
What Is Your Cabinet and Countertop Situation?
The existing materials used for your cabinets and countertops should help guide your backsplash decision. You want the materials to coordinate aesthetically.
For example, traditional wood cabinets may pair best with a classic subway tile backsplash. Granite countertops could work well with a mosaic glass backsplash.
Ensure your backsplash complements your cabinetry and countertop finishes to create a cohesive look.
What Is Your Decor Style?
Think about the overall decorative style you want for your kitchen when choosing a backsplash. Is your kitchen traditional, modern, farmhouse? Match the backsplash to the mood you want to convey.
A sleek glass or metal backsplash communicates a contemporary vibe. Vintage tiles create a cottage feel. Natural stone says rustic.
The backsplash is instrumental in establishing the aesthetics and vibe of the kitchen.
Do You Want Added Functionality?
Beyond just protecting walls, some backsplashes offer added functionality. For example, a backsplash can provide extra lighting. Opt for a backsplash with built-in LED lights to illuminate your workspace.
You can also opt for a backsplash that incorporates electrical outlets. Having outlets directly behind the backsplash offers convenient access.
Shelving integrated into the backsplash is another way to gain function. The backsplash can provide extra space to store spices and condiments.
What Is Your Budget?
Backsplash materials range dramatically in terms of cost. Standard ceramic tiles are very affordable starting under $5 per square foot. On the higher end, materials like hand-cut marble tile or copper sheets can range from $50 to over $100 per square foot.
Evaluate what you can spend and find a material that fits within your backsplash budget. There are plenty of options at every price point.
Pros of Adding a Backsplash
Beyond just assessing if you need a backsplash, also consider the many benefits backsplashes offer:
Protects Walls from Damage
By taking the impact of spills and splatters, a backsplash preserves the condition of the underlying walls. It saves you from constant repainting and repairing.
Creates a Focal Point
The backsplash becomes a centerpiece of the kitchen you can use to exhibit personal style. It draws the eye and provides visual interest to the space.
Increases Resale Value
Upgrading to a backsplash is a way to add value to your home. The addition of a backsplash can up the worth of a home by thousands for only a minor investment.
Offers Easy Maintenance
Backsplashes are designed to handle messy abuse. They are very simple to clean using just soap and water or disinfecting sprays.
Provides Moisture Protection
Sealing the walls off with a backsplash prevents moisture damage caused by sinks, dishwashers, and steam.
Allows You to Upgrade for a Low Cost
You can completely change the feeling of a kitchen by installing an updated backsplash. It offers an inexpensive way to refresh the space.
Backsplashes with built-in lighting brighten up the work areas of the kitchen. Position lighting where you need it most.
Increases Storage Options
Backsplash shelving creates space to store small jars, bottles, or kitchen tools. The extra storage is very convenient.
Backsplash Materials: Pros and Cons
If you decide a backsplash is right for your kitchen, the next step is selecting a material. Key aspects to compare are cost, durability, ease of installation, and aesthetics.
- Affordable option starting under $5 per square foot
- Available in endless colors and patterns
- Easy for DIY installation
- Provides a classic, timeless look
- Grout lines can collect dirt and grime
- More susceptible to cracking or chipping than other materials
- Grout needs periodic sealing
- Provides brilliant sheen and reflection
- Very trendy modern option
- Easy to wipe clean
- Lightweight material
- Grout still needs periodic sealing
- Not as durable as natural stone or metal
- Edges and corners prone to chipping
- Extremely durable surface
- Resists heat, oil, and water
- Easy to keep clean
- Modern, sleek aesthetic
- Can show fingerprints, water spots, and smudges
- Susceptible to scratches
- Higher cost than ceramic or porcelain
- Natural material with beautiful veining
- Withstands heat and is very durable
- Timeless, classic look
- Higher cost, especially for rare stones like marble
- Cuts and fabrication increase install cost
- Can stain or etch from acids
- Seamless installation
- Wide range of colors and textures
- Durable and water-resistant
- Easy to keep clean
- Higher cost than tile
- Heavy panels require professional install
- Can shatter if impacted
- Extremely water-resistant
- Withstands high heat
- Modern, industrial look
- Easy to sanitize
- Prone to scratches
- Needs to be sealed to prevent oxidation
- Higher cost than tile or glass
- Conducts sound
Typical Installation Cost
Material costs are only one portion of the total backsplash installation price. You also have to factor in labor charges, adhesive, grout, sealant, and any special cutting or drilling required.
Here are typical per square foot installed costs:
- Ceramic or Porcelain Tile: $10 – $20
- Glass Tile: $20 – $50
- Natural Stone Tile: $40 – $100
- Stainless Steel: $40 – $75
- Glass Sheets: $50 – $100
For a 10 square foot backsplash, you may spend $100 to $1000+ depending on the material. Get multiple contractor quotes to find the best rate.
Many homeowners tackle ceramic tile backsplash installation as a DIY project to save on labor fees. This is only recommended if you have tiling experience.
Backsplash Design Ideas
If you decide to install a backsplash, there are endless options for designing a unique look:
Tiny mosaic tiles create a pixelated look. Go with all one color or a mosaic blend of colors and textures.
Marble or Travertine Subway Tile
Classic 3-inch by 6-inch subway tile backsplash adds timeless style and works with any cabinetry.
Boldly contrasting geometric shapes in the backsplash tile design make a dramatic statement.
Moroccan Fish Scale Tile
Intricate circular tiles resembling fish scales infuse exotic Moroccan flair.
Shimmering metals like copper, brass, or nickel provide brilliant shine and serve as the backsplash focal point.
A single sheet of tempered glass makes for a seamless and ultra-sleek backsplash. Illuminate with LED lighting.
Incorporate recessed shelving into the backsplash for extra hidden storage space in the kitchen.
Make a natural design statement with the green hues found in jade, malachite, or serpentine stone tile.
Graphic Novel Motif
Use a comic book or pop art graphic as the backsplash design for a fun, playful ambiance.
Do It Yourself vs Hiring a Pro
Installing a tile backsplash is often within the DIY abilities of many homeowners. Basic materials like ceramic subway tile are easy to handle.
However, for more complex materials like natural stone or glass and intricate designs, professional installation is recommended.
Pros know all the tricks for a seamless final look. They have the right tools and can fabricate any specialty tiles needed.
Contractors also handle tasks like:
- Demolishing the existing backsplash
- Prepping the wall surface
- Laying out the tile design
- Cutting any outlet, faucet, or niche openings
- Applying mortar and grouting
- Installing accent lighting or shelving
Maintaining and Cleaning a Backsplash
The right backsplash materials are designed to withstand messy abuse in the kitchen. However, all backsplashes require proper ongoing maintenance.
Glass, metal, and ceramic tile are very easy to wipe clean as needed with mild detergent and warm water. Avoid abrasive cleansers that can scratch.
Grout may need periodic sealing to prevent staining and mold growth, especially around the sink and stove.
Some materials like marble can etch from acidic foods and liquids. Seal and promptly clean up spills. Copper finishes will patina naturally over time.
Proper backsplash maintenance will keep it looking like new for many years before considering replacement.
Should I Add a Backsplash? – Final Considerations
Here are a few final tips when deciding if your kitchen needs a backsplash:
- If your kitchen gets heavy use with lots of cooking, frying, baking, etc., a backsplash is likely a smart functional investment.
- Look at the condition of your existing walls. If they are already damaged or moisture-prone, a backsplash can provide a quick and easy fix.
- Make sure the backsplash complements your cabinetry, countertops, appliances, and overall decor style for a cohesive look.
- Compare costs of materials and professional vs DIY installation to find an option within your budget.
- For resale value, neutral classic materials like subway tile provide the widest appeal.
- Consider extra functionality like added lighting, shelving, or outlets if needed.
- Well-maintained backsplashes can last for decades before replacement is needed.
With the right design considerations, a backsplash can take your kitchen from basic to beautiful while also protecting your walls. Evaluate all the options to make the best choice for your space and budget.
FAQs About Backsplashes
Q: What is the most popular backsplash?
A: The most popular backsplash is the classic white 3×6 subway tile. It provides a timeless and versatile look that fits well with any kitchen style from traditional to modern.
Q: How much does a kitchen backsplash cost?
A: Backsplash cost depends heavily on the material used. Ceramic tile starts around $5 per square foot. Stone tile ranges $50-100 per square foot installed. Glass tile is $20-50 per square foot installed. Other factors like labor and design complexity also impact overall cost.
Q: What color backsplash goes with white cabinets?
A: The most popular backsplash colors for white cabinets are white, light grey, navy, black, beige, or wooden. A crisp white backsplash keeps the space light and bright. Grey and beige are subtle neutrals. Navy and black add dramatic contrast.
Q: Should a backsplash match countertops?
A: It is not mandatory for the backsplash to match the countertops exactly. However, you want the two surfaces to coordinate. Keeping colors in the same tone or material family creates a cohesive look. Mixing very contrasting countertop and backsplash finishes can look disjointed.
Q: How high should a backsplash be?
A: The standard height for a backsplash is 4 inches. However, you can customize based on your needs. If you do a lot of cooking that splatters higher, consider extending to 8 inches or full height. Full height backsplashes give a built-in appearance.
Q: Can you put a backsplash on painted drywall?
A: Yes, it is possible to install a backsplash directly onto painted drywall. However, first ensure the paint is firmly adhered. Roughening the surface slightly with sandpaper helps the mortar bond tightly. Acrylic latex caulk fills any gaps between tiles.
Q: Are tile backsplashes out of style?
A: Tile backsplashes are not considered out of style, quite the opposite. Tile provides timeless beauty and endless options to customize to your taste. Subway tile remains one of the most classic and popular backsplash styles. However, large format porcelain slabs are also on trend.
The decision about adding a backsplash very much depends on your particular kitchen situation. Carefully assess the existing wall condition, how you use the kitchen, your preferred materials and design, and budget. For high use kitchens prone to splatters and moisture, a backsplash can provide substantial functional protection and visual appeal. Take the time to weigh all the factors in deciding if your space could benefit from a backsplash installation or upgrade. With the right prep work and materials, you can install a backsplash that prevents wall damage while also showcasing your personal style.