A kitchen backsplash serves both practical and aesthetic purposes. While a backsplash is not an absolute necessity, most kitchen designers and homeowners recommend including one. There are many benefits to having a backsplash in your kitchen.
What is a Kitchen Backsplash?
A kitchen backsplash is a protective surface that sits behind countertops, ranges, and sinks. Backsplashes are typically made of tile, metal, glass, or other water-resistant materials. The backsplash safeguards the wall from water damage, stains, and splatters while also adding visual interest and personality to the kitchen.
Backsplashes most commonly extend 4-6 inches vertically from the countertop to the bottom of wall cabinets. However, they can also run from counter to ceiling for a more dramatic look. Many backsplashes also incorporate decorative accent tiles or mosaic tiles to increase the design appeal.
Benefits of Having a Kitchen Backsplash
There are several practical and aesthetic reasons to install a backsplash in your kitchen remodel or new build.
Protection from Water and Spills
One of the main reasons homeowners and designers recommend a backsplash is to protect the walls above countertops and around sinks from water damage. Plumbing leaks, overflowing sinks, cleaning mishaps, and everyday cooking splatters can quickly lead to water stains, discoloration, peeling paint, mold growth, and warped drywall without a backsplash.
Tile, metal, glass, and other non-porous backsplash materials create a water-resistant barrier between your work areas and drywall. This preserves the integrity of the walls while also making spills and splatters much easier to wipe up.
Prevention of Grease Buildup and Stains
In addition to liquid spills and splashes, kitchen backsplashes also prevent the accumulation of grease, oil, food spills, and other cooking stains on walls. The backsplash takes the brunt of these splatters so you don’t have to worry about constantly scrubbing oil and sauce off your painted walls.
Again, the non-porous nature of most backsplash materials stops stains in their tracks. Materials like ceramic tile, glass tile, and stainless steel can be easily cleaned as needed to keep your backsplash and walls looking pristine.
Adds Visual Interest and Texture
While backsplashes serve very practical purposes, they also provide an excellent opportunity to add artistry, texture, color, shape, and overall visual interest to your kitchen. Backsplash tile and materials come in a nearly endless array of colors, patterns, shapes, and textures to perfectly suit your kitchen’s overall design aesthetic.
Whether you prefer a colorful handmade tile backsplash in a funky shape or the sleek minimalism of a stainless steel sheet backsplash, your backsplash can infuse your kitchen with artistry and personality. It can also coordinate beautifully with your cabinets, countertops, flooring, and other kitchen elements.
Increased Durability Compared to Drywall
Kitchen backsplashes finished with tile, glass, metal, stone, or high-grade water-resistant paint coatings also provide much more durability compared to drywall alone. Drywall has a tendency to deteriorate in kitchens due to moisture, grease, cleaning products, and general wear-and-tear.
A properly sealed and maintained backsplash stands up to years of heavy use and cooking activity without showing signs of deterioration. This prevents you from having to continually repair and repaint damaged drywall above your counters and appliances.
The non-porous, seamless nature of materials like ceramic tile, glass tile, and stainless steel backsplashes make cleaning infinitely easier compared to drywall. Whereas paint has a tendency to absorb grease and moisture, backsplash materials simply need a wipe down with a sponge, mild cleaner, or disinfecting spray to restore their like-new sheen.
Minimal grout lines in tile backsplashes also provide few opportunities for grime buildup. Cleaning a backsplash takes just minutes compared to the chore of scrubbing drywall. The minimal maintenance leads to a cleaner, fresher, more hygienic kitchen environment.
Increased Resale Value
One of the other advantages of installing a backsplash is increased resale value for your home. Backsplashes are expected in today’s kitchens and a missing backsplash can decrease buyer interest and resale potential.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) 2019 Remodeling Impact Report found the average resale value of a minor kitchen remodel including a backsplash to be about 68 percent of the project cost.
Disadvantages of Skipping a Backsplash
While the advantages usually outweigh the drawbacks, here are a few potential cons to skipping the backsplash:
- Increased vulnerability to water damage, which can lead to mold and rotting drywall
- More frequent need for repainting due to food splatters and grease stains
- Lack of an accent area to tie together your kitchen’s design aesthetic
- Decreased functionality if you opt for delicate wallpaper instead of a water-resistant backsplash
- Lower resale value and buyer appeal without this expected kitchen feature
Unless your design aesthetic is very minimalist or you have money to burn on frequent wall repainting, the benefits of a good backsplash usually make it a worthwhile investment. Even a simple and affordable backsplash protects your walls while contributing to a cleaner, fresher, more functional cooking environment.
Backsplash Design Considerations
If you’ve decided to include a backsplash, here are some tips for choosing the perfect backsplash design for your kitchen:
- Ceramic, stone or glass tile: Most popular options that are available in endless colors, textures, shapes and patterns. Tile pros include high durability, easy cleaning, and water-resistance.
- Stainless steel: Sleek, modern, and industrial vibe. Resilient, easy to clean, and moisture-proof. Can show fingerprints.
- Tin backsplashes: Retro appeal. Budget-friendly and easy DIY installation. Prone to denting.
- Painted drywall: Most affordable option but less durable with fewer design choices. Consider semi-gloss or high-gloss sheens for added moisture resistance.
- Wood planks: Warm, organic look but requires diligent sealing to resist moisture damage.
- Glass sheets/tiles: Elegant translucent or colored glass backsplash tiles are durable and easy to clean but more expensive. Safety-coated tempered glass recommended.
- Full height vs. partial height: Full height backsplashes run from counter to cabinets for a bold statement. Partial height is most common, typically 4-6 inches above counter.
- sink: Most backsplashes extend around sink area for water protection. Some skip sink area for more minimalist look.
- Stove/range: Always extend backsplash above cooktop area so it overlaps range hood for full splatter protection.
- Standard 3×6 inch tiles most common
- Larger tiles, mosaics, mini tiles, penny rounds, and combinations of sizes can add interest
- Match or contrast with cabinetry based on your design preferences
- Coordinate with countertops
- Consider a focal point mosaic tile design
- Ceramic or porcelain tile: $5-$25/square foot
- Glass tile: $15-$30/square foot
- Metal or stone tile: $15-50+/square foot
- Stainless steel sheets: $40-$75 for a 4×8 sheet
- Painted drywall: Least expensive at $1-3/square foot
How High Should a Kitchen Backsplash Be?
The most common backsplash height is 4-6 inches vertically above the counter or sink. This provides suitable protection from average cooking/cleaning splatter. Full height backsplashes become more of a decorative focal point. Consider your style preferences and splatter potential. For example, a professional chef may opt for a full height backsplash behind cooking surfaces.
Standard backsplash applications include:
- Partial height: 4-6 inches high above countertops and range/cooktop. Most popular option.
- Full height: Backsplash tiles extended from countertops all the way up to bottom of wall cabinets for dramatic appearance.
- Sink window height: Backsplashes framing a sink window extend up to the window edges. Protects window sills and accents the window.
- Floating: A “floating” backsplash bridges a gap, like the space between a floating vanity and wall-mounted faucets/mirror.
Partial height kitchen backsplash extending 4-6 inches above the countertops
Can You Have a Kitchen Without a Backsplash?
It is possible to have a kitchen without a backsplash if you wish to skip it. However, the lack of a backsplash usually requires more maintenance and consideration:
- Be prepared to clean walls frequently to avoid stains from splatters.
- Use semi-gloss or high-gloss paint on walls for added moisture resistance and easier cleaning.
- Avoid wallpaper or delicate wall treatments as they can be easily damaged.
- Immediately wipe up spills, drips and splatters to avoid wall damage.
- Make sure your countertop material is impervious to hot items from the stove to avoid burns or heat damage to the wall above.
- Take extra care not to overflow sinks or over-saturate walls with water/cleaners.
- Repaint walls regularly to keep pristine versus allowing grease stains or discoloration.
- Add rubber trim seal between counter and wall to prevent water dripping behind.
- Consider a “floating” glass shelf to display decorative items while protecting the wall space below.
While possible, skipping the backsplash does require vigilance to keep walls looking their best. Even a basic and affordable backsplash adds protection.
With so many colors, textures, materials, and tile shapes available, the options for unique and creative backsplash designs are nearly endless. Consider a few of these intriguing backsplash tile ideas:
Mix & Match Patterns
Blending and contrasting tile patterns adds visual intrigue. Geometric shapes, decorative accents, mosaics, and combining glossy and matte finishes create interest. Mixing tile sizes like standard rectangles with petite squares or elongated subway tile also livens up the look.
Backsplash with mixed media tiles in a geometric pattern
Shapes and Materials
Specialty tile shapes break out of the grid format. Try out:
- Fish scales or scallops
- Penny rounds
- Irregular stone tile shapes
- Colorful glass tile
- Eclectic upcycled items like marbles or buttons
Extend Your Counters
Making the backsplash tile match or coordinate with your countertops tricks the eye to make your counters appear larger. This elongated look works especially well with natural stone countertops extended in similar stone tile up the backsplash area.
Bold and Vibrant
Make a statement with an electric, bold backsplash in a rich color like eggplant purple, sapphire blue, or fiery orange. Glossy and iridescent glass tiles in particular radiate energy and vibrancy.
Rustic and Natural
The soft neutral tones and multi-dimensional textures of natural stone tiles bring a rustic, earthy feel that complements many kitchen designs. Combine stone mosaic sheets, stacked slate, or marble for organic beauty.
Intricate mosaic tile patterns reminiscent of Moroccan designs bring lovely exotic details. Tiny tiles make mesmerizing geometric patterns or flowery motifs. Opt for contrasting grout colors to accentuate the tile patterns.
The relaxing ambiance of coastal living inspires some gorgeous backsplashes. Ideas include shells embedded in tile, soft aqua hues, mosaic wave and fish patterns, pebbles and smooth stones, weathered finishes, and ocean-colored glass tile.
Coastal kitchen backsplash idea with sea glass tile
For contemporary edge, pair ultra-white cabinetry and counters with a graphic black and white backsplash. Geometric patterns, crisscrossing lines, or bold cheerful black stripes on a white background pop beautifully.
Reclaimed brick backsplashes impart country farmhouse appeal and texture. Subway tiles that mimic weathered vintage bricks work beautifully as well. Leave grout lines distressed for added rustic charm.
Modern industrial interiors shine with the gleam of metal backsplashes. Polished copper, stainless steel, hammered tin, and aluminum provide an urban edge. Consider combining metal with cool colored tiles for extra pop.
Metallic hammered tin backsplash with blue and white ceramic tiles
Placing eye-catching tile patterns strategically around windows embellishes the views. Try vibrant frames or geometric shapes to accentuate pretty windows overlooking lush scenery or city life.
DIY Installation Tips
Ambitious DIYers can tackle their own simple backsplash project and save on installation costs. Here are some backsplash installation tips for DIY beginners:
You’ll need tile, thinset mortar, grout and grout sealant, tape, trowels, spacers, and sponges. Have glue on hand if using any glass tiles.
Clear counters and detach anything on walls like light fixtures in the backsplash area.
Prep the Surface
Thoroughly clean and sand the wall surface. Apply painter’s tape horizontally along the edges to keep the area tidy.
Plan Your Pattern
Map out tile placement with spacers for a consistent grid. Account for edges and corners. Mix tile sheets for color/pattern consistency.
Apply Thinset Mortar
Apply a thin layer of thinset mortar to the area using a notched trowel. Spread only a workable area so thinset doesn’t dry out.
Set the Tiles
Beginning in the center, press tiles into the thinset mortar and use spacers to maintain even grout lines.
After the thinset cures per product instructions, mix grout and apply over tiles to fill in all grout lines and gaps. Wipe away excess.
Seal the Tile
Apply a penetrating grout sealant to avoid staining and increase water-resistance. Let cure fully before using the backsplash.
With careful prep and patience, DIYers can save on installation costs with a tiled backsplash. For advanced cutting around outlets and plumbing, professional assistance is recommended.
Backsplash Maintenance Tips
All backsplashes require occasional maintenance to look their best over years of use. Here are some backsplash cleaning tips:
- For everyday cleaning, use mild dish soap and warm water applied with a soft sponge or microfiber cloth. Avoid harsh abrasives.
- Rinse soap away thoroughly and dry with a clean towel to avoid streaks or residue buildup.
- For tougher grease stains, use a gentle degreasing cleanser formulated for kitchen tile and surfaces.
- Disinfect backsplashes occasionally with a non-bleach cleaner to eliminate bacteria.
- Reapply grout sealant on tile backsplashes annually to protect from stains.
- Use a specialty limescale remover if hard water deposits form on glass, metal or tile backsplashes and rinse thoroughly.
- Avoid using super harsh cleaners like oven cleaner on backsplashes which can etch surfaces.
- Clean up spills promptly to minimize staining.
- Check for loose or cracked tiles/grout and repair promptly to avoid moisture issues.
With proper care, a kitchen backsplash will maintain its beauty and function for many years before considering a remodel. Protect your investment with simple regular maintenance.
Trending Kitchen Backsplash Ideas
If you’re seeking of-the-moment backsplash inspiration, here are some top trends:
Dimensional woven-look tiles offer subtle texture and movement. These offer Neautral versatility to blend seamlessly across kitchen styles from modern to traditional.
Faux woven backsplash tile in neutral white
The exotic patterns of ornate Moroccan-style tiles continue trending. Blue and white color combos are especially hot this year for their classic yet fun vibe.
Oversized rectangular subway tiles, hexagons, and diamond shapes create contemporary drama. Extra large styles range up to 12 inches square or more.
Organic textures like rock formations, geodes, marble, travertine and actual thin stone slices make unique backsplashes. Natural materials pair beautifully with indoor plants and wood accents.
Salvaged glass, china, mirrors, and upcycled pieces add an artsy focal point. Colored vintage glass tiles paired with white cabinets create a chic retro vibe.
Using dark dramatic grout with lighter tiles amps up the visual impact and dimensions. Charcoal or black grout with white subway tiles is extra bold.
Backsplash Ideas by Kitchen Style
Certain backsplash tile shapes, colors, and designs harmonize beautifully with specific kitchen aesthetics.
Rustic Farmhouse Kitchen
Rustic styles shine with reclaimed wood planks, exposed brick backsplashes, and natural stone tiles with visible veining and texture.
Sleek and minimalist contemporary spaces