Installing a kitchen backsplash is an excellent way to add visual interest, protect your walls from splashes and spills, and update the look of your kitchen. But before starting a backsplash project, it’s important to understand what’s involved so you can budget appropriately. Here’s an in-depth look at the costs associated with installing a kitchen backsplash.
The material you choose for your backsplash will be a major factor in determining the overall cost. There are lots of backsplash options to consider, including:
Tile is a classic and popular choice. The cost of tile ranges dramatically, from as little as $0.50 per square foot for basic ceramic tile up to $50 or more per square foot for high-end, handmade, or mosaic tiles.
The type of tile you select will depend on your budget, your kitchen’s style, and how much maintenance you’re willing to do. Ceramic and porcelain tiles are very durable and easy to clean. Natural stone tiles like marble, granite, and slate add elegance but need to be sealed regularly. Glass, metal, and mosaic tiles create a shiny, eye-catching look.
Stainless steel makes a modern, industrial-chic statement. It offers a sleek, minimalist look. Stainless steel backsplashes are also very hygienic and easy to clean. This material costs around $40 to $60 per square foot installed.
Glass tiles are available in an endless array of colors, shapes, and textures. They create a shiny, luxurious look. The cost is typically $15 to $30 per square foot. Handmade art glass tiles can run upwards of $50 per square foot.
Stone and Marble
Elegant and natural, stone and marble backsplashes make a sophisticated impression. Materials like granite, slate, travertine, and marble range from $15 to $75 or more per square foot installed. Keep in mind that natural stone requires annual sealing.
Metal backsplashes offer beautiful brilliance and a contemporary vibe. Materials like stainless steel, copper, brass, and aluminum are very on-trend. Prices range from around $15 to $50 per square foot installed.
Wood brings natural warmth and texture to a kitchen. Wood backsplashes made from reclaimed barn boards, redwood, cedar, and other species typically cost $20 to $50 per square foot installed. Keep in mind that wood requires sealing and is prone to damage from moisture.
Affordable and low-maintenance, laminate backsplashes mimic luxurious materials like marble and granite for a fraction of the cost. Laminates are available in many patterned options and cost approximately $5 to $15 per square foot installed.
Mirrored backsplashes infuse any kitchen with light and visually double its dimensions. The cost for mirror tiles or panels ranges from about $10 to $50 per square foot installed, depending on the type of mirror selected.
Other Cost Factors
In addition to the backsplash materials, there are other factors that will affect the total installation cost:
If you hire a professional to install the backsplash, labor will be a significant portion of your total cost. Labor rates vary, but typical costs range from $3 to $10 per square foot. Complex patterns or difficult installations will take more time and increase labor costs.
Don’t forget to account for grout, mortar, adhesive, trim pieces, sealant, and any other supplies needed to complete the installation. This can add $1 to $3 or more per square foot.
The complexity of your backsplash design will impact the installation time and difficulty. Simple tile layouts or full sheets of materials are quicker to install than intricate patterns or mosaics. The more complex the design, the higher the cost.
Measure the areas you plan to cover to determine how many square feet of backsplash materials you’ll need. Multiplying this by the cost per square foot for your chosen materials and labor will provide an accurate estimate.
Kitchen Size and Layout
Large kitchens with greater backsplash exposure will cost more than smaller kitchens. Complicated kitchen layouts, corners, and cutouts will increase installation time and labor rates. Simple layouts and uninterrupted backsplash areas will be the most economical.
Demolition and Removal
If your kitchen has an existing backsplash that needs removal, demolition and disposal fees can add a few hundred dollars or more to your total cost.
Moving existing outlets and lights or adding new ones to accommodate your backsplash design will increase your cost. An electrician may charge hourly or a fixed rate per electrical fixture to complete this work.
Some materials like natural stone require extra services to strengthen, seal, polish, or prepare them for installation. Factor in expenses like waterproofing, abrasion resistance treatments, caulking, etc.
Cost to Install a Kitchen Backsplash
Putting the various costs together, you can expect to spend:
- Low end: Starting around $10 per square foot for simple self-installed backsplashes like peel-and-stick tiles or laminates.
- Average cost: $20 to $30 per square foot for mid-range tile backsplashes installed by a professional.
- High end: $50+ per square foot for high-quality designer tiles, intricate mosaics, or premium stone and metal backsplashes installed by a pro.
The total cost for your kitchen will vary based on the factors listed above. The overall size of your space and the materials you choose will have the biggest impacts on price. Get free estimates from backsplash installers before setting your budget.
Factors That Increase Installation Costs
Some kitchens have features or requirements that can increase backsplash installation costs. These include:
- Older homes with plaster walls that are uneven and require extra prep work.
- Textured walls that need smoothing before tile or other materials can be installed.
- Poor existing wall conditions that need structural improvements before backsplash installation.
- Areas with plumbing, electrical, cabinets, or windows that complicate the installation.
- Hard-to-access installation sites that slow down progress.
- Special ventilation needs, like installing backsplashes behind ranges or cooktops.
- Custom designs with irregular shapes or patterns that take more time and precision to install.
- Premium or heavy stone and tile materials that require extra structural support.
- Kitchen layout changes that expand the backsplash installation area.
- Addition of accent features like shelving, niches, or ledges that require extra tile work.
- Specialty grouts and sealants that cost more than basic products.
If any of these apply to your kitchen, expect your total backsplash installation cost to be on the higher end of the range. Always get an itemized estimate so you know exactly what is included before the project begins.
Smart Ways to Save on Your Backsplash Project
If your budget is tight, consider these money-saving tips:
Choose affordable materials. Go for low-cost backsplash options like ceramic tile, laminate, or painted drywall rather than expensive stones and metals.
Install it yourself. With the right tools and DIY skills, you can cut installation labor costs drastically.
Use remnant tiles. Ask suppliers if they have overstock or discontinued tiles sold at a discount. Creative designers can incorporate these into one-of-a-kind patterns.
Extend backsplashes partially. To save costs, you can do partial backsplash installations behind sinks, stoves, and other key areas rather than covering every wall in the kitchen.
Change the design. Keep designs simple and classic. Complicated patterns, mosaics, and inset niches will increase the installation time and difficulty.
Buy bundled packages. Many home improvement stores offer bundled packages of backsplash tiles, grout, adhesive, and other supplies for one all-inclusive price.
Shop end of season sales. Look for tiles and other backsplash materials on clearance or sale during off-peak seasons like fall and winter.
Clean and reuse existing backsplashes. In some cases, you can save your current backsplash just by cleaning and resealing it.
With strategic planning and smart choices, you can install an elegant, high-quality backsplash while sticking to your budget.
Hiring a Pro vs. DIY Installation
Installing a backsplash in your kitchen is a project you can certainly take on yourself if you have tiling experience and DIY skills. However, for complex designs or challenging spaces, hiring a professional backsplash installer is worth the investment. Here’s an overview of the pros and cons:
Benefits of Hiring a Pro
Expertise and training. Professional tilers have extensive experience, specialized tools, and techniques that improve efficiency and quality.
Accuracy. Contractors are meticulous, detail-oriented, and excellent at cutting and fitting tiles for flawless finished products.
Problem solving. Pros can assess tricky situations with wiring, plumbing, or demolition and come up with creative solutions.
Materials knowledge. Experienced installers are familiar with a variety of backsplash materials and make recommendations based on your kitchen’s needs.
Complex designs. Contractors can execute intricate patterns, artistic details, creative focal points and faux finishes that enhance your kitchen’s style.
Efficiency. Pros work quickly and typically complete jobs in a single day, minimizing kitchen disruption.
Peace of mind. Reputable contractors stand behind their work, give warranties, and guarantee your satisfaction.
Benefits of DIY Installation
Cost savings. Completing the project yourself means no labor expenses.
Personalization. You can take your time and customize every aspect from materials to the layout.
Learn new skills. Tiling your own backsplash allows you to develop new talents and knowledge to apply to future home projects.
Flexibility. You can work at your own pace and on your own schedule without coordinating with contractors’ availability.
Control. DIY gives you oversight of every step of the process from demolition to design choices to cleanup.
Freedom to make mistakes. When you don’t hire a pro, small mess ups won’t matter because you aren’t paying for perfection.
For DIYers with a bit of experience under their belts, installing your own kitchen backsplash can be an enjoyable and rewarding challenge. Get advice from the tile store and take all necessary safety precautions.
Backsplash Installation Process: Step-by-Step
Once you’ve selected your materials and decided whether to DIY or hire a pro, it’s time to start the installation process. Follow these key steps:
Step 1: Prepare the Surface
It’s crucial to start with a smooth, clean foundation. Remove any old backsplash and debris. Eliminate any bumps or irregularities in the wall surface and repair any damage. Clean thoroughly.
Step 2: Plan Your Design
Map out the pattern and arrange tiles on the floor first to visualize placement and spacing. Mix tiles from several boxes to blend shading evenly. For complicated designs, make templates.
Step 3: Cut Tiles (if necessary)
Using a wet saw, nippers or manual cutter, cut your tiles to fit around countertops, outlets, cabinets, and any other edges or obstructions. Follow all safety procedures when using power tools.
Step 4: Apply Mortar and Spread Thin-Set
Cover the wall area with mortar, using a notched trowel to spread it evenly. Then “comb” on thin-set adhesive with the trowel notches. Spread only a small area at a time to prevent drying.
Step 5: Install Tiles
Carefully lay each tile in the thin-set, using spacers to ensure consistent alignment and straight grout lines. Gently press and slide tiles to desired placement. Check lines frequently using levels and measuring tape.
Step 6: Let Tiles Set
Allow tiles to fully set undisturbed, typically 24-48 hours. Clean away any excess mortar or thin-set and remove spacers. Don’t grout or use the area until tiles have cured completely.
Step 7: Apply Grout
Mix grout compound, then spread it over the tile using a rubber grout float or squeegee. Push into joints firmly. Let it sit briefly before scraping off residue with a damp sponge.
Step 8: Seal and Finish
Once grout is fully dry, polish the tiles, apply sealants, and attach any trim, edging, or transition pieces needed to give your backsplash a clean finished look.
How Long Does a Backsplash Installation Take?
The timeframe for completing a backsplash installation depends on factors like:
- Size of the backsplash area: Large kitchens take longer than contained backsplash spaces.
- Complexity of design: Simple tile patterns are faster to install than intricate mosaics and accents.
- DIY vs. professional installation: Experienced tilers work significantly faster than DIYers.
- Drying and curing time: Allowing tiles, mortar, thinset and grout to fully cure adds days to the process.
- For a DIY homeowner, plan on a total timeline of 5 days to 1 week for an average sized backsplash project.
- When hiring a professional tiler, the active installation time is often 1 to 2 days, though allowing for thorough drying and curing before use will extend the total turnaround time to 3 or 4 days.
- Small contained backsplash areas under 10 square feet could potentially be installed in a single day by an experienced pro.
Be sure to consider clean-up, demolition, prep work, and drying times rather than just the hands-on tiling time when estimating your installation timeline. Rushing any of the steps can lead to problems down the road.
DIY Backsplash Installation Tips
If you’re a DIYer tackling a backsplash installation, these tips can help your project go smoothly:
- Carefully read all manufacturer’s instructions for any materials and tools you use. Follow guidelines exactly.
- Have all materials and tools prepared and ready before starting. Once you begin, you won’t want to stop midway.
- Wear safety goggles, gloves, kneepads, and any other protective gear recommended.
- Turn off power at the breaker box before doing any electrical work like moving outlets.
- Clear the countertops and protect the floor from debris. Cover appliances if needed.
- Ensure the wall surface is smooth, plumb, and primed properly before applying any tile.
- Focus on small sections in a logical order rather than jumping randomly around the kitchen.
- Use painter’s tape and spacers to keep tile spacing and alignment perfect. Check gridlines frequently.
- Make slow, precise cuts when trimming tiles to fit. Rushed cuts look sloppy.
- Let thinset mortar and grout fully cure according to package directions before grouting or using the kitchen.
- Keep the room well-ventilated when working with chemical adhesives, sealers or grout compounds.
Take it slow and steady. Attention to preparation, precision, and drying times will pay off with a professional-looking finished backsplash you can enjoy for years.
Hiring and Working With Contractors
When hiring a pro to install your backsplash, follow these tips for the best experience:
Research and Choose Reputable Contractors
- Read reviews and talk to past clients to verify skills and reliability.
- Look for specialists whose work focuses specifically on backsplashes and tile.
- Ensure contractors have current licenses, bonding, and insurance.
- Ask to see photos of previous backsplash projects similar to yours.
- Get recommendations from kitchen designers, showrooms, or interior decorators.
Get a Detailed Written Estimate
- Specify the exact materials and scope of work you want.
- Confirm rates for labor, materials, supplies, demolition fees, and any other costs.
- Understand billing terms – when deposit payments are due, invoice schedule, etc.
- Look for red flags like prices that seem very low or very high compared to other estimates.
Set a Clear Schedule
- Know exactly how long the contractor expects the job to take from start to finish.
- Make clear when the work can begin and if any parts of the installation must be finished by a specific date.
- Be as flexible as possible with start dates given contractors’ busy schedules.
Prepare Your Kitchen Properly
- Have existing backsplashes demolished and removed prior to installation day unless this is included in the contractor’s estimate.
- Empty cabinets, shelves, and countertops within the contractor’s work area.
- Give clear access to electrical outlets needed. Turn off power if necessary.
- Let contractors know about any kitchen quirks or special considerations.
- Have start/end dates, material selections, and other project details specified in a written contract.
- Understand payment terms and don’t pay final balances until work meets your standards.
- Get copies of licenses, bonding, warranties, and other project documentation.
Following these tips when hiring and working with backsplash installation pros can prevent misunderstandings and lead to terrific results.
How to Maintain and Care for Your Backsplash
Once your backsplash is expertly installed, adhering to proper care and maintenance practices will keep it looking pristine. Here are some key tips:
- For grout, routinely apply grout sealer, which prevents staining and damage from moisture. Re-seal grout every 1 to 3 years.
- Clean backsplashes regularly using gentle, non-abrasive cleaners designed for the material. Avoid harsh chemicals.
- Immediately wipe up food, oils or soap residue to prevent buildup of stains or grime.
- Check stone and metal backsplashes for sealants annually and re-seal when needed to prevent etching or discoloration.
- Use soft cloths or sponges for scrubbing. Avoid abrasive pads or paper towels that can