What is Backsplash in Kitchen?


A kitchen backsplash is an integral design element that serves both aesthetic and functional purposes. Installed on the wall between the countertops and kitchen cabinets, a backsplash protects the walls from splashes, stains, and moisture while preparing food. With the wide range of materials, colors, patterns and textures available today, backsplashes have also become a way to add visual interest and personality to your kitchen.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about kitchen backsplashes – from materials and design options to installation and care. Read on to learn what a backsplash is, why you need one, and how to choose the perfect backsplash to suit your kitchen style and budget.

What is a Kitchen Backsplash?

A backsplash refers to the section of wall that is directly behind a kitchen countertop, sink, or stove. Backsplashes are typically made of tile but can also be created from metal, glass, marble, granite, or other materials.

The main purpose of a backsplash is to protect the walls from water, oil, grease, food splatters, and stains. Sturdy materials like ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tile make an effective barrier against damage and are easy to clean.

In addition to function, backsplashes have become an integral part of kitchen design. Creative backsplash patterns, textures, and colors can complement your cabinetry, countertops, and overall decor. Visually, the backsplash serves as an accent wall that can tie your whole kitchen together.

Benefits of Installing a Kitchen Backsplash

There are several reasons why installing a backsplash is recommended for any kitchen renovation or new construction:

Protection for Walls

A properly sealed and grouted backsplash protects the drywall or plaster behind it from moisture penetration. This prevents damage, mold growth, and stains.

Easier Cleaning

Backsplash tiles like ceramic and porcelain have a non-porous surface that does not absorb liquids. This makes cleaning up messes as simple as wiping with a sponge.

Design Impact

The backsplash offers a unique opportunity to introduce color, texture, and patterns like subway tiles, mosaics, or even metal and glass. This allows you to add visual interest and tie together your overall design.

Reflects Style

From sleek subway tiles to handmade artisan tiles, the backsplash offers the chance to integrate your personal taste and decorating style into the kitchen.

Increases Resale Value

A nicely designed, updated backsplash can recoup over 80% of the installation cost in increased resale value. This makes it a worthwhile return on investment.

Popular Kitchen Backsplash Materials

There are a variety of materials commonly used for kitchen backsplashes, each with their own aesthetic appeal, durability, and pricing. Popular options include:

Ceramic & Porcelain Tile

Offering extensive options in colors, shapes, finishes and patterns, ceramic and porcelain tiles make an excellent choice for backsplashes. They are affordable, easy to clean, durable, and water-resistant.

Popular styles include subway tile, mosaics, and decorative tiles with borders and accents. Glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles have a shiny, smooth face that wipes clean easily.

Natural Stone Tile

Granite, marble, travertine and slate can provide a sophisticated, upscale look. While more expensive than ceramic or porcelain, the natural patterns and veining of stone tiles create depth and visual appeal. Honed, tumbled and textured finishes are available.

Stone requires extra sealing but is very durable and heat resistant. Choose a low porosity stone like granite or travertine to reduce staining and maintenance.

Glass Tile

Adding a contemporary, sleek look, glass tile comes in a spectrum of colors, can be mixed with other materials, and allows for creative designs. Glass tile is naturally water-resistant but the grout lines will need regular sealing. Opt for smaller mosaic sheets to make cleaning easier.

Metal Backsplashes

Metal backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, brass and aluminum provide an ultra-modern, industrial chic look. While pricier, metal is very low maintenance, naturally water-resistant, and easy to clean. Metallic sheets offer a seamless look, or small tiles can create eye-catching patterns.

Luxury Materials

For a truly custom, high-end backsplash, there are several luxury material options to consider. Designer materials like marble slab, handmade art tile, polished quartz, and decorative glass tile can create a stunning focal point. Be aware these choices involve a higher budget.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Backsplash

With so many backsplash possibilities to evaluate, it is important to keep the below factors in mind as you assess the options:

  • Kitchen Style – The colors, patterns, and textures selected for the backsplash should coordinate well with your overall kitchen design, whether traditional, contemporary, transitional or eclectic.
  • Ease of Cleaning – Consider how easy the material will be to wipe down and keep free of stains and watermarks. Smooth, non-porous materials are best for no-fuss cleaning.
  • Durability and Strength – The material must be able to withstand heat, steam, grease, and the occasional knife nick or spill. Harder, dense products like ceramic, porcelain or natural stone are among the most durable options.
  • Water-Resistance – Preventing water penetration and damage is crucial. Ceramic, metal, glass and most stone tiles are inherently water-resistant. Some materials like wood will require extra sealing and periodic reapplication.
  • Heat Tolerance – If the backsplash is located near cooking surfaces, it must be able to tolerate high temperatures. Ceramic, stone, metal and glass tile hold up well to heat.
  • Budget – Backsplash material costs range dramatically – from $5 per square foot for painted drywall to $50 per square foot for slab marble. Set realistic expectations based on your overall budget.
  • DIY Skill Level – Many materials like peel-and-stick tile are very user-friendly for DIY installation. More advanced projects with natural stone or glass require an experienced installer. Know your skill level.

Design Ideas for Kitchen Backsplashes

Beyond just the material, there are many ways to customize your kitchen backsplash design:

Bold Colors and Patterns

Make a dramatic decorative statement with lively colors or audacious patterns like checkerboard tiles, Moroccan fish scale tiles, or pop-art geometric mosaics.

Mixing Materials

blend materials like combining glass and ceramic tiles. This adds depth and contrast. Or try a peel-and-stick decorative tile border to frame basic subway tiles.

Accent Stripes

Jazz up a simple subway tile backsplash with thin accent stripes of mosaic or decorative tiles. Place the stripes vertically or horizontally.

Shapes and Dimension

3D tile adds sculptural relief to walls. Opt for concave and convex shaped tiles, or dimensional tiles like hexagons or subway tiles with raised ridges.

Mirror or Metallic

Mirror or metallic backsplashes instantly make small, dark kitchens feel more spacious and bright. Stainless steel tiles offer high-shine without the fragile nature of real mirror tiles.

Stone or Brick Veneer

Faux reclaimed wood panels, faux brick, or textured stone veneers like stacked slate provide rustic warmth. Use in place of tile or on the lower half of the backsplash.

Creative Shelving

Inset floating glass shelves into your backsplash tile design to display cookbooks, spices, or decor. Opt for wall-mounted rails and hooks to hang utensils or pots.

How to Install a Kitchen Backsplash

Once you have selected the perfect backsplash materials for your kitchen, it is time for installation. Here is an overview of the process:

  1. Prepare the work area – Remove appliances, furniture, wall hangings to keep the space clear. Protect floors and countertops. Turn off electricity to any outlets in the backsplash area.
  2. Deep clean the backsplash area – Remove any old backsplash. Clean the wall surface thoroughly to remove grease, grime and soap residue so new tile adheres well.
  3. Mark your tile layout – Measure to find the center point and level a ledger board horizontally to map out tile spacing. Use painter’s tape to mark layout lines.
  4. Cut tiles – Measure and mark tiles to cut for edges and outlets. Use a wet tile saw for porcelain, ceramic and stone or a glass cutter for glass. Smooth cut edges with sandpaper.
  5. Apply adhesive mortar – Spread thinset mortar evenly over the wall area using a notched trowel. Apply only 1-2 feet area at one time to prevent drying before tiles are set.
  6. Set the tiles – Press tiles firmly into position in the mortar, using spacers between tiles for consistent grout lines. Work in sections, wiping away excess mortar as you go.
  7. Grout the tiles – Once the thinset has cured fully per manufacturer directions, mix grout and apply over the tile joints, smoothing with a rubber grout float. Clean excess grout.
  8. Seal and finish – Seal porous grout and stone or glass tile to prevent staining. Once everything has cured, replace appliances, outlets covers and fixtures. Caulk edges if needed.

Hiring an experienced tile installer is recommended, but DIYers can tackle simple ceramic or porcelain tile backsplash projects with proper planning and preparation.

Caring for Your Backsplash

With the proper care and maintenance, your kitchen backsplash will maintain its like-new appearance for years to come. Here are some backsplash cleaning tips:

  • For everyday cleaning, use a soft sponge or microfiber cloth with warm water and mild dish soap. Avoid harsh cleansers.
  • Disinfect backsplashes occasionally with a diluted bleach solution. Rinse surface thoroughly.
  • Seal grout and porous natural stone or glass backsplashes with a penetrating sealer annually to resist staining.
  • Immediately wipe up oil, grease and acidic foods like tomatoes to prevent etching into the surface.
  • Re-apply caulk along the edges and around fixtures occasionally to prevent moisture seeping behind the backsplash.
  • Check for loose or cracked tiles and re-grout or replace as needed to keep the backsplash intact.

With the right backsplash design and materials, your kitchen backsplash can be both stylish and highly functional for years of cooking and entertaining. Consider your kitchen’s style, needs and budget, and explore the many possibilities to create your ideal accent wall.

Frequently Asked Questions About Kitchen Backsplashes

What is the standard height for a kitchen backsplash?

Typically, backsplashes extend 4-6 inches above the countertop surface, up to the bottom of wall cabinets. Full height backsplashes that go all the way to the ceiling are also an option.

How much does a kitchen backsplash cost?

The cost for a tiled backsplash averages $40-$75 per square foot installed, depending on the material. More affordable options like painted drywall or peel-and-stick tile can be under $10 per square foot.

Can you install a backsplash over existing tile?

It is possible to install a new backsplash over existing tile if the original tile surface is smooth, clean, and securely attached. Additional adhesive and possibly furring strips would be required.

What’s the difference between ceramic and porcelain tile?

While very similar, porcelain contains denser clay with higher water absorption resistance than ceramic. This makes it more impervious to moisture and staining.

Should backsplash tile match countertops?

The backsplash design can match countertops for a streamlined look but does not have to. Often the backsplash serves as an opportunity to introduce colors and patterns to complement solid surface countertops.

What is the most popular backsplash tile size?

Classic 3 x 6 inch subway tiles remain the most popular backsplash option for their versatility and balanced shape. However, many types of smaller and larger format tiles are also commonly used.

Can you put tile backsplash in a kitchen without removing wallpaper?

It is not advised to install backsplash tile over wallpaper which can loosen over time. For best results, wallpaper should be scraped off completely before applying tile.


Installing a kitchen backsplash presents an excellent opportunity to protect your walls while also adding visual appeal. With numerous colors, textures, materials, and designs to evaluate, it is important to consider your kitchen’s overall style, budget, and functional needs. Planning the tile layout, preparing the surface properly, and sealing the finished project helps guarantee your new backsplash will withstand splatters with beauty. With the right backsplash design, you can take your kitchen decor from bland to bold.