Tile has long been a popular choice for kitchen and bathroom backsplashes. It comes in a wide variety of colors, textures, shapes, and sizes to suit any design aesthetic. However, tile isn’t the only material available for backsplash applications. There are many attractive what to use instead of tile for backsplash options to consider that offer their own unique benefits.
Reasons to Use Alternatives to Tile for Backsplash
There are several reasons why you may want to opt for a non-tile backsplash:
Tile can be one of the more expensive backsplash materials, especially if using natural stone or ceramic tile. Alternative materials like metal, glass, and acrylic are generally more budget-friendly options.
Ease of Installation
Working with tile requires a good deal of precision and expertise to cut, lay, and grout it properly. Other backsplash materials, like self-adhesive laminates or large format panels, are designed to be DIY-friendly and much simpler to install.
Grout between tiles can attract dirt and needs regular cleaning. Solid materials like stainless steel, painted glass, or moulded acrylic backsplashes resist staining and are very low maintenance.
While tile comes in endless options, other backsplash materials offer looks that just can’t be achieved with tile. Metallic finishes, colorful glass mosaics, rustic wood planks, and sleek acrylics each have their own aesthetic appeal.
Tile is very durable, but not indestructible. Heavy objects can crack tiles if dropped. Other resilient backsplash materials like metal and acrylic can withstand significant impacts without damage.
Top Alternatives to Tile for Backsplash
If you’re considering a non-tile backsplash, the following are some of the most popular and practical options to consider:
Stainless steel is the perfect what to use instead of tile for backsplash choice for contemporary, industrial style kitchens. It offers a sleek, modern look and is easy to keep looking polished and new. Stainless steel backsplashes can be purchased in prefabricated sheets or made from recyclable stainless steel tiles.
- Extremely durable and dent-resistant
- Waterproof and splash-proof
- Resists staining, heat, and bacteria growth
- Easy to clean and keep sanitary
- Visually appealing metallic shine
Backsplashes can be created from glass tiles or sheets of tempered glass. Glass tile comes either translucent or frosted and in every color imaginable. Frosted glass panels create a soft, eye-catching backsplash.
- Customizable colors and textures
- Durable and water-resistant
- Stain-resistant and easy to clean
- Heat-resistant for behind stoves
- Can be illuminated for dramatic effect
Metal and Faux Metal
In addition to stainless steel, backsplashes can be made from solid copper sheets or faux metal laminates printed with realistic metal finishes. The metallic look offers an artistic, vintage, or rustic touch.
- Long-lasting durability
- Fingerprint and water-resistant
- Easy installation of laminate sheets
- Antique, distressed, or hammered metal looks
Wood and Engineered Wood
Real reclaimed wood or textured engineered wood panels create a warm, organic backsplash look. Wood suits farmhouse, cottage, or rustic design styles.
- Natural visual warmth and texture
- Environmentally friendly reclaimed wood
- Water-resistant engineered wood options
- Easy installation with adhesive panels
- Decorative wood slice patterns available
Backsplashes can be created using plastic laminate sheets made to look like materials such as metal, wood, marble, and more. Excellent DIY options, they have adhesive backing for simple installation.
- Durable, scratch and stain-resistant
- Available in countless colors and realistic faux finishes
- Waterproof and easy to clean
- Very affordable option
- Excellent for beginner DIY install
Painted Drywall or Plaster
For a super smooth finish, walls can be skim-coated with plaster or drywall directly painted to serve as an inexpensive but attractive backsplash. Use high-gloss or accent paints to make it pop.
- Seamless minimalist look
- Very budget-friendly option
- Easily change color by repainting
- No grout lines to clean
- Can match rest of wall color
Plywood or MDF
For a more rustic, textured look, unfinished plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF) can be installed as an accent backsplash. The layered wood look offers visual depth.
- Inexpensive material costs
- Easy to cut and install
- Casual, textural appearance
- Can be stained, painted, or left natural
Acrylic sheets make an excellent waterproof backsplash. Available in colored transparent, translucent, or solid colors, acrylic offers a sleek modern look.
- Durable and impact-resistant
- Seamless, no grout appearance
- Custom coloring and printing available
- Resists stains, mold, and mildew
- Easy install with liquid adhesive
Thin slices of real stone or manufactured stone veneers can be inexpensively installed as backsplashes. Faux stone looks stylish but is lighter and easier to work with than real stone slabs.
- Realistic natural stone appearance
- Inexpensive compared to stone slab
- Lightweight panels for easy install
- Prefabricated for convenience
- Good durability and stain resistance
Brick, Tile, or Faux Brick
Using recycled or new brick tiles creates a charming cottage or old-world backsplash look. Individual brick-shaped tile pieces make for easy DIY installation. Faux brick panels offer the visual appeal without the weight.
- Rustic, vintage appearance
- Very durable and decorative
- Real brick delivers authentic appeal
- Lightweight faux brick available
- Quick and simple application
Beadboard panels create a country chic backsplash look. The shallow grooves between the vertically aligned wooden boards provide visual texture and interest. Crisp white looks great in cottage or farmhouse spaces.
- Relaxed, casual country style
- Classic and timeless aesthetic
- Inexpensive and easy to install
- Stain-resistant enamel coatings
- Grooves resist water and staining
Fabric or Wallpaper
For a creative accent wall, fabric or wallpaper can be applied as a backsplash. Self-adhesive options are easy to install. Washable materials are available for kitchens. Bold prints make a fun design statement.
- Customizable patterns and colors
- Available in vinyl and acrylic for kitchens
- Washable, peel-and-stick styles
- Easy DIY application
- Unique backsplash look
How to Choose the Best Non-Tile Backsplash Material
With so many backsplash options available beyond tile, how do you determine the right one for your space? Here are tips for choosing the perfect material:
- Consider your design style – Rustic wood works well in cottage spaces, while sleek glass, metal, or acrylic make modern statements.
- Think about ease of installation – If doing a DIY project, laminates, acrylics, and wood panels are beginner-friendly.
- Factor in durability needs – In heavy use kitchen areas, stainless steel and tempered glass withstand heat and impacts.
- Determine required maintenance – Materials like wood or unsealed concrete will need resealing, while laminates and acrylics just need occasional cleaning.
- Check that water-resistance – Kitchen backsplashes deal with a lot of moisture, so waterproof materials are ideal.
- Evaluate aesthetics – Look for materials offering the visual textures, colors, and finishes that appeal most to you.
- Consider budget – Prices range from $10 to $50 per square foot. Determine how much you’re comfortable spending.
Installing a Non-Tile Backsplash
Once you’ve selected the perfect backsplash material, it’s time to tackle the installation. Here are some tips for a successful application:
Prepare the Surface
The wall surface must be smooth, cleaned, and primed before installing the backsplash. Fill any holes or imperfections for the best finished look.
Use Protective Gear
Wear safety glasses, gloves, knee pads, and a dust mask when cutting, drilling, or attaching materials.
Follow All Manufacturer Instructions
Carefully read and follow product specifications for required tools, adhesive, installation procedures, and drying times.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
Precisely measure the backsplash area and material pieces as required to achieve the proper fit.
Allow Proper Support and Adhesion
Secure backsplash panels to studs or blocking as needed. Use manufacturer recommended adhesive and allow to fully cure.
Consider Edges and Seams
Plan edges and seams carefully for the most seamless look. Use trim pieces as recommended.
Seal and Finish Smooth
Seal raw wood edges. Use caulk to finish around edges for a polished look. Remove any adhesive residue.
Enjoy Your New Backsplash!
Once installed, enjoy the stylish, functional centerpiece of your kitchen or bathroom. Don’t forget to post photos of your project results!
FAQs About Using Alternatives to Tile for Backsplash
Is it cheaper to use something other than tile for a backsplash?
It can be. Materials like laminate panels, painted drywall, and acrylic sheets tend to cost less per square foot than ceramic or stone tile. However, higher end options like stainless steel and etched glass can also cost more than some tile.
What is the most water-resistant material to use for a backsplash?
Stainless steel, tempered glass, and acrylic sheets all provide exceptional water-resistance. They can withstand frequent splashing and spills and will not absorb water or swell.
What backsplash materials can I install myself?
Laminates, acrylics, metals, and wood panels designed for backsplash use often have self-adhesive backing for simple peel-and-stick DIY installation. Be sure to carefully follow manufacturer instructions.
Should I seal a wood backsplash?
Yes, unfinished wood will need to be properly sealed both before and after installation to protect against moisture damage and staining. Use a clear polyurethane sealer suitable for kitchen and bathroom spaces.
What’s the best backsplash for a rustic kitchen?
Wood planks, reclaimed barn wood, or faux brick are all excellent backsplash choices for rustic, farmhouse, or cottage style kitchens.
Can you use wallpaper as a backsplash?
Yes, special washable, waterproof wallpaper designed for kitchen backsplash use can applied. Look for vinyl-coated, acrylic-coated or other moisture-resistant wallpaper materials and use the appropriate adhesive.
How do I cut metal backsplash sheets?
Stainless steel, copper, or aluminum backsplash sheets can be cut with a good quality jigsaw using a fine-toothed metal cutting blade. Use spray lubricant and go slowly for best results. Protective gear is a must.
How long does it take for backsplash adhesive to dry?
Drying times vary based on product used, from 30 minutes to 48 hours. Be sure to follow manufacturer advised drying times before using, cleaning, or exposing the backsplash surface to moisture.
Creative Ideas for Non-Tile Backsplashes
Beyond basic sheets or panels, there are many creative ways to install and decorate non-tile backsplashes:
- Combine a mix of materials like wood planks, stainless steel, and painted drywall sections for an eclectic look.
- Arrange rectangular laminate or metal tiles in a unique herringbone design pattern.
- Use lighting to illuminate glass tile or acrylic backsplash sheets for dramatic effect.
- Apply decorative wallpaper or sticker tile decals to only one section for a focal point.
- Arrange real pennies or medallions under acrylic backsplashes for a custom look and touch.
- Attach wood slices, sea shells, or other natural objects for organic texture and charm.
- Use beadboard only for the lower half of the backsplash and paint the upper half.
- Cut metal or laminate sheets into geometric or artistic shapes before installation.
- Affix metallic trim pieces along seams and edges to frame backsplashes with a polished finish.
While tile may be the expected go-to backsplash material, there are so many options available beyond tile. From gleaming stainless steel to warm reclaimed wood, the backsplash possibilities are endless. Choosing the right non-tile material for your kitchen or bathroom backsplash comes down to considering the overall design aesthetic you want along with practical factors like water-resistance, durability, maintenance, and ease of installation. With a little planning and creativity, you can install an eye-catching backsplash perfect for your space without using a single tile.