A backsplash is a critical design element in any kitchen. Not only does it protect your walls from water damage and stains, it allows you to add visual interest and personality to your cooking space. With so many backsplash options to choose from, it can be tricky to know where to start. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to design, purchase, and install the perfect backsplash for your kitchen.
The first step is deciding what material you want to use for your backsplash. There are tons of options, each with their own pros and cons. Here are some of the most popular backsplash materials to consider:
Tile is a classic and versatile backsplash material. It comes in a huge range of colors, textures, shapes, and sizes so it’s easy to find tile that aligns with your kitchen’s style. The variety allows you to get creative and make a real design statement. Tile is water-resistant, durable, and easy to clean, making it a practical option as well. The main downsides are that tile can be cold underfoot and each tile needs to be set individually, making installation more time consuming.
Popular types of backsplash tile include:
- Ceramic or Porcelain – Budget-friendly option that comes in tons of colors and styles. Porcelain is denser and more water-resistant than ceramic.
- Glass – Adds shiny, sophisticated flair. Available in an array of colors, finishes, and degrees of opaqueness. Can be prone to chipping.
- Metal – Great contemporary option. Stainless steel, copper, and aluminum are most common. Provides an industrial, modern look.
- Mosaic – Tiny tiles mounted to sheets make for easy installation. Great way to create a colorful, artistic design.
- Stone – Elegant and natural but on the higher end of the price range. Marble, travertine, slate, and granite are popular choices. Requires extra sealing.
Like stone tile, backsplashes made from full slabs of natural stone like marble, travertine, or slate give an upscale, timeless look. Natural stone offers subtle variation and richness, but the thick slabs can be heavy and will need reinforced backing. This option is more expensive, especially for higher-end stones like marble.
A stainless steel backsplash gives an ultra-modern, industrial chic look. It is waterproof, non-porous, and easy to keep clean. Stainless steel backsplashes are comprised of different gauge sheets soldered together and attached to the wall. Seams may be apparent. This is a very durable but typically more expensive option.
Glass tiles are eye-catching, reflective, and graceful. Made from recycled glass, they add shimmer and depth, giving the space a vibrant yet sophisticated look. Glass tile comes in an array of colors and finishes. Installation can be trickier and it may chip more easily than ceramic or porcelain. Glass tile backsplashes make a striking design statement.
Like stainless steel sheets, backsplash tiles made from metals like aluminum, copper, and zinc have an ultra-modern, bold look. Pros are they are waterproof and naturally antimicrobial. Cons are they dent easily during installation and have a higher price tag. Metal tile backsplashes pair beautifully with contemporary kitchens.
Wood backsplashes provide natural warmth and beauty. Options like bamboo, cherry, and maple add gorgeous grain patterns and color variations. Wood needs occasional re-sealing and is prone to stains, burns, and scratches. Easy to cut and install. Best for low-moisture areas of the kitchen.
Laminate backsplashes like Richlite simulate the look of materials like wood or stone but are made from resin and paper. Affordable, durable, and low-maintenance, laminates are a great budget-friendly option. The drawback is they can appear obviously faux compared to natural materials.
Nothing could be easier than painting your drywall! This is the most budget-friendly option and allows you to match your backsplash precisely to your wall color. The cons are that the paint can stain or deteriorate more rapidly and drywall lacks texture and dimension. Best for low-budget projects or temporary fixes.
Removable peel-and-stick backsplash panels make for an easy, mess-free installation. Peel off the adhesive backing, press onto the wall, and you’re done. Comes in materials like ceramic, metal, and glass. This is fast and simple but won’t last as long as permanent materials. Great for rentals.
When choosing materials, consider your overall kitchen aesthetic, budget, and how durable you need the backsplash to be. Visit home improvement stores to view material samples in person before deciding.
In addition to materials, there are many different backsplash styles to select from. Determine the overall look and vibe you want before settling on the perfect backsplash design for your kitchen.
Full Subway Tile
Covering the entire backsplash surface with rectangular subway tiles is a classic choice that provides clean lines and versatility. White is most common but subway tiles come in every color. Lay out in brickwork or stacking patterns. Elegant in any kitchen style.
Herringbone patterns add visual interest with tiles set in zigzags instead of rows. Frequently done in two alternating colors. Gives geometric style and works with any tile material. Makes small spaces appear larger.
Get creative with geometric backsplash designs like hexagons, chevron, fish scale tile, and more. Adds movement and a modern vibe with architectural interest. Great for contemporary spaces.
Mosaic backsplashes use small tiles mounted to sheets to form intricate patterns and pictures. Provides artistic flair. Can depict anything from floral designs to sea creatures. Lends color, texture, and personality.
For a luxurious look, a full slab of marble makes a seamless, upscale backsplash. Choose striking veining patterns. Keep the rest of the kitchen simple to let the marble take center stage. High-end and elegant.
Metal backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, or tin come in large sheets, often riveted or soldered together for joints. This gives an industrial, sleek look perfect for modern kitchens.
To highlight a material like marble, use it only on a portion of the backsplash, like a row of accent tiles or small inlaid designs. This allows you to mix materials and keep costs down.
Don’t be afraid to get creative and mix complementary materials like combining metal mosaic tiles with painted drywall. Contrasting textures and colors can really make your backsplash pop.
A clear glass backsplash communicates openness. It maintains visibility and light. For contemporary spaces, it can mimic the appearance of no backsplash at all.
Brick or Stacked Stone
Rustic stacked stone or exposed brick backsplashes provide an earthy, textural look. Makes a kitchen feel grounded and lived-in. Works for many casual kitchen styles.
Wood planks bring natural warmth. Use weathered barnwood for a rustic feel or stained oak for modern refinement. Make sure to properly seal and protect.
Once you select your desired backsplash style, sketch plans and view inspiration photos to hone in on your dream design.
You’ll need to take careful measurements of the backsplash area in order to purchase enough of your chosen material. Remember that the backsplash extends from the countertop to the underside of the upper cabinets. Measure the following:
- Length of each individual wall section requiring backsplash. Include inside corners.
- Height of the backsplash area, from countertop to cabinet underside. Check in multiple spots in case it varies.
- Location of sinks, stoves, outlets, windows etc. that will impact your design.
- Backsplash area square footage. Multiply length by height for each wall section then add all sections together.
Having detailed measurements allows you to plan the backsplash design, order materials, and estimate costs accurately. For tile, measure the areas needing specialty shaped “border” tiles around edges and fixtures separately from the field areas getting typical tile. Leave room for error and purchase 5-10% extra tile.
Installing a backsplash is totally doable as a DIY project. With some basic tools, patience, and proper prep, you can transform your kitchen. Essential tools needed include:
- Tile cutter – Makes precise straight cuts through tile. A manual cutter is affordable.
- Wet saw – For angled cuts. Makes cutting easier but pricier. Some stores rent wet saws.
- Trowel and grout float – Apply and smooth mortar onto the wall.
- Tape measure – Essential for measuring cuts. Get one with fractions.
- Level – Crucial for setting tiles evenly. A long spirit level works best.
- Spacers – Place between tiles to set consistent grout line width.
- Grout sealer – Seals grout and reduces staining. Often comes in squeezable bottles.
- Rubber grout float – Smooths grout into tile joints cleanly.
- Sponges – For wiping away excess grout. Get coarse and fine ones.
- Bucket – For mixing grout and cleaning sponges.
- Safety gear – Gloves, dust mask, and goggles make things easier.
For spreadable materials like mortar and grout, get mixing paddles. You may also need clamps, carpenter’s square, caulk gun, grout removal tool, and kneeling pads.
The key to a successful backsplash installation is proper prep work. Taking time to prepare will help your backsplash look amazing and last. Ensure your walls are:
- Clean – Remove all dust, grease, wallpaper, etc. Clean with TSP or other degreaser if needed.
- Flat – Fix any bumps or flaws in the wall itself for proper thinset mortar adhesion.
- Primed – Prime walls before applying mortar. This helps mortar adhere.
Also, remove outlet covers and switch plates prior to tiling around them. Have all your supplies and tools handy before starting work. Your backsplash design plan and tile layout should be decided. Leave no detail unchecked!
How to Install a Tile Backsplash
Once prepped, you can move onto the fun part – installing your fabulous new backsplash! Follow these key steps:
- Apply mortar – Mix thinset mortar and use the trowel to spread evenly over the backsplash area. Apply only 1-2 sq. ft. at a time.
- Add tile – Place your first tile in the corner or central focal point. Use spacers around edges. Press tiles firmly into the mortar.
- Check alignment – Make sure the first row is perfectly straight using a level. Adjust as needed before the mortar dries.
- Continue tiling – Lay tile row by row, working upward and outward. Check level and spacing periodically.
- Cut tiles to fit – Use tile cutter or wet saw to cut border and specialty tiles needed to fill gaps.
- Let mortar dry – Allow thinset to fully cure overnight before grouting. This prevents tiles shifting.
- Mix and apply grout – Spread grout over the tiles, filling all joints thoroughly. Use the grout float or rubber tool to smooth.
- Clean grout – Wipe any excess grout off the tiles with a damp sponge in circular motions. Rinse sponge frequently.
- Seal grout – Once grout dries, apply grout sealer to prevent staining and increase water resistance.
- Caulk edges – Once everything is fully dry, caulk corners, edges, and seams with silicone caulk. Smooth with fingertip.
And that’s it! Your stunning new backsplash is complete. Bask in your tiling victory as you enjoy coffee by the stove.
Put effort into caring for your backsplash and it will retain its beauty for years. Here are tips:
- Seal grout and re-apply sealant yearly to prevent staining and damage.
- Use gentle cleaners. Avoid abrasive scrubs. Use soft sponge and mild detergent only when needed.
- Immediately wipe up any liquids that get behind the backsplash to prevent moisture issues.
- Limit use of tape or adhesives on the backsplash that could peel off coating or paint.
- Clean spills like tomato sauce promptly to prevent stains, especially on grout.
- Re-caulk as needed to prevent moisture from getting behind the backsplash and causing damage.
With proper care, your backsplash will stay looking fabulous and protect your kitchen walls.
Backsplash costs vary widely based on the materials and labor involved. Budget $3-5 per sq. ft. for affordable ceramic tile or laminates. For handmade or natural stone tiles, glass, or metal, expect costs from $5-50+ per sq. ft. Factors like specialty shapes, accent designs, and hiring a pro installer also increase costs.
Carefully calculate the backsplash square footage and material costs. Create a budget and look for deals to save money yet still get your dream design.
Many homeowners tackle backsplash installation as a DIY project to control costs. If tiling intimidates you, hire a professional installer experienced with your backsplash materials. This typically costs around $50 per hour. There are also pre-assembled peel-and-stick backsplash panels that provide an easy and affordable option for the DIYer.
No matter your budget, there are loads of ways to get a gorgeous, on-trend backsplash that makes your kitchen shine. From affordable ceramic to opulent marble, the options are endless!
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities, here are some stunning yet achievable backsplash ideas to spark your creativity:
Combine glass tiles or recycled bottles in green, blue, and clear for an artsy cottage kitchen vibe. Distressed wood trim tops it off.
Bold black and white geometric tile patterns liven up simple white cabinets and give dimension.
Classic white subway tile paired with intricate marble mosaic tile details create visual interest without overwhelming.
A white 3-D tile backsplash adds depth and dimension behind a clean white quartz countertop.
For contemporary cool, a sheet of floor-to-ceiling black metal backsplash complements the sleek stainless appliances.
Large gray, white, and copper hexagon tiles laid in a unique patchwork pattern infuse eclectic flair.
Reclaimed wood planks stained a deep espresso brown evoke cozy, rustic charm behind a farmhouse sink.
Natural red brick tiles laid in a herringbone pattern provide personality next to crisp white cabinetry.
Retro supergraphics and vibrant lime green tile infuse kitschy mid-century style behind the stove.
A massive slab of vein-filled polished marble makes a simple yet commanding backsplash statement.
Mirrored bars on the wall camouflage a functional open shelving system and reflect light.
The possibilities are endless! Look online and in design magazines for inspired backsplash ideas until you find your perfect match.
Finding a Tile Professional
Installing a tile backsplash is immensely satisfying but can also be tricky for beginners. If you want your backsplash done to perfection or have a complicated design, consider hiring a professional tiler. Ask friends for referrals or search sites like HomeAdvisor. Look for:
- 5+ years of experience installing tile backsplashes
- Knowledgeable about your material like natural stone, metal, etc.
- A portfolio of past backsplash projects to view
- Strong references and reviews
- Licensed and insured
- Offers a warranty
- Attention to detail
- Strong communication skills
Hiring a pro may cost more but can give peace of mind and expert results installing a backsplash you’ll enjoy for years.
DIY vs Pro Installation
Installing a backsplash yourself can save money and be a rewarding DIY project. Or, you can hire a professional tiler for skilled workmanship. Consider:
- Typically costs 25-50% less than hiring a pro
- Allows you to customize every step
- Fun learning experience and sense of accomplishment
- Requires tools you may need to purchase or rent
- Proper tiling technique involves a learning curve
- Imperfect results due to lack of experience
- Cuts, broken tiles, and re-dos can increase costs
- Expertise leads to quality installation and finish
- Knowledge of building codes and best practices
- Efficient work with proper tools for each job
- Warranties and protection against errors
- Installation costs significantly more
- Schedule must accommodate pro’s availability
- Less flexibility and control over details
Carefully weigh the DIY vs pro decision based on your budget, skills, and style preferences. Either route can lead to a stunning new backsplash you’ll love.
We’ve covered everything required to successfully design and install your dream backsplash:
- Choosing from the many backsplash materials and styles available
- Measuring your space properly before purchasing materials
- Gathering the right tools for the installation
- Thoroughly prepping the