How to Pick Backsplash Tile

Choosing the right backsplash tile for your kitchen or bathroom can transform the look and feel of the space. With so many options to consider from material, color, shape, and pattern, it’s important to think through your goals, lifestyle, and design aesthetic before settling on a backsplash tile. Follow this comprehensive guide on how to pick backsplash tile to end up with a stunning accent wall that you’ll love.

Determine Your Design Goals and Lifestyle Needs

Before looking at any tile samples or photos, take the time to consider what you want the backsplash to achieve from both a design and functional perspective.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What feeling do you want the backsplash to evoke – modern, traditional, rustic?
  • What color palette are you aiming for – neutral, pops of color, monochromatic?
  • Does the tile need to be highly stain resistant and easy to clean if cooking messy foods?
  • Do you want it to be a bold focal point or subtle accent in the space?
  • What style are the other design elements in the kitchen – countertops, cabinetry, appliances?

Having a clear vision and purpose will inform every other decision about which tile to select. It also helps narrow down options and avoid analysis paralysis.

Choose Material Based on Look, Durability and Cost

The material of the tile plays a key role in not only appearance but also determining how durable, high-maintenance, or budget-friendly the backsplash installation will be. Consider the following materials and their pros and cons when making a selection:

Ceramic Tile

Pros: inexpensive, variety of colors/finishes, easy to clean

Cons: prone to chipping, grout staining

Porcelain Tile

Pros: stain resistant, durable, low maintenance

Cons: heavier than ceramic, requires professional installation

Glass Tile

Pros: variety of colors and finishes, shimmering appearance

Cons: requires sealing, higher cost, fragile

Natural Stone Tile

Pros: one-of-a-kind look, heat resistant

Cons: porous, sealing required, expensive

Metal Tile

Pros: reflective surface, durable

Cons: prone to scratches, high cost, bold look

Consider how frequently the space is used, whether you’re on a budget, and your overall design taste before committing to a material. A mosaic glass tile might be stunning in a low-traffic bathroom but impractical behind a busy stovetop.

Choose Color and Pattern

The color and pattern of the tile set the overall tone and visual impact of the backsplash. Consider the following options:

  • Solid colors in glossy or matte finishes create a clean, seamless look. Good for small spaces.
  • Muted earth tones like beige or gray marble provide a soft yet sophisticated feel.
  • Vibrant colors such as turquoise or emerald green make the backsplash the focal point.
  • Unique patterns like Moroccan fish scale tiles or handpainted designs add artistic flair.
  • Metallic finishes lend a glamorous, midcentury modern look to a backsplash.

Select colors that complement cabinetry, countertops, and appliances without matching exactly. Contrasting hues help the backsplash stand out.

Choose the Right Size and Shape

Backsplash tiles come in a myriad of sizes and shapes. Consider the following guidelines when selecting:

  • Smaller mosaics best suit a busy pattern. Their scale creates movement.
  • Oversized tiles like 8×8 inches can make a small space feel grander.
  • Elongated subway tiles lend a classic or modern feel.
  • Square or rectangular tiles align in a grid for a clean look.
  • Pennny rounds add pleasing organic texture and flow.

Mosaic sheets make the install faster and more affordable than individual tiles. Balance sheet installation with strategically placed specialty piece designs.

Order Samples Before Deciding

Never select a tile purely from website photos. Colors, shading, and finishes vary wildly in person compared to online. Order free physical samples from companies before making a purchase. Some things to look for:

  • View samples in both natural and artificial light to gauge color accuracy.
  • Feel the texture and weight of the material in your hand.
  • Hold it next to cabinetry, countertops or other surfaces to see pairing.
  • Look at 4-5 contender tiles together to compare and contrast.

Seeing and feeling tile samples provides the clarity needed to make the right design decision. Don’t rush the sampling process.

Consider Practical Factors

Beyond the aesthetics, there are some practical considerations to selecting backsplash tile:

  • Choose a durable material like porcelain if the area will get heavy use.
  • Opt for uniform tiles without veining or mottling if wanting a seamless look.
  • Larger tiles are faster to install than mosaic sheets.
  • Glossy finish is very reflective but shows fewer water spots than matte.
  • Molding trim that matches the tile color provides a clean finish.

Factor in livability, ease of cleaning, effort of installation, and maintenance when deciding on a backsplash tile. Beauty is only part of the equation.

Know Where to Buy Tiles

Many different retailers carry backsplash tiles from big box stores like Home Depot to specialty tile showrooms. Consider the following places to purchase:

  • Home improvement stores – Convenient and affordable but fewer unique options.
  • Tile specialty stores – Broadest selection of colors, patterns, and materials.
  • Online retailers – Gain access to brands and styles not available locally.
  • Direct from manufacturers – Better pricing but can’t see product firsthand.

Shopping around yields the widest range of styles to find your perfect backsplash tile from reputable sellers.

Enlist Pro Installer for Best Results

While DIY backsplash installation is certainly achievable, hiring a professional tiler ensures the end results looks polished and last over time. The benefits of pro install include:

  • Expertise in working with various materials and tile patterns
  • Ability to perfectly cut and fit tiles around outlets and fixtures
  • Meticulous attention to properly sealing and grouting for durability
  • Efficient installation with the right tools and materials

Avoid cracking, uneven alignment, or other issues down the road by investing in a pro tiling job. It makes a significant difference in the final look.

With the right backsplash tile that balances your goals, lifestyle, and taste, you can create a personalized kitchen or bathroom focal point to enjoy for years to come. Taking the time to weigh all of the options results in no regrets once the tile is finally installed. The journey in picking the perfect backsplash tile leads to a stunning outcome.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplash Tile

How much does backsplash tile cost?

Backsplash tile costs range widely from $2 – $50 per square foot depending on the material, size, and complexity of installation. Simple ceramic subway tiles start at $5 per square foot while handmade artisan tiles run up to $50 per square foot.

What tile is easiest to install?

Rectangular ceramic tiles in a basic grid pattern are the easiest for DIY installation. Stone and glass mosaic sheets also simplify the process since tiles come mounted to mesh instead of individually.

Should backsplash tile match countertops?

It’s recommended to pick a backsplash tile in a color that complements the countertop without matching exactly. Contrast makes the backsplash stand out while harmony pulls the whole look together.

How do you prepare walls for backsplash tile?

Ensuring walls are smooth, clean, and dry is crucial before installing backsplash tile. Repair holes or cracks with filler compound before sanding walls smooth. Then clean thoroughly and seal if walls are porous.

Can you put tile over existing backsplash?

It is possible to tile over an existing backsplash if the old tile is solidly attached and properly prepared. Use an adhesive mortar reinforced with latex additive to apply new tile over the old.

How do you finish tile where it meets countertop?

Installing a tile edge or trim that matches the backsplash color provides a clean finished transition from tile to countertop. Leave a slight 1/8 inch gap between tile and countertop that trim covers.


Installing a backsplash tile in your kitchen or bathroom makes a huge visual impact while adding an artistic focal point. Carefully think through your design goals, tile material, colors, scale, and pattern when selecting. Look at numerous tile samples in person before deciding. While tiling takes some effort, the final look of a stunning backsplash makes it well worth it for upgraded style and enjoyment of your home.