A kitchen backsplash serves both decorative and functional purposes in a kitchen. While it may not be an absolute necessity, most kitchen designers and homeowners agree that installing a backsplash comes with multiple benefits that make it a highly recommended kitchen feature.
What is a Kitchen Backsplash?
A backsplash is a protective covering on the wall behind a countertop, stove, or sink. Backsplashes are typically made from tile, metal, glass, or other water-resistant materials. The main purpose of a backsplash is to protect the walls from water damage, grease splatter, and other types of messes that can occur in a kitchen. A properly installed backsplash prevents moisture from seeping into the drywall and causing mold or water stains.
In addition to its functional benefits, a backsplash serves as a decorative focal point in the kitchen. Backsplash tiles come in a wide range of colors, textures, materials, and patterns, allowing homeowners to match their unique style. The backsplash brings visual interest to what would otherwise be a blank wall space. It helps tie the entire kitchen together and complete the design aesthetic.
Benefits of Adding a Backsplash
There are many good reasons to install a backsplash in your kitchen remodel or new construction. Here are some of the top benefits:
Protects Against Water Damage
The backsplash creates a protective barrier between the walls and sources of water in the kitchen like the sink and stove. Splashes from the faucet or boiling pots and pans can cause water stains, mold, and moisture damage over time. The backsplash takes those splashes so the wall doesn’t have to.
Guards Against Grease Stains
Backsplashes also prevent grease stains from accumulating on walls behind cooking surfaces. Grease spatters and splatters if you aren’t careful when cooking. A properly installed backsplash provides an easy-to-clean surface that keeps walls pristine.
Adds Visual Interest
Backsplashes provide the opportunity to add style, color, and visual appeal to the kitchen. Backsplashes take up a decent portion of visible wall space, so they have a big decorative impact. You can match your backsplash tile to your countertops, flooring, or cabinetry for a pulled-together look.
Increases Resale Value
Upgraded backsplashes can increase resale value and appeal to buyers. Outdated or damaged backsplashes can give buyers the impression more DIY repairs are needed. New, on-trend backsplash materials make kitchens look freshly updated.
Creates a Focal Point
The backsplash draws attention and becomes a focal point in the aesthetic design of the kitchen. Unique patterns, textures, and colors make the backsplash the starring wall. It brings depth and interest to the kitchen.
Provides Design Flexibility
Backsplashes offer so many options from materials to layouts. Mix and match tiles or opt for full slabs or metal sheets. Take the backsplash up to the ceiling or limit it to a small strip near the counters. Adapt size and placement to your unique space.
Get creative with shapes, designs, materials, colors, and mosaics. From glass to granite to tin backsplashes, there are endless ways to craft a creative, artful look. Show off your style with a fun or funky backsplash tile design.
Easy to Repair and Replace
Because backsplashes are made from durable, water-resistant materials, they hold up well over time. But if damage occurs, backsplashes are relatively easy for professionals to repair or replace without tearing up the whole wall.
The nonporous nature of materials like glass, metal, and tile makes backsplashes easy to wipe down and disinfect. Their smooth surfaces don’t trap bacteria and grime like drywall does. Keep backsplashes looking clean.
Popular Backsplash Design Tips
Backsplash design ideas are endless, but there are a few tried and true tips for choosing a style that suits your kitchen and complements the overall aesthetics.
Match Backsplash and Countertops
Matching your backsplash tile to colors and textures found in the countertop surface creates flow. For example, use marble backsplash tile with granite counters or travertine with quartz. Tying the elements together makes spaces appear seamless.
Consider Glass Backsplashes
Glass tile provides brilliant shine and glamour. The reflective surface also makes kitchens appear larger. Glass backsplash tile comes in every color from bold primaries to natural neutrals. Add drama with patterned or frosted glass tile.
Use Same Tile Floor to Ceiling
Using the same tile from the backsplash to the ceiling can make a kitchen appear taller. Opt for a classic subway tile or intricate mosaic laid in identical sheets from counter to ceiling for a clean, streamlined look.
Extend Backsplash to Range Hood
Extending the backsplash tile up to the bottom of wall-mounted range hoods gives a finished, built-in look. Choose tile that complements the metal finish of the hood. Maintain the same tile pattern from counter to hood.
Try Open Shelving Instead
Open shelvingRemoving upper cabinets to expose shelves gives the backsplash a starring role. The full tile design can be seen and adds color to open space. A range hood anchors one end while shelves bookend the other side.
Mix Patterns and Textures
Consider mixing up tile sizes, textures, patterns, and colors. Accent a smaller subway tile with glass mosaic sheets or frame decorative tiles with classic white squares. Contrasting grout colors also add interest.
Extend Backsplash to Ceiling
To make a statement, take the backsplash tile from countertop to ceiling. Use this exaggerated treatment for a focal wall, on a cooking feature wall with the stove, or in a small galley kitchen to draw the eye up.
Frame With Trim
Finish backsplash edges with decorative trim like bullnose, chair rail, or crown molding. This frames the backsplash tile and adds subtle elegance. Match trim to cabinet stain or paint color.
Get creative by combining materials like glass and stone or metal and porcelain. A stainless steel mosaic dot tile with marble subway is striking. Use natural stone on the bottom and bright solid glass on top.
Use Two Tones
Use two colors or textures to break up the backsplash space. Stacked stone on bottom with a reclaimed wood slice backsplash above the counter adds rustic charm. Light and dark tiles create contrast.
Backsplash Installation Tips
Proper installation is key to getting the most function and longevity out of a backsplash. Here are helpful backsplash installation tips:
Use Moisture-Resistant Drywall
Install moisture-resistant drywall behind the backsplash area to prevent moisture damage if water manages to get behind the tile. Look for mold- and water-resistant materials.
Prepare the Surface
Ensure the surface is smooth. Remove any wallpaper or paneling on the installation surface. Fill holes and sand bumps for a perfectly smooth foundation. This allows the backsplash to lie flat.
Apply Appropriate Backerboard
Natural stone, glass, and metal tile require cement board as a backer. Use a waterproof membrane over drywall for ceramic or porcelain tile backsplashes. HardieBacker® cement board is a popular option.
Use Latex Modified Thinset
Choose an adhesive mortar suitable for the backsplash material. Most require latex modified thinset which is resistant to shrinkage and cracking. Check manufacturer instructions for recommended products.
Follow Layout Lines
Map out tile layout lines in the adhesive based on your design. This keeps tile courses straight and evenly spaced. Place spacer tiles along the layout lines first. Fill in the rest of the field.
When applying tile sheets, stagger the seams so they do not line up vertically from row to row. Offset seams by at least 6 inches to maintain strength and prevent cracking grout lines.
Insert Backsplashes Behind Ranges
For tile backsplashes behind stoves, slide the upper edge up behind the range slightly to prevent seepage behind the tile. Any drips will emerge in front of the tile instead of behind it.
After grouting, caulk along the top edge and side perimeters of the backsplash using a flexible silicone caulk. This creates a watertight seal between the tile and wall or ceiling.
Seal Natural Stone
Penetrating sealers are recommended for porous stone backsplash tile like marble, travertine, and limestone. Multiple coats prevent staining and increase water resistance. Reapply sealer yearly.
Backsplash Maintenance Tips
With proper care, a kitchen backsplash will maintain its beauty and function for many years. Here are handy backsplash cleaning and maintenance tips:
Routine Light Cleaning
Wipe down the backsplash routinely using a damp microfiber cloth and mild dish soap diluted in warm water. This removes recent splatters and buildup from grease and cooking residue.
Baking Soda for Stains
For tough stains on grout or tile, make a paste with baking soda and water. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes and scrub away stubborn grease marks. Rinse thoroughly.
Disinfect with Bleach Mix
Mix 1 part bleach to 10 parts water for a natural disinfecting backsplash cleaner. The bleach kills germs and bacteria without dulling tile shine. Never use undiluted bleach directly on backsplash tile.
Avoid Harsh Chemicals
Steer clear of harsh bathroom cleaners, acids, and abrasive scouring powders which can etch, corrode, or scratch backsplash surfaces. Stick to gentle dish soaps, natural cleaners, or diluted vinegar solutions.
Re-seal Stone Annually
Penetrating sealers on porous stone backsplashes need to be reapplied about once a year to maintain optimal water repellency and stain resistance. Stone sealers prevent dark water marks.
Repair Cracks Quickly
If grout lines crack or tile chips or pops off, arrange for professional repairs right away. Cracks allow moisture intrusion and lead to more damage if left unattended. Use matching grout for fixes.
Replace Damaged Caulking
Look for deteriorating or moldy caulk along the edges and have it replaced to keep moisture from seeping behind the tile. Bad caulk allows leaks to form behind the backsplash.
Scrub Tough Marks Lightly
For stubborn baked-on marks and cooking grease stuck to glass or ceramic backsplash tiles, use a soft scrub brush, mild cleaner, and gentle pressure to lift stains without scratching.
Backsplash Cost Considerations
While backsplashes are considered necessities by most kitchen designers, some homeowners wish to cut project costs by installing a basic backsplash or skipping it altogether. Here are some backsplash cost considerations:
Backsplash prices range widely based on the material used. Ceramic or porcelain tiles can cost as little as $5 per square foot. Natural stone raises prices to $50-100 per square foot installed.
Simple layouts like subway brick patterns require less cutting and materials so they are most budget friendly. Intricate mosaics, strip patterns, and artful curves use more tile pieces and increase labor time and costs.
Glass sheets, metal backsplashes, and natural stone often require special saws and tools for tricky installation steps like precise cuts for outlets. This specialized labor increases prices.
Amount of Coverage
Standard 4-6 inch tall backsplash strips behind counters are the most affordable option. Installing tile from counter to ceiling or across multiple walls adds cost with more materials, cuts, and labor.
DIY vs Professional
Homeowners with tiling experience can install simple ceramic tile backsplash designs themselves to control costs, but pro installers are best for challenging layouts and finicky materials like natural stone, glass, and metal installations.
Ordering backsplash tile and supplies online comes with shipping and handling fees that add up, especially for heavy natural stone tile. Buying locally avoids high delivery fees.
Alternatives to Traditional Backsplashes
While tile may be the gold standard, it is not the only option. Here are some creative backsplash ideas beyond basic tile:
Stainless steel backsplashes bring contemporary, sleek style. Stainless makes a bold modern statement, especially extending up behind dramatic range hoods. Easily wiped clean and resistant to heat and grease.
Reclaimed barnwood planks make charming rustic backsplashes with natural warmth. Use varying widths for eclectic patterns. Other wood options include cedar, redwood, and cypress for water-resistance. Add wood stain or outdoor sealant.
Revive the Victorian era with decorative pressed tin backsplashes and ceilings. This adds texture and dimension with affordability. Use embossed, stamped, or geometric tin panels.
Brick or Faux Brick
Brick backsplashes impart timeless traditional allure. Subway brick patterns look great with shiplap walls. Faux reclaimed bricks peel-and-stick on, avoiding heavy masonry work. Use brick sheets or authentic bricks.
Beadboard offers cottage charm and a country feel with its distinctive narrow vertical grooves. It withstands moisture well in kitchens. Paint it or stain beadboard to match cabinets for a cohesive look.
While not waterproof, wallpaper backsplashes add eye-catching style through bold prints, patterns, and colors. Use splash-proof wallpaper, avoid seams behind sinks and stoves, and keep lower areas easily cleanable.
Mirrored backsplashes visually expand small kitchens. Position near windows to amplify light. Frame mirrors with decorative trim. Helpful for reflecting task lighting onto countertops as well.
Fun for pot racks, hanging utensils, and open shelving, perforated pegboard backsplashes add industrial flair. Paint pegs and board to pop against tiles and cabinets. Great for crafty home chefs to display favorite tools.
While backsplashes make kitchen upgrades easier, it is smart to consider a few precautions:
The main purpose of a backsplash is protecting walls from moisture, splatters, and grime. Choose appropriate durable, non-porous materials rather than trendy yet permeable options.
Ensure heat-resistant materials like metal, ceramic, stone, or glass tiles are used behind cooktops and ovens. Combustible surfaces like wood or wallpaper can be fire hazards above ranges.
Natural stone and thick glass backsplashes have more weight than ceramic tile. Ensure the wall structure can support heavyweight materials without pulling free or sagging over time.
DIY Skill Level
Advanced layouts and tricky materials like large-format tiles and natural stone call for professional installers. Don’t take on more than your DIY abilities allow. Hiring pros prevents headaches.
Consider how easy your backsplash will be to regularly clean and disinfect. Glossy glass wipes clean faster than a porous natural slate that requires resealing. Plan for manageable maintenance.
Frequently Asked Backsplash Questions
Common questions homeowners have about backsplashes include:
Do you need a backsplash if you have granite countertops?
Installing a backsplash is highly recommended even with granite countertops. The backsplash still protects the wall from moisture, grease, food splatter, and potential water damage. Granite alone will not prevent wall staining.
Can you put backsplash tile directly on drywall?
It is not recommended to install backsplash tiles directly on drywall, especially in moisture-prone areas. Appropriate backerboard or waterproof membranes should be used over drywall to prevent warping or water damage behind the tile.
What height should a kitchen backsplash be?
Standard backsplash height is 4-6 inches. However, designs extending up to 18-24 inches high behind cooktops are popular when combined with shorter runs of backsplash by counters. Some use full floor-to-ceiling backsplashes as well.
Can you get an outlet behind a tile backsplash?
Yes, outlets can be safely installed behind backsplashes by cutting precise openings in the tile around them. Use a specialized mosaic tile wet saw for clean cuts. Bring in a professional electrician to guarantee proper safety protocol.
Which is better for kitchen backsplash—glass or ceramic tile?
Glass and ceramic tiles both make excellent backsplash materials. Glass offers shine and depth with an endless array of colors. Ceramic provides a classic, affordable option available in every imaginable style. Choice comes down to personal taste.
Do you need to seal a ceramic tile backsplash?
Unlike natural stone, ceramic and porcelain tiles do not require regular sealing. Their impervious surfaces resist staining and moisture easily without sealants. However, applying grout sealer after installation helps keep grout lines cleaner long-term.
Kitchen backsplashes offer numerous benefits that make them a recommended feature in any kitchen design plan. Besides protecting walls from damage, they provide style, visual interest, and design flexibility using an array of materials. When coordinated with countertops and cabinets, backsplashes unify the space. Their stain- and water-resistant nature also make them practical and easy to keep looking like new. With so many options for materials, colors, shapes, and sizes, it is easy to craft a backsplash that matches your unique taste and complements any kitchen’s decor.