How to Choose Backsplash

Choosing the right backsplash for your kitchen or bathroom can completely transform the look and feel of the space. But with so many backsplash options to pick from—tile, stone, glass, metal, and more—deciding on a design can feel overwhelming. Follow this guide on how to choose backsplash to narrow down your options and land on the perfect style for your home.

Determine Your Budget

The cost of backsplash materials ranges dramatically. While you can find some tile for as low as $1 per square foot, premium materials like marble slab can cost $50 or more per square foot installed.

Set a realistic budget before you start shopping so you don’t fall in love with options outside your price range. Keep in mind you’ll also need to factor in the cost of backsplash installation, which averages $25 per square foot but can be more depending on the complexity of the design.

Here are some typical price ranges for popular backsplash materials:

  • Ceramic or porcelain tile: $5-$20 per sq. ft.
  • Glass tile: $15-$30 per sq. ft.
  • Natural stone tile: $15-$50 per sq. ft.
  • Metal backsplash: $15-$45 per sq. ft.
  • Marble slab: $40-$100 per sq. ft.
  • Mosaic tile: $10-$30 per sq. ft.

Get quotes from at least three installers before setting your budget number. And remember to include the costs of grout, sealant, and any backing materials you may need in your estimate.

Decide on a Style

From sleek and modern to rustic and traditional, your backsplash should reflect your personal style. Consider the overall design theme of your kitchen or bathroom and look for materials that will complement that aesthetic.

Here are some popular backsplash styles:

Contemporary: For a sleek, modern look, choose glossy glass or metal tiles, or a continuous slab of stone or quartz.

Rustic: Stand out from the crowd with a handmade tile, or opt for a textured slate or travertine stone mosaic.

Cottage: Capture cozy farmhouse charm with a classic subway tile or beadboard backsplash.

Traditional: For timeless appeal, white Carrara marble insert ranges from elegant to homey.

Eclectic: Make a statement with eye-catching colors, fun patterns like chevron or herringbone, or an artful mix of materials.

Choose a Focal Point

While your entire backsplash should tie together, create visual interest by emphasizing one section with a bolder design. This focal point draws the eye, keeping the look from becoming monotonous.

Good spots for a statement backsplash include:

  • Behind the stove or cooktop
  • Above the kitchen sink
  • Behind the bathroom vanity

Or highlight a specific wall, like behind a breakfast bar or tub. Then choose more subtle materials for the surrounding areas.

For example, tile a marble herringbone pattern behind the stove, and use classic white subway tile for the rest of the kitchen backsplash.

Complement the Countertops

Your backsplash color and style should integrate seamlessly with countertop finishes to create a cohesive look.

  • Match the countertops’ predominant color and pattern. For example, pair beige granite countertops with off-white subway tiles.
  • Choose contrasting tones and textures for visual interest. A polished quartz countertop could pop against a backsplash of slate stacked stone.
  • Echo shapes and lines. Try a mosaic backsplash with busy granite or sleek rectangular tiles above straight-edged countertops.
  • Replicate material finishes, like travertine tile backsplash and travertine countertops.
  • Carry the backsplash design onto the countertops with an inset range.

Avoid clashing colors and patterns that compete for attention. The idea is to make the transition from countertop to backsplash as seamless as possible.

Consider Ease of Cleaning and Maintenance

While you want your backsplash to look beautiful, it also needs to stand up to daily use. Assess the practicality of different materials based on your lifestyle and cleaning habits.

Easy-clean options include:

  • Ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile
  • Stainless steel
  • Non-porous natural stone like granite
  • Mirror or polished metal

High-maintenance but gorgeous choices include:

  • Unsealed natural stone like marble, which stains easily
  • Distressed tiles with uneven surfaces that require more scrubbing
  • Grout lines prone to collecting grease and dirt
  • Metal that requires polishing to retain its shine

Opt for low-maintenance materials if you value convenience over decorative appeal. Or just be prepared to put in extra elbow grease keeping high-maintenance backsplashes looking pristine.

Measure the Space

Before finalizing your backsplash design, measure your backsplash area thoroughly. Note the total square footage you need to cover, as well as the dimensions of any focal areas.

This allows you to:

  • Purchase the right amount of materials so you don’t come up short.
  • Plan the tile layout to minimize cutting and waste.
  • Identify any tricky spots that may require tile edging or creative patterning.
  • Match the scale of the design to the size of the space. For example, larger tiles help a small kitchen feel bigger.

Make sure to account for uneven walls, windows, outlets and switches, and appliances when measuring. Leave a 1/8 inch gap between the backsplash and countertops or cabinets for grout lines and expansion space.

Sketch your backsplash area with measurements for easy reference. Many tile retailers offer design services to help you plan the layout once you have the dimensions.

Evaluate Lighting

The amount and quality of light in your kitchen or bathroom impacts how the finished backsplash will look.

Assess natural lighting: Note which walls get direct or indirect sunlight so you can pick materials suited for the lighting. For example, light-reflecting glass or metallic tile helps brighten a space with low natural light.

Factor in task lighting: Undercabinet lighting casts a different glow than an overhead fixture. Accent lighting over a backsplash highlights the design, while recessed lighting adds drama. Dim lighting mutes bold patterns.

See samples in different lighting: Carry tile samples to your home and view them in the kitchen or bathroom’s lighting at different times of day before finalizing your selection. The color and style you love in the store may translate differently at home.

Order Samples Before Deciding

Never select a backsplash just from pictures online or manufacturer catalogs. Order free physical samples—at least 4 x 4 inches—to see and feel the exact materials you’re considering.

Evaluate samples in the room’s lighting at different times of day. Look at them next to your countertops. Hold them against various spots on the backsplash area to get a sense of how they’ll transform the space.

Pay attention to:

  • Color accuracy
  • Surface sheen and texture
  • Size and scale
  • Quality of materials

Samples give you a realistic idea of what the finished backsplash will look like. Don’t rush this critical step.

Choose Durable Materials

The backsplash endures splatters, drips, temperature changes, cleaning chemicals, and daily wear and tear. Select materials that can stand up to your lifestyle.

Look for tiles, metal, or stone that resist:

  • Heat from cooking, if installed near the stove or oven
  • Moisture and humidity, for kitchens and baths
  • Chipping, scratching, and impact damage
  • Stains from food prep and splashes
  • Discoloration from cleaning solutions and soaps

Check manufacturer specs and warranties for durability. Porcelain and ceramic tile typically outlasts natural stone. Small mosaic tiles chip more easily than larger tile.

While your backsplash should last for years, know that certain materials require sealing and can stain overtime. Be prepared for some patina to develop.

Buy Some Extra Tiles

It’s smart to purchase 5-10% more tile than your project measurements indicate. This covers broken tiles, future repairs, and décor updates down the road.

Same-lot numbers help guarantee consistent size, color, and finish if you later need to purchase additional tiles for replacements. But brand, style, and production processes still change over time. Extra tiles let you do spot repairs that blend seamlessly.

Store leftover materials properly, especially natural stone, which requires climate control to prevent cracking and deterioration. Then you’ll have tiles handy for quick fixes or modifications long after your initial backsplash installation.

Hire an Experienced Installer

An intricate backsplash design requires skill to install. Don’t attempt the project yourself unless you have tiling experience. Otherwise, hire a professional tile setter or contractor.

Ask to see past backsplash projects in their portfolio. Talk to references about the quality of their work. Confirm they have experience with the specific materials you choose, like natural stone, large format tiles, or mosaics.

Find out if they include cleanup and grouting as part of the installation quote. Provide the tile, grout, backing, trim pieces, and other supplies yourself to control costs, quality, and design aesthetics.

A contractor experienced in backsplash installation will get the details right so your finished design lives up to the promise of those perfect samples.

Consider Maintenance Requirements

Your excitement about the design might make you overlook future maintenance needs. So factor in long-term care requirements when choosing backsplash materials.

  • Sealing: Natural stone and grout require regular sealing to resist stains – 1-2 times per year.
  • Grout cleaning: All grout needs occasional scrubbing with a specialty cleaner. Epoxy grout resists staining best.
  • Polishing: Metal backsplashes need polishing 1-2 times per year to retain shine. Copper and bronze will patina over time.
  • Buffing: Unsealed stone may require occasional buffing to remove etching or dull spots from acidic foods.
  • Color sealing: Lightly colored grout benefits from color sealing to prevent staining.
  • Resealing: Butcher block backsplashes need frequent oil or sealant reapplication.

Choose low-maintenance materials like ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile if you want to minimize regular upkeep. Or be diligent about properly caring for high-maintenance choices.

Choose a Reliable Retailer

buying backsplash materials from a reputable, established tile retailer helps ensure you get quality products that match your expectations. Ask these questions when vetting retailers:

  • How long have you been in business? Look for at least 5+ years.
  • Can I see full boxes of tile rather than just samples? Assess how much batch-to-batch variation there might be.
  • Do you offer warranties on the tile? Materials should have at least a year warranty.
  • Can you help me plan the tile layout and calculate amount needed? Experienced retailers know how to help customers with design and measurements.
  • What are your return policies? 30-60 day returns in case of defects or damage.
  • When can you deliver the tile? Make sure it’s when you need it for your installation schedule.

Narrow your search down to several highly-rated, reputable backsplash retailers. Compare their selection, service, and prices to find the right store for your project.

Choose Grout Color Carefully

Grout holds the tiles together and can make or break the look of your backsplash design. Take time selecting the right grout color.

  • Match the grout color to the tile for a seamless look.
  • Choose a slightly darker color for contrast and definition.
  • Go for bright white grout with light tiles to enhance brightness.
  • Complement bold or multi-colored tiles with neutral grout.
  • Consider epoxy grout if you want stain and scratch resistance.

Hold grout color samples against different tiles to preview how the colors will interact before deciding. Dark grout highlights the tile, while matching grout minimizes the seams.

Don’t Overlook the Details

It’s the finishing touches that take your backsplash from ordinary to extraordinary. Don’t overlook these important details:

Transitions: Use trim pieces to cleanly finish edges where the backsplash meets the wall or countertop.

Outlets: Frame outlets and switches with complementary mosaic tiles or metal trim.

Faucet: Coordinate the faucet finish with other metallic backsplash accents.

Lighting: Add task lighting above the backsplash to accentuate the design at night.

Accessories: Tie everything together with decorate soaps, accent rugs, curtains, or towels sharing backsplash colors.

Sealing and Grouting: Properly seal and grout the finished backsplash for longevity and optimal appearance.

How to Choose Backsplash – FAQs

How much does a backsplash cost?

The total cost for a backsplash ranges from $500-5,000 depending on the materials, labor, and the size of your space. Simple ceramic tile could run $5 per square foot for materials while premium materials like marble cost $50 or more per square foot. Hiring a pro to install adds $200-500 based on complexity.

What is the most popular backsplash tile?
Subway tile is the most popular choice for kitchen backsplash tile due to its classic, timeless look and affordable price point. Standard 3 x 6-inch white ceramic subway tiles pair well with any style.

What is the easiest backsplash to install?
Peel-and-stick backsplash tiles make for an easy DIY-friendly backsplash. These vinyl tiles have adhesive backing so they go right on the wall without mortar, grout, or specialized tools required. Glass sheet and metal panel backsplashes also install without much fuss.

Can you put tile backsplash over existing backsplash?
It is possible to tile over an existing backsplash, but it often requires additional prep work. The old backsplash must be firmly attached, clean, and free of grease. Skim coating the old tile provides a smooth surface for the new tile to adhere to.

Can I install a backsplash myself?
For simple ceramic tile backsplash designs using mastic adhesive and no specialty cutting, an experienced DIYer can handle the project themselves. But for natural stone, intricate patterns, or large format tiles, it’s best to hire a professional tile installer to ensure quality results.

How are backsplashes attached?
Backsplashes can be installed a few ways depending on the material. Tile backsplashes typically use mastic adhesive, mortar, or a cement board backer panel. Peel-and-stick vinyl backsplashes have pre-attached adhesive. Sheet metal or glass panels often use silicone adhesive.


The perfect backsplash brings together form and function to enhance your living space for years to come. By determining your budget, style, focal point, and installation requirements ahead of time, you can make smart design choices tailored to your kitchen or bathroom.

Carefully evaluate backsplash materials using large samples and proper lighting to ensure your finished project lives up to expectations. And don’t cut corners on specialty retailers, experienced installers, or finishing details that take your design to the next level.

With proper planning and attention to detail, you can install an eye-catching, low-maintenance backsplash that flawlessly suits your home and lifestyle. Use the tips in this guide to confidently navigate the process from start to finish. Before long, you’ll be enjoying a renovated space that beautifully highlights one of the hardest working areas of any home.