Kitchen backsplashes serve both functional and aesthetic purposes in the kitchen. Not only do they protect the walls from splashes, splatters, and stains, but they also add visual interest and tie the whole kitchen design together. When renovating or building a new kitchen, determining the appropriate size for the backsplash is an important consideration. The average size for a kitchen backsplash can vary based on the size and layout of the kitchen, as well as personal preferences. Typically, most standard backsplashes range from 4 to 8 square feet.
What is the Purpose of a Kitchen Backsplash?
Before determining the right size for your backsplash, it’s helpful to understand the purpose it serves in the kitchen. Here are some of the main reasons for installing a backsplash:
- Protects the Walls – Backsplashes prevent water, oil, sauce, and other cooking messes from splattering directly onto the wall behind the countertop and causing stains or damage. The backsplash takes the brunt of the mess and is much easier to clean.
- Contributes to the Design – Backsplashes are available in a wide array of materials, colors, textures, and patterns. This allows them to add visual interest and tie the whole kitchen design together in a cohesive way. They can complement the countertops, cabinetry, and other finishes.
- Provides a Decorative Accent – The backsplash serves as a key focal point and decorative element in the kitchen’s design. It’s like the jewelry of the room, drawing attention and adding character.
- Easy to Update – Because backsplashes are typically a separate installation from the countertops, they can easily be swapped out later for an updated look without a full kitchen remodel.
Average Kitchen Backsplash Size
The size of your backsplash will depend on your kitchen’s footprint and layout. Here are some general guidelines for average backsplash sizes:
- Standard Backsplash – Most commonly, the backsplash begins at the countertop and extends upwards 12-18 inches covering a portion of the wall behind the counters and appliances. This protects the primary splatter zone behind the counters. For this standard size, most backsplashes fall in the range of 4 to 8 square feet.
- Full Height Backsplash – A full height backsplash extends from the countertop all the way up to the underside of the upper cabinets. This provides protection across a larger surface area. Full height backsplashes are commonly 8 to 16 square feet.
- Mosaic Backsplash – Small tiled mosaic backsplashes utilize tiny tiles to create patterns and designs. Due to the small scale and intricate installations, they tend to cover less surface area in the range of 4 to 6 square feet.
- Backsplashes Behind Appliances – Extending the backsplash fully behind appliances like ranges, ovens, and refrigerators increases the overall size. This protects the surrounding walls from drips, leaks, and heat emitted from the appliances.
- Backsplashes on Multiple Walls – If your kitchen has an open floor plan or countertops installed on multiple walls like a U-shaped or L-shaped design, this also extends your total backsplash coverage.
Factors that Determine Backsplash Size
Some key considerations when figuring out your ideal backsplash size include:
- Kitchen size and layout
- Areas most prone to splatters like behind sinks and ranges
- Whether upper cabinets are present to provide additional protection
- Desired visual impact and design aesthetic
- Budget for materials and installation
- Ease of cleaning and maintenance
Make sure to evaluate traffic patterns in the kitchen and accentuate high impact zones. For example, focus on larger backsplashes behind busy prep areas or larger backsplashes for islands that see a lot of cooking action.
Average Costs for Backsplashes
Backsplash costs can vary widely based on the materials used:
- Ceramic tile: $5-$10 per sq. ft. installed
- Glass tile: $10-$20 per sq. ft. installed
- Metal tile: $10-25 per sq. ft. installed
- Stone slab: $40+ per sq. ft. installed
- Reclaimed wood: $20-$30 per sq. ft. installed
- Stainless steel: $35+ per sq. ft. installed
A standard 8 sq. ft. backsplash could range from $40 up to $500 or more depending on materials and labor costs. More intricate designs, special shapes, customized accents, and high-end materials can increase costs.
Key Measurements to Determine Backsplash Size
When planning your backsplash size, pull out the tape measure and note these key dimensions:
- Length of all countertops needing backsplash coverage
- Height of the backsplash – standard 12-18 inches or full cabinet height
- Measure behind appliances like refrigerators, stoves, and sinks
- Wall lengths in areas where backsplash will be installed
- Outlets, windows, or other obstructions in the backsplash area
Measure carefully during the planning process to determine the precise square footage. This will ensure you purchase enough materials and can get a more accurate installation estimate.
Design Considerations for Backsplashes
Keep these backsplash design tips in mind:
- Select durable, water-resistant materials like ceramic, porcelain, or metal tile
- Avoid seams behind appliances for a seamless look
- Consider heat-resistant materials behind ranges
- Match or complement countertops and cabinetry finishes
- Extend backsplash to ceiling for full-height accent wall effect
- Use pops of color or mosaic patterns for visual interest
- Cream, beige, or white backsplashes create an airier, bright kitchen
- Darker backsplashes can make a smaller kitchen feel more intimate
Common Backsplash Installation Mistakes to Avoid
When installing a backsplash, some common mistakes include:
- Not properly preparing the wall surface – old adhesive or paint bumps can ruin the finished look
- Neglecting an appropriate backerboard, leading to lack of support
- Using the wrong grout or applying grout improperly can lead to cracking or staining
- Poor planning of outlet placement within the backsplash
- Loose tiles, gaps, crooked lines, and uneven spacing create sloppy results
- Backsplashes that don’t fully protect zones prone to splattering
Be sure to seek an experienced contractor or installer to ensure your backsplash is measured, prepped, and installed correctly.
Frequently Asked Questions
How high should a standard backsplash be?
A standard backsplash should be 12-18 inches high and begin right at the countertop surface. This covers the primary splatter zone.
What’s the best material for kitchen backsplashes?
Tile, metal, glass, and stone are popular choices. Ceramic, porcelain, or metal tile tend to be among the most water-resistant and durable options.
Should backsplashes match the counter or cabinet finishes?
It’s common to match backsplash colors and textures to the cabinetry or countertops. But contrasting materials can also create an eye-catching focal point.
Is it cheaper to install my own backsplash?
DIY installation can save on labor costs but takes more time and skill. The quality of a professionally installed backsplash typically justifies the higher cost.
Can I put a backsplash on drywall without a backerboard?
It’s not advised. Lack of proper backerboard can lead to inadequate support, moisture damage, and failed tile adhesion.
Determining the optimal backsplash size and design requires consideration of your kitchen layout, functionality, personal taste, and budget. Most average kitchen backsplashes range from standard 4-8 square feet behind the main work areas. Full height, mosaic, appliance, and multi-wall backsplashes expand that range. Focus on protecting high splatter zones, complementing existing finishes, and adding visual appeal. With proper planning, preparation, and installation, your new backsplash can provide both beauty and utility for years to come.