How to Choose Kitchen Backsplash

Decorating your kitchen with a stylish and durable backsplash can completely transform the look and feel of the space. With so many backsplash tile options available, from natural stone and ceramic to glass and metal, it can be tricky to decide what material and style is best for your kitchen design. Follow this comprehensive guide on how to choose kitchen backsplash to find the perfect backsplash that matches your style, budget and kitchen decor.

Assess Your Needs

Before selecting a backsplash, consider the following to determine your needs:


Backsplash materials can range dramatically in price. Ceramic or porcelain tile tends to be the most budget-friendly option, while stone and metal backsplashes are on the higher end. Set a realistic budget to narrow down material options.


Match the backsplash design to your kitchen’s existing style and color palette. For contemporary spaces, glass or metal backsplashes in bold colors can be striking. Farmhouse kitchens tend to use natural stone or ceramic tile.


Factor in how much wear-and-tear the backsplash will need to handle. Ceramic, porcelain or stone tile stand up well to heat, stains and everyday use. Glass or polished stone backsplashes require more maintenance.

DIY vs Pro Installation

DIY backsplash installation can save money but takes time and tiling skill. Complex patterns or large format tiles are best left to the pros.

Choose a Functional Backsplash

The backsplash serves important practical roles in the kitchen, so choose materials that can stand up to the following:

Heat and Steam

The wall area around stoves and ovens endures a lot of heat. Porcelain, ceramic and natural stone tiles handle heat well and are water-resistant.

Food Stains and Spills

A properly sealed natural stone, ceramic or porcelain backsplash resists stains and is easy to clean. Avoid unsealed porous stone that can absorb stains.

Moisture and Mildew

Kitchen backsplashes deal with a lot of moisture. Pick mold-resistant materials like ceramic, stainless steel or water-sealed natural stone. Avoid grout that is prone to mildew.

Clashing Colors

Choose a backsplash color that complements your cabinetry, countertops and kitchen decor. Neutral hues are easy to match.

Reflecting Light

Reflective backsplash materials like polished metal or glass tile can make a small, dark kitchen appear larger and brighter.

Popular Kitchen Backsplash Materials

Consider the advantages and disadvantages of these common backsplash options:

Ceramic Tile

Pros: Affordable, durable, easy to clean, heat-resistant, water-resistant, wide range of colors and styles.

Cons: Grout lines can stain. Vulnerable to chipping from impact.

Porcelain Tile

Pros: Extremely durable, moisture-resistant, scratch-resistant, easy to clean. Bright white options available.

Cons: Challenging DIY installation. Vulnerable to chipping from impact.

Natural Stone Tile

Pros: Elegant look. Heat-resistant and water-resistant when sealed properly.

Cons: Expensive. Can stain or etch without sealants. Grout can be prone to mildew.

Glass Tile

Pros: Available in a huge array of colors. Creates a gleaming, modern look. Easy to wipe clean.

Cons: Not as durable as ceramic or stone. Grout stains easily. Can crack or shatter.

Metal Tile

Pros: Extremely water-resistant. Creates an industrial, contemporary look. Stain and heat-resistant.

Cons: Expensive. Can dent. Challenging DIY installation. Conducts sound.

Marble Tile

Pros: Elegant, luxurious appearance. Available in bold veining patterns. Heat-resistant when sealed.

Cons: Expensive. Etches and stains easily without sealants. Grout can discolor.

Mosaic Tile

Pros: Creates artistic, intricate patterns. Can use multiple colors. Good for small spaces.

Cons: Challenging installation. Grout needs frequent sealing. Not as durable as ceramic.

Factors To Consider When Selecting Tile

Choosing the right tile involves assessing the following:

Tile Sizes

Smaller tiles like mosaics and 4”x4” sizes allow intricate designs and are easier for DIY projects. Larger format tiles like 12”x24” go up faster but require specialized tools.

Tile Material

Porcelain, ceramic, and natural stone are the most common kitchen tile materials, each with their own characteristics. Glass and metal tiles add eye-catching style.

Tile Finish

Matte tiles hide flaws and are good for busy backsplashes. Glossy or polished tiles reflect light and create depth. Metallic finishes add drama.

Tile Color

Neutrals like white, tan or gray blend with any decor. Bold colors make a dramatic accent wall. Multi-colored patterns offer artistic flair.

Tile Shape

Square and rectangular tiles are the most common. Penguin or hexagon shaped tiles can create cool geometric patterns.

Tile Price

Ceramic and porcelain tiles tend to be the most budget-friendly. Natural stone, metallic, glass and mosaic tiles have a higher price point.

How To Select A Backsplash Pattern

The arrangement of the backsplash tiles, or tile pattern, also affects the overall visual impact. Consider these backsplash patterns:

Subway Tile

This classic pattern features 3”x6” rectangular tiles in horizontal offset rows. Subway tile backsplashes have a clean, streamlined look.


Herringbone patterns zig-zag square or rectangular tiles in alternating directions for interesting angles. Visually striking and modern.


Tiles are arranged in a simple over-under square grid pattern, resembling woven baskets. Has an arts and crafts style.

Penny Rounds

Tiny mosaic tiles or actual coin-shaped tiles create a fun polka dot look. Provides texture and bright pops of color.

Octagons and Hexagons

Shaped tiles like octagons, hexagons or fish scales are arranged in geometric patterns. Has a cool, contemporary vibe.

Stacked or Offset Brick

Brick-shaped rectangular tiles are stacked closely or in offset rows. Provides a neat and tidy brick wall effect.

Picture Frame

A decorative “frame” of specialty tiles like mosaics or textured tiles surrounds the perimeter, “framing” the center grid of tiles.

Design Tips for Kitchen Backsplashes

Follow these tips to design a high-impact kitchen backsplash:

Complement Countertops

Pick out a backsplash color used in your countertops to tie the two surfaces together. Granite, quartz and solid surface counters pair well with ceramic, glass or mosaic tiles.

Contrast Cabinets

Choose a backsplash tile in a contrasting color to your cabinetry so the backsplash will stand out. For white cabinets, bold blues, greens and reds make great backsplash colors.

Vary Tile Sizes

Using a combination of differently sized tiles adds visual complexity. Mix large format tiles with mosaics for contrast. Run an accent row of small tiles near the countertop.

Create Focal Points

Use specialty décor tiles like an intricate mosaic or decorative medallion tile to create a focal point. Position it behind the stove or sink.

Include Accent Stripes

Add pinstripes or an accent border using mosaic tiles or tiles in a contrasting color. Outline the edges or divide the backsplash into framed sections.

Cope with Corners

Use angled tiles or trim pieces on outside corners. Inside corners often end up with awkward slivers – fill in with caulk or mosaics.

Highlight the Range

Draw attention to the hardworking area around the stove and oven. Use heat-resistant statement tiles like metallic or glass. Add an accent strip or medallion tile.

Define Kitchen Zones

Transition to a different tile in beverage zones, baking zones or dishwashing zones. Mosaics visually separate the spaces.

Getting the Right Tile Measurements

Accurately measuring your backsplash area ensures you purchase enough tiles.

Countertop to Cabinets

Measure from counter to wall cabinets in multiple spots to account for uneven walls. For best results, make a detailed sketch.

Vertical Height

Most backsplashes are 4-6 inches high above countertops. Make sure your design aligns correctly with window height.

Surface Area

Use length x height to calculate the total square footage. Add 15% extra for tile cuts and waste.

Tile Coverage

Read tile packaging info to see how many tiles cover one square foot. Porcelain, ceramic and mosaic tiles have different coverage.

How Much Does a Backsplash Cost?

Budget $10-$50 per square foot for quality backsplash tile. The installation process can add $5-$10 per square foot. Other costs include:

  • Tile trim pieces – $2-$5 per linear foot
  • Thinset mortar and grout – $50-$100
  • Specialty decor tiles – $5-$50 per tile
  • Contractor labor, if hiring out – $200-$500

On average, expect to spend $400-$1200 for a full backsplash installation. Higher-end stone, glass or mosaic tiles can be $50-$100 per square foot.

Can You Install a Backsplash Yourself?

With some DIY tiling experience, you can absolutely install a backsplash yourself. Follow this basic process:

Choose a Tile Layout

Measure the space and create a tiling layout on graph paper, accounting for grout lines. Mix tile sizes and patterns if desired.

Prep the Wall Surface

Clean thoroughly, fill any holes, and sand glossy paint. Paint on tile adhesive primer for a better bond.

Cut the Tiles

Use a wet saw for porcelain and ceramic or tile snips for mosaic sheets. Wear safety goggles.

Apply Thinset Mortar

Use a notched trowel to spread a thin, even layer of thinset mortar on the wall area. Let it set slightly.

Arrange and Adhere Tiles

Following your layout, carefully press tiles into the thinset. Use tile spacers between them for consistent grout lines.

Grout the Tiles

Let thinset dry fully, then mix grout and apply over all joints. Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge.

Seal and Finish

Apply a penetrating sealant over natural stone tiles. Add tile trim along edges or transition points if desired.

Hiring a Pro for Installation

For large or intricate backsplash projects, hiring a professional tiler is advisable. Pros can:

  • Easily work with natural stone, large format and specialty tiles
  • Have specialized tools for cutting tricky tile shapes
  • Embed mosaic sheets rapidly without damage
  • Achieve perfectly straight grout lines across walls
  • Apply waterproofing membranes behind tiles
  • Access tiles borders along ceiling or cabinets
  • Blend new tilework into existing backsplashes
  • Recommend the best tile adhesives, grouts and sealants

To find experienced tile contractors, read online reviews and verify licensing. Get at least 3 project quotes to compare pricing.

Maintaining and Cleaning Tile Backsplashes

Keep your backsplash tiles looking like new with proper care and cleaning:

  • Seal natural stone tiles annually to protect from stains
  • Re-apply grout sealer every few years to protect grout from mildew and dirt
  • Use PH-neutral cleaners and avoid harsh chemicals which can etch tiles
  • Rinse with clean water after cleaning and wipe spills up promptly
  • Don’t use abrasive scrub pads or scouring powders which can scratch tiles
  • Clean grout lines occasionally with a soft-bristled grout brush
  • Polish metal or glass tile gently with glass cleaner or mild soap and water

Creative and Unique Kitchen Backsplash Ideas

Ready to go beyond basic subway tile? Here are some creative backsplash design ideas to inspire you:

Mix and Match Tiles

Combining complementary tiles in different colors, sizes, textures and finishes creates an artistic backsplash. Mix mosaics with ceramic tiles or blend marble, travertine and porcelain.

Natural Stone Full Wall

For dramatic impact, run gorgeous stone like marble, travertine or a textured slate up the full wall behind sinks or stoves.

Moroccan Fish Scale Tile

Intricate fish scale mosaic tiles in bold blues and greens evoke Moroccan designs. Use as an accent row or allover pattern.

Geometric Patterns

Angular tiles lend themselves to cool geometric designs. Try triangular mosaic tiles or irregular hexagons. Outline sections in wood or metal tile.

3D Tile Effects

Textured tile options like cubic, wavy, ridged and domed add interesting shadows and dimension. Great for contemporary spaces.

Unexpected Colors and Textures

Why stick with plain white backsplashes? Go bold with glossy lava red or deep emerald green glass tile. Add whimsical texture with penny rounds or pebble stones.

Graphic Artsy Mural

Make a statement by turning your backsplash into a graphic mural. Use bold tile “paints” to create stripes, patterns and images.

The backsplash possibilities are practically endless. With so many tile shapes, materials, colors and designs to work with, you can find a backsplash that perfectly matches your personal style. Use these tips to narrow down your options and end up with a stunning, functional kitchen backsplash you’ll love.

Frequently Asked Questions About Choosing Kitchen Backsplashes

Many homeowners have additional questions when deciding on a kitchen backsplash. Here are answers to some of the most common FAQs:

What is the most popular backsplash for kitchens?

The most popular kitchen backsplash is classic white subway tile. It’s affordable, matches any decor, and has a clean, streamlined look.

How do I choose a backsplash color?

Pick out a dominant color from your kitchen, like cabinetry or countertops, and match that color in the backsplash tile. Neutral backsplash colors like white are easy to pair.

What backsplash goes with white cabinets and dark countertops?

White cabinets and dark granite or quartz counters pair well with backsplashes in lighter neutral hues or with pops of color like light blue or green glass mosaic tiles.

Should you match backsplash and countertops?

It’s not mandatory, but matching the color and texture of the backsplash and countertops creates a cohesive look. For example, combine marble counters with marble tile backsplash.

What backsplash looks best with stainless steel appliances?

Stainless steel appliances pair well with glass, metal or ceramic tile backsplashes. Neutral cream and gray tones complement the shine.

Can backsplash tile be different than countertop?

Definitely. Feel free to mix up the materials and colors to create an eclectic look. Just make sure the two surfaces complement each other.

How high should a backsplash be?

Standard backsplash height is 4 inches from the countertop. Full-height backsplashes that go all the way up to 18 inches are also popular behind sinks and stoves.

Should backsplash match floor?

Matching the backsplash and floors is not necessary, though some homeowners opt to pull colors from the floors into the backsplash tile to visually unite the spaces.

Is mosaic tile still in style?

Mosaic tiles are a classic and versatile backsplash option. Penny tile mosaics offer a timeless look. Modern large-scale mosaics create unique patterns.

Do glass tile backsplashes look cheap?

Glass backsplashes can look absolutely elegant, not cheap! Use large format glass tiles and neutral colors for an ultra-modern look. Add accent strips of small glass mosaics.


The perfect backsplash brings together your preferred materials, colors, patterns and styles to match your kitchen decor and design aesthetic. By determining your backsplash goals, carefully choosing tiles, and implementing clever design techniques, you’re sure to end up with a stunning, functional backsplash installation.

Use this comprehensive guide to confidently decide on the ideal backsplash tile for your space. Weigh the pros and cons of different materials and tile patterns. Determine the right layout measurements. Set a budget and explore creative ideas. With the right backsplash, your kitchen renovation will be complete.