Figuring out your backsplash is an important design decision when remodeling a kitchen or bath. The backsplash serves both form and function – protecting the walls from splashes and spills while also providing an opportunity to add visual interest and personality through color, texture, and pattern. With so many backsplash options to choose from like tile, stone, glass, and metal, it can be tricky to determine the right material and layout for your space and style.
This comprehensive guide will walk you through all the key factors to consider when figuring out your backsplash. We’ll cover how to select the right backsplash materials, calculate the amount needed, and design a layout that enhances your space. Learn backsplash planning tips and best practices so you can confidently choose a backsplash that both protects and accentuates your kitchen or bath.
How to Select Backsplash Materials
The material you choose for your backsplash impacts the overall look, durability, and maintenance required. Consider the following factors when selecting backsplash materials:
Think about the color scheme, textures, and patterns you want to incorporate. Certain materials like glass or mosaic tile provide brilliant colors and dazzling shimmers. Natural stone offers earthy tones and variation. Ceramic or porcelain tile comes in endless colors, shapes, and designs. Choose a look that complements your cabinets, counters, appliances, and overall decor.
Factor in how the space is used. For heavy-duty cooking zones, durable and seamless materials like stainless steel are best. Over bars or low-traffic areas, delicate glass may work. For behind sinks, look for water-resistant, groutable options.
Ease of Cleaning
Opt for non-porous, sealed materials like glass or ceramic tile in messy zones. Avoid unglazed tile or grout lines that can trap gunk. Polished natural stone is easier to keep clean than textured.
Material costs range dramatically. Mosaic glass or stone tiles are generally the priciest. Economical options include ceramic tile, peeled-and-stick tiles, or painted drywall. Set realistic expectations for your budget.
Consider your abilities before selecting specialty patterned tile or natural stone that requires expert installation. Simpler tile layouts or peel-and-stick products are better for DIYers. Evaluate whether professional help is worth the added cost.
Determine if the material can withstand heat, moisture, grease, UV light, and other environmental factors unique to the space. For example, behind stoves require high heat-resistant surfaces.
Carefully weigh the pros and cons of each backsplash material option relative to your needs and style. This will help narrow down the selections.
How to Calculate How Much Backsplash Material You Need
Once you’ve settled on the right backsplash materials, it’s important to purchase enough to complete your project. Determining the square footage you’ll need takes a few simple calculations.
Measure Your Backsplash Area
First, measure the area that will be covered by the backsplash. If doing a full wall of backsplash, measure the height and width of the wall surface. For a backsplash behind a sink or stove, measure just that segmented area where backsplash will be installed.
Be sure to measure in inches and multiply height x width to get the area in square inches. Also account for any indented, protruding, or oddly shaped sections that affect the overall area.
Account for Offsets
If outlets, switches, or cabinets penetrate the backsplash area, measure and subtract those offsets in square inches. This gives you an accurate net area to cover.
Factor in Grout Lines
Account for the grout lines that will spread out the amount of tile. If tiles are 1” x 1” with 1/8” grout lines, the coverage is roughly 80 tiles per square foot. The grout lines mean you’ll need about 20% more tile area than straight square footage.
Calculate Pieces Needed
Determine how many full pieces of tile or sheets of material you’ll need to cover the net area calculated. Round up to account for staggered layouts, cuts, defects, or future repairs needed. Have at least 10% extra on hand.
Estimate Adhesive and Grout
Check manufacturer guidelines for how much thinset mortar and grout to allot based on square footage and tile type. Factor in 10-15% extra for waste or touch ups.
Precisely measuring and pre-purchasing the right backsplash materials saves frustration, extra trips to the store, and ensures no shortages during your project.
How to Design a Backsplash Layout
Beyond just the material, designing the backsplash layout is equally important for both aesthetic and functional reasons. Follow these tips when planning your layout:
Think about where the backsplash should begin and end relative to counters, cabinets, appliances, and other features in the space. It typically starts directly above the countertop and runs up to the bottom of wall cabinets. Align ends with appliances, corners, or other termination points.
Sketch Perspective Views
From a plan view sketch, map out the overall placement and traffic zones. Draw perspective sketches imagining how the patterns will look when installed on the walls. This helps visualize the final layout.
Choose Patterns Wisely
Simple layouts like all white subway tile can provide a clean, classic look. But don’t be afraid to get creative with patterns like herringbone, diagonals, medallions, or banding designs. Just be strategic with bold layouts, limiting to one focal wall or cooking zone.
Align with Features
Align tiles or seams with sinks, faucets, outlets, and cabinets for a cohesive finished look. Having tiles and grout lines perfectly lined up with the edges of counters and appliances looks intentional.
Set Realistic Expectations
Understand that intricately patterned tile or natural stone rarely aligns perfectly or looks exactly like the display photos. Set realistic expectations for handmade products.
Consider mixing materials like a marble mosaic accent strip against subway tile or combine glass and ceramic tiles. Transition backsplashes between zones like a stone slab behind stoves to standard tile on perimeter walls.
Include Design Motifs
Look for ways to incorporate design elements from cabinets, floors, or other details. Matching the metal finish on tile trims or accent tiles to cabinet hardware pulls it together.
Task lighting and accent lighting influence the way the backsplash looks. Factor lighting design into material and layout selections.
Take advantage of the backsplash as an opportunity to add wow-factor with smart layouts. Use these design tips to create a cohesive and eye-catching backsplash.
How to Install a Tile Backsplash
Tiling your backsplash is an attainable DIY project that can completely transform the look of your kitchen or bath. Follow these steps for proper tile backsplash installation:
Ensure you have all necessary tile, tools, and materials purchased beforehand, including: tiles, thinset mortar, notched trowel, grout and sealer, tape, spacers, cutter, mixing bucket, sponges, and safety gear.
Prepare the Surface
Thoroughly clean the installation area then remove outlet covers and existing backsplash. Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle and sand smooth. Prime and paint with latex-based primer.
Map Your Layout
Based on your design, measure and mark stud locations. Dry lay tiles on the countertop to determine the optimal layout. Use a level to mark offset lines if needed.
Mix Thinset Mortar
Combine thinset powder with latex additive and water per package instructions in a bucket. Use proper ratios to achieve a thick, lump-free consistency. Allow to slake for 10 minutes before using.
Apply Thinset and Tiles
Use the notched trowel to spread a thin layer of thinset onto the backsplash area, adding more as you go. Press tiles into place, using spacers to maintain even grout lines.
Cut Any Custom Pieces
Measure and mark tiles that need cut around outlets, corners, or edges. Score with cutter then snap. Use wet saw for complicated cuts. Grind cut edges smooth.
Let Tiles Set
Allow thinset mortar to cure for 24-48 hours. Check for gaps or lifting tiles and press back into place while setting. Remove spacers once fully set.
Grout Tile Joints
Mix grout per package directions. Use a rubber grout float to spread grout over the tiles, pressing firmly into joints. Wipe excess grout off the tile faces with a damp sponge.
Seal and Finish
Allow grout to fully cure for 72 hours. Apply grout sealer with a paintbrush or sponge. Caulk edges if needed. Reinstall outlet covers and fixtures.
With the right prep and patience, DIYers can tackle tiling their backsplash successfully. Take it slow and follow proper installation procedures.
Common Backsplash Installation Problems and Solutions
Even if carefully planned, it’s normal to encounter some problems installing a backsplash. Knowing how to troubleshoot common issues can help you quickly resolve them:
Uneven Grout Lines
Solution: Use tile spacers when setting tiles to keep grout line spacing consistent. If already set, use a grout removal tool to clear out wide joints and re-grout evenly.
Solution: Ensure grout joints meet minimum width requirements for the tile type. Use unsanded grout for joints 1/8” or less. Seal grout to prevent cracking.
Hollow or Lifting Tiles
Solution: Check for areas with inadequate thinset mortar adhesion. Re-apply mortar and firmly press tiles down. Let mortar fully cure before grouting
Solution: Wipe diagonal to tile joints to avoid pulling out grout. Use grout haze remover or mix vinegar and water to safely clean residue.
Solution: Use a level often to check tile alignment. To adjust minor alignment issues, lift and adjust tiles if mortar is still wet.
Not Enough Materials
Solution: Order more tile immediately to have on hand for repairs later. Use any extra material for shelving, coasters ortain trims. Get creative!
By identifying and quickly solving any backsplash problems as they happen, you’ll get your project back on track.
Tips for Designing a Kitchen Backsplash
The kitchen backsplash offers big design potential to elevate your cooking space. Keep these tips in mind when planning your kitchen backsplash:
- Extend the backsplash fully from countertop to cabinets for a seamless, clean look. Standard height is 4 inches above counters.
- Choose durable, moisture-resistant backsplash materials behind sinks and appliances where they’ll get the most exposure.
- Coordinate backsplash tile colors and textures with the cabinets, countertops, floors, and other finishes for a cohesive look.
- Design the backsplash as the focal point by using an accent tile or eye-catching pattern behind the range. Keep perimeter areas simpler.
- Line up grout lines, corners, seams, outlets, and faucets neatly with the edges and hardware of cabinets and appliances.
- Consider mixing materials, designs, or colors on different walls. For example, use a neutral subway tile on perimeter walls and a colorful mosaic behind the stove.
- Accent the backsplash with metal or glass decorative trim pieces along the top or edges for extra polish.
- Install task lighting under or above cabinets to better illuminate the backsplash work area.
- Sketch perspectives of how the tile pattern will look before installing to confirm the scale and layout.
By thoughtfully designing and executing your kitchen backsplash, you can create a personalized focal point that enhances the room’s functionality.
How to Select a Backsplash for a Bathroom
Choosing a backsplash tile for a bathroom requires considering the unique damp environment and focal points. Use these tips when selecting bathroom backsplash materials:
Prioritize Moisture Resistance
Bathroom backsplashes deal with high humidity. Select tiles rated for wet areas and use waterproof grout and sealers. Avoid porous stone or grout lines that can harbor mildew.
Cleanability Is Key
Frequently touched areas around sinks and fixtures can accumulate soap scum. Choose easy-clean, non-porous materials like ceramic, glass or metal backsplashes. Polished stone works if sealed properly.
Match Faucet Finishes
Coordinate backsplash selections with faucet and fixture finishes for a unified look. For example, pair subway tiles with classic chrome or penny mosaic with bronze hardware.
Accent the Mirror
A beautiful framed mirror is a perfect opportunity to add a backsplash “rug” underneath that acts as an accent. Consider marble, patterned ceramic, or metallic tiles.
Use Wallpaper or Paint
For budget-friendly options, use washable wallpaper or semi-gloss paint. Look for moisture-resistant products specifically made for bathrooms.
Set Proper Expectations
Understand natural materials like travertine will have variation and etching. Ceramic glazes can fade slightly over time. Set realistic expectations for longevity.
Picking suitable backsplash materials for the high moisture and regular cleaning in bathrooms protects your walls and adds personality.
How to Maintain and Clean Tile Backsplashes
Caring for your backsplash properly is key to keeping it looking like new. Follow these tile backsplash maintenance tips:
Inspect for Damages
Check for cracked, missing, or loose tiles. Fill any grout gaps immediately to prevent moisture damage. Replace individual tiles as needed.
Reapply grout sealer every 1-2 years using a foam brush. This prevents stains and moisture absorption that can lead to mildew.
Use Gentle Cleaners
Clean tiles with mild pH-neutral soaps, not harsh chemicals. Use a soft sponge or microfiber cloth to avoid scratches. Rinse off any cleaner residue.
Address Soap Scum Build Up
Use a non-abrasive bathroom cleaner designed for soap scum to keep grout clean and sanitary, especially around sinks.
Spot Treat Stains
Treat any oily cooker splatter, hard water deposits, or soap scum immediately. Letting stains set will make them harder to remove.
Squeegee and Blot Dry
After cleaning, use a squeegee to wipe water off the tile. Blot up any remaining moisture with a towel to prevent water spots.
Consider Re-sealing Natural Stone
More porous natural stone may need resealing every 6-12 months. Check for dark grout lines or absorption that indicates sealant needs refreshing.
With proper care, your quality backsplash installation should maintain its beauty and function for decades before needing replacement.
Backsplash Design Ideas and Trends
Here are some top backsplash design ideas and trends to inspire your project:
Make a dramatic statement by using a bold, colorful pattern tile or large-scale geometric design. These eye-catching backsplashes showcase your personal style.
Three-dimensional tiles add intrigue, catching light from all angles. Subway types with an arched profile or scalloped mosaic tiles create visual depth.
Moroccan Fish Scale Tile
The centuries-old zellige tile patterns with stacked shapes in intricate mosaics add beautiful old-world charm and sparkle.
Graphic Art Tile
Some companies offer customized printable tiles that can replicate photos, art, vintage posters, wallpaper patterns, or solid colors for graphic backsplash appeal.
From hammered copper sheets to multi-toned metal mosaic tiles, contemporary metallic backsplashes add shining flair and dimension.
Clear or colored glass tile insets, listellos, or borders refract light. Use glass creatively to accent niches, edges, or focal walls while tying to countertop finishes.
Mixing textures, like pairing a sleek quartzite slab on the countertop with an intricate Spanish-style ceramic tile backsplash, adds visual interest.
Sculptural Natural Stone
Bookmatch slabs or do a mosaic pattern in variegated marbles or other stones to create a natural stone art piece as the backsplash.
For a cottage or farmhouse feel, use shiplap planks as an easy-to-install wood backsplash. Paint it or stain it to suit your style.
The backsplash possibilities are endless. Evaluate trendy options and choose the look that best suits your space.
Do’s and Don’ts of Backsplash Design
Follow these backsplash design best practices to end up with a cohesive, functional installation:
- Extend backsplash fully from countertop to bottom of upper cabinets for cleanest look
- Use accent colors, textures, or mosaic patterns strategically as a focal point
- Plan out entire layout and purchase all materials prior to starting installation
- Inspect tiles beforehand and distribute any variation evenly across space
- Include multiple light sources to illuminate and showcase the backsplash
- Mix too many different tiles, patterns, or colors
- Install backsplash tile before counters and cabinets are in
- Rush through tile setting or grouting steps
- Allow cleaners or spills to linger, stain, and etch surfaces
- Expect stone or handmade tiles to have zero imperfections
- Forget to seal grout and maintain backsplash over time
By thoughtfully planning the design upfront and avoiding rookie mistakes, your new backsplash will enhance the space for years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplashes
What is the standard backsplash height?
The standard backsplash height is 4 inches above the countertop. Full height backsplashes extend all the way from the counter to the underside of wall cabinets.
How much does a backsplash cost?
Backsplash cost depends on the material. Budget ceramic or peel-and-stick tile can cost $5-10 per square foot. Higher-end natural stone, metal or glass tile ranges $50-100 per