What Do You Need for a Backsplash? The Complete Guide

A backsplash is an essential component of any kitchen remodel or new construction. Not only does a backsplash provide visual appeal, but it also protects the walls from moisture, grease, and grime. With so many backsplash options to choose from, it can be daunting to decide what you need for a backsplash. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know, from materials and styles to accessories and installation.

Choosing a Backsplash Material

The material you select for your backsplash will impact the overall look, durability, and cost. Here are some of the most popular backsplash materials to consider:


Tile is a classic and versatile backsplash option suitable for any design aesthetic.


  • Durable and moisture-resistant
  • Easy to clean
  • Available in endless colors, textures, shapes, and patterns
  • Can create custom designs or a mosaic look


  • Grout lines may gather dirt and grime over time
  • Tile installation requires precision and may be labor-intensive
  • Dropped items like pots and pans can crack or chip tile

Popular options: ceramic, porcelain, glass, marble, and stone tile

Natural Stone

Stones like granite, marble, and travertine provide a high-end, luxurious look.


  • Beautiful, unique natural patterns and colors
  • Heat and stain resistant
  • Durable and long-lasting


  • Expensive
  • Some porous stones may require sealing
  • Can be prone to cracking or chipping

Popular options: granite, marble, travertine, slate, limestone

Stainless Steel

A stainless steel backsplash lends a contemporary, industrial vibe.


  • Modern, sleek appearance
  • Extremely durable
  • Resistant to high heat
  • Easy to clean and keep sanitary
  • Often low maintenance


  • Can show fingerprints, splatters, and water spots
  • Susceptible to scratches
  • Can be noisy when objects hit the surface

Often used in a sheet or tile design

Glass Tiles or Mosaic

Glass backsplashes provide brilliant shine and visual depth.


  • Reflective, sleek surface
  • Available inrange of colors, shapes, and textures
  • Resilient to moisture, grease, and heat
  • Easy to wipe clean


  • Tile edges may be sharp
  • Not as durable as stone or ceramic
  • Translucent glass can show wall flaws

Often used in mosaics or mixed with stone or ceramic tiles


Wood brings natural warmth and texture to a backsplash.


  • Timeless, rustic appeal
  • Real wood offers uniqueness
  • Softer than stone or ceramic


  • Not as durable or moisture-resistant as other materials
  • Can be susceptible to stains, scratches and burns
  • Requires sealing to prevent water damage

Best for accent areas or away from heat sources


From copper to tin, metal backsplashes create an industrial vibe.


  • Highly durable and heat-resistant
  • Interesting colors and textures like rusted, hammered, or patina
  • Environmentally friendly recycled metals available


  • Can dent, scratch, or tarnish over time
  • Metals like copper react to acidic foods
  • Can be expensive
  • Needs adequate sealing

Popular choices include copper, tin, nickel, zinc, and stainless steel

Brick or Stacked Stone

Masonry materials like brick or faux stacked stone offer texture.


  • Natural, earthy aesthetic
  • Structurally strong and durable
  • Brick relatively affordable
  • Easy to clean


  • Heavy, so additional structural support may be needed
  • Grout or mortar lines more prone to staining
  • Stacked stone often higher cost than brick

Provides a classic, timeworn look


Paint is an affordable and customizable backsplash option.


  • Budget-friendly
  • Allows unlimited color choices
  • Can match existing wall color
  • Easy application and touch-ups


  • Not as durable or stain-resistant as other materials
  • Needs periodic repainting to look fresh
  • Provides less visual interest than textured materials

Best for temporary makeovers or rooms not exposed to heavy use

Backsplash Styles

In addition to material, the overall style you select also impacts the look and feel of your backsplash. Here are some popular backsplash design styles:

Subway Tile

Subway tiles are rectangular or square tiles laid in a brickwork pattern. A classic choice perfect for traditional to contemporary spaces.

Mosaic Tile

Tiny mosaic tiles form intricate patterns when pieced together. Provides visual interest and depth.

Marble Tile

Marble tile has beautiful veining and depth for a high-end, luxurious look. Available in large slabs or smaller tiles.

Metal Tile

Metal tiles like tin, copper, or nickel can create an industrial chic style. Great heat and moisture resistance.

Glass Tile

Glass tiles lend colorful, mirrored brilliance. Available in a range of opaque, transparent, or iridescent options.

Stone Tile

Stone comes in diverse colors, veins, and cuts. Options like travertine or slate provide natural beauty.


Brick backsplashes with contrasting grout lines offer classic charm. Create patterns like herringbone for added interest.

Wood Plank

Wood planks with warm grains and textures bring a rustic, cottage look. Best reserved for low-moisture areas.

Mixed Materials

Combining materials like wood, stone, and metal creates an eclectic, custom look.

Geometric or Patterned

Use shape, color, and clever patterns like chevron, arabesque, or moroccan to make a statement.

Backsplash Accessories

Accentuate your backsplash with useful and decorative accessories:


Grout fills the seams between tiles. Color impacts the overall look. Contrasting grout can make tile patterns pop.

Trim Pieces

Trim pieces like bullnose edges, decorative listellos, or chair rail can frame, border, and accent your backsplash.

Accent Tile

Use special tiles like glass, metal, or handpainted ceramic to create medallions for added flair.

Niches and Shelving

Cutouts create space to display cookbooks, plants, or art. Open shelving provides extra storage.


Consider under-cabinet lighting or accent lighting to illuminate and showcase special backsplash features.

Protective Finish

Sealing products protect grout and natural stone from stains and etching from acidic foods.

Preparing for Installation

Careful preparation ensures proper backsplash installation:

  • Select a qualified installer experienced with your backsplash material.
  • Check the wall area for damage or imperfections needing repair prior to installation.
  • Remove existing backsplash completely, re-supports wall as needed.
  • Have electrical moved or raised to accommodate new backsplash height.
  • For tile, select all products like setting material, grout, trim, and sealant.
  • Have installer evaluate tile layout to prevent narrow edge tiles or gaps.
  • Organize delivery of all backsplash materials, tools, and accessories.
  • Clear counters and protect flooring near the backsplash area during install.

Backsplash Installation Tips

Follow these tips for a successful installation:

  • Properly prepare and level the surface. Clean thoroughly and roughen glossy surfaces.
  • Use temporary guides to outline the backsplash area and desired height.
  • Spread high-quality thinset adhesive evenly using proper trowel size. Follow drying times.
  • Use tile spacers between tiles for consistent grout line alignment and width.
  • For intricate patterns like herringbone, use guiding charts to position tiles accurately.
  • Cut border and accent tiles carefully using proper tools like a wet saw or tile cutter.
  • Lightly tamp tiles into the thinset. Ensure full coverage and consistent depth.
  • Let thinset cure fully per product instructions before grouting. Avoid premature drying.
  • Use quality grout. Apply evenly with firm, angled motions to fully pack joints.
  • Clean grout residue thoroughly before drying using a damp sponge in a swirl pattern.
  • Avoid exposing new grout to moisture for the specified curing time.
  • Finish with trim, caulk perimeter edges, and apply any protective sealer as needed.

Maintaining Your Backsplash

Simple maintenance keeps backsplashes looking like new:

  • Use non-abrasive cleaners designed specifically for your backsplash material. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Seal grout and natural stone annually or as needed based on product instructions.
  • Limit direct exposure to sunlight which can cause fading. Use window treatments to block if needed.
  • Immediately clean up spilled foods or liquids to prevent staining.
  • Avoid scraping or aggressive scrubbing which can damage the finish.
  • Inspect for damage or cracked tiles. Repair promptly to prevent moisture issues.
  • Re-caulk perimeter if seams split or gaps form. Spot re-grout cracks annually.
  • Consider re-sealing the entire surface every 3-5 years for maximum longevity.

Backsplash Costs

Backsplash prices vary based on the material, size of the installation, and professional labor. Here are some typical price ranges:

  • Ceramic or Porcelain Tile: $5 – $20 per sq. ft. installed
  • Natural Stone Tile: $15 – $50 per sq. ft. installed
  • Glass Tile: $15 – $30 per sq. ft. installed
  • Metal Tile: $15 – $50 per sq. ft. installed
  • Stainless Steel: $35 – $75 per sq. ft. installed
  • Brick or Stacked Stone Veneer: $20 – $70 per sq. ft. installed
  • Wood Plank: $20 – $50 per sq. ft. installed
  • Painted Backsplash: $2 – $4 per sq. ft. installed

DIY installations can reduce costs but require tile expertise. Other expenses may include backsplash demolition, wall repair, proper tools and materials, trim, and product warranties.

Backsplash Maintenance Costs

Maintenance usually involves:

  • Annual grout sealing: $150 – $300
  • Tile repair per tile: $10 – $50 installed
  • Re-caulking: $3 – $8 per linear foot
  • Grout repairs: $5 – $10 per sq. ft.
  • Re-sealing natural stone: $4 – $8 per sq. ft.
  • Full restoration: 50% – 70% of original cost

Hiring a Backsplash Installer

For expert results hiring a professional installer is advised for most homeowners.

What to Look for in a Backsplash Installer:

  • A proven specialty in your material like natural stone, glass mosaic, or metal tile work.
  • Knowledge of best practices for layout, prep, thinset use, cuttings, and grout application.
  • Precise attention to detail with gaps, heights, and alignments.
  • Strong references from past backsplash jobs.
  • Portfolio of their backsplash installations.
  • Ability to properly taper or finish non-rectangular installation spaces.
  • Handles all aspects from demolition to final sealants and caulking.

Questions to Ask Prospective Installers:

  • How many years of experience do you have installing this backsplash type?
  • Are you specifically trained in my material such as marble or copper tile?
  • Do you handle tile cutting on-site and have the right wet saws/tools?
  • What are some examples of backsplash projects similar to mine you’ve completed?
  • What types of thinset adhesives do you recommend for my tile material?
  • Will you provide all the ancillary trim, grout, sealant and accessories?
  • Do you offer any warranties or guarantees on your tile installation work?
  • Can you supply references from recent backsplash installation customers?

Backsplash Design Ideas

Here are some attractive backsplash design ideas to inspire your project:

Rustic Wood Plank

The soft texture of wood planks adds natural beauty. Works well with stone countertops and stainless appliances.

Marble Herringbone

Classic herringbone marble pattern provides interest. Frames with wood trim for a polished look.

Geometric Features

Use shaped tiles in bold patterns for a modern, eye-catching backsplash. Great behind a minimalist faucet.

Framed Subway Tile

Surround subway tiles with metal or tile trim pieces to create a framed look. Add an inset accent tile.

Mix and Match

Combine glass, stone, and ceramic tiles together for an eclectic mosaic. Great for a cottage kitchen.

Brick Motif

Brick-inspired porcelain tile laid in unique motifs creates visual appeal on a budget.

Textured Metallic

Metal tiles with hammered or patina finishes add dimension. Create a focal point behind the stove.

Mirrored Glass

Reflective glass tile contributes brilliant shine and depth. Accent with gold fixtures for glam.

Natural Stone Mosaic

Small pieces of travertine, marble, or granite form intricate natural patterns.

Contrasting Grout

Use dark grout with light stone tile or vice versa for modern pop. Keep other finishes simple.

Bold Colors and Shapes

Make a vibrant statement with colorful glass or ceramic in geometric shapes.

The Complete Backsplash Checklist

To ensure you get the backsplash design you want, here is a complete checklist to cover everything from start to finish:

  • [ ] Determine your budget and overall goals
  • [ ] Settle on a backsplash materials like tile, metal, stone, etc.
  • [ ] Pick the specific style such as subway, mosaic, marble brick, etc.
  • [ ] Decide on a color scheme and aesthetic
  • [ ] Choose backsplash accessories like trim, niches, or accent tile
  • [ ] Hire a qualified professional installer experienced with your material
  • [ ] Have the contractor or carpenter properly remove old backsplash
  • [ ] Repair wall damage and level surface
  • [ ] Gather all materials needed for installation
  • [ ] Installer creates template and confirms tile layout
  • [ ] Thinset and tiles installed correctly per guidelines
  • [ ] Joints grouted after proper thinset curing time
  • [ ] Finalize with trim, recessed shelves, or other built-ins
  • [ ] Seal, caulk perimeter, and seal grout areas as needed
  • [ ] Admire your finished, gorgeous new backsplash!

The Bottom Line

The key to success when installing a backsplash is proper planning and preparation. Take the time to decide on the right material, style, and accessories for your space and needs. Hiring a qualified installation professional ensures the final product not only looks beautiful but will withstand moisture and wear-and-tear. Follow installation best practices for long-lasting results. With proper care, your new backsplash can be enjoyed for many years, providing decorative appeal, effortless cleanability, and protection for your walls.