How to Pick a Kitchen Backsplash

The kitchen backsplash is one of the most visible and used parts of any kitchen. It can have a major impact on the overall look, feel, and functionality of the space. Picking the perfect backsplash requires careful thought and planning. There are many factors to consider from material and color to style and installation. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the entire process of selecting a kitchen backsplash. We’ll cover planning considerations, popular materials and styles, expert tips for installation, and recommendations for specific kitchen layouts. With the right information, you’ll be equipped to choose a backsplash that suits your taste, lifestyle and budget.

Planning Your Kitchen Backsplash

Before selecting a specific tile or material, there are some important considerations that will help guide your decision making.

Measure the Space

The first step is to accurately measure the backsplash area in your kitchen. Note the height from the countertop to the underside of the upper cabinets. Also measure the length and depth of your backsplash area. These measurements will tell you how much material you need to purchase. For most standard backsplashes, the height is commonly 4 to 6 inches.

Consider the Function

Think about how you use your kitchen. Is this a high-traffic area prone to lots of splattering and stains? Do you plan to wipe it down frequently? The function of the space should guide how smooth, textured or durable your backsplash material needs to be. For example, you may want to avoid very porous or textured stone if the backsplash will get grease splattered regularly.

Complement Other Finishes

Look at your current cabinetry, countertops, floors and paint colors. The backsplash should coordinate and balance out the other finishes instead of looking random or out of place. A colorful mosaic tile can accent and tie together a monochromatic color scheme, while neutral stone tile can create a seamless look in a kitchen with warm wood cabinetry.

Establish Your Budget

Backsplash materials can vary tremendously in cost from inexpensive ceramic or vinyl tiles to high-end stones and customized mosaic patterns. Set a realistic budget beforehand that fits into your overall kitchen remodeling plans. Less expensive options like metal or faux tin tile can give the look of authentic materials for much less.

Consider Ease of Installation

Depending on the material, backsplashes can be relatively straightforward for DIY installations or may require professional skills. Simple subway tile is beginner friendly, while natural stone or glass tile is better left to experienced installers. Factor in installation costs if you plan to hire out the work.

Look for Inspiration

Spend time looking through backsplash photos online and in home design magazines. Note colors, textures and styles that appeal to you and could work well in your kitchen. Save inspirational images digitally or in a physical folder. This will give you a jumping off point as you narrow down your options.

Popular Kitchen Backsplash Materials

With planning considerations in mind, now you can dive into selections for your backsplash. There are numerous materials suitable for kitchen backsplashes, each with their own look, feel and properties. Consider the pros and cons of each option as you make your decision.

Ceramic or Porcelain Tile

Glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles remain one of the most common choices for kitchen backsplashes. They provide a durable, easy to clean and cost-effective option. Standard sizes of wall tile include:

  • Subway tile – 3×6 inch rectangular tiles in classic brick pattern
  • Octagon tile – 8 inch tiles in octagon and dot grid patterns
  • Square tile – 4×4 inch tiles
  • Penny rounds – 1 to 2 inch mosaic discs


  • Budget friendly cost
  • Variety of colors and patterns
  • Easy maintenance
  • Simple DIY installation


  • Vulnerable to chipping along edges
  • Grout lines prone to staining
  • Limitations in large format tile availability

Glass Tile

From translucent to opalescent, glass tile brings eye-catching shimmer and radiance to a backsplash. Looking like jewels for the wall, glass mosaic and field tile comes in every color and finish imaginable. The tiles are durable and smooth for easy cleaning.


  • Creates a gleaming, dramatic focal point
  • Available in many colors, finishes and textures
  • Stain and water resistant
  • Easy to clean smooth surface


  • Higher cost material
  • Grout staining can be an issue
  • Difficult DIY cuttings and installation

Metal Tile

Metal backsplash tiles allow you to get the look of solid copper, stainless steel, tin or other metals at a fraction of the price. Made from metal alloys, metal tiles have the rich patinas and luster of real metal. Often designed in a vintage tin tile pattern, metal backsplash tile provides an industrial modern look.


  • Mimics the look of real metal like tin, copper or zinc
  • Extremely durable and dent resistant
  • Creates an industrial, contemporary look
  • Budget friendly option


  • Limited size options (frequently 3×6 inch)
  • Not recommended behind cooktops or stoves

Stone Tile

Natural stone tiles like granite, marble, travertine, slate and limestone make a sophisticated statement in the kitchen. Available in an immense variety of colors, patterns and finishes, stone brings texture and timeless elegance to a backsplash. Stone is durable, easily cleaned and naturally beautiful.


  • High-end, classic material with timeless appeal
  • Available in many gorgeous colors and patterns
  • Naturally stain and heat resistant
  • Easy maintenance with sealing


  • More expensive than ceramic or porcelain
  • Requires careful sealing and maintenance
  • Prone to staining without proper sealing
  • Heavy material may require professional installation

Peel and Stick Tile

For a quick and affordable upgrade, peel and stick backsplash tile offers a simple update. Made from materials like vinyl or polyurethane, removable peel and stick tiles have a self-adhesive backing. This allows you to install the tile directly over existing surfaces without messy mortar, grout or specialized tools.


  • Super affordable material cost
  • Very easy DIY installation
  • Removable and reusable
  • Many colors and patterns available


  • Less durable than real tile
  • Peeling issues in high heat, grease or moisture
  • Limited large tile sizes available
  • Smooth surface shows dirt easily

Popular Kitchen Backsplash Styles

Beyond the practical tile material, you’ll also want to consider the overall style of your backsplash design. From sleek and modern spaces to cozy traditional kitchens, there are many directions you can take your backsplash style.

Subway Tile

The quintessential and perennially popular backsplash tile, subway style rectangles create a classic brickwork pattern. At its simplest, white 3×6 inch glossy ceramic tiles make a clean, timeless backsplash. But don’t be afraid to get creative with subway tiles. Try alternating colors, patterns like herringbone and shapes like hexagons. Subway tile is versatile enough to work in any kitchen style from modern to traditional.

Mosaic Tile

For a fun, eye-catching statement, mosaic tile patterns energize a backsplash. Using tiny individual tile pieces typically 1 inch or smaller, mosaic backsplashes create captivating designs. From geometric shapes to artistic patterns, the options are limitless. Glass, ceramic and natural stone are common mosaic tile materials, with each piece giving a burst of color and texture. Install a mosaic backsplash as an accent stripe or full wall pattern.

Marble & Stone

Dramatic veining, unique natural patterns and luxe shades of stone instantly upgrade a kitchen backsplash. Marble, travertine, quartzite and granite backsplashes elevate the design with natural beauty. Honed or polished finishes determine the texture and reflectivity. Use stone tile or large-format stone slabs for a seamless look. For a budget option, marble and stone-look porcelain tiles mimic the high-end aesthetic.

Metal & Tin Tile

Whether genuine or the faux tin tile look, metal backsplashes supply industrial character and dimension. The rich patinas and sheen of metals like copper and stainless steel create an urban modern style. Use metal and tin tiles over the cooktop or full backsplash area. Mix metal with glass tile for contrast and interest.

Patterned & Painted

Make a personalized style statement by using pattern and painted backsplash tile. From bold graphic prints to hand-painted ceramic tile, patterned backsplashes showcase creativity. Use painted tiles to match exact hues from the kitchen design scheme. Mix different painted tiles together for an eclectic or shabby chic style.

Backsplash Installation Tips

While some materials like peel and stick tile allow for simple DIY installation, most backsplashes require careful technique for a quality result. Follow these tips to prep and install your kitchen backsplash successfully.

Remove the Old Backsplash

If updating an existing backsplash, properly remove the old tile. Score grout lines with a utility knife then carefully knock out tiles. Scrape off all old tile adhesive and thinset mortar so the wall is smooth and clean. Patch and sand any drywall damage.

Properly Prep the Surface

The entire backsplash area must be smooth, clean and dry for proper thinset adhesion. Sand glossy paint and apply an appropriate primer if needed. On drywall, skim coat any imperfections for a smooth finish. Clean surfaces thoroughly with denatured alcohol just before installation.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Carefully measure and mark the backsplash area. Dry lay tiles on the countertop or floor to test the layout before actually applying thinset and cutting. Plan accent tiles or strips strategically. Cut border and corner tiles to fit with tile nippers. A wet saw makes precise cuts for stone and ceramic.

Mix Thinset Mortar

For any tile besides peel and stick, properly mixed thinset mortar is crucial. Mix thinset powder with the manufacturer’s recommended water ratio. Apply a thin layer of thinset with a notched trowel, using the correct trowel size for the tile. Spread only as much as you can tile over within the open time.

Follow Layout Lines

Most backsplashes use level horizontal courses though some designs may angle or stack tiles. Use masking tape lines on the wall to guide tile placement. Ensure tiles are evenly aligned and spaced as you work row by row. If needed, use plastic tile spacers between tiles as they set.

Grouting Tips

Once tile adhesive has cured per manufacturer directions, grout tile joints. Apply grout with a rubber grout float, pressing into joints. Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge and allow drying completely. Seal grout to protect from stains. Caulk joints between backsplash and countertop or cabinets.

Backsplash Ideas for Specific Kitchen Layouts

Beyond the basic design, backsplash selection also depends on your kitchen’s particular layout and architecture. Use these tips to pick the perfect backsplash based on kitchen features.

Galley Kitchen Backsplashes

Galley kitchens benefit from light, bright backsplashes to prevent a closed-in feeling. White subway tiles or glass mosaic tiles keep things airy. Neutral stone colors also help open up the space. Use just 4-6 inch standard height backsplashes instead of full height. Accent with a contrasting row of mosaic tiles.

Backsplash for Kitchen Peninsula

In a kitchen with peninsula or island, the backsplash provides visual separation from other living spaces. Choose a statement backsplash like bold patterns, multi-colored mosaics, or a mixture of materials. Bring upper cabinets over the peninsula into the backsplash design. Full height stone backsplashes provide substantial dividing lines in open floor plans.

Tile Around Window

Kitchens often feature windows over the sink or cooktop. Take the backsplash tile up, across and around the window area to create a polished, built-in look. Use trim pieces on the vertical window edges and sill for a clean finish. Standard height subway tile keeps the window visually open, while mosaic tile frames it with color.

Backsplashes for Small Kitchens

Make a small kitchen feel bigger by avoiding dark or bulky backsplash materials. Light, reflective glass or high-gloss white tile enlarge the space. Standard 4 inch height also prevents a closed-in feeling. Contrasting mosaic tiles along the top can add interest without overwhelming a tiny kitchen. Avoid busy patterns that make the space feel cluttered.

Farmhouse Kitchen Backsplash

Rustic farmhouse kitchen backsplashes use natural materials like wood planks, unfinished stone and brick. Subway tiles in white, light gray or beige create farmhouse appeal with less maintenance. Tiles with handpainted floral patterns or checkering suit the casual style. Wider grout lines give a weathered look. Extend the backsplash to the ceiling for full rustic impact.

Modern Kitchen Backsplash

Sleek and minimalist, modern kitchen backsplashes favor streamlined large tiles over busy patterns. Glossy tiles in solid neutral hues keep things clean-lined. Glass, metal and porcelain tiles make ideal modern materials. Mosaic tiles should use simple geometric shapes and sparse placement. Limit backsplash heights to just above countertops to elongate walls. Use recessed lighting or floating wall shelves to highlight and enhance a modern backsplash.

Frequently Asked Questions

Many common questions come up during the backsplash selection and installation process. Here are expert answers to some often asked queries.

How high should the backsplash be?

The most common backsplash height is 4 to 6 inches above countertops. Full height splashes extending from counter to ceiling are also popular options, especially for islands and peninsulas. Standard height is suitable for most tile materials, while thinner tiles or mosaics best suit full height.

What’s the most affordable backsplash tile?

Ceramic and porcelain tile provides the most budget friendly option, starting under $5 per square foot. Subway tile and coordinating packages with pre-selected accent tile keep material costs low. Peel and stick backsplash tiles are another ultra-affordable choice.

Can I install the backsplash tile myself?

Diy-friendly backsplash tile includes peel and stick and basic ceramic, stone or porcelain with straight layouts. Subway tile in a classic brick pattern offers one of the simplest DIY backsplash installations. Be sure to use proper mortar and technique for long-lasting results.

How do I cut backsplash tiles?

Ceramic tiles can be cut using a manual tile cutter or wet saw. Glass tiles and natural stone require a quality wet saw with diamond blade. Use a ruler and pencil to carefully measure and mark cuts before slicing tiles. Angle grinder or tile nipper tools help refine and notch tricky spots like corners.

How long does a backsplash tile installation take?

The timeline can range substantially based on the tile size and complexity of the design. Simple DIY backsplash with large format subway tile may take 5-10 hours. Mosaic or natural stone tile with detailed cuts installed professionally could take 15-25 hours or more over several days as thinset and grout drying occurs.


Installing a new kitchen backsplash can entirely transform the look and functionality of your cooking space. With so many excellent materials and styles to choose from, the possibilities are nearly endless for creating your dream backsplash. Keeping budget, maintenance and your kitchen’s style in mind will help narrow down the abundant options. With proper planning upfront and care taken during installation, you’ll have a stunning, high quality backsplash you can enjoy for many years.

How to Pick Kitchen Backsplash Tile Patterns

The arrangement of the tile, also known as the pattern, greatly affects the overall look and feel of a kitchen backsplash. Standard patterns like bricks, herringbone and mosaics have characteristics to consider depending on your kitchen layout and desired style.

Linear Patterns

The most common and beginner friendly backsplash tile patterns are linear layouts. Standard subway tiles set in the iconic offset brick style remain a go-to choice in all kitchen settings.


Stacked linear patterns feature all vertical tile seams lining up. This elongates the space visually, making it ideal for small kitchens. The very even and uniform lines have a clean, understated aesthetic. Subway, square and rectangular tiles all look sharp in a stacked pattern.


Brick patterns offset horizontal rows for the classic zigzag layout. This pattern suits all types of tile sizes, though it is most frequently done with 3×6 inch subway tile. The interlocking rows have high visual movement to hide any uneven tiles or grout lines. Brick patterns make a traditional backsplash for any kitchen style.


For more interest than basic bricks, herringbone patterns using rectangular tile alternate vertical and horizontal seams row to row. This creates a zigzag effect but with greater texture from the varied tile grain direction. Subway tiles longer than 4 inches look best for dramatic herringbone designs. The intricate pattern makes a bold, geometric statement.

Penny Rounds

Vintage style penny rounds laid in pieced together rows create lively backsplash texture and patterns. The 1-2 inch rounds come glazed white, blue or black for a retro diner aesthetic. Use just above countertops or in bands between other tile. Penny rounds easily create fun mosaics and sunburst styles too.

Non-Linear Patterns

To break out of the grid, try circular, diagonal and abstract patterns using mosaic sheets, artistic tiles or a mix of materials.

Mosaic Sheets

Mosaic sheets come as 12×12 inch panels of tiny glass, stone or ceramic tiles intricately arranged in dazzling patterns. Available in every color and style from modern geometrics to romantic florals, mosaic sheets typically apply as modular sets for bold backsplash drama.


Both handmade artistic tiles and mass-produced porcelain versions allow for cool geometric patterns using hexagons. Mix varying colors and textures like glossy and matte finishes for honeycomb impact. Hex tiles make backsplashes feel modern, futuristic and purely fun.

Circular Motifs

Beyond mosaic sheets, circular patterns can use penny rounds, octagons or frameless round ceramic tiles. Painted freehand motifs in curved lines adorning field tile bring vintage character. Metallic dots and concentric circles build a dynamic