Backsplash is an important design element that serves both form and function in your kitchen. While backsplashes are not strictly necessary, most kitchen designers and homeowners recommend including a backsplash. The right backsplash can enhance the look of your kitchen, protect your walls, and make your kitchen easier to clean and maintain. Here is a detailed look at the benefits of adding backsplash and why you likely want to include it in your kitchen remodeling or new construction project.
What is Backsplash?
A backsplash is a surface, usually made of tile, metal, glass, or other material, that is installed on the wall behind a countertop, stove, or sink. Backsplashes serve both decorative and practical purposes in the kitchen.
Key Functions of Backsplash
- Protects the walls from water damage, stains, and splatters while cooking and cleaning
- Creates an attractive, easy-to-clean surface behind appliances and the sink
- Acts as a decorative focal point and adds visual interest
- Contributes to the overall style, look and feel of the kitchen
- Provides an opportunity to add color, texture, and patterns to the kitchen
- Allows you to tie together cabinetry, countertops, and other kitchen elements into a cohesive look
Typical Placement of Backsplashes
Backsplashes are commonly installed:
- Behind the kitchen sink and on the surrounding walls
- Behind stoves and range tops
- Along countertops and islands, especially behind ranges and ovens
- On side walls and back walls around cabinetry
- As an accent along open shelving
Splashbacks, a related term, refers to backsplashes installed behind the range or cooktop specifically. The terms backsplash and splashback are sometimes used interchangeably.
Benefits of Adding a Backsplash
There are many good reasons to add backsplash during a kitchen remodel or new build.
Protects Against Water Damage and Stains
One of the primary reasons homeowners and designers recommend backsplashes is their protective qualities. Tile, glass, metal, and other backsplash materials create a water-resistant barrier behind appliances, sinks, and countertops. This barrier prevents water penetration into drywall, which can cause moisture damage, mold growth, and deteriorated sheetrock.
Additionally, backsplashes prevent staining from cooking splatters, grease, food, and other kitchen messes. It’s much easier to wipe stains off a backsplash than to scrub them out of wall paint or wallpaper. The easy-clean surface helps maintain the look of your kitchen walls.
Adds Visual Interest and Ties the Room Together
Backsplashes provide an opportunity to add eye-catching textures, colors, shapes, and patterns. Whether you prefer an intricate mosaic tile or hand-painted glass panels, the backsplash introduces decorative flair. It also allows you to pull together other elements of the kitchen into one cohesive look.
For example, you might choose a backsplash tile that incorporates the same color and pattern found in the granite countertop. Or, opt for stainless steel backsplash panels that tie into stainless steel appliances.
Reflects Your Personal Style
Kitchen backsplashes are highly customizable, letting you include designs that reflect your tastes and personality. Glass, metal, tiles, and laminates come in a vast array of colors, prints, materials, and styles. You can create modern geometric patterns, playful motifs, or classic marbleized looks.
Contributes to Resale Value
Like other major kitchen remodeling investments, backsplash can potentially increase the value of your home. The National Association of Realtors includes backsplash among the top kitchen remodel projects that can provide a positive return on investment.
Along with exterior curb appeal, kitchens and bathrooms offer the biggest bang for your buck. Backsplash updates help make the kitchen look fresh, current, and well-maintained. This is especially true if trends have changed since the original backsplash was installed.
Provides a Focal Point
The backsplash serves as a focal point in the kitchen, drawing attention to the stylistic choices. Since the backsplash is visible and situated in the heart of the workspace, it is prominently on display. This makes it a great location for creating visual interest.
Strategically using backsplashes in key areas creates decorative focal points. For example, a bold glass tile backsplash behind the range draws the eye while adding pops of color.
Increases Light Reflection
Compared to flat painted drywall, backsplashes have more varied and textured surfaces. These surfaces reflect light better, helping make kitchens feel open, airy, and inviting. The refractive qualities of glass, metal, tile, and stone backsplashes bounce light around.
Proper kitchen lighting illuminates and interacts with the backsplash. The result is a bright, welcoming kitchen environment.
Hides Cables and Wires
Appliances often have power cables, such as those connecting microwaves. Backsplash provides a convenient way to hide these unsightly wires from view while keeping them easily accessible. Simply run the cords behind the backsplash for an uncluttered look.
Backsplash Materials and Options
Kitchen backsplashes come in a diverse array of materials, textures, colors, and design options. Consider the positives and negatives of each material as you select your backsplash.
Examples of Different Types of Backsplash Materials – Image from Home Decor Bliss
Ceramic and Porcelain Tile
Glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles are among the most common and affordable backsplash options. Their durability and resistance to moisture make them ideal for high-use kitchen areas. Tiles come in every color, material look, and pattern imaginable.
- Budget-friendly material and easy DIY installation
- Wide range of colors, textures, shapes, and patterns
- Impervious to water and stains
- Easy to clean
- Grout lines can get dirty but are easy to refresh
- Can chip or crack if impacted
Glass tile backsplashes inject brilliance, reflectivity, and texture. The glass material naturally resists moisture. Frosted, clear, or colored glass tiles convey unique visual depth.
- Light-reflecting surface
- Adds extra splash of color and visual interest
- Distinctive textures add depth
- Naturally water and stain resistant
- Easy to clean
- More expensive than ceramic tile
- Not as durable as porcelain or ceramic and can chip
- Grout lines still need regular cleaning
Metal backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, and tin provide an ultra-modern, industrial chic look. Metal stands up well to heavy kitchen use. It offers a seamless, sleek alternative to tile.
- Sleek, contemporary aesthetic
- Many color/finish options including warm copper or rustic tin
- Extremely water-resistant
- Easy to keep clean
- Can be trimmed for custom sizes and cutouts
- Higher price tag than some other materials
- Susceptible to scratches and dents
- Copper and other metals can develop patina over time
Natural stone like marble, travertine, and granite exude elegance. Each stone slab has a unique color pattern and veining that dresses up backsplashes. Sealers help protect the porous stone.
- Natural beauty of distinctive stone patterns
- Feels ultra-luxurious
- Adds warmth and texture
- Expensive, especially for large areas
- Porous and requires sealing
- Natural materials can stain without sealants
- Heavy and may require extra wall support
Brick or Stacked Stone
Dimensional materials like stone bricks and stacked ledge stone create textural interest on backsplashes. Their layered, uneven shapes feel inherently organic and earthy.
- Natural, rustic aesthetic
- Distressed finishes have built-in charm
- Brick mortar is heat and moisture resistant
- Natural materials can stain
- Grout or mortar lines need periodic cleaning
- Heavy and often needs additional wall support
Wood backsplashes infuse rustic, natural style. The varied grain and warmth of wood brings pronounced texture. Popular wood choices include elm, maple, and oak.
- Warm, natural look
- Distressed wood feels inherently homey
- Wood grain has distinctive patterns
- Not as water- or stain-resistant as other materials
- Needs periodic sealing to avoid water damage
- Not heat resistant behind appliances
Laminate backsplashes consist of thin laminate sheets glued onto wallboard or substrate. They simulate the look of more expensive materials like stone and metal.
- Most budget-friendly backsplash option
- Easy DIY installation
- Wide range of faux material looks
- Seamless, groutless surface
- Not as durable as real stone or metal
- Still needs caulking at seams near sinks/appliances
- Resists water fairly well but can show damage
Patterns and Design Styles
Beyond materials, backsplashes utilize different shapes, layouts, and design motifs. Patterns and layouts tie heavily into the kitchen’s overall style.
Examples of Backsplash Design Styles – Image from Maison Valentina
Consider how these backsplash design elements can accentuate different decor styles:
- Subway tile: Classic rectangular tiles laid in offset brick pattern works well for transitional and farmhouse styles.
- Herringbone: Angled tile layout in a V pattern provides visual interest and fits with rustic or traditional decor.
- Hexagons: Six-sided tiles create honeycomb effects that pop in modern spaces.
- Moroccan fish scale: Intricate interlocking tiles resemble fish scales and complement bohemian decors.
- Marble slab: Book-matched marble slabs with striking veins help create ultra-luxurious environments.
- Pebbles/Copper: Organic pebble mosaics and hammered copper inject natural style into modern farmhouse spaces.
- Geometric: Angular geometric shapes like triangles, diamonds, and octagons convey cutting-edge contemporary flair.
Beyond layouts, don’t overlook the impact of color. Contrasting hues can make backsplashes stand out, while complementary tones tie into cabinetry.
Standard backsplash height ranges from 4 to 6 inches tall. Full-height backsplashes that extend from counter to ceiling make much more of an impact. In a small kitchen, tall backsplashes create the illusion of expanded space. For larger kitchens, full-height backsplash transforms the walls into a dynamic focal point.
To up the visual dynamics, blend materials or add metallic accents. Glass mosaic tiles with intermittent stainless steel inserts catch and reflect light. Horizontal bands of marble accent brick backsplashes. Clusters of colored tiles contrast against white subway tiles.
Mixing up shapes also livens up backsplashes. Try combining rectangular subway tiles with a smattering of accent tiles inchevron, circular, or diamond shapes. This type of eclectic design works well in vintage-inspired and farmhouse spaces.
DIY vs Professional Installation
Ambitious DIYers can tackle standard tile backsplash projects, especially with abundant online tutorials. Glass, metal and stone backsplashes often benefit from professional skills and tools. In all cases, precise measurements and attention to preparation and installation details are a must.
Proper planning prevents problems down the road. Don’t rush the process and take steps to waterproof and seal your backsplash.
Backsplash Maintenance Tips
While backsplashes simplify kitchen maintenance overall, you’ll need to keep them looking pristine over time. Follow these tips:
- Seal natural stone materials to prevent staining and etching from acidic foods. Reapply sealers every 1-2 years.
- Clean backsplashes frequently using gentle, non-abrasive cleaners designed for each material (glass, tile, etc.).
- Rinse soap and grime thoroughly. It can dissolve grout over time.
- Avoid harsh scrubbing and scouring pads/abrasives which can damage finishes.
- Refresh caulking and re-grout as needed to prevent moisture issues and maintain clean lines.
Should You Add Backsplash to Your Kitchen?
In most kitchen designs today, backsplashes are considered standard inclusions, alongside cabinetry, countertops, sinks, and lighting.
Home chefs who frequently cook elaborate meals may view the backsplash as an absolute necessity to protect walls and keep the workspace pristine. For those with tight budgets or minimal cooking needs, backsplash could be considered optional.
But before skipping the backsplash, consider these benefits:
Functionality: Backsplashes shield walls from water damage, stains from oil splatter and sauces, and other messes that spread beyond the counters and appliances. This keeps walls cleaner and kitchens looking neater.
Enhanced Style: Backsplashes serve as decorative focal points. They provide an opportunity to inject color, textures, shapes, and patterns through materials like tile, metal, stone, glass, and laminates. This allows you to amplify your kitchen’s style.
Light Reflection: Backsplashes, especially glass styles, enhance ambient lighting. More light brightens kitchen spaces and makes them feel more open.
Resale Value: Updated backsplashes help kitchens appear fresh and current. Along with countertops and cabinets, they are among the most influential elements defining a kitchen’s style.
For most homeowners, the benefits of easier cleaning, styling opportunities, and added home value outweigh the cost of installing and maintaining a quality backsplash.
Backsplash Installation Cost
Budget for both material and installation costs when adding a backsplash. Prices vary based on the size of the project, materials selected, and complexity of the design.
On average, expect to spend:
- Ceramic or Porcelain Tile: $3-$25 per sq. ft. installed
- Glass Tile: $15-$50 per sq. ft. installed
- Natural Stone: $40-$100 per sq. ft. installed
- Metal: $30-$50 per sq. ft. installed
- Laminates: $5-$20 per sq. ft. installed
Tile installation falls in the range of $5-$10 per square foot. Hiring a backsplash installation professional typically starts around $200-400 depending on project scope.
There are also costs beyond materials and installation:
- Add about 5-15% for supplies like grout, thinset, sealant, trim, and tools.
- Account for backsplash design fees if using a kitchen designer.
- Factor in costs to move appliances and for any repairs needed behind the walls.
However, a well-selected backsplash ties the entire kitchen together, enhances enjoyment of the cooking space, and adds value to the home. For many homeowners, this provides a stellar return on investment that makes the backsplash expense worthwhile.
If cost or other factors make a full backsplash installation impractical, consider these alternative options:
Painting the walls with moisture-resistant kitchen & bath enamel paints costs a fraction of tile. Gloss sheens make painted walls wipeable and easier to clean. The downside is painted walls won’t be as stain resistant or textured.
Removable Backsplash Panels
Plastic laminate, metal, or glass panels install directly onto existing walls with adhesive or hooks. These removable backsplash sheets cost less than tile and make DIY upgrades simple. Just ensure an extremely secure installation.
Small Accent Backsplashes
Rather than backsplashing the entire wall, add tile or panels only behind appliances. A small backsplash behind the stove protects the wall but doesn’t break budgets.
Mini backsplashes still spruce up kitchens, especially open floor plans where the backsplash is visible. For example, try a vivid mosaic backsplash tile circcling your range hood only.
Some homeowners get creative with budget-friendly faux backsplash ideas. For instance, apply decorative wallpaper just behind the countertops to simulate backsplash. Or, attach beadboard panels to build out a faux shiplap backsplash look. Removable wallpaper or panels make faux backsplashes temporary and reversible.
Backsplash Design Tips
Approach your backsplash design by considering your kitchen layout, cabinetry, countertops, flooring, and overall decor style. Planning the backsplash in tandem with the full kitchen design ensures the most cohesive, integrated look.
Design to Highlight and Contrast
Use the backsplash to highlight or create intentional contrast against cabinetry finishes and countertop materials.
For example, rough brick backsplash adds captivating texture against smooth cabinets and granite. Or glossy white subway tile amplifies the black veining in soapstone countertops.
Coordinate with Countertops
Look for ways to make countertops, islands, and backsplashes feel interconnected. Inserting even a touch of countertop material in the backsplash ties the two together.
With granite countertops, adding a row of coordinating granite tile or a mosaic in similar hues connects the elements. Or echo the countertop edge profile with stacked stone orientated horizontally in the backsplash.
Repeat Cabinet Finishes
Notice how cabinet hardware finishes are incorporated in the backsplash design in the example below. This repetition creates a unified look. Utilize the same finishes, textures, or colors in