How to Pick the Right Backsplash

Choosing the perfect backsplash for your kitchen or bathroom can completely transform the look and feel of the space. But with so many backsplash options to pick from—tile, stone, glass, metal, and more—deciding on the right one can feel overwhelming. Follow this comprehensive guide to learn everything you need to know about picking the ideal backsplash for your next remodel or new construction project.

Determine Your Design Goals

Before selecting a backsplash, it’s important to consider what you want it to accomplish from a design perspective. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

What look are you going for? Do you want a backsplash that’s ultra-modern and sleek or one with old-world charm? Determining the aesthetic you’re aiming for will help narrow the field.

What function should it serve? Do you need a surface that’s super durable and water-resistant for heavy-use areas? Or is the priority to make a statement and add visual interest?

What color scheme do you want? Decide whether you want the backsplash to blend seamlessly into the overall kitchen or bathroom color palette or use it as an opportunity to incorporate a vibrant accent hue.

What architectural style is your home? Ensure the backsplash complements the existing look, whether it’s contemporary, traditional, cottage, craftsman, or other.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll have a clearer picture of the look and feel you’re going for. This will make the selection process easier.

Consider the Pros and Cons of Popular Backsplash Materials

Understanding the unique benefits and drawbacks of each backsplash material will help guide your decision making. Here’s an overview of what you need to know about the most common options:

Ceramic and Porcelain Tile

Pros: Ideal for both walls and floors, available in myriad colors/finishes/sizes, durable, easy to clean, moisture-resistant, affordable

Cons: Grout lines can get dirty, tiles can crack or chip, installation takes skill

Natural Stone Tile

Pros: Elegant, sophisticated look, variety of natural patters/finishes, durable

Cons: Expensive, porous so sealing required, heavy, installation is difficult

Glass Tile

Pros: Eye-catching and modern, available in range of colors, easy to clean, moisture-resistant

Cons: Grout discoloration can occur, tiles can crack or chip, pricier than ceramic

Metal Tile

Pros: Highly durable, easy to clean, bold contemporary look, sound-dampening

Cons: Expensive, prone to scratches, challenging installation, seams noticeable

Mosaic Tile

Pros: Unique look from small tile pieces, artistic versatility, easy to clean

Cons: Challenging installation, expensive, grout needs frequent sealing


Pros: Timeless, classic look, matches well with various styles

Cons: Labor intensive installation, prone to staining/discoloration

Stone Slab

Pros: Elegant, seamless look, heat- and stain-resistant

Cons: Very heavy, expensive, professional installation required

This overview equips you with knowledge of the pros and cons of each backsplash type so you can select the one that best aligns with your goals, lifestyle and budget.

Take into Account Maintenance and Durability Factors

How much upkeep you’re willing and able to put into your backsplash should also inform your decision. Consider the following:

  • High traffic areas: For backsplashes behind a cooktop or sink, prioritize durability and easy cleaning. Materials like ceramic, porcelain or metal are good choices.
  • Kid-friendly spaces: Little hands and messy spills make glass or handmade tile impractical. Opt for durable, seamless materials.
  • Allergies/asthma: Some materials like natural stone can harbor allergens. Glass, metal or ceramic may be better options for allergy sufferers.
  • DIY installation: If installing it yourself, avoid heavy stone slabs or large-format tiles, which require special expertise.
  • Grout maintenance: Small tiles mean more grout lines that need periodic sealing. Larger tiles or stone slabs eliminate this hassle.

Also think about the long-term wear and tear the backsplash will need to withstand based on your lifestyle and family’s habits. The more durable options will stay looking fresh for years to come.

Decide on the Right Size Tile

The size of the tile (which ranges from tiny mosaics to oversized slabs) significantly impacts the overall look. As a general rule of thumb:

  • Smaller tiles (1 inch or less): Provide intricate detail, ideal for Victorian or cottage styles
  • Medium tiles (4 x 4 inches): Offer classic appeal, great for busy spaces
  • Large tiles (8 x 8 inches or more): Minimize grout lines and add modern flair
  • Oversized tiles/slabs: Create contemporary, seamless look

Also consider the size of the space when choosing tile dimensions. A small kitchen or bathroom benefits from smaller tile sizes to avoid an overwhelming, cavernous feeling. Larger expanses can handle bigger tiles without appearing vacant.

And don’t forget the subway tile trend! Rectangular 3 x 6 inch or 4 x 8 inch sizes evoke vintage charm. Use sparingly as an accent or go all out for walls and countertops.

Select a Color and Finish

The options for colors and finishes are virtually endless these days. From warm natural stone hues to bright pops of color to sleek metallics, backsplashes can be tailored to match any preference and style. Here are some tips:

  • For resale value, stick with classic white, off-white or light gray
  • Vary tile size, orientation and layout to create visual interest
  • Contrast grout color to make tile pattern stand out
  • Limit vibrant hues to a small space or use sparingly as an accent
  • Consider simulated looks like faux wood-grain porcelain or acrylic solid-surface
  • Polished, glossy finishes reflect light and feel sleek and modern
  • Matte and textured finishes add nuance and hide flaws
  • Metallic brings drama and can blend various colors together

Be sure to look at tile samples and large mockups before finalizing color choices. Variations in hue and pattern can occur between batches.

Factor in Ease of Installation

Some backsplash materials are much more DIY-friendly than others. In particular:

  • Ceramic, porcelain or glass tile: Relatively straightforward, use mastic and grout
  • Peel-and-stick tile: Very easy install, no messy mortar or grout
  • Metal: Often involves special cutting so best left to pros
  • Large-format tile/slabs: Challenging to maneuver and install evenly
  • Natural stone: Requires expertise to cut precisely and achieve tight seams

If going the DIY route, avoid intricate patterns or natural stone. Simple ceramic tile layouts are beginner-friendly. Or turn to peel-and-stick tiles for easy application. For complex designs or jobs requiring perfect precision, hire a pro installer.

Create a Unified, Streamlined Look

Visually, the most appealing backsplashes complement the counters, cabinets, floors and overall home style. Keep these tips in mind:

Echo Cabinet Finishes

Pick up colors and materials already used in the space. For example, wooden cabinets would pair well with marble mosaic or faux wood-grain porcelain tile.

Coordinate with Countertops

If the counters are granite, choose stone tile in harmonizing tones. Or for quartz, select glossy ceramic in a matching hue. This creates a cohesive look.

Repeat Architectural Details

Look for opportunities to reflect other finishes. Subway tile backsplash can echo shape of drawers. Oversized stone slab reflects large tiles on floors.

Transition Beautifully from Walls

Use color or texture as a transition rather than a harsh line. Soft green glass tile blends better with a sage green wall than stark white.

With some thoughtful planning upfront and consideration of all the elements involved, selecting a backsplash can be an exciting process resulting in the perfect finishing touch that pulls your whole kitchen or bath design together. Use these tips to make the ideal choice tailored to your unique space, style and lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most popular backsplash trends right now?

Some of the most popular backsplash trends include:

  • Statement metallic tile like copper or brushed nickel
  • Oversized marble, travertine or quartzite slab
  • Tile extending from countertops to ceiling for full wall coverage
  • Contrasting grout colors to accentuate tile pattern
  • Vintage-inspired penny round mosaic tiles
  • Handmade artisan tile for one-of-a-kind look

How do I clean and care for my backsplash?

Regular cleaning is a must to keep your backsplash looking its best. Specific care depends on the material:

Ceramic/Porcelain: Use mild soap and water or specialty tile cleaner. Re-seal grout periodically.

Natural Stone: Seal regularly to prevent staining. Clean with stone-safe products.

Glass/Metal: Use mild cleanser and soft cloth. Rinse thoroughly. Avoid abrasive pads.

Brick: Re-seal mortar every 1-2 years. Use gentle cleanser and soft brush.

Can I install a backsplash over existing tile or drywall?

In most cases, it’s recommended to remove old backsplash and start fresh rather than installing over existing materials. Covering over tile leads to uneven, bulky surfaces. And tile adheres better to cement board than drywall. Consult a contractor on the best approach for your specific project.

What mistakes should I avoid with a backsplash install?

Common installation mistakes to steer clear of:

  • Not properly preparing the surface
  • Using the wrong adhesive or grout for the tile material
  • Allowing grout lines to be uneven
  • Failing to seal natural stone before and after install
  • Not using tile spacers for consistent spacing
  • Neglecting to caulk where the counter and backsplash meet

What’s the best backsplash for a rental property?

For rental properties, practicality and cost-effectiveness take priority in backsplash choice. Affordable porcelain or ceramic tile is durable and easy to clean. Neutral colors ensure broad appeal. Avoid using expensive stone or intricate designs that would be difficult to replace exactly.


The ideal backsplash brings together aesthetics, function and practicality—no easy feat with so many materials and options to evaluate. Now that you’re armed with expert tips and key considerations for selecting the perfect backsplash, you can feel confident tackling this important kitchen or bathroom design decision. Taking the time to determine your goals, research options and weigh the pros and cons will ensure you end up with the ideal accent wall that pulls your whole space together.