Selecting the right backsplash for your kitchen or bathroom can completely transform the look and feel of the space. But with so many backsplash ideas and materials to choose from, deciding on the perfect backsplash can feel overwhelming. Follow this comprehensive guide on how to select backsplash to help narrow down your options and land on the ideal backsplash for your home.
Assess Your Needs
Before diving into the different backsplash materials and styles, first take into account the functional needs of your backsplash.
Consider the Location
- Kitchen backsplash: Because the kitchen backsplash is susceptible to oil splatters, sauce stains, and more, it needs to be durable and easy to clean. A highly polished stone or glass backsplash can appear spotty over time from cooking messes while a wipeable, seamless material like stainless steel is practically maintenance-free.
- Bathroom backsplash: Bathroom backsplashes need to withstand moisture from daily use of sinks and showers. Avoid porous surfaces like natural stone or tile in favor of water-resistant materials such as glass or marble.
- Outdoor backsplash: For a covered patio or outdoor kitchen, look for materials suitable for outdoor use like exterior-grade porcelain or natural stone.
Determine the Size
Take measurements of the entire backsplash area and map out the size and shape. This will help determine how many backsplash tiles you need and allow you to visualize how different patterns and designs will look.
For kitchen backsplashes, make sure to measure wall space between countertops and cabinets. For bathroom backsplashes, measure the areas around sinks, tubs, and showers.
Assess the Maintenance
Consider how much maintenance you are willing to put into keeping the backsplash clean. Textured surfaces like stone and subway tile require more frequent scrubbing to keep grout lines clean. Highly polished glass or marble backsplashes also show water spots and splatters more readily. Low maintenance materials like stainless steel only need a simple wipe down.
Check for Moisture Resistance
Any backsplash area around water (sinks, showers, outdoor kitchens) needs a moisture-resistant material like glass tile, natural stone, or metal. Porous surfaces will soak up water and become damaged over time.
Consider the Budget
Backsplash materials run the gamut from DIY-friendly peel and stick tiles for $10/sq ft to high-end stone and metal for over $50+/sq ft installed. Measure your space and do the math to get an accurate budget estimate.
Choose a Style
Once you assess the functional needs, it’s time to consider the all-important style factor. The options for backsplash design are endless, so approach decision-making by determining the looks you love or hate.
Traditional kitchens and bathrooms use classic backsplash materials like subway tile, marble, and natural stone. These refined styles work well for formal spaces.
Warm and rustic farmhouse designs look beautiful with handmade backsplash tiles or reclaimed wood panels. The imperfections add organic charm.
For contemporary kitchens and baths, go for sleek, geometric backsplashes in glass, metal, or polished stone. Light colors keep the look airy.
Rich natural materials like wood, travertine, or stone create rustic backsplash styles perfect for warm, cozy spaces. Mix sizes for texture.
For an eclectic, artsy look, opt for an unconventional backsplash material like mirrored glass, pennies, or pebbles. Push boundaries with fun colors.
Choose a Material
With the functional considerations covered and a style direction in mind, it’s time to explore backsplash material options. From natural stone to metal and glass, each material provides its own aesthetic appeal.
A tiled backsplash offers practically endless possibilities for creativity. Tile comes in a variety of materials (ceramic, porcelain, glass, stone) that can completely change the look and feel.
- Budget-friendly, starting around $5/sq ft
- Easy DIY installation
- Wide range of colors, textures, and patterns
- Can create custom designs
- Grout requires maintenance to keep clean
- Grout lines can discolor and crack over time
Natural stone like marble, travertine, or granite brings elegance along with natural color variations that add depth.
- Timeless, classic material
- Each piece unique
- Withstands heat and moisture
- Available in a range of finishes
- Expensive, starting around $50/sq ft installed
- Needs resealing over time
- Can stain or etch
From stainless steel to copper penny tiles, metal backsplashes bring beautiful shine and texture. They work in modern and farmhouse spaces alike.
- Highly durable and water-resistant
- Easy to keep clean
- Environmentally friendly choices like recycled metals
- Affordable starting around $15/sq ft
- Can dent or scratch
- Makes noises when cleaning
- Limit to mostly solid metal or mosaic tiles
Glass backsplashes make a gorgeous modern statement with luminous colors, mirror effects, and easy wipedown.
- Bright, reflective surface
- Made from recycled materials
- Resilient and water-resistant
- Easy to keep clean
- Affordable at around $15/sq ft
- Not heat resistant—best used behind ranges
- Mirror finish shows water spots
- Heavy, may require professional install
The warmth of real wood adds beautiful natural texture. Unique reclaimed boards make rustic statement backsplashes.
- Organic, eco-friendly material
- Available in wide range of stains
- Relatively affordable, around $15/sq ft
- Easy DIY installation
- Requires sealing to prevent water damage
- Not heat or moisture resistant
Choose a Backsplash Layout
Once you’ve settled on the perfect tile, metal, glass, or other material, it’s time to decide on the backsplash layout. Backsplash designs can be simple or intricate but always make a statement.
Subway Tile Patterns
Subway tiles are classic rectangular ceramic tiles laid in linear patterns. Use just a few colors for clean lines or go wild with mosaics.
The zigzag herringbone pattern adds visual interest and works with any tile material. Stick to one color for a subtle statement.
Make a contemporary style statement with multidimensional geometric backsplash designs in tile, glass, or stone.
Stacking tiles vertically or horizontally in clean lines delivers a tailored, modern backsplash look.
For organic texture, cover your backsplash in a pebble mosaic using rounded stone, glass, or marble.
Moroccan Fish Scale
The Moroccan fish scale tile pattern adds drama and dimension perfect for a focal point.
Select the Right Backsplash Height
Most standard backsplashes extend 4 inches from the counter or vanity top but can go as high as you want. Follow these tips:
- For kitchen backsplashes, choose a height between 18-24 inches. This protects the wall from splatters while you cook.
- Full height backsplashes from counter to ceiling make a bold statement. Make sure to use durable, easy-to-clean materials.
- Bathroom backsplashes should extend at least 4 inches above a vanity or sink. Go as high as you want behind bathtubs or showers.
- Outdoor kitchen backsplashes should be installed at standard dimensions but minimize grout lines that can harbor outdoor grime.
Prep the Surface
Thoroughly preparing the installation surface helps guarantee a long-lasting backsplash. Follow these steps:
- Clean the surface. Eliminate grease, soap residue, and any buildup for better adhesion.
- Inspect for damage. Fix any holes, cracks, uneven spots for the flattest finish.
- Sand glossy surfaces. Degloss paint or clear coatings so the thinset can properly bond.
- Prime painted areas. Adhesion primers create grip for the tile.
Pro tip: Paint the wall your grout color before installing white or light tiles for an invisible grid look.
Choose Your Install Method
DIY backsplash projects are totally achievable for any skill level. Make sure to use the appropriate adhesive for the tile material.
Thinset provides a super strong bond for tile, stone, and glass on surfaces like cement, plaster, and drywall.
Mastic works for porous backsplash materials like natural stone, terra cotta, or pebble tiles. It allows for slight movement.
Peel and Stick
Peel and stick backsplash panels offer the easiest installation with no messy mortar or grout. Use in rentals or temporary spaces.
Finish with Great Grout
Grout fills the seams between tiles, finishing off your backsplash installation. Be sure to:
- Apply grout between tile joints according to package directions.
- Let it cure fully before cleaning the haze.
- Seal grout annually to protect from stains and discoloration.
- Use epoxy grout for heat and moisture resistance.
Put the finishing touch on your stunning new backsplash and enjoy this instant kitchen or bathroom upgrade!
Frequently Asked Questions about Selecting Backsplash
What is the most popular backsplash?
The most popular backsplash tile is the classic white subway tile. It’s an affordable and versatile option that works in both traditional and modern kitchens.
How do I choose a backsplash color?
Select a backsplash color that complements your cabinets, countertops, appliances, and overall decor. Contrasting colors pop while matching tones blend. Neutral palettes give a clean look.
What is the easiest backsplash to install?
Peel-and-stick backsplash panels provide the easiest installation requiring no mortar or grout. They can go directly onto existing surfaces, are removable, and come in ceramic, metal, and vinyl materials.
Can you put backsplash tile straight on drywall?
It is possible to install backsplash tiles on drywall but cement board is better. It prevents moisture damage, provides an even surface, and has greater adhesion. If using drywall, apply a waterproof membrane first.
How do I choose backsplash tile patterns?
Use small tiles and mosaics for intricate patterns like chevron, herringbone, geometric designs. Opt for larger format tiles or solid sheets for clean-lined stacked or subway layouts. Mixing tile sizes adds interest.
What are the best materials for kitchen backsplash?
The best kitchen backsplash materials are ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile, stainless steel, stone, and heat-resistant laminates. They all provide durability, moisture-resistance, and easy wipe-down maintenance.
How long does a backsplash tile installation take?
Tiling a standard backsplash area of 25 sq ft takes 6-10 hours for an experienced DIYer. Allow 24 hours for thinset mortar to cure before grouting. Minimal grout drying time is another 24-48 hours before sealing.
What is the standard height for a kitchen backsplash?
The typical backsplash height range is 4 inches (the minimum) to 18-24 inches (the maximum). Full height backsplashes extend from countertop to ceiling. Standard dimensions help protect the wall from cooking splatter.
Can you use wallpaper as a backsplash?
Yes, wallpaper makes a great removable, temporary backsplash. Use peel-and-stick wallpaper or install regular wallpaper directly onto the wall. Look for pre-pasted backsplash rolls or use a strong adhesive. Be sure it can handle kitchen grease and moisture.
What is the most cost-effective backsplash?
Peel-and-stick tile provides the most cost-effective backsplash starting around $10 per square foot. Self-adhesive plastic tiles go up with no mess or hassle. For a little more, ceramic subway tiles start at $5 per square foot.
The perfect backsplash brings together style, function, and budget for a customized look. Keep materials, patterns, and height in mind. Prep surfaces thoroughly for lasting results. With the right backsplash tile or panel, you can easily upgrade your kitchen or bath. Use this complete guide to confidently tackle the how’s and why’s of backsplash selection. Let your backsplash reflect your personal taste and enhance the heart of your home.