How to Pick Out Backsplash

A backsplash is an important design element that can make or break your kitchen’s style. Choosing the right backsplash involves carefully considering your goals, lifestyle, budget and the overall look you want to achieve. With some planning and savvy decision making, you can select the ideal backsplash to suit your needs. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the entire process of picking out backsplash for your kitchen.

Determine Your Style and Goals

Before even starting to shop for backsplash, take time to think about the look and feel you want for your kitchen. Consider the following:

What is your desired aesthetic?

Backsplash comes in countless materials, colors, patterns and textures. Narrow down your preferred visual style first so your backsplash enhances the overall decor. Bohemian, modern, traditional, rustic, contemporary, minimalist – decide which direction you want to go. This helps guide your backsplash selection.

What feeling do you want the space to evoke?

The mood of your kitchen is hugely impacted by your backsplash choice. A sleek glass mosaic backsplash creates a chic, polished ambiance. Weathered subway tiles impart an earthy, historical charm. Bold patterns make the room lively and fun. Decide whether you want your backsplash to inspire relaxation, elegance, cheerfulness or some other vibe.

What function is most important?

Consider how your family uses the kitchen. Frequent cooks may prioritize an easily cleaned, stain-resistant backsplash material. Busy parents may want a durable, kid-friendly option. Entertainers may prefer an attractive, eye-catching focal point. Let your backsplash meet your functional needs.

Once you determine your backsplash goals, you’ll have an easier time picking out options that work with your vision.

Calculate Your Budget

Backsplash materials range widely in price. Setting a budget prevents you from falling in love with something outside your means.

On the low end, you could spend as little as $5 per square foot on backsplash. Vinyl tiles or faux tin panels are very budget friendly. On the high end, premium materials like marble slab or handmade glass tile can run $50-$100 per square foot installed.

Measure your backsplash area and do some math. Multiply the height times width to get the square footage. Multiply the square footage by your desired material cost per square foot. This gives your estimated total.

Factor about 15% extra for installation or other incidental costs. Also consider special trim pieces or accent strips which increase cost. Get quotes from contractors. Compare the estimates to your budget number to gauge affordability. Adjust expectations if needed.

Setting a clear backsplash budget prevents unrealistic expectations. But some flexibility helps too. Spending a bit more on a material you love can be worthwhile long-term.

Gather Inspiration and Ideas

Look at backsplash examples online and in home design magazines. Note styles that appeal to you. What colors, textures and designs do you find attractive? Track pictures that spark inspiration.

Pay attention to backsplashes in friends’ kitchens or when dining out. Observing backsplashes in real life lets you envision them in your own space. Discuss ideas with family or your contractor.

A few sources for backsplash inspiration include:

  • Interior design websites like Houzz. Browse kitchen photo galleries filtered by color, style, etc.
  • Backsplash manufacturer websites. Mosaics, subway tile and other material companies display beautiful installations.
  • Home improvement stores. Check out backsplash vignettes created in kitchen displays.
  • Social media. Search backsplash hashtags or follow home design accounts on Instagram.
  • Pinterest boards. Curate images of backsplashes you love.

As you gather ideas, look for common threads that reflect your preferences. Seek variety too. An unexpected material or layout you love may surface. Track all inspiring ideas to inform your decision making.

Select Material

The material you choose dictates cost, durability, ease of maintenance and overall look. Compare all the factors below to select your top backsplash material.

Ceramic or Porcelain Tile

  • Pros: Available in endless colors, styles and patterns. Durable, easy to clean and water-resistant. Affordable, starting around $5 per square foot.
  • Cons: Grout requires sealing to prevent stains. Cool surface temperature. Installation takes precision.
  • Best for: Traditional, timeless, classic looks on a budget. Fits any design style.

Natural Stone Tile

  • Pros: Elegant, upscale aesthetic. Each stone has unique veining. Withstands heat and scratches.
  • Cons: Expensive, starting around $50 per square foot. Some stone stains easily. Heavy, so professional installation advised.
  • Best for: Luxurious natural material with one-of-a-kind beauty. Works in high-end kitchens.

Glass Tile

  • Pros: Reflective surface adds depth. Available in tons of colors, shapes and styles. Easy to wipe clean.
  • Cons: Grout needs sealing. Tile edges can chip if hit. Heavy, so professional installation needed.
  • Best for: Modern kitchens wanting a sleek, contemporary vibe. Creates a focal point.

Metal Tile

  • Pros: Extremely durable and seamless. Adds reflective color and texture. Resists moisture, grease, bacteria.
  • Cons: Conducts heat so not ideal near stovetops. Higher cost, starting around $15 per square foot.
  • Best for: Industrial or contemporary looks. High-traffic kitchens needing tough surfaces.

Subway Tile

  • Pros: Classic, timeless style. Budget-friendly, starting around $5 per square foot. Easy to install rectangular pieces.
  • Cons: Grout requires sealing. Can seem utilitarian or basic rather than decorative.
  • Best for: Vintage or farmhouse kitchens wanting an unfussy, historical look.

There are also many specialty or recycled materials like cork, pegboard, tin, and more. Weigh all options against your goals, lifestyle and budget. Obtain samples to view tiles in person before finalizing your selection.

Choose a Layout

Creative backsplash layouts make a stylish impact. Avoid just a basic row of tiles above the countertop. Consider one of these eye-catching designs:


Rows of rectangular tiles lay in an interlocking zigzag pattern. The dynamic offset arrangement creates visual interest. Looks fantastic in subway, brick, marble and other tile types.


Angled tiles in triangles, diamonds or hexagons generate captivating shapes. Mixing multiple colors highlights the geometric forms. Adds modern flair.


Installing rectangular tiles in offset vertical columns provides clean lines. Elongates the space visually. Works with subway, travertine, marble and glass tile.

Penny Rounds

Circular tiles in varying sizes applied randomly create an eclectic look. The organic arrangement and contrasting colors lend rustic charm.

Marble Mosaic

Tiny marble tiles form intricate patterns like waves, spirals or pinwheels when pieced together. The precision detailing makes a dramatic upscale statement.

Ornamental Band

Running a decorative strip of mosaic, medallion or ceramic tiles just 4-6 inches high across the wall is simple yet striking. Crisp and modern.

There are endless ways to configure your tile. Use a combination of patterns or materials for extra appeal. Ask your contractor for layout recommendations that enhance your kitchen dimensions.

Select Grout Color

Grout fills the joints between tiles, so its color impacts the overall look. Most homeowners immediately choose white or off-white grout. But exploring darker hues can create a whole new aesthetic. Here are some options:

  • Match the grout to your tile color for a seamless monochromatic look.
  • Choose a slightly lighter or darker shade of your tile color for subtle contrast between the tile and grout lines.
  • Use white or light grey grout with darker colored tiles to accentuate each individual tile.
  • Go for black, charcoal or dark grey grout paired with white or neutral tiles for bold definition and graphic impact.
  • Consider “sanded” grout for wider grout lines or floor installations. It has a rough texture that’s easier to clean.

Test grout color samples on a tile board or small area before finalizing your choice. The color often looks different applied vs. just on a chip.

Determine Accent Areas

Don’t restrict your backsplash design to just the area between countertops and cabinets. Utilize other kitchen surfaces as well for a cohesive finished look.

Full wall: Covering the entire wall behind cabinets and range in backsplash tile makes a bold statement. Great for small galley kitchens.

Hood surround: Use mosaic tiles or metal panels to trim the area around your range hood. Draws attention to the decorative hood.

Display ledges: Accent upper cabinets with tiles matching lower backsplash. Provides a nice finishing touch.

Textural materials: Mix up textures. Try glass tile on the wall with a marble shelf ledge and stone mosaic range surround.

Niche highlight: Frame out a backsplash niche for candles, cookbooks or art. Choose a different tile design inside the niche for accent.

Chair rail: Run decorative trim piece 30-36 inches up wall to divide upper and lower backsplash tiles. Adds classic appeal.

Get creative with specialty accents to take your backsplash design up a notch.

Pick the Right Backsplash Height

Standard backsplash height is 4 inches above the counter or 18 inches above base cabinets. But you can adjust to suit your needs:

  • For a contemporary minimalist look, do a short backsplash just 1-2 inches above the countertop. Keeps the focus on a streamlined design.
  • Extend the backsplash to the bottom of wall cabinets for 6-8 inches height if you cook often and need maximum splash protection.
  • Do a full backsplash from countertops to ceiling for a bold, eye-catching statement. Works great on accent walls.
  • Vary height in different areas for interest. Try 4-inch height near range then extend to 12 inches behind the sink.

Don’t forget to also account for variables like cabinetry trim, electrical outlets and window placement as you plan backsplash height. Check with local building codes for any height regulations as well.

Order Samples Before Committing

Never select backsplash materials sight unseen. Small tile samples, metal finish chips and grout color cards are readily available from building supply retailers and contractors.

Order a few free samples in your top choices before making final decisions. Bring home the samples and place against cabinets, countertops and paint colors.

Examine samples in different lighting at various times of day when making assessments. Natural light versus artificial light renders colors and textures differently.

Viewing physical samples gives you a much better sense of each product than just pictures online. You may end up loving or hating something once you see an actual piece. Samples help prevent disappointment and ensure you get exactly what you expect.

Hire a Professional Contractor

Proper prep and precise installation is key to achieving your backsplash vision. Unless you have extensive tiling experience, hire a qualified professional contractor to do the job right.

Seek referrals from friends and read reviews to find a contractor with proven backsplash expertise. Ask to see photos of past backsplash projects similar to yours.

Schedule an in-home estimate to discuss your plans. A good contractor will make recommendations to prevent potential issues before installation begins. They have the skills to cut tile pieces cleanly and achieve straight uniform grout lines.

Be sure to verify required permits and insurance. Also clarify what prep work, materials, clean-up and sealing are covered under the quoted pricing. Get everything in a written contract.

Paying market rates for a pro contractor is money well spent. Your backsplash is an investment that you will enjoy for many years when installed correctly.

Maintain Your Backsplash

Put a maintenance system in place to keep your backsplash damage-free and looking like new.

  • Seal grout and natural stone annually with commercial sealers to prevent staining and discoloration.
  • Immediately wipe up spills and splatters to avoid moisture damage over time.
  • Use non-abrasive cleaners only. Avoid harsh chemicals that can dull or erode surfaces.
  • Check for missing grout or caulk. Repair any cracks right away to prevent moisture issues.
  • Use soft cloths or sponges for wiping. Scouring pads or stiff brushes can scratch.
  • Limit direct sunlight exposure. Use window treatments to prevent fading.

Follow all the manufacturer’s care guidelines specific to your backsplash materials. Investing in maintenance protects your backsplash’s beauty.

How to Pick Out Backsplash – Key Takeaways

Picking out the perfect backsplash elevates your whole kitchen’s style. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Decide on your ideal aesthetic and needs before shopping
  • Set a realistic budget for materials and professional installation
  • Gather tons of inspiration from home websites, designers and stores
  • Choose materials that fit your lifestyle in terms of maintenance, durability and looks
  • Explore creative tile layouts and patterns to make your backsplash unique
  • Play with grout color for added design impact
  • Accent surrounding areas like the range hood, ledges and full walls
  • Account for variables like electrical outlets and windows as you plan height
  • Order physical samples to view colors, textures and sheens
  • Hire a pro contractor, not a handyman, for proper installation
  • Maintain your backsplash by sealing, cleaning routinely and fixing cracks

With some thoughtful consideration and planning, you can achieve the backsplash of your dreams. Enjoy the process of selecting the perfect backsplash personality and style for your home.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplash

Many questions come up during the backsplash selection process. Here are answers to some of the most common backsplash FAQs:

How is backsplash different than countertops?

Backsplash is vertical surface protection installed on walls behind sinks, stoves, and countertops. It defends against splashes and stains. Countertops provide horizontal work surfaces. While you may choose materials that coordinate, backsplash and countertops serve different purposes.

What tools are needed to install backsplash?

Proper backsplash installation requires specific tools like a tile cutter, grinder, grout float, spacers, and adhesive. Don’t attempt backsplash projects without the right tools. Hire a contractor to avoid frustration and mistakes.

Can backsplash get wet?

Backsplash is designed to withstand water. The materials are specifically chosen to be water-resistant and non-porous. However, standing water or cracks can eventually damage the surface. Promptly wipe up spills and fix any leaks to prevent deterioration.

What is the most popular backsplash?

Subway tile is the most common backsplash style. The rectangular shape installs neatly in straight classic rows. Subway tile comes in endless color and material options like ceramic, glass or marble. It suits traditional to contemporary kitchen designs.

How much does it cost to install backsplash?

The average price to install backsplash is $400-$700 professionally. Cost varies based on the backsplash size, tile choices and contractor rates. More complex tile layouts also increase labor time and pricing. Expect to pay 15-25% of your total kitchen remodel budget on backsplash.

Should backsplash match cabinets or countertops?

It’s common to match backsplash to either cabinets or countertops depending on your goals. Matching cabinetry creates a cohesive integrated look. Coordinating with countertops defines the work area. Contrasting with both is a third approach to make the backsplash a focal point.

Can backsplash be painted?

Painting ceramic tile or stone backsplash is not advised. The paint does not bond well on non-porous surfaces and requires constant retouching. Instead, choose naturally colored tiles like subway variants if wanting a solid painted look without hassle. Consider replaceing or installing over existing backsplash.

How high should backsplash be?

The most common backsplash height is 4 inches. Full height backsplashes extending to cabinets range between 18-24 inches. Standard guidelines are 4 inches minimum above countertops or to bottom wall cabinets. But you can customize to your preference beyond the basics.

Should backsplash match floor?

Matching backsplash to floors risks an overwhelming, distracting look. Most designers recommend separating surfaces through color, finish or material. Try muted backsplash with bold floors, or vice versa. Consistent countertop and backsplash with different floors is another option to keep spaces cohesive yet defined.


Installing a fashionable, functional backsplash transforms your whole kitchen. By tailoring the look to your needs and style preferences, the possibilities become truly endless. Use this guide to demystify the selection elements from budget to maintenance. Carefully weigh all the options from material to layout using samples and expert input. Dream big and derive inspiration from a variety of sources. Your backsplash ultimately reflects your personal taste. Define goals, conduct research, ask questions, and don’t rush the exciting process. With strategic planning, you can pick out the backsplash that exceeds your expectations.