What Are Backsplash Tiles?

Backsplash tiles are small decorative tiles that are installed on kitchen walls behind countertops, sinks, and stoves. They serve both a functional and aesthetic purpose in kitchen design. Here is a detailed overview of what backsplash tiles are, their benefits, how to choose them, popular materials and patterns, installation, and cost.

What is a Backsplash?

A backsplash refers to the section of wall behind a countertop, sink, or stove. Backsplashes protect the walls from water damage, stains, and splashes while cooking. They also allow for an easy-to-clean surface.

Backsplashes are typically made of tile but can also be created from metal, glass, or other materials. The area a backsplash covers is generally 4-6 inches tall, stretching horizontally along the wall from countertop to cabinets.

Benefits of Backsplash Tiles

There are several reasons why backsplash tiles are a popular kitchen design element:

  • Protect the walls – Tile backsplashes prevent water damage, grease stains, and food splatter on painted drywall. They create a barrier that is easy to wipe clean.
  • Decorative accent – Backsplashes provide an opportunity to add visual interest, color, and texture. Tile patterns and designs can complement your cabinetry, countertops, and overall kitchen decor.
  • Affordable update – Installing new backsplash tile can make a big impact in a kitchen update or remodel for relatively little cost.
  • Increase home value – Stylish, updated backsplash tile can improve the look and value of your home for resale.
  • Customizable – With the variety of backsplash tile shapes, sizes, materials, and patterns, you can create a completely custom look.

How to Choose Backsplash Tile

When selecting backsplash tile, keep the following criteria in mind:

  • Function – Consider how the space will be used. For heavy-duty cooking zones, porcelain or ceramic tile can withstand heat and stains. For low-use areas, choose materials based on looks.
  • Style – Match the backsplash style to your overall kitchen aesthetic – traditional, modern, rustic, etc.
  • Durability – Backsplashes take abuse from water, grease, food, and objects hitting the wall. Prioritize durable, easy-to-clean materials.
  • Maintenance – Low-maintenance backsplash materials like ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile are ideal for kitchens. Avoid high-maintenance finishes.
  • Color/pattern – Choose colors that complement cabinetry, countertops, and other finishes. Patterns can provide visual interest but avoid overpowering the space.
  • Budget – Backsplash tile ranges widely in cost. Measure the space to determine how much you’ll need and work within your budget.

Popular Backsplash Tile Materials

There are numerous backsplash tile materials to choose from:

Ceramic Tile

A classic backsplash tile, ceramic is affordable, easy to clean, and comes in endless shape, color, and pattern options. Glazed ceramic tiles have a durable, water-resistant glossy surface.

Porcelain Tile

Porcelain tile is highly durable, stain-resistant, and waterproof. It’s ideal for heavy-use kitchen backsplashes but costs more than ceramic. The dense material can mimic looks of stone, metal, and other finishes.

Glass Tile

Glass backsplash tile provides a shiny, elegant look. The tile is translucent and available in endless colors, shapes, and patterns. Glass tile costs more but packs visual punch.

Metal Tile

Metal backsplashes offer contemporary style. Stainless steel, copper, bronze, and tin tiles make a bold statement. Metal holds up well but requires cleaning to keep its luster.

Natural Stone Tile

Granite, marble, travertine, and slate backsplash tile lend organic, natural appeal. Stone has unique veining, grains, and texture. It’s durable but can stain and requires sealing.

Mosaic Tile

Mosaic tiles are small (1/4 to 1 inch) pieces that create intricate patterns when installed. Mosaics work well for backsplashes and range from glass, ceramic, stone, to handmade tile.

Popular Backsplash Tile Patterns

In addition to materials, backsplash tile patterns make a big impact. Here are popular backsplash tile layout styles:

  • Subway tile – Classic 3×6-inch rectangular glossy tiles set in horizontal rows. Subway tiles create a clean, structured look.
  • Herringbone – Angled tiles forming a zig-zag pattern. The timeless herringbone layout works in any style kitchen.
  • Hexagon tile – Six-sided tiles of the same size fit neatly together to form honeycomb patterns. Hex tiles offer visual interest and fit well in modern kitchens.
  • Patterned mosaic – Small mosaic tiles make it easy to incorporate designs, textures, and colors. Use mosaic sheets or mix loose pieces.
  • Stacked stone – Rectangular faux stone tiles installed in an overlapping, stacked pattern for organic charm. Great for rustic or Mediterranean kitchens.
  • Penny tile – Small, round tiles resembling coins cover walls in vintage style. Affordable penny tiles come in ceramic, porcelain, glass, and stone.

How to Install Backsplash Tile

While it’s best left to professionals, installing backsplash tile is a DIY project for skilled homeowners. Here are the basic steps:

  • Plan tile layout and purchase materials – tile, grout, adhesive, spacers.
  • Prepare the wall surface – clean, remove outlets, sand glossy paint. Apply primer coat if needed.
  • Mark the tile layout on the wall. Spread adhesive using a notched trowel.
  • Place the tiles using plastic spacers to set grout line width. Cut border tiles as needed for fit.
  • Let adhesive cure completely before grouting. Apply grout with float, working small sections. Wipe away excess.
  • Seal grout and tile surface with sealant. Let cure fully before use.
  • Caulk between countertop and backsplash. Seal around fixtures, outlets, and edges.

Backsplash Tile Cost

Backsplash tile prices vary based on the material chosen:

  • Ceramic or porcelain tile starts at $5-$10 per square foot installed.
  • Natural stone tile ranges from $15-$50 per square foot.
  • Glass or mosaic tile runs $15-$50 per square foot.
  • Metal tile costs $15-$75 per square foot installed.

Other project costs include grout, thinset adhesive, and tile finishing supplies. Hiring a professional tile installer averages $50-$100 per hour.


Installing a backsplash tile transforms the look and function of a kitchen back wall. With the right tile choice, pattern, and installation, backsplashes can be a stylish focal point or a subtle compliment to your kitchen design. Carefully weigh the options in tile materials, patterns, colors, and budget when planning your perfect kitchen backsplash tile project.