How to Choose a Kitchen Backsplash

Choosing a backsplash for your kitchen renovation or remodel can be an exciting yet daunting task. With so many backsplash options to pick from – tile, stone, glass, metal, and more – it’s important to consider your style, budget and kitchen needs. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the backsplash selection process from start to finish, offering tips on how to choose the right backsplash for your kitchen.

Determine Your Budget

The first step is deciding how much you want to spend on a new backsplash. Kitchen backsplashes can vary greatly in price, with options starting around $10 per square foot for basic tile up to $75 or more per square foot for higher-end materials like natural stone and glass tile.

When establishing your backsplash budget, be sure to measure the square footage you need to cover. This will help you determine the maximum price per square foot you can afford. Use a tape measure to calculate the height and width of the backsplash area, then multiply them to get the total square footage.

In general, porcelain and ceramic tile tend to be the most budget-friendly options, followed by glass and stone tile. Stainless steel, copper, and other metal backsplashes also have a wide range, with cheaper brushed metals starting around $20 per square foot.

Set your budget beforehand so you can quickly narrow down backsplash materials that work with what you want to spend.

Decide on the Functionality

Before selecting a material, consider how you use your kitchen and what you need the backsplash to do. For instance:

  • Do you do a lot of cooking and need a surface that’s heat-resistant and easy to clean from oil splatters and stains? Tile, metal or stone may be best.
  • Is your kitchen prone to moisture and steam from a dishwasher or boiling water? Look for materials that won’t be damaged by humidity over time.
  • Does your backsplash need to stand up to messes from kids or frequent cooking mishaps? Easily cleanable materials are ideal.
  • Do you need surfaces that can be safely cut or drilled into if changing kitchen appliances? Tile works well.
  • Are you looking for a backsplash that can withstand high impacts? Durable stone may be a better choice than thin glass tile.

Think about your unique needs and cooking habits to narrow down the best backsplash materials for your kitchen’s functionality.

Pick Your Style

Today’s backsplash options range from sleek and modern to ornate and Old World. Consider the overall aesthetic you want for your kitchen as you choose a style.

Contemporary: For a contemporary, minimalist look, stick with solid glass, metal or porcelain backsplashes in neutral tones. Large-format porcelain slabs create a seamless feel.

Rustic: Handmade terracotta tile, reclaimed wood planks or roughly textured stone backsplashes complement rustic kitchen designs. Wavy patterns add interest.

Traditional: Classic white subway tile or hexagon tile with grout provide a timeless backsplash look. Patterns like herringbone add visual appeal.

Eclectic: Make a statement with an eclectic, mix-and-match style backsplash. Try combining different tile sizes, textures and colors for plenty of personality.

Farmhouse: For today’s popular farmhouse style, white shaker cabinets paired with a simple white subway tile backsplash is a foolproof combination.

Complement Countertops and Cabinets

Choose a backsplash color, pattern and texture that complements your existing countertops and cabinetry – or the new ones you plan to install.

Solid colored backsplashes in lighter neutral hues like white, beige or gray help lighten up dark cabinetry and countertops. Bolder colors like navy blue make a dramatic contrast.

Backsplashes with bits of color that match your cabinet knobs or appliances pull everything together cohesively. Granite or marble counters pair nicely with stone backsplashes.

Alternatively, opt for continuity by selecting a backsplash tile that mimics patterns seen in the cabinet doors or countertop material, like faux marble porcelain.

Factor in Ease of Cleaning

Kitchen backsplashes take a beating from grease, oil, tomato sauces and other cooking by-products. Consider how easy your backsplash will be to wipe down and keep looking like new.

Porcelain, ceramic and glass tile, metals and polished stone are some of the lowest maintenance backsplash materials, along with high-quality kitchen and bath caulks in the grout lines.

Textured stone or pebble backsplash tile often requires more frequent scrubbing to keep grout lines clean. Unpolished stone can stain if not sealed properly.

Also look for backsplash materials that are resistant to heat, moisture and impacts for longevity and less wear over time.

Choose Durable, Water-Resistant Materials

Kitchen backsplashes inevitably come into contact with water. From a simple spill while washing dishes to high humidity near cooking surfaces, water-resistance is a must.

Porcelain, glass and ceramic tile rank among the most water-resistant backsplash materials, along with stainless steel or aluminum metal panels. Natural stone backsplashes should be sealed to prevent water damage and stains over time.

Wood backsplashes require extra protection and sealing to hold up in moist kitchen environments. Painted wood is prone to chipping and erosion.

Check manufacturer warranties and product descriptions for durability, water-resistance and stain protection qualities before purchasing a kitchen backsplash.

Accent with Decorative Additions

While the backsplash itself makes a design statement, some carefully chosen decorative accents can enhance the look even further.

  • Specialty tiles: Integrate mosaic glass, hand-painted ceramic or metallic tiles into portions of your backsplash for added pops of color, shine and texture.
  • Borders and trims: Outline the edges of your backsplash or tile sections with decorative metal trims, colored glass tile strips or mosaic borders.
  • Backsplash niches: Carve out small niches from tile or stone backsplashes to hold and highlight cherished decor items, spices or cookbooks.
  • Shelving: Incorporate wall-mounted spice racks, floating glass shelves or rustic wood shelving into the backsplash area for handy storage and display.

Illuminate with Proper Lighting

Proper lighting is key for showing off your new backsplash and creating a bright, welcoming kitchen ambiance.

For best illumination, install LED under-cabinet lighting. Accent lighting directed on the backsplash highlights the color, texture and any decorative tile patterns.

Overhead recessed ceiling lights also thoroughly light the backsplash. For glass or stone mosaic backsplashes, sconces or directional spotlights enhance the sparkle.

Consider Hiring a Pro

Depending on the complexity of your design and the backsplash materials involved, a professional installer may be worth the investment to ensure it’s done right.

Hiring a qualified tile setter for a natural stone, glass or mosaic tile backsplash project often costs $150-$350 per day. Request referrals and verify credentials.

Professionals have the skills to correctly measure, cut and prep the surface for maximum adhesion and durability. Paying a bit more upfront can save on costly repairs down the road.

Safety Tips for Removal

If you choose to demo an existing backsplash yourself, be sure to wear protective eyewear and gloves. Use a putty knife, heat gun or multi-tool to carefully scrape off tile adhesive or mortar. Go slowly to avoid damaging the wall surface.

Check for potential hidden electrical wires or plumbing before cutting into any kitchen walls during backsplash removal or installation. Shut off water supply lines to be safe.

Wet tile saws with diamond blades make precise cuts through ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tiles. Opt for scoring and snapping smaller tiles. Follow all power tool safety guidelines.

How to Choose Backsplash Tile Style, Material and Texture

With endless options for kitchen backsplash tile, selecting the right style, material and texture can be overwhelming. Follow this guide to narrow down your options and find the perfect backsplash tile for your space and style.

Tile Shape and Pattern

Ceramic and porcelain backsplash tiles come in a vast array of sizes, shapes and patterns. Choose a style that aligns with your desired look.

Subway: The quintessential linear shape. Stacked in classic brick pattern or offset.

Herringbone: Angled rectangular tiles forming a V-shape. Works in traditional or modern kitchens.

Hexagon: Six-sided tiles create honeycomb effects. Provide visual movement and interest.

Octagon and dot: Interlocking octagon and dot tiles create unique geometric patterns.

Peninsula and mosaic: Tiny tiles mounted in sheets create mosaic designs and medallions.

Large format: Oversized tiles like 12×24” or 16×32” with minimal grout lines feel sleek and contemporary.

Tile Material Types

Next, decide whether you want ceramic, porcelain, glass or a mix of backsplash tile materials.

Ceramic: Made from clay, affordable and in lots of styles. Prone to chipping.

Porcelain: Denser and more durable than ceramic. Resists moisture and stains. Low maintenance.

Glass: Adds shiny luxurious appearance. Smooth surface easy to clean. Can be pricey and fragile.

Natural stone: Elegant options like marble, travertine, granite or slate. Requires sealing.

Metals: Stainless steel, copper, tin or aluminum provide modern, industrial vibe. Durable.

Factors Affecting Tile Texture

Texture adds visual depth and affects the overall vibe of the backsplash. Consider these tile texture factors:

Gloss level – Matte, satin, or high-gloss finish. Glossier = more light reflection. Satin, matte = softened look.

Flat vs. dimension – Flat backsplash tiles have smooth faces. Dimensional tiles have 3D structure.

Mosaics – Tiny mosaic tiles create textured grout lines and add shimmer.

Hand-painted details – Brushstroke textures and variations provide visual interest.

Crackle glazes – Glazes with fine cracking add antiqued character on ceramic and porcelain tile.

Stone surfaces – Honed, tumbled or cleft stone finishes determine the texture.

Grout lines – Classic white grout provides texture between tiles. Colored grout makes it pop more.

Mix and Match Tile Designs

Don’t be afraid to get creative and mix up your kitchen backsplash tile design. Contrasting textures, shapes, colors and materials make for eye-catching style.

  • Combine glossy and matte tiles
  • Mix large and small format tiles
  • Create patterns with different tile shapes
  • Use borders or medallions as accents
  • Blend stone, ceramic and glass tiles
  • Carry colors from tile into the grout

Layering materials and textures adds visual depth and interest to your backsplash tile design.

How to Select a Backsplash Color Palette

Choosing a cohesive color palette for your kitchen backsplash brings harmony to the entire space while enhancing the style you want to achieve. Follow these helpful guidelines when selecting backsplash colors.

Match Existing Elements

Look to your current kitchen cabinets, countertops, floors and wall paint for inspiration. Choose backsplash tile colors that complement or match these existing elements.

For example, pull gray shades from gray countertops into gray subway tile. Or choose backsplash tile colors that match your cabinet hardware like brass knobs or silver hinges. Tiles tonally lighter or darker than the cabinets can work well too.

Coordinate with Future Kitchen Design Plans

If you’ll be installing all new cabinets, countertops or flooring, select your ideal materials and colors first, then coordinate the backsplash tile to match.

Gather color samples of the items you plan to integrate like granite slabs for the counters and wood stain swatches for the cabinets. Make sure your backsplash colorways flow cohesively with new kitchen elements.

Consider Color Schemes

Monochromatic, analogous, triadic, complementary – there are endless ways to approach backsplash colors based on color theory principles.

Monochromatic uses a single color in varying shades and tones, like light to dark blues.

Analogous combines hues next to each other on the color wheel, like blue, blue-green and green.

Complementary pairs opposites from the color wheel, like orange and blue. provides high contrast.

Triadic uses three colors equally spaced on the wheel, like yellow, fuchsia and turquoise.

Add Pops of Color

While it’s common to stick with neutral backsplash tiles, adding bolder pops of color can make the backsplash area a focal point.

Vivid red, emerald green or sapphire blue backsplash tiles paired with white cabinets and countertops create striking color contrast. Tiles in metallic copper, bronze and gold add warm, reflective accents.

For a more subdued approach, use color on just a small portion of the backsplash, like a mosaic tile border or inset panel.

Benefits of a Neutral Scheme

Neutral colored backsplashes are versatile and easy to match with existing kitchen elements like wood cabinetry or granite counters.

Whites, beiges, grays and black backsplash tiles have a classic, clean and airy feel that fits with both traditional and contemporary kitchen designs. Ivory, cream and almond backsplashes provide soft, warm neutrals.

Keep in mind white grout shows staining more easily than gray or colored grout options. Dark grout lines add contrast.

Backsplash Ideas for White Kitchen Cabinets

With their clean, timeless look, white kitchen cabinets pair beautifully with an array of backsplash styles. Whether your aesthetic is traditional or modern, there are endless options to complement white cabinetry.

White on White

Matching crisp white backsplash tiles with white cabinetry is a foolproof combination that creates a seamless, spacious look. Subway tiles, beveled tiles, and mixed shape layouts in snowy whites feel fresh. Pair with gray, black or wood countertops for contrast.

Pale Neutrals

Almond, cream, ivory and light gray backsplash tiles keep the soft, airy feeling white cabinets provide but add subtle warmth. Natural stone like travertine in soft hues is another great match. Keep grout lines minimal.

Bold Contrast Colors

Make your white kitchen cabinets truly pop by contrasting them with a vibrant backsplash tile color like cobalt blue, emerald green or tomato red. Tiles in geometric shapes add even more visual impact. Just keep countertops and floors neutral.

Natural Wood Backsplash

The organic texture of a reclaimed wood plank backsplash adds cozy contrast and brings nature inside contemporary white kitchens. Gray wash or whitewashed wood options keep it light. Shelves can also be incorporated.

Stainless Steel

For an appliance-matching vibe, install sleek stainless-steel backsplash panels behind white cabinets. Often seen in professional chef’s kitchens for maximum durability and cleanliness. Provides an industrial edge.

Glass Subway Tiles

White glass subway tiles have luminosity and sheen that enhances the reflective qualities of white cabinetry. Illuminated by under-cabinet lighting, they make the kitchen feel bright and spacious. Durable and moisture-resistant.

Marble Accents

A white marble backsplash or marble mosaic tile inlay provides subtle gray veining and movement. With white cabinets, stick with lighter marble colors like Carrara, Calacatta or Statuario marble to match the light, gracefully aged aesthetic.

Backsplash Design and Installation Tips

Follow these backsplash design tips for aesthetically maximizing this highly visible kitchen accent area:

Extend to ceiling – Take the backsplash tile from countertop to ceiling for a seamless, polished look. Finish with trim at the top.

Incorporate floating shelves – Complement the backsplash with floating glass or wood shelves for display and storage.

Accent with mosaics – Use mosaic tiles or medallions as insets within larger backsplash tile areas.

Pair tiles with matching grout – Choose sanded grout in a color that complements the tile so it becomes part of the design.

Include decorative trim – Finish edges with metal trim strips or tiles in a different color or material.

Carry tile to vent hood – Use matching tile on the wall behind and surrounding a wall-mounted vent hood.

Line up patterns – Keep herringbone, brick patterns and grout lines lined up around outlets, corners and edges.

Maintaining and Cleaning Tile Backsplashes

After installing a tile backsplash, be diligent with ongoing maintenance and cleaning to keep it looking like new. Here are some tile backsplash care tips:

Seal grout and porous tiles – Seal grout approximately once a year and reseal porous natural stone or cement tiles as needed.

Daily cleaning – Use a damp microfiber cloth and mild dish soap to gently clean soiled areas of the backsplash. Rinse thoroughly.

Clean splatters quickly – Rinse and wipe away food splatters like oils, sauces and juices promptly to avoid stubborn staining.

Avoid abrasive cleaners – Steer clear of harsh chemicals and cleaning products containing acids, ammonia or bleach.

Remove soap scum – Mix vinegar and water for a natural cleaning solution to dissolve soap scum on tile and grout.

Scrub with baking soda – Make a baking soda paste with just enough water to scrub away difficult dried-on foods or stains from textured tile surfaces.

Deep clean grout – Use a specialized grout brush with commercial grout cleaner to thoroughly clean out stained or dirty grout joints.

Cost to Install a Backsplash

Backsplash installation cost depends on the tile size, material and overall labor time involved. Here are estimated costs for common backsplash tile projects:

  • Ceramic subway tile backsplash