Installing a new backsplash can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. But before taking on a backsplash project, it’s important to understand the associated labor costs so you can budget appropriately. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the key factors that impact backsplash installation costs and provide average price ranges so you know what to expect.
What is a Backsplash?
A backsplash is a protective surface installed on the wall behind a sink, stove, or countertop. Backsplashes are typically made of tile, metal, glass, or stone. Their main purposes are to:
- Protect the wall from water damage, grease, food splatter, and other messes.
- Provide an accent wall that can tie together your kitchen’s decor.
- Give you an opportunity to showcase your design style.
Backsplashes range from relatively simple and affordable to elaborate and pricey depending on the materials and detailing involved. But even a basic backsplash requires some professional installation to look polished and perform properly.
Factors That Impact Backsplash Installation Cost
Several key factors determine how much labor it will cost to install a backsplash in your kitchen.
Type of Material
The material you choose for the backsplash has a direct impact on the installation cost. More complex or fragile materials take more time and skill to install properly.
Lowest cost: Painted backsplashes involve the simplest installation. Prepping and painting the wall adds very little to the overall labor costs.
Mid-range cost: Tile is one of the most common backsplash materials since it’s available in endless style options. The installation process takes more time than just paint but is still relatively straightforward.
Higher cost: Materials like metal or glass tile, stone slabs, or mosaics require the most intricate installation and cutting, driving up labor costs.
Layout and Design Complexity
Simple, repetitive backsplash patterns are quicker for installers than complex designs. Factors like:
- Tile size variation
- Diagonal installations
- Intricate mosaics
- Niche and border additions
All add extra time and effort to the installation process.
Additionally, the total size of the backsplash impacts costs. Large backsplashes require more time and materials than a small strip behind the stove.
Prep Work Required
If your backsplash installation requires electrical or plumbing changes, drywall repair, or other carpentry work, this adds to the total project costs. The construction involved to get the wall ready for backsplash installation impacts the labor hours and difficulty.
Professional Versus DIY
Hiring a professional tile installer ensures your backsplash is done correctly but also adds to your total project investment. Doing the installation yourself cuts labor costs but can be complicated if you don’t have experience with tile work.
Like all home improvement services, backsplash installation rates can vary based on where you live and the average wages there. Labor costs tend to be higher in large metro areas than in rural regions.
Backsplash Installation Cost Per Square Foot by Material
To give you a better idea of typical professional installation costs, here are average per square foot labor rates by backsplash material:
- Painted backsplash – $1 to $4 per sq. ft.
- Tile backsplash – $5 to $10 per sq. ft.
- Glass, metal, or stone backsplash – $15 to $25 per sq. ft.
So for a 50 sq. ft. backsplash area using middle-grade tile, you might expect to pay $250 to $500 for installation. The material costs would be additional.
For a intricate mosaic backsplash, labor could run $750 to $1,250 for that same 50 sq. ft. space.
Additional Costs to Factor In
Beyond the backsplash installation charges based on size and materials, you also need to budget for:
- Backsplash material costs – Tile, metal, glass, etc. add considerably to the total project investment. Material costs vary widely based on your selections.
- Sealing and grouting – These finishing steps help complete and protect the backsplash. Your tile pro may include sealing and grouting as part of their labor price or charge extra.
- Permits or fees – Your project may require special permitting if you are moving plumbing or electrical. Always check local regulations.
- Removal and disposal – Taking out an existing backsplash adds demo time and fees for proper disposal.
- Back buttering tiles – This technique involves applying mortar to the back of each tile before placing it. Some installers include back buttering while others charge extra.
- Design consultation – If you use a design expert to help select your backsplash, expect to pay hourly design fees.
Being aware of all the variables involved allows you to plan your budget wisely and avoid surprise costs down the line.
Hiring a Backsplash Installation Pro vs. DIY
Installing a backsplash yourself can certainly save on labor—but also comes with risks if you don’t have tiling experience. Here are some pros and cons to weigh:
Benefits of Hiring a Pro
- Save time – Professionals work far faster than DIYers. A job might take them 2 days vs. 2 weeks for a novice.
- Ensure high quality – Experienced tile pros deliver attractive, long-lasting results. Mistakes can detract from the final look.
- Get expertise – A pro can recommend the best materials and installation methods suited to your space.
- Avoid injuries – Tile cutting and installation requires special tools you may not own and poses risks.
Benefits of DIY Installation
- Save money – Cut out labor costs, which often make up 50% or more of the total backsplash price.
- Personalize – You can take your time and customize everything to suit your taste.
- Learn new skills – Gaining tiling experience can benefit other future projects.
- Have fun – Some homeowners find the process enjoyable and satisfying.
If unsure, start with a small DIY test area first to gauge your skill level before committing to an entire kitchen backsplash.
How to Get the Best Backsplash Installation Rates
To keep your backsplash installation costs in check, here are some helpful tips:
- Get multiple estimates – Prices can vary greatly between contractors. Compare several bids.
- Ask about labor rates – Some charge by the hour while others price by square footage. Know the structure.
- Buy your own materials – Providing the backsplash tiles yourself saves contractor markup on materials.
- Be flexible with scheduling – Having a pro install your backsplash when their schedule is open may mean better rates.
- Provide any needed materials – Having prep materials like concrete board on hand cuts down on installer fees.
- Consider small tiling contractors – Larger companies often charge higher rates. Small operators might offer better deals.
- Offer to help – Doing some of the minor prep or demolition yourself may qualify you for discounted labor prices.
With strategic planning, it is possible to get a professional-looking backsplash installed at a competitive labor rate.
FAQs About Backsplash Installation Costs
Looking to better understand what goes into backsplash installation costs? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
How much does it cost to install a backsplash in a small kitchen?
For a relatively small backsplash of around 20-30 square feet with simple tile, expect to pay in the range of $150-$300 for professional installation labor.
What is the average cost to install a kitchen backsplash?
The average kitchen backsplash is 50-60 square feet. For mid-grade tile installation for that size backsplash, plan on spending $500-$800 in labor costs. High-end materials can double that price.
How can I get an accurate backsplash installation quote?
When requesting a quote, be sure to specify details like the backsplash size, your material selections, complexity of the design, and any special structural considerations. Photos and drawings of the space help too.
Should backsplash installation cost more for a shower area?
Yes, since the backsplash must be waterproofed differently behind a tub or shower, you can expect a 10-15% higher installation price for these locations.
Can I install a backsplash over existing tile?
It is possible but challenging. The existing wall surface must be prepared properly through scraping, sanding and cleaning so the new tiles adhere well. Some pros may decline backsplash over tile jobs.
Is it cheaper to install backsplash tile horizontally vs vertically?
Yes, horizontal tile rows typically cost a bit less for materials and labor than vertical layouts. There is less need for precise tile cutting in horizontal rows.
How much should I budget for a custom mosaic backsplash installation?
Due to the complexity of installing mosaic sheets, glass, or mixed small tiles, plan on a labor investment of $25-$50 per square foot for a pro job.
Get an Affordable Yet Attractive Backsplash
While backsplash installation does represent a notable investment, a bit of careful planning can help you stay on budget and get the backsplash look you desire. Now that you know typical price ranges and understand the factors affecting labor rates, you can set realistic expectations.
With a good backsplash design and professional installation, your kitchen is sure to have a fresh updated look you’ll enjoy for years to come.