How Much to Put in a Backsplash

Backsplashes are an essential design element in any kitchen. Not only do they protect the walls from water damage and stains, but they also add visual interest and ties the whole kitchen together. When renovating or building a new kitchen, one of the biggest decisions is determining how much to invest in the backsplash. There are several factors to consider when deciding how much to put in a backsplash.


The backsplash is one of the most visible parts of any kitchen. It typically covers the wall space between the countertops and kitchen cabinets. Backsplashes serve both practical and aesthetic purposes. On a functional level, they prevent water from the sink and countertops from damaging the walls. They also make the walls easier to clean as splashes and stains end up on the backsplash rather than the painted drywall.

Visually, backsplashes bring color, texture, and personality to the kitchen. They can complement the countertops, cabinets, and flooring to tie the whole room together. With so many backsplash design options from materials to patterns, the backsplash offers a chance to add visual interest and your unique style to the kitchen.

Determining how much to invest in a backsplash depends on your budget, design taste, and the impact you want it to have in the kitchen. allocating the right amount ensures you get the look you want without overspending. This detailed guide examines the factors to consider when deciding how much to put in a backsplash.

Determining Your Budget

The first step in deciding how much to spend on a backsplash is setting a budget. Backsplash costs vary widely based on the material, size of the installation, designer finishes, special shapes and patterns. Simple ceramic tile can cost as little as $5 per square foot while high-end materials like marble, glass or metal tile can run $50 to over $100 per square foot installed.

Take measurements of the backsplash area and do some quick math to figure out the square footage you need to cover. This gives you a baseline for estimating costs. Multiply the square footage by the cost per square foot of the material you’re considering to see how it fits within your budget. Don’t forget to account for additional costs like backerboard, grout, trim pieces and the installation labor.

If the material you love is over budget, look for ways to cut costs. Opt for a simple layout over an intricate pattern, use large format tiles instead of small mosaics, or select a smaller area to tile rather than the entire backsplash zone. Focus the backsplash behind the range or sink where it will have maximum visual impact.

Setting a clear budget upfront allows you to choose a material and design realistically scaled to your funds. You can always upgrade your backsplash later if your budget increases over time.

Choosing the Right Material

The material selection directly impacts the overall cost of the backsplash installation. Natural stone, metal and glass tile tend to be the most expensive while ceramic, porcelain and engineered materials like quartz are budget-friendly options. Consider the pros and cons of each material based on your kitchen needs:

Ceramic or Porcelain Tile

  • Pros: Affordable, available in endless colors/finishes, easy to clean
  • Cons: Not very durable – can chip or crack

Glass Tile

  • Pros: Translucent for depth, available in many colors, durable & water-resistant
  • Cons: More expensive, requires specific cutting tools, grout staining

Metal Tile

  • Pros: Durable, water-resistant, contemporary look
  • Cons: Expensive, prone to scratches, challenging installation

Marble or Granite Tile

  • Pros: Elegant natural stone, cool & classic look
  • Cons: Expensive, stains easily, sealant required

Engineered Quartz

  • Pros: Affordable, extremely durable, endless custom colors/patterns
  • Cons: Less natural stone look, limited sizes

Select a material that fits both your budget and lifestyle. For busy family kitchens, durable and stain-resistant porcelain or ceramic may make the most sense. If you love to entertain and want a showstopping backsplash, glass or marble tile may warrant the higher investment.

Layout and Design

The complexity of the backsplash design significantly contributes to the installation cost. Simple layouts using large format tiles or a straight stacked look tend to be the most budget-friendly. Intricate patterns, mosaic tiles, irregular shapes, and special edge treatments add cost in both labor and material usage.

If aiming to minimize the project budget, opt for:

  • Standard rectangular tile in one size
  • Grid or stacked layout patterns
  • Clean vertical and horizontal grout lines
  • Edge trim matching the tile color

For a more custom look with greater visual impact, consider:

  • Mixed tile sizes, shapes, and textures
  • Diagonal layouts or herringbone patterns
  • Decorative mosiacs, accents, or borders
  • Decorative edge treatments like bullnose trim

Strike a balance between budget and design by using simple layouts sparingly placed in key areas. Frame a cooktop or sink with a mosaic stripe border tile or create a small geometric herringbone inset behind the faucet. This allows you to save on material costs while still adding special details.

Installation Considerations

Hiring a professional tile installer is recommended to ensure a quality backsplash installation, especially for stone or glass tile which require specialized cutting tools. However professional installation adds on average $3-$7 per square foot in labor costs.

You can save significantly on the project budget by taking on the installation yourself. This only works for standard ceramic, porcelain or quartz tile. To DIY, you need basic tiling skills and tools like a wet saw. The preparation work of removing the old backsplash and prepping the wall surface is also key. Poor installation can lead to cracked grout, moisture issues behind the tile or a sloppy uneven look requiring expensive re-dos. Consider your skill level carefully before deciding on DIY.

A middle ground is to do your own tile prep work like removing the old backsplash and then hiring a pro just for the actual tile setting. Knocking out items like backerboard installation or painting the walls yourself saves on labor rates. Focus the pro’s time on the critical step of proper tile setting.

No matter who installs, don’t cut corners on prep or materials like backerboard and grout. Quality products prevent cracked or loose tiles down the road, protecting your investment.

Size of the Installation Area

The total square footage needed to be covered is a major cost determinant. Large kitchens with extensive backsplashes above the counters, stove and sinks require purchasing more tile and material. Smaller or more concentrated layouts keep material and labor costs contained.

Look for ways to scale down the installation area if needed to meet budgetary needs:

  • Only tile above the stove/sink leaving other areas painted
  • Use 4 inch backsplash tile trim rather than full tiles along countertops
  • Opt for floating shelves instead of backsplash behind open shelving
  • Concentrate tile in a strip behind the faucet rather than the whole sink area

Getting creative with the size of the backsplash installation is an effective way to put in just the right amount to achieve the look you want at the price you want.

Factoring in Demolition

If replacing an existing backsplash, the cost of demolition and preparing the wall surface adds to your installation budget. Proper prep is crucial for successful installation and preventing damage like mold or moisture issues behind the new tile.

Carefully removing the old backsplash prevents tearing up the water-resistant drywall layer behind it. Plan to fill holes or uneven areas with patching compound for a smooth surface, and budget for fresh paint on the entire wall area getting tile.

Accounting for an extra $200-$500 ensures you have adequate budget for proper prep work before the new backsplash installation.

Choosing the Installer Wisely

An experienced tile setter is skilled at calculating material needs accurately and cutting tile in a way that minimizes waste. The right installer also knows techniques for efficiently laying out the tile design. All of this helps contain costs on labor and building materials.

On the other hand, an inexperienced installer may take twice as long and waste costly tile by making amateur cuts. Do your research to find a top-notch tile pro in your area known for quality work. Check their reviews and ask to see photos of past backsplash projects.

A true professional charges more for their labor but saves you money in the long run through efficiency. Focus your budget on hiring the best tile setter you can find. It directly impacts the success of the project and your satisfaction with the end results.

Factor in Ongoing Maintenance

The backsplash material you select determines the type and frequency of maintenance needed to keep it looking its best over years of use. This impacts not just the installation budget but your ongoing household budget for cleaning supplies and repairs.

Porous natural stones require yearly sealing to resist staining. Glass tile is prone to grout haze that must be polished out monthly. Materials like polished granite or metal need frequent cleaning. And any material can crack, discolor or sustain other damage needing repairs.

Calculate out approximate costs per year for the recommended care of your backsplash material. This gives you a more accurate idea of the long term budget impact, not just the initial installation investment.

Create a Realistic Timeline

Don’t force an unrealistic backsplash installation timeline that risks poor workmanship in order to meet a tight budget. Allow adequate time for proper planning, prep work, high quality installation, and a thorough clean up.

Rushing through the job to cut costs risks shortchanging things like:

  • Surface preparation
  • Proper drying/curing time between steps
  • Careful tile setting for straight grout lines
  • Thorough grout cleaning after installation

Cutting corners to squeeze the project into a narrow window can lead to bigger budget costs down the road for fixes or re-dos. Have patience, build in contingencies for potential delays, and get the job done right at the pace it truly requires.

How Much to Put in a Backsplash: Key Takeaways

  • Set a clear budget upfront based on square footage, material costs and professional installation. Look for ways to scale back if needed.
  • Choose the right backsplash material for your budget, kitchen functionality and design style.
  • Opt for simple layouts and concentrated areas of tile to reduce costs.
  • Carefully evaluate if DIY installation is viable or if hiring a pro is needed.
  • Select an experienced installer and use quality materials, even if it means a higher budget.
  • Account for ongoing maintenance needs based on the backsplash material.
  • Build in adequate time for prep work and quality installation.

Investing in the right backsplash transforms the kitchen. Determining how much to put in a backsplash upfront allows you to get the maximum design impact while staying on budget. Analyze all the cost factors and invest wisely in a backsplash that transcends just function to become a work of art.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplash Installation Budget

Many homeowners have additional questions when determining the right budget for their kitchen backsplash installation. Here are answers to some of the most common inquiries:

How much does a basic subway tile backsplash cost?

The typical range for a basic white 3×6 subway tile backsplash is $10-$20 per square foot installed. Simple ceramic subway tiles start around $5 per square foot. With additional costs for backerboard, thinset, grout and basic installation, expect to pay $800-$1,200 for a 40-50 sq ft kitchen backsplash.

What is the cheapest backsplash option?

The most affordable backsplash option is using 4 inch tile trim pieces along the countertops instead of full wall tiles. Trim pieces cost $1-$2 per linear foot. For 10 linear feet, trim and basic installation totals around $100. Painted drywall is anotherbudget-friendly option starting at $1 per square foot.

How much should I spend on backsplash tile?

A good rule of thumb is to spend 10%-15% of your total kitchen remodel budget on the backsplash tile and installation. For a $20,000 kitchen remodel, you would invest $2,000-$3,000 in the backsplash itself. Then scale the tile choice to fit that budgetary range.

How do I get the most value from my backsplash budget?

  • Use the tile in a concentrated area for high visual impact rather than covering a large space
  • Select tiles reaching to the ceiling to make a smaller layout feel more dramatic
  • Mix expensive mosaic tiles with inexpensive field tiles for a blend of savings and splurge
  • DIY the demolition and wall prep work then hire a pro just for tile setting

What mistakes budget-wise should I avoid with backsplashes?

  • Cheaping out on the tile thickness, grout or backerboard quality
  • Attempting intricate designs without professional skill level
  • Overbuying too much tile due to lack of planning & calculations
  • Not following manufacturer instructions for tile prep and installation
  • Attempting DIY when uncertain you have the skill level to install well

Final Thoughts on Allocating Your Backsplash Budget

Investing in a quality backsplash installation yields rewards for years in terms of functionality, easy maintenance, and aesthetics. Determining how much to put in a backsplash requires weighing practical factors like materials, demolition work, installation complexity and your DIY skill level vs. the design impact you’re aiming for. With some planning and savvy decision making, you can craft a showstopping, budget-friendly backsplash design customized to your kitchen’s needs. Use the guidelines provided to determine your ideal backsplash investment. Then enjoy the process of selecting from the many beautiful backsplash materials and design options available to make your kitchen vision a reality within your budget.