Adding a backsplash is an easy way to update the look of your kitchen. A backsplash protects the walls behind your countertops from water damage and splatters while also providing visual interest. With so many backsplash options to choose from like tile, metal, glass and stone, it can be overwhelming to decide what will work best for your kitchen. This comprehensive guide will walk you through how to choose, prep and install a beautiful, functional backsplash in your kitchen.
Choose a Backsplash Material
When selecting a material for your backsplash, take into account your kitchen’s style, cabinetry, countertops and flooring to ensure your backsplash complements the overall design. Consider the maintenance required for each material and your budget. Here are some of the most popular backsplash materials:
Tile is a classic and versatile backsplash option available in a huge range of styles, colors, patterns and textures. Ceramic, porcelain and glass tile are durable, easy to clean and water-resistant. Options include:
- Ceramic tile – Budget-friendly, available in tons of colors/styles. Can be prone to chipping.
- Porcelain tile – More durable and stain-resistant than ceramic. Excellent for kitchen backsplashes.
- Glass tile – Resilient and water-resistant. Provides beautiful shine. Can be expensive.
- Mosaic tile – Small tiles mounted to sheets to form patterns/images. Creates visual interest.
- Metal tile – Made from stainless steel, copper, etc. Very durable but expensive.
Considerations: Grout can stain, requires sealing. Some tiles may need backerboard installed first.
Elegant and natural, stone makes a sophisticated backsplash. Types of stone include:
- Granite – Extremely durable natural stone. Available in many colors/patterns.
- Marble – Classic look, often with dramatic veining. Requires sealing. Stains easily.
- Travertine – Pale, earth-toned limestone with holes and troughs filled during installation.
- Slate – Thin slices cut from natural slate stone. Holds up well but can chip.
- Quartzite – Very hard metamorphic rock with granite-like look. Durable and low-maintenance.
Considerations: Natural stone is expensive. Many types are porous and require regular sealing.
For an industrial vibe, metal backsplashes offer sleek, contemporary style. Good options include:
- Stainless steel – Brushed or polished sheets with modern, industrial feel. Durable surface is easy to clean.
- Copper – Natural warmth and antimicrobial properties. Develops patina with age. Requires sealing.
- Tin – Reflective, shiny metal. Corrosion-resistant but can dent. Often applied in sheets or tiles.
- Aluminum – Bright, modern look. Vulnerable to scratches but minimal upkeep required. Available brushed or polished.
Considerations: Metal can dent or scratch. Copper and aluminum may discolor over time. Acidic foods can damage finish.
Glass backsplashes provide a clean, sleek look. Types include:
- Glass tile – Small glass tiles available in myriad colors, shapes and finishes. Very water-resistant and easy to clean.
- Sheet glass – Large panes of glass cut to size. Choose colored, frosted, etched or mirrored glass. Vulnerable to shattering.
- Recycled glass – Made from crushed recycled glass for an earthy, varied appearance. Durable and stain-resistant.
Considerations: Glass stains less than tile but is prone to showing water marks and smudges. Safety is a concern if small children are present.
How to Prepare for Backsplash Installation
To ensure a smooth installation, proper planning and preparation of your kitchen is crucial.
Choose Backsplash Layout
Decide on layout before installing. Backsplash commonly runs horizontally along countertops. Extending up to bottom of cabinets creates a seamless look. Accent areas like range hoods can feature mosaic patterns. Mix and match materials in creative ways.
Creating a sketch of your planned backsplash layout can help visualize placement.
- Backsplash tiles/sheets and any decorative accents
- Thinset mortar adhesive
- Grout (sanded for wider joints, unsanded for smaller)
- Trowel for spreading adhesive
- Grout float for applying grout
- Spacers for tile gaps
- Grout sealer
- Wet saw for cutting tile
- Backerboard if advised for your tile choice
Shop smart – buy 10-15% extra tile to allow for cuts, breaks and replacement tiles.
Prep the Walls
Proper prep prevents problems down the road:
- Clean surfaces – Use TSP cleaner and rinse thoroughly to eliminate grease, dust and soap scum. Allow to fully dry before installing.
- Remove old backsplash – Take down existing backsplash. Scrape off all debris and adhesive residue.
- Backerboard – For surfaces like drywall, apply 1/2” cement backerboard per manufacturer instructions before tiling. This provides support and moisture resistance.
- Prime and paint – Prime and paint areas above new backsplash with moisture-resistant kitchen paint. Allow paint to dry fully before tiling.
With the walls prepped, it’s time to start enjoying your new backsplash!
How to Install a Tile Backsplash
Follow these steps for a flawless tile backsplash installation:
Step 1: Plan Tile Layout
Dry fit tiles on countertop before installing to determine placement. Ensure edges align evenly and design is balanced. Use spacers to gauge size of grout lines. Adjust layout as needed before adhering.
Step 2: Apply Adhesive Mortar
Apply thinset mortar evenly using notched trowel. Spread only small sections at a time so mortar doesn’t dry out before tiling. Apply to both backsplash area and tiles themselves for solid adhesion.
Step 3: Mount Backsplash Tiles
Firmly press tiles into thinset adhesive. Push in a back-and-forth motion to ensure positive contact and flatten. Use spacers between tiles for consistent grout line width.
Step 4: Cut Accent Tiles (If Needed)
Measure and mark tiles to fit around outlets, corners and other boundaries. Cut with wet saw. Blend cut tiles inconspicuously rather than having small leftover tile pieces near edges.
Cutting tile to fit your backsplash design is easier with a wet saw.
Step 5: Let Adhesive Cure
Allow thinset mortar to fully cure for 24-48 hours. Check that all tiles are still firmly attached and evenly spaced. Scrape off excess mortar.
Step 6: Apply Grout
Work in small sections so grout doesn’t dry too quickly. Hold float at 45° angle and pack joints firmly. Wipe excess grout off tile surface with damp sponge and buff with dry towel.
Step 7: Seal Grout
Once grout has cured fully per product directions, seal grout lines with a penetrating grout sealer. This will protect grout from stains. Apply sealer with small paintbrush. Wipe off excess sealer.
With your grout sealed, your new backsplash is complete! Properly cared for, it will provide many years of beauty and function in your kitchen.
How to Install a Stone Backsplash
Natural stone backsplashes bring timeless elegance to the kitchen. Follow these tips for proper installation:
Step 1: Cut Stone (If Needed)
For backsplashes using stone slabs, use a wet saw with a diamond blade to cut stone precisely to needed dimensions. Wear protective eyewear and mask.
Step 2: Apply Adhesive Mortar
Spread thinset adhesive on backsplash area using a notched trowel. Ensure wall is clean and free of debris for good adhesion. Only spread small sections at a time.
Step 3: Mount Stone Pieces
Set stone pieces gently into thinset and press flat. Push pieces together snugly while maintaining uniform grout line thickness. Use spacers for consistency.
Step 4: Let Adhesive Cure
Allow thinset to fully cure for 1-2 days before grouting. Make sure all pieces are bonded tightly to wall and aligned evenly. Scrape off any excess adhesive.
Step 5: Apply and Seal Grout
Grout stone with sanded grout, tooling into joints. Wipe excess grout off stone face. Allow grout to fully cure then apply grout sealer to minimize staining.
With proper sealing your natural stone backsplash will stay beautiful for many years. Maintain sealant as needed.
How to Install a Metal Backsplash
For a contemporary, industrial vibe opt for a metal backsplash. Use these tips:
Step 1: Measure and Cut Metal
Measure space and mark metal sheeting with painter’s tape. Cut metal backsplash pieces to fit your design using tin snips or a grinder with a cut-off wheel. Wear safety glasses and gloves.
Step 2: Apply Adhesive
Clean wall well. Apply adhesive (silicone, double-sided tape, liquid nails) evenly across installation area per product directions. Follow manufacturer guidelines specific to your metal.
Step 3: Mount Metal
Carefully mount metal pieces into prepped adhesive and press flat. Ensure joints fit snugly. Use shims if needed to prevent buckling. Let adhesive fully cure per directions before cleaning/sealing.
Step 4: Seal and Maintain
Apply sealant recommended for your metal backing material to protect from water and oils. Reseal as needed over time. Immediately dry any water to prevent spots and corrosion.
With proper care a metal backsplash will maintain its sleek brilliance for many years. Avoid abrasive cleaners that may scratch the surface.
How to Install a Glass Backsplash
For a brilliant, eye-catching backsplash, glass is an excellent choice. Here’s how to install it:
Step 1: Measure Space
Take precise measurements of backsplash installation area – length, height, outlets, windows etc. This allows you to cut glass to fit. Include edge finishing strips in measurements if using sheet glass.
Step 2: Cut Glass
Mark cuts on painter’s tape to avoid damaging glass face. Cut glass with specialized glass cutter or wet saw using a diamond blade. Wear protective eyewear. Grind cut edges smooth.
Step 3: Mount Brackets
On wall, mount any brackets designed to support glass backsplash sheets along top and sides. Space according to manufacturer specifications.
Step 4: Apply Adhesive
Spread approved adhesive on wall area and glass piece backing using notched trowel. Suction cups can help support sheet in place until adhesive cures.
Step 5: Set Glass in Place
Carefully mount glass sheet onto brackets and adhesive backing. Press firmly for solid contact. Wipe away any excess adhesive immediately. Allow to fully cure.
Step 6: Seal Edges
Seal all glass edges using clear silicone caulk to prevent moisture intrusion. Wipe away any excess caulk for a clean application.
Your stunning glass backsplash is now installed to be admired! Keep it sparkling by immediately wiping any splatters or water marks.
Backsplash Maintenance Tips
Preserve the beauty of your new backsplash with proper care:
- For grout, routinely apply grout sealer to protect against stains. Reseal as directed.
- Clean backsplash gently with mild, non-abrasive soap and water. Avoid harsh cleaners.
- Immediately dry any water to prevent buildup of hard water deposits.
- Use a squeegee on glass backsplashes to eliminate water spots and film.
- Re-caulk perimeter and seams yearly to prevent moisture penetration.
- Limit direct sunlight exposure to minimize fading.
- Consult with a pro if you notice any cracks, chips or loose tiles needing repair.
With careful maintenance your backsplash will maintain its like-new appearance for many years of kitchen use.
Backsplash Design Inspiration
If you’re feeling overwhelmed deciding how to incorporate a backsplash design you love, here are some stunning options to spark inspiration:
- Classic subway tile in white or soft hues
- Patterns like herringbone or chevron
- Warm metals like antique brass for fixtures
- Open shelving and wood accents
- Natural stone tile or slate in earth tones
- Horizontal shiplap planked backsplash
- Distressed wood shelves and frames
- Cast iron hardware and farmhouse sink
- Sleek glass or metal tiles
- Mosaic or geometric designs
- Bold colors like navy, black, or dark green
- Metallic fixtures and cabinet hardware
- Black and white checkerboard tile
- Contrasting pop color like cherry red
- Retro light fixtures and accessories
- Stainless steel appliances and trim
Backsplash Installation Cost
Backsplash installation costs depend on the size of your project and materials selected. On average, costs range from:
- Ceramic or porcelain tile: $10 – $20 per sq. ft.
- Natural stone tile/slabs: $40 – $100 per sq. ft.
- Metal: $30 – $50 per sq. ft.
- Glass tile/sheets: $20 – $50 per sq. ft.
Additional costs may include backerboard, special tools for cutting, and a pro installer if desired. Shop sales and clearance for best prices on materials.
Backsplash Maintenance Costs
Material lifespan and required maintenance also impact long term costs:
- Ceramic and porcelain tile have very low maintenance needs and can last decades. Annual grout sealing is recommended.
- Natural stone requires more frequent sealing – as often as every 3-6 months. Can last many years if properly sealed and cared for.
- Metals like stainless steel and tin have minimal maintenance and can last 20-30 years.
- Glass tile is very long-lasting but sheet glass is vulnerable to cracking/shattering and may need replacement.
With proper care, quality backsplash materials can stay looking their best for many years while protecting your kitchen walls.
Hiring a Pro vs. DIY Backsplash
Installing a backsplash yourself can save on labor costs. However, for many homeowners hiring a backsplash installation professional is worth the expense.
Benefits of hiring a pro:
- Expertise gained from years of experience tiling
- Ability to perfectly cut tiles and stone with specialized tools
- Knowledge of all preparation and installation best practices
- Precisely level, seamless finished product
- Warranty on workmanship
Cases when DIY makes sense:
- If you’re doing a very simple, small project
- To save money on labor for a more expansive job
- If you have tiling experience and access to needed tools
- For basic materials like self-adhesive backsplash sheets
Carefully consider your skill level, available time and the complexity of your design to decide if hiring a pro is your best option.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most popular backsplash materials?
The most commonly used kitchen backsplash materials are ceramic tile, porcelain tile, natural stone, glass and metal. Tile is the most budget-friendly option.
What height should a kitchen backsplash be?
Typically backsplashes extend from the countertop to the bottom of wall cabinets for a range of about 4-6 feet. Full height backsplashes reaching the ceiling create a bold look.
Should backsplash match counter or cabinets?
Matching or coordinating your backsplash with either your countertop or cabinetry can help create a cohesive look. You don’t necessarily have to match your backsplash to both.
How do you attach stone backsplash?
Stone backsplashes use thinset mortar as the adhesive. This provides a very secure bond. Grout type and width must be suited for natural stone materials.
Can backsplash be installed over existing tile?
It is not advised to install a backsplash directly over existing tile. Old tile should be removed to provide an even surface for proper backsplash adhesion.
How long does backsplash installation take?
The time for installation depends on the size of the project, but typically a backsplash can be installed in 1-3 days. Allow additional time for adhesive curing before grouting.
The perfect backsplash brings your dream kitchen design to life while protecting your walls. With careful planning, proper materials, and skillful installation, you can create a backsplash you’ll love that will last for decades. Refer to this guide throughout your project – from choosing the right backsplash style to expert installation tips. The process requires precise work, but the final result is well worth the effort for a kitchen you’ll truly enjoy.