Where to Buy Tile for Backsplash – A Complete Guide

Are you looking to add a backsplash to your kitchen or bathroom? Choosing the right tile can elevate your space and add visual interest. However, with so many options for materials, styles, colors and textures, deciding where to buy tile for a backsplash can be overwhelming. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know to select the perfect tile and find the best places to purchase it.

Types of Tile Commonly Used for Backsplashes

When deciding on tile for your backsplash, you first need to determine what type of tile you want to use. Here are some of the most popular options:

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tile is one of the most common choices for backsplashes. It comes in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, colors, textures and finishes. Ceramic tiles are made from clay that is fired at high temperatures. They are durable, easy to clean, affordable and available at most home improvement stores.

Popular ceramic tile styles for backsplashes include:

  • Subway tile – Rectangular tiles with a classic subway tile look, often in white, gray or blue. Available in glossy and matte finishes.
  • Mosaic tile – Small, square tiles mounted on sheets that create a mosaic design when installed. Great for adding visual interest.
  • Patterned and decorative tile – Available in countless colors, designs and detailing. Allows you to make a statement.

Porcelain Tile

Porcelain tile has an extremely low water absorption rate, making it even more durable and stain-resistant than ceramic tile. It comes in a variety of styles and closely resembles natural materials like stone and wood. Porcelain tiles are ideal for high-traffic areas like kitchen backsplashes.

Natural Stone Tile

For a backsplash with natural beauty, many homeowners opt for stone tile. Materials like marble, granite, travertine and slate come in stunning colors, veining and patterns. Stone tiles lend an elegant, upscale look. However, they are more porous than ceramic and porcelain tiles.

Glass Tile

Glass tile can create a glossy, sleek contemporary backsplash or an artsy mosaic design. The colorful tiles reflect and refract light beautifully. Glass tile comes in various finishes from smooth to pebbled textures. It’s easier to cut than ceramic or stone but it can be more expensive.

Metal Tile

Metal tiles like stainless steel, tin, copper and aluminum provide an industrial modern look. They act as a durable, waterproof backsplash option that makes a design statement. Consider hammered, aged or brushed metal finishes to complement your kitchen decor.

Where to Shop for Backsplash Tile

Once you’ve decided on a tile material and look, it’s time to start shopping. Here are some of the best places to buy tile for your backsplash project:

Big Box Home Improvement Stores

Stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s offer a large selection of backsplash tile at affordable prices. You can find an assortment of ceramic, porcelain, glass and stone tile in various styles. Pros include in-stock availability and the convenience of one-stop shopping. Cons are less unique offerings and variability in customer service.

Local Tile Showrooms

Visit a tile showroom in your area to view a wide array of backsplash tile options and get expert assistance. Stores specializing in tile carry an extensive range of high-quality materials not always found at the big box retailers. Custom ordering available. Higher prices than home improvement stores but often worth it for selection.

Online Retailers

Shopping online opens up a whole new world of tile possibilities without having to leave your home. Websites like Wayfair, Build.com and Tilebar allow you to filter by material, color, style, finish and more. Order samples to see tiles first. Watch for shipping costs on heavy tile orders.

Tile Outlets

Check to see if any tile liquidators or discount outlets are located in your region. These warehouse-style stores sell top brand tiles for 30-50% off retail prices. Their inventory changes rapidly so repeated visits are needed to find sufficient quantities. But the savings can be significant if you have time flexibility.

Local Stone Yards

For a unique backsplash, stop by a local stone supplier. They offer an incredible selection of natural stone in various cuts, shapes and thicknesses. Expect to pay premium prices but have the advantage of hand-selecting each piece. Check lead times as stone may need to be ordered and custom cut.

Thrift Stores and Salvage Yards

For a one-of-a-kind recycled backsplash, shop thrift stores and architectural salvage yards. You can uncover vintage, retro and antique tiles for mere dollars per square foot. Available inventory is hit or miss but great for adding artsy flair on a budget. Be prepared to scrub tiles clean and make minor repairs.

What to Look for When Selecting Backsplash Tiles

Keep the following criteria in mind when choosing tiles for your backsplash installation:


Consider how durable you need the tiles to be since the backsplash endures heavy use and needs to withstand heat, grease, water and cleaning products. Ceramic, porcelain and metal are very durable options.


Select tile colors that complement your cabinetry, countertops and overall kitchen decor. Add visual interest with mosaic patterns, metallic finishes or 3D textures.


Smaller tiles like mosaics and 3×6 subway tile create intricate patterns. Larger tiles better suit contemporary designs. Tiles are available in squares, rectangles, hexagons, diamonds, and more.


Polished, matte, or textured? The tile finish impacts the overall look and function. Glossy adds shine while matte hides flaws. Textured tiles resist showing water spots and fingerprints.


Ceramic and porcelain tile tend to be the most budget-friendly options, followed by stone and glass tile. Shop sales and discount retailers to stick to your project budget.

Quantity Needed

Measure your backsplash space before purchasing tiles to ensure you buy enough. Have 10-15% extra on hand for cuts, waste and future repairs.

Smart Shopping Tips for Tile Backsplashes

Use these tile shopping strategies when selecting materials for your backsplash installation:

  • Be flexible. Keep an open mind on brands, colors, sizes and styles to take advantage of sales and availability.
  • Buy tile samples. Order samples before making final tile decisions to see true shades and textures.
  • Check quality and grading. Look for first quality tiles without cracks or chips. Porcelain is graded 1-5, with grade 1 being best.
  • Request discontinued tiles. Ask retailers if they have discounted boxes of tile they are discontinuing. Great way to save money!
  • Allow ample ordering time. Ensure your tile order is received well before your installation date, allowing a buffer for shipping delays or backorders.
  • Compare pricing. Get quotes from several retailers and check online before you buy to get the best tile deal.
  • Consider ordering extras. Order 5-10% extra tiles in case you break some during installation or need future repairs. Leftovers can be returned.
  • Read return policies. Understand if you can return unused tile if you purchase too much. Most stores only do returns on unopened boxes.
  • Utilize sales. Sign up for store emails and time your purchase around seasonal sales, clearance events or member discounts to maximize savings on your tile order.

Considerations for Purchasing Specialty Backsplash Tiles

Unique backsplash tiles like handmade, antique, or special order all require some additional planning. Here are tips to ensure your specialty tile purchase goes smoothly:

  • Ask about lead times – Made-to-order tiles often require 4-6 week lead times. Make sure tiles will arrive in time for your project.
  • Request samples – With specialty tiles, viewing a sample before purchase is highly recommended to ensure it meets expectations. Samples are often free or low cost.
  • Get expert guidance – Consult with designers at tile showrooms to get suggestions on appropriate specialty tiles for your kitchen and ideas on layout.
  • Learn care instructions – Handmade and antique tiles may require special cleaning methods. Discuss optimal products and practices for your tiles.
  • Order extra tiles – Have backup tiles on hand in case repairs are needed down the road. Reordering custom tiles can be difficult or impossible.
  • Watch for added fees – Some specialty tiles incur added customization, shipping or handling costs. Be sure to account for these in your budget.
  • Arrange specialty installation – Unique backsplash tile materials may call for a tile artisan to ensure proper installation and prevent breakage.

Installation Considerations Based on Tile Choice

Your backsplash tile material you select will impact the installation process. Be aware of the following based on your tile selection:

Ceramic and Porcelain Tile

Due to their durable yet lightweight nature, ceramic and porcelain tiles are relatively easy for DIY installation. Use proper cutters for clean edges. Glossy tiles show any lippage.

Natural Stone Tile

Stone tile’s irregular thickness can make achieving a flat surface challenging. Building up the subsurface and using wider grout lines helps. Professional install highly recommended.

Glass Tile

Glass can be tricky to cut cleanly. Use a wet saw with a diamond blade. Pre-assemble glass mosaic sheets whenever possible. Use silicone adhesives that allow flexibility.

Metal Tile

Metal bends easily and requires special snips for cutting. It conducts heat and cold easily. Underlayment and adhesives that work with metal tiles are a must. Screws are often used.

Recycled Tile

Due to uneven thicknesses and damage like chips and cracks, installing recycled tile backsplashes is an advanced DIY project. Irregular grout lines are expected.

DIY Installation Tips and What to Avoid

Installing a tile backsplash yourself can save significant cost versus hiring a professional. If attempting a DIY backsplash, keep these tips in mind:


  • Carefully plan tile layout to minimize cuts and waste.
  • Rent a tile saw for accurate cuts. Use a sharp new blade.
  • Mix thinset mortar according to package directions. Let it slake for 10 minutes before using.
  • Use a notched trowel at the proper depth for the tile to achieve full mortar coverage.
  • Work in small sections so thinset doesn’t dry before tiles are applied.
  • Use tile spacers between tiles for consistent spacing and straight grout lines.
  • Seal natural stone tiles before installing.
  • Clean excess mortar off tile surface and between gaps to prevent haze and discoloration.


  • Attempting intricate designs like mosaics as your first project. Start with a basic subway tile layout.
  • Installing heavy natural stone tiles on walls without proper bracing and support.
  • Using mastic adhesive intended for wall tiles on the kitchen backsplash. Only use thinset mortar.
  • Forgetting to allow thinset to cure for 24-48 hours before grouting.
  • Mixing more grout than can be used within 30 minutes. It will harden and be wasted.
  • Neglecting to seal grout. Sealing is highly recommended to prevent staining.
  • Waiting more than 2-3 weeks to seal grout. It becomes harder to seal the longer you wait.

Hiring a Professional Tile Installer

It’s reasonable to be wary of taking on an extensive backsplash tiling project yourself, especially if working with pricier tile materials or complicated designs. Hiring a professional tile installer is advisable in the following situations:

  • Natural stone backsplashes – Their challenging installation is best left to the pros.
  • Intricate patterns – Precise mosaic designs call for an experienced tile setter.
  • Unusual tile – Glass, metal and other specialty tile benefits from an expert.
  • Poor substrate – Improper wall surfaces will require extensive preparation work before tiling can begin.
  • Quick turnaround – A pro can complete the installation much faster than a DIYer.
  • Valuable tile – Costly tile materials are risky for do-it-yourselfers to handle and cut.
  • Large project – Extensive backsplashes with multiplefocal areas or accents.
  • Perfection required – If you expect 100% flawless results hire a reputable professional tile installer.
  • Lack confidence – Don’t risk an improper installation. Leave it to the experts.

How Much Does Professional Installation Cost?

Budget $40-$75 per hour for labor when hiring a professional tile setter to install your backsplash. Most jobs will take 10-30 hours total depending on the size of the project and intricacy of the design. Be sure to also factor in the cost of the tile, adhesive and grout when determining your total backsplash budget. Expect to spend $500-$2,000+ on a professionally installed backsplash. Here are some typical project costs:

  • Basic 8’x4′ subway tile backsplash – Approximately $750-$1,000
  • Stone or mosaic backsplash – Starts around $1,500-$2,000
  • Full backsplashes with accents – $2,000-$4,000
  • Backsplashes with specialty tiles – $3,000+

Get multiple bids from tile contractors to find the best price. Look for tilers who are experienced in your particular tile material and installation challenges. A true tile pro can make even challenging backsplash designs look flawless.

Backsplash Tile Maintenance Tips

Once your beautiful new backsplash tile is installed, proper care and cleaning is required to keep it looking like new for years to come. Follow these maintenance best practices based on your backsplash tile material:

Ceramic and Porcelain Tile

  • Use a gentle pH neutral cleaner for routine washing
  • Hot water and vinegar works to disinfect
  • Seal grout lines annually
  • Avoid abrasive scouring pads or harsh cleaners which can scratch the surface

Natural Stone Tile

  • Clean with pH neutral stone cleaners or mild dish soap and water only
  • Seal stone every 1-2 years with a penetrating sealer to prevent staining
  • Immediately wipe up acidic foods like wine or tomato sauce
  • Avoid ammonia, vinegar, bleach and other chemicals that can etch stone

Glass Tile

  • Use a squeegee to remove water and prevent spots
  • Clean with a non-abrasive pH balanced glass cleaner
  • Avoid gritty cleansers that can scratch the surface
  • Prevent soap scum buildup by using a squeegee after bathing

Metal Tile

  • Wipe spills immediately to prevent stains
  • Clean with non-abrasive metal cleaners and avoid chlorine-based products
  • Use a razor blade to gently scrape off any hardened material
  • Apply carnauba wax yearly to protect from oxidization

With proper installation and regular care, a backsplash tile upgrade can provide beauty and function to your space for decades. Follow these tips to select stunning tiles and have a successful purchase and installation experience. Let your new backsplash tile shine as the focal point of your kitchen or bathroom.

Frequently Asked Questions About Purchasing Tile for Backsplashes

What kind of tile is best for kitchen backsplashes?

Glazed ceramic, porcelain and glass tile stand up extremely well to heat, grease and the typical kitchen conditions that backsplashes endure.

How much tile do I need for my backsplash?

Measure the square footage of your backsplash area, then add 15% extra to allow for cuts and waste. Many tile experts recommend buying tile for the entire wall, so you have extras in case repairs are needed.

Should I order extra tiles?

Yes, it’s wise to order 10-15% extra tiles beyond your measured square footage. Extras are useful for repairs down the road or if you break or damage tiles during installation. Unused tiles can be returned.

Should backsplash tile match the countertop?

It depends on the look you prefer. Matching provides a streamlined, built-in appearance. Contrasting tile creates a statement. Tone on tone is a subtler coordinating approach.

What tile patterns are best for backsplashes?

Subway, stacked or brick patterns are classic layouts that suit most design aesthetics. Mosaics add visual interest. Tiles with interesting shapes can be installed in geometric designs.

How do I cut tile for an outlet?

Use a Dremel tool with a tile cutting blade to score the tile, then tap to break the pieces. Finish cuts around the outlet with a file. Alternatively, mark and have tile store make cuts for you.

Should backsplash tile go all the way to ceiling?

Usually no, 4-6 inches above countertops is typical. But full backsplashes extending to ceiling can suit some design styles and add drama. Building codes limit electrical outlets being covered.

What about environmentally friendly backsplash tiles?

Eco-friendly options include recycled glass tile, reclaimed antique tile, or sustainable materials like cork, bamboo, and renewable porcelain. Check companies’ environmental commitments.


Installing a tile backsplash can take your kitchen or bathroom from basic to beautiful. With so many gorgeous tile materials, colors, shapes and textures to choose from, you’re guaranteed to find just the right option to suit your space and style. Pay attention to important selection criteria like durability, finish and size to end up with a backsplash you’ll love for years.

Shop smart by buying from tile specialty stores for the best selection, checking quality grades, and ordering samples first. Whether you DIY or hire a pro, proper installation is key. With the right prep, materials, and techniques, you can gain a stunning, high-quality backsplash tile accent wall. Keep your new tile looking like new with proper care and cleaning practices.

With the helpful tips in this guide, you can feel confident to begin your backsplash tile shopping journey. Soon you’ll be whipping up culinary creations against a hand-picked tile you installed yourself, or unwinding in a bubble bath surrounded by a mosaic masterpiece crafted by a tile artisan. Let your backsplash be functional yet become the focal point of your kitchen or bath.