Backsplashes are an integral part of any kitchen design. Not only do they serve a functional purpose by protecting the walls from water damage and stains, but they also provide an opportunity to add visual interest, color, and personality to your kitchen. Adding a backsplash may seem daunting, but it can actually be a relatively easy DIY project if you prepare properly. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to successfully add a stylish and functional backsplash in your kitchen.
Choosing a Backsplash Material
The first step is selecting the right backsplash material for your goals, budget and style. Here are some of the most popular options to consider:
Tile is a classic and versatile choice perfect for both traditional and contemporary kitchens. Ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tiles come in endless colors, shapes, sizes and textures. Glass tile and mosaic tile provide shimmery and artistic flair. The pros of tile are that it’s water-resistant, easy to clean, durable and offers abundant design choices. The downside is grout lines may need frequent scrubbing to keep clean.
Popular tile backsplash options:
- Subway tile – classic 3 x 6-inch rectangular tile in glossy ceramic or porcelain
- Glass mosaic tile – small glass pieces in mesh sheets create shimmery effects
- Stone mosaic tile – natural shapes and earth tones in marble, travertine or granite
- Large format tile – 12 x 24 inch tiles or larger with minimal grout lines
From stainless steel to copper penny tiles, metal backsplashes make a modern, industrial statement. Stainless steel offers a mirror-like, cool-grey look that acts as a neutral backdrop. Copper and brass backsplashes infuse warmth with their golden, hammered metal aesthetic. Metal backsplashes are extremely water-resistant and easy to sanitize but prone to fingerprints and scratches.
Trending metal backsplash ideas:
- Stainless steel sheet panels
- Copper penny round tiles
- Hammered metal mosaic tiles
- Bronze subway tiles
- Rusted tin tiles
Glass backsplashes provide brilliant gloss and light reflection. Clear glass maintains visibility of the wall underneath, while colored, frosted and patterned glass diffuses and softens the background. Glass backsplashes are impervious to heat and stains but require vigilance to prevent shattering and scratches.
Unique glass backsplash inspirations:
- Clear glass subway tile
- Sea glass mosaic sheets
- Colored or frosted glass tile
- Etched, beveled or crackled glass tile
- Mirrored glass for contemporary style
Natural stone like marble, granite, travertine and slate bring noteworthy texture and luxury to kitchen backsplashes. Honed stone finishes offer subtlety, while polished stone ups the glam factor. Stone stands up beautifully to heat and stains. The drawback is that stone requires resealing and can chip or etch.
Elegant stone backsplash selections:
- Marble mosaic tile
- Travertine subway tile
- Slate mosaic sheets
- Granite tile
- Limestone brick tile
For warm, rustic charm, brick backsplashes infuse subtle texture and earthy appeal. Clay bricks come in classic red hues as well as light pastels and neutral tans. Faux brick vinyl tiles offer the aesthetic without the weight. Brick is durable but prone to cracking and staining. Use sealed bricks and check for efflorescence.
Captivating brick backsplash ideas:
- Red clay brick
- Faux painted brick
- Glazed ceramic brick
- Thin brick veneer panels
- Brick mosaic blend
Wooden backsplashes generate natural beauty and dimension. Real wood choices like barnwood planks make a focal point of the visible grains and knots. Wood-look porcelain tile mimics the patterns without the extra maintenance of real wood. Use moisture-resistant finishes and avoid direct contact with water.
Rustic wood backsplash looks:
- Barnwood planks
- Wood-look porcelain planks
- 3D textured wood tile
- Reclaimed wood boards
- Wood parquet pattern tile
Design Considerations for Backsplashes
Now that you’ve settled on a backsplash material, use these tips to refine your design:
Height – Standard backsplash height is 4 inches from the countertop, but you can opt for a full height backsplash covering the wall space between countertops and cabinets.
Focal point – Use a more eye-catching backsplash with colorful tile, intricate patterns or key features behind the range or sink. Do a simple solid backsplash on surrounding walls.
Tying in colors – Pick up on existing colors in the countertops, cabinets, flooring or decor. Contrasting hues can make the backsplash pop.
Coordinating with style – Match the backsplash style to your kitchen, whether traditional subway tile for a cottage kitchen or sleek metal for contemporary flair.
DIY or hire out – Professionals can ensure proper installation. DIY is great for basic tile or peel-and-stick applications. Know your limits.
Accessories – Consider adding decorative tile trim, listing and lighting to create a finished, built-in look.
How to Install a Tile Backsplash
Installing a tile backsplash is one of the most achievable DIY upgrades. Follow this step-by-step guide for success:
Step 1: Gather Materials
- Tile and accent tiles you plan to use
- Thinset mortar adhesive
- Notched trowel for applying thinset
- Grout and caulk in a color that matches or complements the tile
- Tile spacers
- Tile cutter and/or nippers
- Tape measure and pencil
- Caulk gun
- Grout sponge
- Grout sealer
- Safety gear – gloves, glasses, knee pads
Tip: Arrange tiles on the floor first to determine optimal layout and identify any cuts before installing.
Step 2: Prepare the Surface
Make sure the wall is smooth, clean and dry. Remove any outlets or switch plates and sand rough spots. Apply painter’s tape bordering the edges to prevent thinset from touching existing walls or cabinets.
Tip: Seal porous drywall with primer/sealer so moisture doesn’t cause bubbling.
Step 3: Apply Thinset
Mix thinset mortar following package directions. Apply to the back wall area using a notched trowel held at a 45-degree angle. Apply only enough thinset that can be covered with tile before it skins over.
Tip: Maintain straight thinset lines by using tile spacers as guides.
Step 4: Set the Tiles
Starting at the bottom, press tiles firmly into thinset and use spacers to maintain even grout lines. Push excess thinset from joints. Work in columns, completing one section before moving across.
Tip: Use tile nippers to trim and shape border and accent tiles for a custom fit.
Step 5: Let Thinset Cure
Allow thinset to cure according to manufacturer’s guidelines. Use painter’s tape to hold any tiles that move. Don’t grout or expose to moisture until fully cured.
Step 6: Grout the Tiles
Mix grout following package instructions. Apply over all tile joints using a rubber grout float. Push into crevices and wipe away excess. Allow to cure per guidelines before sealing.
Tip: Buff any remaining grout haze with a soft, dry cloth once completely cured.
Step 7: Caulk Edges
Once grout has cured, run a clean bead of silicone caulk along all joints between the new backsplash and countertops, cabinets, walls, sinks or ranges. Smooth with a damp fingertip. Allow to fully cure before exposure.
And that’s it – you have a stunning new backsplash to enjoy for years to come!
How to Install a Peel-and-Stick Backsplash
Self-adhesive, peel-and-stick backsplash panels or tiles provide an easy upgrade option requiring no messy thinset mortar or grout. Here’s how to get a new backsplash in just a few simple steps:
Step 1: Ensure a Smooth Surface
As with all backsplashes, start with a clean, dry, smooth wall. Fill any imperfections with spackle and sand. Wipe away dust.
Step 2: Cut Peel-and-Stick Tiles
Measure and mark the space. Use a utility knife with a sharp blade to cut tiles to fit, allowing a 1/8-inch gap between tiles and edges.
Step 3: Prep the Wall
Wipe the surface thoroughly with rubbing alcohol or cleaner designed for peel-and-stick products. Allow to fully dry.
Step 4: Remove Backing
One at a time, peel away approximately 6 inches of backing from the top of the tile, keeping the sticky surface face down.
Step 5: Adhere Tiles
Press tiles to the wall in the pre-marked positions, starting at the bottom and working up. Smooth entire surface to ensure strong bonds.
Step 6: Finish Edges
If needed, apply colour-matched caulk between tiles and surrounding surfaces. Wipe away excess. Allow caulk to cure fully.
Step 7: Seal Grout Lines
For grouted looks, apply clear silicone sealant over all tile joints. Wipe gently to smooth. Allow to fully cure before exposure.
With minimal investment in tools and time, you can quickly upgrade any kitchen with a stylish, affordable peel-and-stick backsplash.
How to Install a Stainless Steel Backsplash
Stainless steel backsplashes make a contemporary statement with their sleek, reflective finish. While professional installation is recommended, you can DIY stainless steel backsplashes with the right materials and preparation.
Step 1: Select a Product
Choose stainless steel backsplash panels designed specifically for walls, not countertops. Opt for a mirror-finish for high reflectivity.
Step 2: Take Precise Measurements
Measure the target area extensively, noting any electrical outlets, pipes or variances. Stainless steel can’t be cut on site, so precise measurements are imperative.
Step 3: Prepare the Wall Surface
Ensure the target surface is as smooth and even as possible. Fill divots with spackle and sand. Clean thoroughly and seal if porous.
Step 4: Apply Adhesive
Apply a continuous bead of quality mirrored stainless steel adhesive using a caulking gun, following manufacturer guidelines.
Step 5: Mount the Panels
Carefully press panels to the prepared wall within the adhesive’s working time. Use a J-roller or weighted hand roller to fully adhere the panels.
Step 6: Complete Post-Installation Steps
If needed, affix trim pieces for finishing. Wipe away any excess adhesive and clean panels thoroughly with appropriate stainless steel cleaner and microfiber cloths.
Getting a salon-style stainless steel backsplash has never been easier. With meticulous prep and installation, you can achieve dramatic modern style. Consult a pro if attempting heavy-gauge stainless steel.
How to Install a Brick Backsplash
Brick backsplashes infuse rustic warmth and texture into kitchens. While natural brick requires professional know-how, faux brick panels make for achievable DIY projects. Here’s a simple install method:
Step 1: Choose Panels
Select faux brick panels designed for backsplash use. Evaluate thickness, dimensions, adhesive type and installation technique required.
Step 2: Measure Precisely
Take detailed measurements of the target area including switches, outlets and variances. Panels typically come in set sizes. Plan accordingly.
Step 3: Prepare the Surface
Clean and dry the target wall thoroughly. Fill any divots with spackle and sand smooth. Wipe away debris and dust. Seal if necessary for adhesion.
Step 4: Apply Adhesive
Follow manufacturer’s adhesive recommendations. Often a thin spread or tape is used rather than thick backsplash mortar or mastic.
Step 5: Mount Panels
Beginning at the bottom, press panels to the prepared surface firmly within the working time of the adhesive. Use a hand roller to smooth.
Step 6: Cut Holes
Once panels are firmly adhered, use a hole saw bit on a drill to cut any openings needed for outlets, plumbing, etc.
Step 7: Finish Edges
If gaps are visible between panels or at borders, apply color-matched caulk to seam and smooth. Allow proper curing before exposure.
With the right faux brick product, a realistic rustic brick backsplash can easily be installed in a short time. Watch your DIY kitchen come to life!
How to Install a Laminate Backsplash
Laminate provides an affordable and user-friendly backsplash option that can emulate the look of pricier materials like granite, marble or wood. Here’s how to get a custom high-end style:
Step 1: Select a Laminate Sheet
Choose from available laminate patterns and finishes that complement your kitchen decor. Purchase accordingly.
Step 2: Make Precise Measurements
Measure the entire backsplash area to determine the laminate sheet size needed. Account for edges and any outlets or variances.
Step 3: Prepare the Wall
Clean the surface thoroughly and fill any imperfections with spackle, sanding smooth. Wipe away debris completely.
Step 4: Cut the Laminate
Lay the laminate sheet on a flat work surface upside down. Measure and mark cuts needed for outlets, corners, etc. Use a utility knife with fresh blade to cut.
Step 5: Apply Adhesive
Spread the recommended adhesive evenly over the entire back of the laminate sheet using a notch trowel or adhesive spreader.
Step 6: Mount the Laminate
Carefully mount the laminate sheet onto the prepared wall, smoothing evenly to prevent air bubbles. Press firmly for solid adhesion.
Step 7: Trim Excess
Use a router with flush trim bit to trim any overhanging edges once fully adhered. Be cautious not to chip edges.
With some careful measuring, cutting and gluing, you can get high-end style that withstands messes with laminate backsplash panels.
How to Install a Wood Plank Backsplash
Wood plank backsplashes generate natural warmth and dimension for any kitchen. While real reclaimed wood requires expertise, faux planks offer realistic looks with easy peel-and-stick application.
Step 1: Select Faux Planks
Choose vinyl wood plank panels made specifically for kitchen backsplash use. Consider width, thickness, color/grain and installation method.
Step 2: Take Measurements
Map out the backsplash space and determine dimensions needed for full coverage. Note any outlets, pipes or variances.
Step 3: Prepare the Wall Surface
Ensure wall area is clean, dry and smoothly sanded. Use spackle and sandpaper to fix variances. Wipe away any dust or debris.
Step 4: Mark Plank Layout
Lightly mark horizontal lines on the wall to guide optimal plank placement and make sure courses are straight.
Step 5: Peel Off Backing
One at a time, peel away about 6 inches of backing from the top of the plank, keeping the sticky surface face down.
Step 6: Adhere to Wall
Position planks on marks and press firmly from the center outward to avoid air bubbles. Smooth entire plank surface.
Step 7: Complete Details
If needed, use color-matched caulk for any perimeter gaps. Wipe away excess. Allow proper curing time before use.
Now you can enjoy the warmth and charm of real wood without the maintenance using faux peel-and-stick planks. Rustic design made easy!
Common Backsplash Installation Mistakes to Avoid
Adding a backsplash offers the chance to make a stylish statement and protect your kitchen walls. Avoid these common pitfalls for a successful project:
- Forgetting proper surface prep – Don’t skip necessary steps like cleaning, sanding imperfections and priming. This leads to poor adhesion and bubbles.
- Applying adhesive improperly – Whether using mastic, mortar or adhesive, follow directions for uniform application. Insufficient amounts mean tiles can detach.
- Allowing adhesive to skin over – Thinset mortar and adhesives have working times. Don’t let them skin over before applying tiles or panels.
- Inadequate planning for electrical – Failing to account for outlets and switches during measuring and tile cutting can lead to sloppy final results.
- Not using spacers during tile installation – Tile spacers keep joints and grout lines evenly spaced. Skipping them causes uneven, messy lines.
- Neglecting grout line width considerations – Certain tile sizes and patterns require specific grout line width ratios. Ignoring best practices looks sloppy.
- Failing to seal natural stone – Sealers prevent staining and etching in porous stone backsplashes. Forget sealing at your own risk.
- Sloppy grouting technique – Rushing through application and failing to smooth and clean properly results in haze and unattractive finish.
- Impatience with curing time – Adhesives, thinset, caulk and grout require proper curing before exposing to moisture. Allowing full cure prevents problems.
With careful prep and patience, you can avoid amateur results and install a backsplash like a pro. Take your time and do it right!
Backsplash Maintenance Tips
Once your new backsplash is installed, keep it looking like new with proper ongoing maintenance:
- Seal porous materials annually – Reseal natural stone, grout and bricks to prevent staining and damage.
- Use gentle cleaners – Avoid abrasive scouring pads and powders that can etch surfaces. Use mild dish soap and soft cloths.
- Dry wet surfaces – Allowing moisture to linger leads to mold and mildew growth in grout lines and some porous materials.
- Address new stains immediately – Clean up spills quickly before stains have time to set