How to Pick a Backsplash for Your Kitchen

Choosing the right backsplash is one of the most important decisions when remodeling or designing your dream kitchen. The backsplash serves both form and function – it protects the walls from splashes and stains while adding style, visual interest, and personality. With so many backsplash options to pick from like tile, stone, glass, metal, and accent pieces, it can get overwhelming fast. Here is an in-depth guide on how to pick the perfect backsplash for your kitchen.

Determine Your Design Goals and Needs

Before even looking at backsplash materials, determine what you want your backsplash to accomplish.

  • Do you need stain protection from cooking or durability for a busy kitchen? Then a water-resistant material like ceramic or stainless steel tile is best.
  • Is your priority to make a design statement and express your style? Handmade or mosaic tile offers tons of artisan textures and patterns.
  • Do you want to visually expand a small kitchen? Choose reflective materials like glass tile or mirrored sections.
  • Does your space need to be kept light and airy? White subway tile or light natural stone are great go-to backsplash choices.

Also decide if you want your backsplash to blend in subtly or command attention. If your counters, cabinets, and appliances are bold, an understated backsplash brings balance. Or if the overall kitchen decor is simple, go for a showstopping backsplash.

Complement the Colors and Materials Already in the Kitchen

Picking a backsplash color or material that ties into key elements already in your kitchen creates a cohesive look. For example:

  • Match the undertones in your countertops and cabinets. Granite or quartz countertops usually have flecks of mica or crystal that you can highlight.
  • If your countertops have a unique material like pennies or glass shards in the concrete, carry that over to the backsplash.
  • Stainless steel appliances pair well with metal, mirror, or silver-colored tile.
  • White cabinetry makes a neutral palette with any color backsplash pop from subtle pastels to deep saturated hues.

Consider the Size of Your Kitchen and Backsplash Area

Proportion is important for the right visual balance. For a large kitchen or expansive backsplash space, you can go bold with colorful mosaic tile or an oversized pattern. Or install a full slab of stone or quartz as a backsplash with dramatic veins and texture.

Small kitchens with limited backsplash space call for smaller scale tile like subway, pin dot mosaics, or mini stone tiles under 4 inches. This will keep the area from getting overwhelmed. If storage space is limited too, look for backsplash tile with built-in storage hooks and shelves.

Pick Durable, Low-Maintenance Materials

Kitchen backsplashes take a beating from grease, food splatter, steam, and daily wear and tear. Choose backsplash materials known for durability:

Ceramic and Porcelain Tile: Affordable, water-resistant, and easy to clean. The dense surface prevents staining and absorption. Glazed ceramic tile needs less grout and resists mildew.

Glass Tile: Resilient and non-porous for kitchens. Use tempered glass and check for PEI rating.

Stainless Steel Tile: Durable, rust-resistant, and reflecting for a contemporary look. Easy DIY installation.

Granite: Holds up well over time. The polishing makes it very stain-resistant. Annual sealing needed.

Marble: Classic material but needs more sealing from etching and stains. Limit to low-use areas.

Work Within Your Budget

From DIY to designer, backsplash tile comes in every price point. Set realistic expectations based on your overall budget:

Budget: Self-adhesive or peel-and-stick tile, painted ceramic tile

Mid-Range: Ceramic, porcelain, poured glass, penny tile, subway tile

High-End: Hand-crafted or custom tile, slab marble or stone, metals

Factor in professional installation, special cutting or edge treatments, grout and sealants too. Get creative mixing high-end materials in small doses with more cost-effective tile.

Visualize How It Will Look Installed

It is hard to tell what a tile will look like installed from just a small manufacturer sample. Seek out full sheets of tiles or large photos of the tile installed in a space similar to yours.

Pay attention to:

  • Size: Make sure small mosaics to sprawling patterns suit your area.
  • Color Variation: Subtle differences in tone across tiles can be pretty but may also look busy.
  • Shine Level: Polished, metallic, and glass tile often look more vivid installed than in samples.
  • Grout Color Pairing: Grout frames each tile so view options before deciding.

Choose the Right Tile Layout

Beyond picking the individual tile itself, you need to decide on the best tile layout to achieve your backsplash vision.

Basic Grid: Offset rows of uniform tile in a straight grid pattern.

Staggered: Brick pattern with tiles offset from row to row for more interest.

Herringbone: Angled tile pieces form a V shape. Needs cutting but eye-catching results.

Mosaic: Small tiles clustered to form shapes, patterns, images. Great for backsplashes.

Inset Accents: Use different shaped, colored, or textured tile as insets and borders.

Consider Open Shelving Instead of a Backsplash

Open shelving has replaced upper cabinets in many kitchens today. The floating shelves offer handy storage and display space while eliminating the need for any backsplash behind the shelves. Wood, glass, metal, and bracket shelves all make popular alternative backsplashes. Just be sure your shelves can handle heat from the cooktop.

How to Pick a Backsplash for Your Kitchen – In Summary

When selecting a kitchen backsplash tile material, colors, and layout, take your time considering all the options. Pull inspiration from kitchen design magazines and websites along with tile manufacturer catalogs. Hold large samples and view installed tile mockups. Bring home tile samples in your favorite hues to test out under different lighting at different times of day. This diligence upfront will ensure you wind up with your dream backsplash that perfectly matches your style.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most popular kitchen backsplash tiles right now?

Subway tile, marble and stone slab, ceramic and porcelain, glass, and mosaic tiles are currently very popular. Mixing ceramic with glass or marble accents is also trending.

How do I choose a backsplash color?

Pick a backsplash color that complements your cabinetry, countertops, flooring, and other finishes already in the kitchen. Contrasting colors that pop or matching subtle hues are both great options.

What tile is best for behind a stove?

Ceramic, porcelain, or stone tile stand up well to high heat levels from stoves. Avoid plastic based or paper-faced tiles which can melt or burn.

What is cheaper: backsplash tile or 4×8 sheets?

For a quick and easy budget backsplash, 4×8 plastic sheets win. But for quality and customization, individual or mosaic backsplash tile offers the best long-term value per square foot.

How do you attach backsplash tile?

Start by securely fastening cement board to the wall. Apply thinset mortar before laying the tile. Check for level alignment. Finish with proper grouting for water resistance.


A well-chosen kitchen backsplash brings your whole design together in both form and function. Keep practical needs like durability, maintenance, and workable size in mind as you explore creative and stylish backsplash options. From sleek and modern to old-world ornate, the backsplash possibilities are endless. Use the tips in this guide to zero in on the ideal backsplash tile or shelving to make your kitchen vision a reality. With thoughtful planning and design, you can install an eye-catching, unique backsplash perfect for your cooking and entertaining style.