How to Choose the Perfect Backsplash for Your Kitchen

A kitchen backsplash serves both form and function. Not only does a backsplash provide a protective barrier between your countertops and cabinets, it also brings visual interest to your kitchen design. With so many backsplash options to choose from—like tile, stone, metal, glass, and more—selecting the right material and look can be overwhelming. Follow this comprehensive guide on how to choose a kitchen backsplash that perfectly suits your taste, lifestyle, and budget.

Determine Your Design Goals and Style

Before evaluating specific backsplash materials, first decide on the aesthetic you want to achieve. Consider the following:

Complement the Rest of the Kitchen

Choose a backsplash that coordinates well with your existing countertops, cabinetry, appliances, and decor. For example, if your kitchen features a rustic charm with wood cabinetry, go for natural stone tiles in earthy hues. For a more modern kitchen with glossy cabinets, sleek metal or glass backsplashes would better match the decor.

Consider Your Personal Style

Think about the overall look and feel you want for the space, as well as what you’re naturally drawn to. Do you prefer traditional, contemporary, minimalist, or eclectic styles? If you’re unsure, look at kitchen photos online or in design magazines to help identify your preferences.

Set a Budget

Backsplash materials can vary greatly in cost per square foot. Measure the dimensions of your backsplash area and set a realistic budget before falling in love with a material that’s beyond your price range.

Think About Ease of Maintenance

Factor in how much effort will be required to keep your backsplash clean. For busy kitchens, durable and seamless materials like stainless steel are lower maintenance. More intricate backsplash designs with grout lines or etched detailing require more routine cleaning.

Choose a Functional Material

Beyond its design impact, you want a backsplash that’s highly functional in a space that sees high use. Assess practical factors like:

Heat and Moisture Resistance

The material needs to hold up to splatters from cooking and baking without warping or staining. Tile, metal, glass, and well-sealed natural stone perform best. Avoid porous surfaces like unfinished wood.

Easy Cleaning

Food splatters and grease are inevitable, so select a backsplash that wipes clean with minimal effort. Glossy glass, stainless steel, and glazed ceramic tile are good options. Avoid rough grout lines that can harbor bacteria.


Opt for a highly durable material that can withstand scrapes, dings, and cuts. Materials like metal, glass tile, and granite resist scratches and impacts well. Avoid softer or brittle surfaces prone to chipping.

Choose a Suitable Backsplash Material

With an idea of your desired aesthetic and functional needs, now you can dive into specific backsplash materials and their key differences.



  • Extensive variety of colors, textures, and patterns
  • Can create custom designs
  • Water-resistant and durable


  • Grout requires sealing and cleaning
  • Installation can be tricky for DIY

Popular Options: Ceramic, Porcelain, Glass, Stone

Great for: Personalized looks on a budget



  • Beautiful natural material
  • Each piece is unique
  • Withstands heat and moisture


  • Expensive
  • Some porous stones can stain
  • Challenging for DIY install

Popular Options: Granite, Marble, Travertine, Limestone

Great for: Elegant focal point

Stainless Steel


  • Sleek, modern look
  • Resists heat, moisture, stains
  • Easy to clean and maintain


  • Can show smudges, fingerprints
  • Makes a bold statement

Popular Options: Brushed, Polished

Great for: A commercial-style kitchen

Glass Tile


  • Light-reflecting surface
  • Available in range of colors
  • Low maintenance and easy to clean


  • Grout needs resealing
  • Not as durable as natural stone

Popular Options: Subway, Mosaic, Penny Tile

Great for: A glamorous or retro feel

Key Factors When Selecting Tile

If choosing a tile backsplash, keep the following in mind:


Select a tile shape and pattern that matches your preferred look—from rectangular subway tiles for classic appeal to ornate mosaics for artsy flair.


Ceramic and porcelain tile provide the widest range of styles at affordable prices. Natural stone tile brings unparalleled elegance, while glass tile offers brilliant sparkle.


Smaller tiles like mosaics create visual interest and dimension but require more grout. Larger tiles make a space feel more open but limit layout options. Standard 3×6 subway tiles offer a versatile middle ground.

Texture and Finish

Consider the surface appearance that fits your vibe—from glossy, satin, or matte to cracked, tumbled, or handpainted finishes.

Color Palette

choose a single color, or mix and match hues and patterns for personalized appeal. For a unified look, limit your palette to 3-4 complementary colors.

Smart Installation Practices

Proper installation is crucial to creating a backsplash that performs well and lasts.

Use Durable Setting Materials

Choose modified thinset mortar for a strong tile bond on walls. Use unsanded grout for grout lines 1/8” or less and sanded grout for wider grout lines.

Apply Waterproof Backerboard

Install cement backerboard or a waterproof membrane before tiling around sinks or appliances to prevent moisture damage.

Follow Adhesive and Grout Instructions

Closely follow product directions for tile prep, spacing, set times, and grouting methods to avoid adhesion issues down the road.

Use the Right Tools

Investing in specific tiling tools like spacers, a tile cutter, and grout float makes installation much easier for DIY projects.

Seal Grout and Stone

Sealing the grout and natural stone helps guard against stains and damage from daily use and splashes.

Create the Perfect Backsplash Layout

Once you’ve selected the ideal backsplash materials, now comes the fun part—planning the layout! Here are tips for achieving a cohesive and functional design:

Sketch Your Backsplash Plans

Draw a detailed sketch mapping out tile placement and visual patterns. This allows you to experiment on paper first.

Follow the 60-30-10 Rule

Use 60% of one main tile for the majority of the area, 30% of a coordinating style, and 10% for an eye-catching mosaic accent.

Use Borders and Shape Variety

Frames your backsplash with trim pieces or border tiles, mixing in shaped tiles like hexagons or circles for interest.

Include Design Focal Points

Incorporate statement-making designs around appliances, windows, or other features. Use an ornamental tile motif, colored glass tile artwork, or metallic inlay.

Align with Countertops

Line up your bottom backsplash row with countertops for a streamlined transition. Finish edges with bullnose trim or decorative edge tiles.

Make It Functional

Beyond the aesthetics, optimize your backsplash layout for practicality:

Plan Around Outlets and Switches

Map electrical elements first so you don’t have to cut tiles to fit around them later. Use whole tiles near outlets for seamless appearance.

Allow Space Around Appliances

Leave a little room between backsplash tiles and appliances to accommodate opening oven doors or pulling out drawers.

Use Backsplash to Protect Problem Areas

Strategically tile problem zones prone to splatters, moisture, and grime behind sinks, ovens, and cooktops.

Accentuate Windows and Lighting

Use reflective glass, metallic, or iridescent tiles to amplify natural lighting near windows.

FAQs about Choosing a Backsplash

Still have some lingering questions on selecting the perfect backsplash? Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

What is the most popular backsplash for kitchens?

The most popular backsplash option overall is white subway tile. The classic rectangular shape and clean white color work well with nearly any kitchen decor from farmhouse to contemporary.

What backsplash goes best with white cabinets?

For white cabinetry, we recommend a backsplash with contrasting colors and textures to make it pop. Dark-hued glass, marble stone, or bold patterned tile work beautifully.

What backsplash is easiest to install?

Subway tile is one of the easiest for DIY installation thanks to its simple shape. Large-format tiles like 12×24” porcelain slabs also go up fast, with fewer pieces to work with.

What backsplash is cheapest?

Standard square ceramic tiles provide the most budget-friendly option for the amount of material. Handpainted or ornate ceramic tile offers artisan appeal for less than stone or glass.

What backsplash is best for small kitchens?

In a small kitchen, limit tile to a focused area or thin strip to avoid visual clutter. Also skip busy patterns in favor of clean-lined solids or simple shapes.

What backsplash goes with brown cabinets?

For rich brown cabinetry, we recommend lighter and brighter backsplash hues like white, cream, or pale blue tiles to provide balance. Travertine stone also pairs nicely.

Final Thoughts on Selecting a Backsplash

The ideal kitchen backsplash brings together practicality, style, and function—protecting your walls while elevating your design. Carefully assess your decor goals, lifestyle needs, and budget to inform your backsplash decision. Browse through tile samples or visit showrooms to get a sense of colors, textures, and patterns you’re naturally drawn to. Sketch designs and layout options to create a seamless look. With an array of beautiful materials to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect backsplash to give your kitchen personality and flair.