What is a Backsplash in a Kitchen?

A kitchen backsplash is a surface that protects the wall behind a countertop, sink, or stove from splatters, spills, and splashes while cooking and cleaning. Backsplashes are typically installed along countertops or cabinets directly adjacent to sinks, stoves, ranges, and other areas prone to messes.

Key Features and Benefits of a Kitchen Backsplash

A kitchen backsplash serves several important functions:

  • Protects Walls – Backsplashes prevent food, water, grease, and other messy substances from damaging the drywall, paint, or wallpaper on kitchen walls. Without a backsplash, walls can become stained, moldy, and degraded over time.
  • Easier to Clean – Backsplash materials like ceramic tile or metal panels can be easily wiped down after cooking. Food and grime wipe away without harming the durable backsplash surface.
  • Visual Appeal – Backsplashes are available in a wide array of colors, textures, materials, and patterns. This allows homeowners to match their backsplash to their kitchen decor for enhanced visual appeal.
  • Affordability – While upscale backsplash materials like natural stone or glass tile can be pricey, many affordable backsplash options exist like ceramic, porcelain, laminate, etc. Even an inexpensive backsplash still provides vital wall protection.
  • Customization – Backsplashes can be customized to fit any kitchen. Mixed patterns, accent tiles, niche designs, and mosaic tiles allow for personalized backsplash styles.
  • Increased Resale Value – Updating an aging backsplash can modernize a kitchen’s look and feel. This updated style and protection helps boost resale value.

In short, a kitchen backsplash is a practical and decorative element that preserves walls, adds beauty, and increases kitchen enjoyment. The key is choosing the right backsplash materials and design for your space.

Different Types of Kitchen Backsplash Materials

Many different types of materials are available for kitchen backsplashes today. The most popular options include:

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile backsplashes are one of the most common choices. Made from clay and baked at high temperatures, ceramic tiles come in a huge range of colors, textures, shapes, and patterns. Most ceramic backsplash tile has a glazed surface, making it stain and moisture-resistant. It is an affordable, low-maintenance, and attractive backsplash material.

White ceramic subway tile backsplash

Porcelain Tile

Porcelain tile is similar to ceramic but denser and even more durable. Resistant to scratches, stains, heat and moisture, porcelain backsplashes work well for active kitchens. Porcelain comes in various styles from traditional white subway tile to vivid patterns and natural stone looks. Porcelain costs a bit more than ceramic on average but provides greater stain protection.

White porcelain subway tile backsplash

Natural Stone Tile

For a high-end, timeless look, natural stone tiles like marble, granite, slate, limestone, and travertine make gorgeous backsplashes. Available in a spectrum of rich earth tones and unique natural patterns, stone tiles bring elegance and natural texture. Natural stone costs more than ceramic or porcelain but provides an unmatched classic, luxurious look.

Marble stone tile backsplash

Glass Tile

Glass backsplash tiles add brilliant color, shine, and visual depth. Made from recycled glass, they have an iridescent glimmer. Glass tile costs more than ceramic or porcelain but can make a dramatic style statement. It is best suited for low-traffic areas since it can chip or crack under impact. The glass surface is non-porous and stain-resistant.

Green glass tile backsplash

Metal Tile

Metal backsplashes like tin, stainless steel, copper, and aluminum provide an industrial modern look. From solid metal sheets to perforated patterns, metal is heat and moisture-resistant while adding shine and texture. Metal is durable but can dent and costs more than basic ceramic or porcelain. Installing metal tile requires careful precision.

Stainless steel metal tile backsplash


Laminate backsplashes like Formica, Wilsonart, or Nevamar consist of decorative papers bonded to a substrate under high pressure. More affordable than tile, laminate backsplashes are manufactured in continuous flat sheets for easy installation. Available in imitation stone, metal, and wood grain patterns, laminate resists moisture and impact damage but cannot tolerate heat.

Black laminate backsplash

Stainless Steel

For a commercial kitchen look, stainless steel makes an ideal backsplash. Stainless steel backsplashes are manufactured from sheets of corrosion-resistant metal alloys. Seamless and non-porous, stainless steel backsplashes repel stains, moisture, impacts, and heat. Stainless steel can be expensive and requires expert installation but is quite durable and sleek.

Stainless steel backsplash


Wood finishes like cypress, cedar, and teak can create rustic, natural wood grain backsplash designs. Moisture-resistant boards or plywood panels are common, along with salvaged reclaimed barnwood. Wood adds warmth but requires sealing to handle moisture. Over time it can warp or discolor. Wood works well with ceramic or stone accents.

Wood plank backsplash

There are many kitchen backsplash possibilities, from tried and true ceramic to modern metal and glass. Select materials that suit your budget, design aesthetic, and functionality needs.

Popular Kitchen Backsplash Designs and Ideas

Creative backsplash tile designs can enhance your kitchen’s decor. Here are some popular kitchen backsplash design ideas:

Subway Tile

Classic white 3×6” subway tile arranged in a brick pattern is a timeless backsplash choice. The long rectangles can be installed vertically or horizontally. Subway tiles create a clean, structured look. Add interest by alternating white tiles with colored or patterned subway tiles.

White subway tile backsplash

Mosaic Tile

Tiny mosaic tiles setup in grids form pointillistic patterns. Combining different colors and shapes creates captivating mosaic backsplash designs. Common materials are porcelain, ceramic, glass, and stone. The small scale adds visual texture and depth.

Mosaic tile backsplash


Herringbone backsplashes have tiles set in zigzag patterns resembling fish bones. The angled arrangement looks structured yet organic. Subway, rectangle, hexagon, or triangle tiles are often used. Contrasting grout lines accent the geometric pattern.

Herringbone tile backsplash


Combining geometric tile shapes like circles, triangles, hexagons, diamonds, and lines creates intricate patterns. Using contrasting colors highlights the geometric forms. Tiles may be arranged in uniform grids or offset layouts for a playful look.

Geometric pattern backsplash


Stacking tiles in a linear or pyramid formation adds clean lines and visual interest. Subway, square, or rectanglar tiles are often stacked. Offsetting rows or leaving negative space between stacks adds modern flair. Stacked designs work well over cooktops.

Stacked tile backsplash

Statement Tile

Make a bold statement with an accent wall using colorful patterned, oversized, or 3D decorative tiles. Or create a focal point by framing the range with an artistic tile design. Vivid and unusual statement tiles draw the eye for maximum impact.

Statement backsplash tile

With thoughtful planning, you can design a custom backsplash that perfectly suits your kitchen’s style.

How Much Does a Kitchen Backsplash Cost?

Kitchen backsplash prices vary based on the size of the project and materials selected. Expect to pay the following backsplash installation costs:

  • Ceramic tile: $5-$20 per sq. ft. installed
  • Porcelain tile: $15-$40 per sq. ft. installed
  • Glass tile: $15-$50 per sq. ft. installed
  • Mosaic tile: $10-$30 per sq. ft. installed
  • Stone tile: $40-$100 per sq. ft. installed
  • Metal tile: $15-$50 per sq. ft. installed
  • Stainless steel: $45-$125 per sq. ft. installed
  • Laminates: $7-$20 per sq. ft. installed
  • Wood: $20-$50 per sq. ft. installed
  • Professional installation: $6-$15 per sq. ft.

This puts the typical total cost to install a new 100 sq. ft. backsplash between $700-$3500+, with most homeowners spending $1000-$2000 depending on materials. Luxury backsplashes with natural stone, glass, or ornate designs fall within the high end of this range. Simple ceramic tile or laminate backsplash installations cost less for materials and labor.

Factors That Impact Backsplash Installation Costs

Several factors influence the total installation costs for a kitchen backsplash:

  • Material type – Porcelain, glass, and stone cost more than basic ceramic or laminate. Premium materials increase costs.
  • Specialty tiles – Mosaic, decorative inserts, handpainted tiles add unique style but also extra expense in material and labor.
  • Backsplash size – Larger backsplash areas require more tile and time to install, driving costs up.
  • Complexity of design – Intricate patterns, mixes of tiles, and special niche or border designs take more expertise and effort to properly install.
  • Pro prep work – Countertop or wall demolition, repairing damaged drywall, relocating outlets/fixtures, evening out uneven walls, and applying mortar add steps that increase project costs.
  • Custom cutting – Tiles cut into special sizes or fitted around outlets, corners, and borders take extra time and boost pricing.
  • Professional installation – Hiring an experienced tile setter is recommended, but adds $5-$15 per sq. ft. to costs versus DIY.

When budgeting, weigh the lifespan and enjoyment each backsplash material provides against costs to select the best value option for your kitchen.

Typical Backsplash Size – How Much Wall Space to Cover

The most common backsplash size is 4 feet tall by 6-10 feet long, covering wall spaces behind sinks, ranges, and cooktops. Full height backsplashes extending from countertops to lower cabinets are also popular. For a typical 10 x 10 kitchen, the minimum backsplash area would equal around 30-40 sq. ft.

Larger kitchens allow for more expansive backsplashes, but key factors determining backsplash size and coverage include:

  • The length of countertops needing protection.
  • Areas most prone to splashes like behind sinks and ranges. Extend at least 4-6 inches beyond the stove edges.
  • Visible wall space and decorative opportunities. Frame focal points like range hoods. Utilize blank expanses between upper and lower cabinets.
  • Tying in surrounding materials and colors. Cover any unfinished wall edges.
  • Budget and labor costs. Larger backsplashes require more installation time and tile materials.

In most kitchens, the ideal backsplash coverage extends along the full length of perimeter countertops with utilities and appliances. For maximum functionality and style, many homeowners elect to cover the entire wall space between countertops and upper cabinets with backsplash tile.

How High Should a Kitchen Backsplash Be?

Kitchen backsplashes typically extend from the countertop up the wall for at least 4” inches. Many backsplashes are 4-6 feet high. Full height backsplashes cover the entire wall between countertops and upper cabinets, which is often 18-30 inches high.

Recommended minimum backsplash heights include:

  • 4-6 inches above countertops without a range or sink. This protects the wall from minor spills and splatters.
  • 18-24 inches high above countertops behind sinks. Encompasses the splash zone around sinks.
  • 30-36 inches high above ranges or cooktops. Protects walls from heat and splatter while cooking. Extend at least 6 inches wider than the stove edges.
  • Full height from countertops to upper cabinets, typically 18-30 inches. Gives the most finished look and utility by completely covering the wall space between counters and cabinets.

The ideal height is a matter of function, aesthetics, and budget. Even a basic 4-6 inch backsplash provides value. For best protection and style, full height backsplashes are recommended.

How to Install a Kitchen Backsplash Yourself

With careful planning, patience, and proper materials, you can install a tiled backsplash yourself