What to Use for Backsplash: A Complete Guide

Adding a backsplash to your kitchen can completely transform the look and feel of the space. But with so many backsplash options to choose from, it can be tricky to decide what material is right for your home. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about choosing a backsplash, from popular backsplash materials like tile and stone to key factors to consider like budget, maintenance and style. Read on for advice to help you select the perfect backsplash to suit your taste and lifestyle.

Tile Backsplashes

Tile is one of the most common and popular backsplash materials due to its versatility, durability and affordable price point. Here’s an overview of some top tile options to consider for your kitchen backsplash:

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile has been used for backsplashes for decades thanks to its varied style options, resistance to moisture and affordable cost.


  • Budget-friendly material, starting around $5 per square foot installed
  • Available in tons of colors, shapes, sizes and patterns
  • Water-resistant and easy to clean
  • Durable and long-lasting if properly sealed


  • Grout lines can stain and attract dirt
  • Porous and requires sealing
  • Can chip or crack if hit hard

Bottom Line: With lots of style options, ceramic tile is a versatile and wallet-friendly backsplash choice. Just be diligent about sealing and cleaning the grout.

Porcelain Tile

Denser and less porous than ceramic, porcelain tile stands up excellently to heavy use and moisture.


  • Highly water-resistant
  • Durable and scratch-resistant surface
  • Stain-resistant and easy to clean
  • Range of price points from $7-$50 per square foot


  • Grout lines still require maintenance
  • Harder to cut than ceramic tile
  • Can chip if subjected to a hard impact

Bottom Line: Porcelain’s resilience makes it ideal for active kitchens prone to spills, splatters and high traffic.

Glass Tile

Adding a touch of luminosity, glass tile makes a gorgeous backsplash accent.


  • Shimmering, translucent appearance
  • Easy to wipe clean and keep sanitary
  • Moisture-resistant surface
  • Range of colors, shapes and styles


  • Grout requires sealing
  • Not as durable as ceramic or porcelain
  • Prone to cracking or chipping if hit
  • Higher cost, $15-$50 per square foot installed

Bottom Line: With proper care and gentleness, glass tile backsplashes add radiant dazzle and dimension.

Mosaic Tile

Mosaic tiles use small, pieces to create intricate patterns and pictures.


  • Eye-catching detail and visual interest
  • Can mimic stone, metal, glass and other materials
  • Available in mesh-backed sheets for ease of installation
  • Relatively affordable, starting around $10 per square foot


  • Grout requires sealing
  • Pattern details make maintenance tedious
  • Not very durable for busy kitchens
  • Risk of discoloration or damage over time

Bottom Line: Mosaic tiles lend artistic flair but require careful upkeep. Best for low-traffic spaces.

Stone Backsplashes

From marble to travertine, natural stone backsplashes bring elegant sophistication. Here’s an overview of popular stone types for backsplashes:


Prized for its striking veining, marble makes a timeless yet glamorous backsplash.


  • Elegant, upscale aesthetic
  • Available in wide range of colors and patterns
  • Can be honed or polished to different finishes
  • Heat-resistant


  • Expensive, $50-$150 per square foot installed
  • Etches and stains easily
  • Requires sealing to prevent damage
  • Scratches and chips with impact

Bottom Line: With proper sealing and care, marble backsplashes are a luxurious, heirloom-quality choice.


Travertine brings rustic texture with its natural holes and pits.


  • Distinctive porous appearance
  • Earthy, natural look
  • Available filled or unfilled
  • Range of vein colors like tan, gold, grey
  • Budget-friendly compared to marble


  • Holes and texture make it prone to staining
  • Requires diligent sealing and cleaning
  • Sections prone to cracking or chipping
  • Heavy and prone to cracking during shipping/installation

Bottom Line: Travertine makes an attractive, embossed backsplash if you stay on top of sealing and maintenance.


Slate’s multi-toned, layered appearance has an unmistakable charm.


  • Beautiful range of earthy colors
  • Naturally non-porous and stain-resistant
  • Textured, uneven surface has visual depth
  • Durable and crack-resistant


  • Challenging DIY installation
  • Needs sealing for wet areas like backsplashes
  • Can fade or discolor over time
  • Expensive, $50-$100 per square foot installed

Bottom Line: Slate backsplashes are naturally hardy and tactile yet require an experienced installer.


Harder than marble or travertine, quartzite makes an extremely durable backsplash.


  • Nearly indestructible when sealed
  • Resists scratching, etching and staining
  • Minimal maintenance required
  • Range of earthy tones and patterns


  • Very heavy, professional install recommended
  • Expensive, $70-$120 per square foot installed
  • Can crack during shipping or installation

Bottom Line: Quartzite is one of the toughest stones for backsplashes but requires careful prep and installation.

Metal Backsplashes

From stainless steel to copper, metal backsplashes supply sleek, contemporary style. Popular metal backsplash options include:

Stainless Steel

With its chrome polish, stainless steel provides an ultra-modern look.


  • Highly water-resistant and easy to sanitize
  • Durable, dent-resistant surface
  • Seamless installation with minimal grout lines
  • Endless contemporary style options


  • Shows water spots, fingerprints and smudges
  • Makes sounds when objects hit surface
  • Challenging DIY installation
  • Expensive, $50-$150 per square foot installed

Bottom Line: Stainless steel backsplashes bring striking sophistication with diligent cleaning.


Copper backsplashes lend industrial-chic style with their warm, metallic glow.


  • Stylish vintage appearance as finish patinas over time
  • Naturally antibacterial properties
  • Available unfinished or pre-patined
  • Comparatively affordable to other metals


  • Requires sealing and maintenance
  • Gradually darkens and changes color
  • Shows fingerprints and water spots
  • Costs $20-$50 per square foot installed

Bottom Line: Copper makes a unique, vintage metal backsplash if you embrace the evolving patina.


Tin backsplashes provide a durable, diamond-plate metal look.


  • Embossed diamond plate pattern
  • Available in range of metal shade finishes
  • Budget-friendly compared to stainless steel
  • Moisture-resistant and easily sanitized


  • Prone to scratches
  • Makes noise when objects hit surface
  • Challenging DIY installation
  • Costs $30-$60 per square foot installed

Bottom Line: Tin backsplashes supply decorative texture if you don’t mind occasional noise and scratches.

Alternative Backsplashes

If you want something different, consider alternative backsplash materials like glass, wood or recycled surfaces.


Sleek glass backsplashes impart airy, light-filled style.


  • Light-reflecting, transparent look
  • Easy to wipe clean and keep hygienic
  • Contemporary style works with range of decors
  • Costs $30-$100 per square foot installed


  • Fragile and prone to cracking or chipping
  • Shows fingerprints, water spots and smudges
  • Limited texture and pattern options
  • Challenging DIY installation

Bottom Line: With careful handling, glass backsplashes bring luminosity and modern elegance.


Wood backsplashes infuse natural warmth and texture.


  • Inviting, eco-friendly material
  • Range of wood types and stains
  • Can be handcrafted into custom shapes
  • Costs $30-$150 per square foot installed


  • Prone to splintering, warping and water damage
  • Requires sanding and re-sealing
  • Not heat or moisture-resistant
  • Visible cuts and nicks

Bottom Line: Wood backsplashes work best in dry, low-activity kitchens with careful maintenance.

Recycled Materials

For an eco-look, recycled glass, metal or plastic backsplashes divert waste.


  • Made from reused scrap materials
  • Unique textures and appearance
  • Lower carbon footprint than new materials
  • Competitive pricing, $30-$60 per square foot


  • Limited size and color options
  • Not always uniform in finish or texture
  • Only carried by some specialty suppliers
  • Can be challenging to install

Bottom Line: Recycled backsplashes appeal to eco-minded homeowners despite drawbacks.

Key Backsplash Planning Considerations

Beyond material, factor in these key considerations when selecting your kitchen backsplash:


From $5 per square foot for basic tile to $150 per square foot for premium stone, backsplash costs vary enormously. Set a realistic budget before you fall for a look you can’t afford.


All backsplashes require some degree of maintenance, from sealing porous stone annually to immediately addressing spills on stainless steel. Opt for a material you’re willing to care for properly long-term.

Style Cohesion

Choose a backsplash that aligns with your home’s existing architecture, cabinetry and decor. For example, traditional subway tile suits vintage spaces while recycled metal fits industrial lofts.

Kitchen Use

Factor in your family’s cooking habits. For active, messy kitchens, durable and seamless materials like quartz or stainless steel make sense. Informal snacking areas can handle more delicate, decorative backsplashes.

Color Scheme

Determine the overall palette you want your backsplash to complement, whether neutral, cool tones, warm tones, vivid hues or eclectic. Then select materials and patterns that enhance that vision.

Task Lighting

Since the backsplash serves as a key prep area, make sure it will have proper illumination from pendant lights or under-cabinet lighting. This allows you to leverage its full functionality.

Appliance Coordination

Look at your backsplash area in context of adjoining appliances, windows and cabinetry. Contrasting or coordinating your backsplash with those elements creates a holistic look.

DIY Abilities

Many backsplash materials like ceramic tile or tin can be DIYed. But for complicated cuts or heavy materials like natural stone, enlist professional help to get the best results. Know your limits.

Backsplash Installation Tips

Once you’ve selected the perfect backsplash, proper installation is critical. Follow these tips for flawless backsplash application:

  • Inspect Materials Beforehand – Ensure all backsplash materials ordered are in good shape, with no cracks, chips or defects.
  • Clean the Surface – Thoroughly clean the backsplash area and remove any existing wallpaper or backsplash. Fill any holes or imperfections.
  • Follow Any Prep Directions – Some backsplashes require special prep like waterproofing, priming, or applying a substrate. Check material instructions.
  • Use Spacers for Tile – Plastic tile spacers allow you to lay tile with even grout line spacing. Remove them before grouting.
  • Mix ThinSet to Manufacturer Specs – Whether using mastic adhesive or mortar, mix to the correct consistency described on the product label.
  • Use Levels and Guides – Use a level and laser guide to keep backsplash lines perfectly straight. For tile, lay out from center.
  • Make Precise Cuts – Take measurements carefully, double check them, and cut backsplash materials slowly and methodically for accuracy.
  • Seal Natural Stone – After installing porous stone backsplashes, apply a natural stone sealer according to product directions to protect the surface.
  • Grout Properly – When grouting tile, work in small sections wiping excess grout off tile faces and smoothing lines as you go before it dries.
  • Caulk Edges – Once the backsplash is installed, caulk along the edges and seams where the backsplash meets the counter or wall.

Backsplash Maintenance Tips

To keep your backsplash looking like new:

  • Seal porous stone, grout, or wood annually or as needed.
  • Immediately wipe off acidic spills on surfaces like marble.
  • Use gentle cleaners designed for your backsplash material. Avoid abrasives.
  • Clean grout with diluted bleach or a specialty grout cleaner monthly.
  • Rinse metal backsplashes after cleaning and polish occasionally with olive oil.
  • Limit exposure to moisture or steam around wood backsplashes.
  • Address any cracks in grout or caulking right away to prevent water damage.
  • Use cutting boards and trivets to protect delicate backsplash surfaces.

Achieving the Perfect Backsplash

The ideal backsplash transforms the look and practicality of your kitchen. By selecting the right material with proper installation and care, your backsplash can be a timeless focal point rather than an outdated eyesore. Use this guide to inform your planning process. Combine practical considerations like budget and kitchen usage with your aesthetic vision. With research and forethought, you can install a backsplash that delights for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplashes

What is the most popular backsplash tile?

The most popular backsplash tile is white subway tile. The classic rectangular shape and clean white color provide versatility to match any style. Subway tiles are affordable, easy to install, and create a seamless look.

What’s trending for kitchen backsplashes in 2023?

Some top backsplash trends for 2023 include dimensional tiles with 3D effects, mixed metallics, bold use of color, and organic patterns mimicking nature. Terrazzo and Moroccan-inspired tiles are also growing in popularity this year.

What is the easiest backsplash to install?

The easiest backsplashes for DIY installation are peel-and-stick tile, faux tiles, and vinyl backsplashes. These innovative materials go up with just adhesive and no mess or specialized tools required.

What backsplash is cheapest?

The most budget-friendly backsplash options are ceramic tile, vinyl tile, metal tin tiles, and laminate panels or sheets, which can all be installed for under $10 per square foot.

What backsplash goes best with white cabinets?

White cabinets pair beautifully with almost any color backsplash. Classic choices include white subway tile, carrara marble, or gray, navy, or black stone. For pops of color, consider emerald green, cobalt blue, and other rich hues.

What backsplash is best for resale?

The best backsplashes for resale value are widely appealing, like subway tile, marble, travertine, slate, or glass. Neutral tones also help a backsplash transcend style trends. Simple installations sell better than intricate designs or loud colors.

How do I choose a backsplash color?

Consider the color scheme of your cabinets, countertops, floors, and any existing paint colors. Complementary or contrasting hues work well. Neutrals like white and gray make a versatile choice. If uncertain, limit the backsplash to a small, colorful accent area.

What backsplash goes with oak cabinets?

Earth tones like cream, beige, tan and mocha work nicely with golden oak cabinets. Alternately, pick up the wood grain with backsplashes like brown granite, travertine, copper and wood planks. Avoid stark whites to keep the space feeling warm.

How long does a backsplash last?

With proper installation and maintenance, quality backsplash materials can last 20-30 years or longer. Tile and stone tend to have the greatest longevity. Materials like recycled glass and decoratively painted tiles have shorter lifespans around 10 years.


The ideal backsplash ties your whole kitchen together with style while also making food prep and cleanup a breeze. Taking the time to carefully evaluate your options for materials, colors, patterns and installation will ensure you love your new backsplash for decades to come. Use this guide to weigh practical factors like your budget and kitchen habits along with your personal tastes. Combine durable, low-maintenance materials with eye-catching hues and designs to create a backsplash that both protects your walls and becomes the heart of your kitchen.