Is a Kitchen Backsplash Necessary?

A kitchen backsplash serves both functional and aesthetic purposes in your cooking space. While it may seem like an optional decorative element, there are several reasons why installing a backsplash is practically a must for any kitchen remodel or construction project. Here’s a closer look at why a backsplash is a necessary component and how to choose the right one for your kitchen.

What is a Kitchen Backsplash?

A kitchen backsplash is a protective surface that sits on the wall behind a countertop, stove, or sink. It is most commonly made of tile, metal, glass, or stone. The backsplash serves to protect the walls from water damage, grease splatter, and other types of mess. It also adds visual interest and ties the whole kitchen together aesthetically.

Backsplashes typically extend 4-6 inches vertically from the countertop and may run the entire length of the wall behind the stove and countertops. Many backsplashes coordinate with the countertop materials to create a cohesive look.

Why is a Kitchen Backsplash Necessary?

There are several practical reasons why installing a backsplash in your kitchen is highly recommended:

Protection from Water and Moisture

One of the main jobs of a kitchen backsplash is to protect the walls from moisture. Spills and splashes are inevitable in a kitchen setting, especially around a sink. Over time, moisture can soak into drywall or plaster and cause stains, peeling paint, mold, and other damage. A properly sealed and caulked backsplash creates a barrier that keeps the walls safe. Tile, metal, and other non-porous materials are easy to wipe down and don’t absorb water.

Defense Against Grease and Grime

Along with splashes from the sink, the walls behind a cooktop or range are also vulnerable to grease splatters and residue. The high heat releases vapors that stick to the walls and, without a backsplash, can stain the paint or seep into the drywall. The slick surface of materials like glass or ceramic tile makes grease easy to wipe away.

Easier Cleaning

Speaking of cleaning, a backsplash makes this regular chore much simpler. Instead of having to scrub the actual wall, you can just wipe down the surface of the backsplash. The durability and moisture-resistance of materials like metal and tile also allow you to use stronger cleaners when necessary without worrying about detrimental effects.

Protection from Impact

In a busy kitchen, it’s not uncommon for pots, pans, and kitchen tools to knock against the walls. Over time, these impacts can chip paint and dent drywall. A backsplash reinforces the wall and stands up to these hits without showing any wear and tear.

Design Continuity

Installing a backsplash that coordinates with the countertops pulls the whole kitchen together visually. It creates the impression of an integrated space rather than an island countertop against a stark wall. Tiling the backsplash and countertop in the same or complementary materials and colors makes the design feel cohesive.

Added Property Value

Upgrading to a tile, stone, or metal backsplash also increases the resale value of your home. Like granite countertops or stainless steel appliances, a backsplash is an expected feature in any updated kitchen. Homes with dated, damaged backsplashes or no backsplash at all are perceived as needing work, which can lower the property value.

As you can see, a backsplash is much more than just a decorative wall covering. It fulfills a number of critical practical functions in the kitchen. Protecting your walls, containing messes, facilitating cleaning, and pulling the whole room together aesthetically are reasons enough to invest in a quality backsplash installation.

How High Should a Kitchen Backsplash Be?

The standard height for a kitchen backsplash is 4-6 inches. This measurement is based on the typical dimensions of wall cabinets. The bottom of wall cabinets hangs around 18 inches above the counter while the cabinet unit itself is roughly 12-15 inches high. A 4-6 inch backsplash fills the gap between the countertop and cabinet bottom, protecting this vulnerable area from splashes and splatters.

For a full wall of tile or other backsplash material, many homeowners opt to extend the backsplash to the underside of the upper cabinets, which may be 15-18 inches high. This creates a seamless wall of tile rather than a gap between the backsplash and cabinets.

If your backsplash material is particularly eye-catching, you may also choose to extend it above the standard height as a decorative focal point. Some backsplashes go all the way to the ceiling. Keep in mind that a full-wall backsplash can get expensive, especially if using a pricier material like natural stone. Weigh the look you want to achieve against your budget.

Here are some recommended backsplash heights based on your kitchen plans:

  • 4-6 inches: Standard height for a basic backsplash filling the space between countertops and lower cabinets.
  • 8-12 inches: Extends partially up the wall for more protection and design impact.
  • 15-18 inches: Goes from countertop to bottom of wall cabinets for a seamless look.
  • Full wall: For maximum visual drama, take the backsplash all the way up to the ceiling.

No matter what height you choose, make sure the top edge of the backsplash meets neatly with the wall cabinets or ceiling line for the most polished look.

What Materials Are Best for Kitchen Backsplashes?

Kitchen backsplashes come in a diverse array of materials, colors, patterns, and textures to suit any design style. Consider the pros and cons of each option to determine which is best for your kitchen:

Ceramic or Porcelain Tile

Glazed ceramic or porcelain tile is the most common and cost-effective material for backsplashes. It comes in endless colors and patterns and stands up well to moisture and stains. The grout requires periodic sealing.

Glass Tile

Glass tile can have a shiny, elegant look. Textured glass and recycled glass tiles add visual interest. Glass is heat-resistant but somewhat delicate.


Metal backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, or tin add a contemporary, industrial vibe along with strength and easy cleaning. Metal can dent and needs sealing.


Granite, marble, and other natural stone backsplashes are gorgeous but pricey. They need annual sealing and can chip or stain.

Mosaic Tile

Artistic mosaics made from small ceramic, glass, or stone tiles create captivating backsplash designs. Handmade mosaics are costly.

Brick or Faux Brick

Real or faux brick is rugged and rustic. The porous texture requires diligent sealing. Modern synthetic bricks are mold-resistant.

When selecting your material, assess your budget but also consider durability, ease of cleaning, and design aesthetic. A combination of materials can add extra interest too.

How Much Does a Kitchen Backsplash Cost?

The cost of a kitchen backsplash can range widely depending on the material and installation. Here are some typical price ranges:

  • Ceramic tile: $5-$20 per square foot installed
  • Porcelain or stone tile: $15-$50 per square foot installed
  • Glass tile or mosaic: $20-$60 per square foot installed
  • Metal tile or sheets: $15-$50 per square foot installed
  • Natural stone slabs: $40-$100 per square foot installed
  • Brick veneer: $10-$35 per square foot installed
  • Faux panels: $10-$30 per square foot installed

Other factors impacting overall backsplash cost include the size of the wall area to be covered, accent trims and borders, the complexity of tile patterns, and labor rates for your area. Expect to spend several hundred dollars for a basic tile backsplash, over $1,000 for a larger or more intricate design, and up to several thousand for premium materials like natural stone.

Installing a new backsplash can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. Take time to evaluate the many backsplash options available to find the perfect fit. With the right choice, you’ll gain added function and beauty that makes a noticeable difference in your cooking space.

Frequently Asked Questions About Kitchen Backsplashes

Are kitchen backsplashes necessary?

Yes, kitchen backsplashes are considered essential for protecting the walls from moisture damage and making cleaning easier. The durable, non-porous materials commonly used for backsplashes also help reduce staining and make the space look polished.

What’s the best material for a backsplash?

Ceramic tile is the most popular backsplash material for its durability, ease of cleaning, resistance to water, and affordable cost. Glass, metal, stone, and high-quality porcelain tiles are other excellent yet pricier options. The right material depends on your design taste, budget, and kitchen needs.

How do I choose a backsplash color?

Look at your cabinetry, countertops, flooring, and paint colors and choose a backsplash hue that complements or matches these existing elements. Neutral shades like white or beige are versatile. Vibrant colors add drama. Natural stone backsplashes bring organic texture and earthy hues.

How do I cut tile around outlets for a backsplash?

Use tile nippers to notch corners and edges of tiles to fit neatly around outlets and switches. A rotary tool with a tile cutting blade also works. Turn off power at the breaker before cutting any tiles around electrical boxes.

Can I install a backsplash myself?

With some DIY experience, you can tackle a simple ceramic tile backsplash install. Make sure to properly prepare the wall surface, use caulk and spacers, carefully apply tile adhesive, and thoroughly grout the joints. Hire a pro for natural stone, glass tile, or intricate designs.

How do you attach a backsplash to the wall?

Start with a smooth, clean, dry wall surface. Apply tile adhesive using a notched trowel. Press tiles into the adhesive firmly. Allow the adhesive to cure before grouting. Caulk the seam between the countertop and backsplash.

What color backsplash goes with oak cabinets?

For oak cabinets, consider a neutral backsplash hue like white, black, beige, cream, or warm brown. Pair golden oak cabinets with a white or soft beige backsplash. With reddish cabinets, try bright white, light gray, or navy blue backsplash tile.

What backsplash goes with quartz countertops?

Light-colored quartz counters pair nicely with nearly any backsplash color from white to bold hues. Dark quartz looks best with white, off-white, light gray, metallic, or mosaic tile backsplashes. Match your backsplash thickness to the countertop edge.

Can you put tile backsplash over existing drywall?

It’s possible but not ideal. Existing drywall likely won’t be smooth enough for a quality tile application. It’s better to install cementboard or a tile backer first for a sturdy, appropriate substrate. If tiling over drywall, prime and seal the surface thoroughly first.


Installing a kitchen backsplash is one of the most effective ways to enhance both the form and function of your cooking space. While backsplashes may seem strictly decorative, they in fact serve many important practical purposes like protecting your walls, containing spills and splatters, and making cleaning much easier. When chosen thoughtfully, a backsplash also brings major visual impact that ties your whole kitchen together. Whether you opt for classic white tile or a bold glass mosaic design, a quality backsplash is a must-have upgrade that both looks and performs beautifully.