Kitchen backsplashes not only serve a functional purpose by protecting the walls from splashes and stains, but they also provide an opportunity to add style, visual interest, and personality to your kitchen. With so many backsplash materials, colors, patterns and design options to choose from, deciding on a kitchen backsplash can feel overwhelming. This complete guide will walk you through everything you need to know about choosing, designing and installing a kitchen backsplash.
How to Select a Kitchen Backsplash
When selecting a material for your kitchen backsplash, there are a few key factors to consider:
Kitchen backsplashes take a lot of wear and tear. From water splashes while washing dishes, to oil splatters from cooking, to the occasional bump or scrape, your backsplash needs to stand up to daily use. Ceramic tile, metal, glass tile, and stone are all very durable backsplash materials.
Ease of Cleaning
You want your backsplash to be easy to keep clean. Smooth, non-porous materials like ceramic tile, stainless steel, and glass tile can simply be wiped down. Avoid very porous materials like unsealed grout or natural stone, which require sealing and can stain easily.
Your backsplash is a key part of your kitchen’s aesthetic. Consider the overall style you want for your kitchen – modern, traditional, rustic, etc. Then choose a backsplash material and color/pattern that aligns with your style.
Backsplash materials can vary greatly in cost. Ceramic or porcelain tile is very budget-friendly. While stone tile, metal or glass tile, and fabricated metal or glass panels will be a more expensive choice. Set a budget for your backsplash and choose materials that fit within it.
DIY vs Pro Installation
Installing a backsplash yourself can save on labor costs, but may be more time consuming. Tiles or panels that use a peel-and-stick application are the easiest for DIY installation. For a very complex design, consider hiring a professional installer.
Backsplash Material Options
Ceramic or Porcelain Tile
A very common choice, ceramic or porcelain tile comes in a huge range of sizes, colors, textures and patterns. The tiles are durable, easy to clean, and relatively inexpensive. Subway tile is a popular rectangular style. Accent tiles can add pops of color or pattern. Ceramic and porcelain tiles are typically easy for DIY installation.
Natural stone like marble, granite, slate or travertine can make a beautiful, high-end backsplash. Stone has natural variation in color and pattern. It requires sealing to prevent staining and is moderately difficult to install.
Glass tile is available in a wide array of colors, can mimic natural materials like stone or marble, and adds a shiny, sleek look. It is very easy to clean but can chip if subjected to hard blows. Glass tile requires special cutters and careful installation.
Metal Tile or Sheets
Metal backsplashes come in tiles or whole sheets. Often made of stainless steel or tin, they have an industrial, modern look. Metal stands up well to heat and moisture and is easy to clean. It can dent if struck very hard. Professional installation is recommended.
These backsplash panels are made of materials like quartz, acrylic, or plastic formed into a solid sheet. They often emulate looks like glass, marble, stone or metal. Fabricated panels are durable and water-resistant. Large sheets can create a seamless look.
Key Measurements for Planning
When selecting a backsplash, you’ll need to know a few key measurements:
- Length of backsplash area – Measure the linear feet around the perimeter of countertops needing a backsplash.
- Height of backsplash – Standard backsplash height is 4 inches from the counter, but can be tailored to your preference.
- Depth of countertops – Countertop depth is needed to calculate how many full tiles/sheets will fit above.
- Outlets, windows and fixtures – Note any breaks in the backsplash area.
There are a few key design factors to think about for your backsplash:
Backsplash with Countertops
Choose backsplash tile or colors that complement your countertop material and colors. Contrasting or matching tones can work well.
Tile Layout Patterns
Square tile layouts (e.g. grid, brick, or diagonal patterns) help break up the space. Subway tiles create a classic linear look. Accent tiles can be added for splashes of color.
Incorporate Other Materials
Mixing materials like wood floating shelves or a stone mosaic inlay can add visual interest.
Backsplash as Focal Point
For a bold look, opt for an intricate patterned tile or bright, saturated colors to make the backsplash a focal point.
Match your faucet and cabinet hardware finishes to backsplash materials like metal tile or glass sheet for a cohesive look.
How to Install a Tile Backsplash
Installing a tile backsplash is a manageable weekend DIY project for many homeowners. Here are the basic steps:
You’ll need tile, thinset mortar, grout, grout sealer, tape, spacers, tile cutter, trowel, sponge, buckets, mixing paddle, and safety gear. Have more tile than you need in case some break.
Prepare the Surface
Thoroughly clean and dry the wall surface. Apply painter’s tape to edges for neat lines. Mark the tile layout on the wall. Apply thinset mortar evenly using a notched trowel.
Cut and Place Tiles
Cut any edge tiles as needed with tile cutter. Using spacers, press tiles into thinset and set per layout. Gently wiggle to ensure adhesion. Check for evenness.
Apply Grout and Seal
Let thinset cure per package directions. Mix and apply grout with float, filling all tile joints. Wipe away excess grout. Apply grout sealer once fully cured.
Remove tape. Caulk perimeter edges with silicone sealant. Clean surface with damp sponge once caulk dries.
How to Install a Sheet/Panel Backsplash
For a sleek, seamless look, fabricated backsplash sheets or panels made of materials like metal, glass or acrylic can be installed. Here is an overview:
Prep the Wall
Clean and dry the surface thoroughly. Fill any uneven spots for flat installation. Some panels may require adhesive applied to wall.
Cut to Size
Measure space and use a circular saw, jigsaw or snips to cut panels to fit, allowing for inside corners or outlets. File any rough edges. Be cautious of sharp edges.
Mount Backsplash Panels
Follow manufacturer instructions for mounting. This may involve liquid nails, silicone adhesive or screw mounts top and bottom. Use spacers or shims to maintain correct spacing.
Finish the Edges
If needed, finish raw panel edges with edge trim pieces. Caulk along the top and sides edges with a waterproof silicone sealant for watertight finish.
Here are some backsplash design ideas to inspire your kitchen project:
White subway tile paired with white cabinets and countertops creates a timeless, clean look. Adding stone or marble accents adds visual interest.
Standout Moroccan Fish Scale Tile
Intricate tiles like Moroccan fish scale in bold colors make the backsplash the focal point of the kitchen.
Handmade subway tile with imperfect edges and grout lines, or reclaimed wood panels, give a rustic farmhouse feel.
For contemporary style, eye-catching geometric shapes and patterns in glossy tile lend visual energy.
Natural Stone Mosaic
Small stone tiles in organic natural hues create a mosaic backsplash perfect for Tuscan or Mediterranean inspired kitchens.
Mix and Match
Mixing complementary textures and colors, like wood panels with blue glass tile accents, adds personalized character.
Regular maintenance keeps your backsplash looking its best:
- For ceramic, glass or stone tile, wipe down with a damp sponge and mild dish soap as needed. Reseal grout every 1-2 years.
- Avoid harsh, abrasive cleaners which can etch or scratch the surface.
- Immediately wipe up oil splatters to avoid grease stains.
- Repair chips or missing grout lines to prevent moisture damage.
- Use caulk sealant on joints between tile and fixtures. Refresh caulk annually.
Following the manufacturer’s care instructions for your specific backsplash materials is also recommended.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about kitchen backsplashes:
How much does a kitchen backsplash cost?
Backsplash cost depends heavily on material, ranging $5-$50 per square foot installed. Budget ceramic or peel-and-stick tiles are most affordable. Stone, metal or glass tile is higher.
What is the most popular backsplash?
White subway tile is a consistently popular and classic choice. But tile patterns and materials like marble, wood, or glass are also trending.
What color backsplash goes with white cabinets?
White cabinets pair beautifully with nearly any color backsplash. Grey, navy, black, or subtle green are popular. Stainless steel or patterned tile also complements white cabinets.
Can you put tile backsplash directly on drywall?
It is not recommended to apply tile directly to drywall alone. Thinset mortar does not adhere well to drywall. A cement board or water-resistant barrier should be added first.
How high should a kitchen backsplash be?
The most common backsplash height is 4 inches from the counter. Backsplashes may range from 4-6 inches high generally, but can be customized to your preference.
How do you cut glass tile for backsplash?
Cutting glass tile requires a quality glass tile cutter using a cutting wheel, not nippers. Score the surface and snap tile along score line. Use masking tape on surface to prevent chipping.
Installing a kitchen backsplash not only protects your walls from splatters and stains, but allows you to express your personal style. Carefully considering the backsplash design, materials, and installation approach enables you to create a backsplash you’ll enjoy for years to come. With the information in this guide, you can feel confident to tackle a kitchen backsplash project and end up with beautiful, functional results.