Backsplashes are an essential component of any kitchen or bathroom design. Not only do they protect your walls from water damage and stains, but they also add visual interest and personality to the space. But when it comes time to install a new backsplash, many homeowners find themselves wondering – who exactly is qualified to do this job? This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about backsplash installation, including the professionals who can get the job done right.
What is a Backsplash?
A backsplash is a protective surface installed on the wall behind sinks, stoves, and other wet work areas. Backsplashes are typically made from tile, metal, glass, marble, or other water-resistant materials. The primary purpose of a backsplash is to prevent moisture damage and stains on the drywall or paint. Backsplashes also serve an aesthetic function, allowing you to incorporate color, texture, and patterns into your design. They essentially act as the jewelry of the kitchen or bathroom.
Benefits of Installing a Backsplash
There are several reasons why installing a backsplash is a smart idea:
- Moisture protection – Backsplashes provide an impervious surface that prevents water from penetrating into the wall behind. This protects the structural integrity of the wall.
- Stain resistance – Food splatter, grease, soap scum and other messes bounce off the backsplash instead of soaking into the wall. backsplashes are much easier to clean.
- Noise reduction – Backsplashes absorb sound and clatter from the noisy kitchen zone. This makes the environment more peaceful.
- Style and design – Backsplashes enable you to incorporate colorful, creative tiles that show off your personal taste. It’s an opportunity to add artistry and interest to your culinary workspace.
- Easier maintenance – Installing a backsplash creates a smooth, seamless transition between your countertop and wall. This eliminates hard-to-reach crevices where gunk can collect. Just wipe the surface clean!
- Improved resale value – Upgrading with a backsplash is a smart investment. It’s an attractive feature for potential home buyers and can increase the value of a kitchen remodel.
How is a Backsplash Installed?
Installing a backsplash is a multi-step process that involves careful preparation and precise execution.
Here is an overview of how a backsplash is professionally installed:
- The surface is prepared by cleaning, repairing any damage, and removing the existing wall covering (if there is one).
- A waterproof membrane may be applied to completely seal and protect the wall behind the backsplash.
- Hardiebacker cement board is often installed over the membrane to create a rugged surface for tile adhesion.
- Tile adhesive (thinset mortar) is spread onto the cement board or directly onto the waterproof membrane.
- The backsplash tiles are set into the adhesive and spaced evenly using plastic spacers.
- Grouting compound is pushed into the seams between tiles to create a waterproof finish.
- The tiles are sealed and cleaned once the grout cures.
- Transition strips, caulking and sealants are used to complete the installation and prevent moisture penetration.
Proper backsplash installation is critical for creating a long-lasting, low-maintenance accent wall. Taking shortcuts leads to problems like loose tiles, leaks and damaged walls. Avoid amateur DIY tile jobs – leave it to the skilled professionals!
Who Can Install a Backsplash?
When it’s time to install a new backsplash in your home, you have several options for skilled professionals who can get the job done right:
Tile installation contractors specialize in the meticulous process of setting tile for backsplashes, floors, walls, countertops and other surfaces. They have extensive experience preparing surfaces, measuring precisely, leveling, applying adhesives, aligning tiles, grouting and sealing. Look for installers who have specific background in backsplash installation rather than just general tile setting. Many backsplash jobs require attention to detail in tight spaces and incorporate unique materials like glass, metal or marble tiles.
Kitchen Remodeling Contractors
General kitchen and bath renovation contractors have the expertise to install new backsplashes seamlessly coordinated with cabinetry, countertops, plumbing and appliances. They manage the entire kitchen or bath remodeling process including the backsplash fabrication and installation. Hiring a kitchen pro means enjoying a hassle-free experience with a single point of contact.
Some versatile handymen have the skills to take on basic to moderate backsplash installation projects. Handymen are best suited to small backsplash jobs using standard ceramic tiles. Be sure to vet their background and experience setting tile in kitchens/bathrooms. Not all handymen are created equal when it comes to detail-oriented tiling work.
In some cases, plumbers may install backsplashes, especially surrounding the sink, faucet and plumbing zones. Many plumbers are comfortable working with common backsplash materials like ceramic tile. Especially on small accent backsplash projects, plumbers can tackle the job solo in coordination with their other sink-related tasks.
For major kitchen overhauls involving cabinetry, flooring and full wall finishes, a design/build firm can be a savvy choice. Design/build companies offer the advantage of seamlessly coordinating the entire project under one roof – from backsplash design to demolition to installation. This consolidated approach can result in a more cohesive, integrated backsplash design.
Some backsplash materials retailers also offer professional installation services. For example, a marble and granite supplier may have an in-house fabrication and installation team. This can be a convenient option for stone backsplash projects. Be sure to ask about their experience level – some materials vendors focus more on materials supply rather than installation expertise.
The bottom line: When selecting a pro to install your backsplash, prioritize proper experience over job title. For instance, a tile setter may have more backsplash expertise than a general contractor. Do your research to find the best backsplash installer for your specific project.
DIY Backsplash Installation
While professional installation is recommended for most homeowners, it is possible to install a backsplash yourself as a DIY project if you’re up for the challenge. Here’s what to know:
- Skills required – You need knowledge of tools, materials, preparation, tile setting, grouting and finishing. Study up and practice first!
- Time commitment – Be prepared to invest a full weekend or more. Rushing through a DIY backsplash often leads to mistakes.
- Physical demands – Installation requires lifting, reaching, bending and kneeling. mobility limitations are an important consideration.
- Layout planning – Precise measurement, tile layouts and level installation require logical thinking and problem solving.
- Attention to detail – Focus and patience are must-haves, as backsplashes require close-up, meticulous work. Perfectionists preferred!
- No shortcuts – Don’t skip key steps like surface preparation and proper grouting. This almost always haunts DIYers later.
If you have the necessary skills, time, patience and determination for a DIY backsplash project, you can save on labor costs. Be realistic about your ability to achieve professional-quality results. For most homeowners without tiling expertise, hiring a backsplash installation pro is the smartest route for a job done right.
Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Backsplash Installer
Installing a backsplash brings your design vision to life, so you want to get it right. Ask these questions upfront to find the ideal backsplash pro for your project:
What is your background and experience with backsplash installation?
Seek details about their specific training, years of experience, types of projects completed (both residential and commercial), and past client references.
Are you licensed, bonded and insured?
Verify that the contractor carries active, up-to-date licenses as required locally. They should carry liability insurance and workers compensation coverage as well. Ask for proof.
What backsplash materials do you have expertise with?
Whether your heart is set on marble tile, mirrored glass or stainless steel, find a pro who specializes in that backsplash medium. Be wary of contractors claiming to do it all.
What does your installation process involve?
A quality backsplash installer should describe their systematic installation process from site prep to tile setting to grouting and sealing. If details are vague, that’s a red flag.
How will you ensure a smooth finished product?
Professionals should explain how they guarantee level installation, uniform grout lines, appropriate sealants at transitions, and other finishing touches.
What do you need from me to get started?
Find out what information, materials, or decisions the installer will need from you upfront. This helps the project move forward smoothly and on schedule.
Will you handle securing any permits required?
Don’t assume the installer will handle needed permits. Some do this for you; others require the homeowner to take care of it. Know the expectations.
Do you have a portfolio of past backsplash projects I can see?
Any reputable pro should be able to provide photos of previous backsplashes they installed so you can evaluate the quality of their work.
Who will be responsible for cleanup and hauling away debris?
A key question if you want to avoid a cumbersome mess in your newly renovated kitchen or bath!
Backsplash Installation Costs
The cost of your backsplash installation depends on several factors:
The type of backsplash tile or panels you select impacts cost significantly. For example:
- Ceramic or porcelain tile: $5 to $20 per sq. ft.
- Natural stone tile: $40 to $100 per sq. ft.
- Metal tile: $15 to $50 per sq. ft.
- Glass tile: $20 to $50 per sq. ft.
- Mirror panels: $50 to $150 per sq. ft.
- Stone slabs: $60 to $200 per sq. ft.
More intricate or specialty tiles raise costs due to fabrication expenses. Keep your backsplash design simple to save.
Backsplash installation is labor intensive. Nationally, you can expect to pay $40 to $80 per hour for a professional installer. Complex patterns or difficult access can increase hourly rates.
The more cutting and custom fitting required to achieve your layout, the more labor time involved. Opt for an efficient layout based on your tile dimensions.
Area To Cover
The size of your backsplash project (in square feet) multiplied by materials and labor rates determines the total installation cost. Typical ranges:
- Small backsplash project, under 10 sq. ft: $200 to $800
- Medium backsplash, 10 to 25 sq. ft: $500 to $3,000
- Large backsplash or full wall, over 25 sq. ft: $1,500 to $5,000+
Get an itemized estimate tailored to your specific backsplash project, materials and layout. Be sure to account for initial demolition of your existing backsplash too.
Hacks for an Affordable Backsplash Installation
If your dream backsplash seems out of budget, some clever tricks can help lower costs:
- Choose affordable tile materials like ceramic instead of natural stone.
- Use a tile laminate adhesive sheet instead of traditional tile setting.
- Opt for a painted backsplash or inexpensive tin panels.
- Install tile only behind the cooktop rather than the entire wall.
- Use mosaic sheets instead of individual tile pieces to speed installation.
- Choose a simple stacked rectangular pattern instead of a intricate design.
- Install the backsplash yourself if you have the DIY skills.
- Change the scope from a full backsplash to a 4-inch backsplash accent strip.
- Shop sales and discount tile outlets for deals on quality materials.
- Use fewer tile variations and colors to simplify cuts.
- Replace only a portion of the existing backsplash if possible.
Even small backsplash projects can produce big visual impact. Focus on affordable materials and straightforward designs tailored to your skill level and budget. With smart planning, you can achieve a showstopping backsplash on a budget.
Backsplash Design Ideas
One of the best parts of a new backsplash is choosing a creative, eye-catching design. Here are stylish ideas to inspire your backsplash tile pattern:
Herringbone – Rows of rectangular tiles placed in opposite directions create fun zigzag patterns. Timeless and versatile.
Stacked – Horizontal rows of elongated subway-style rectangular tile for clean lines. Efficient and modern.
Mosaic – Using many tiny uniform tiles creates pixelated images or abstract art designs. Quirky and eclectic.
Moroccan Fish Scale – Intricate tiles of various sizes evoke ornate mosaics. Exotic and full of old-world charm.
Patterned – Manufactured ceramic tiles with graphic prints, floral designs or three-dimensional texture. Lively and bold.
Penny Round – Dotting tiny circular tiles on the wall delivers serious retro flair. A striking budget choice.
Geometric – Angular white tiles outlined in black grout generates sculptural geometry. Crisp and mathematical.
Arabesque – Interlocking tiles shaped like crescents, curves and waves for organic movement. Graceful and soothing.
Accent Stripes – Bold lines of contrasting tiles punctuate subtle backgrounds. Edgy yet minimalist.
Metro Tiles – Rows of slim rectangular glossy tiles channel utilitarian urban style. Classic charm.
The options are virtually endless – get creative with your backsplash layout and make it distinctly YOU. Visit showrooms and design centers to find your perfect style match.
How Should I Prepare for My Backsplash Installation?
Careful preparation is key for a smooth, successful backsplash installation. Here are tips to get your space ready:
- Thoroughly clean the installation area – remove existing wall covering, grease and grime. Provide a blank canvas.
- Inspect and repair any damaged drywall. Uneven surfaces impact tile adhesion.
- Test your wall for moisture damage or leaks, which must be resolved before tiling.
- Remove outlets, switch plates and lighting fixtures in the backsplash zone temporarily.
- Clear countertops and protect surfaces like cabinets near the workspace.
- Plan bordered edges so outlets align attractively with the design.
- Purchase all backsplash materials and supplies in advance. Don’t delay work waiting for deliveries.
- Establish the tile layout and cutting plan before installation day. Minimize cuts.
- Declutter access to the workspace and protect floors. Eliminate disruption and dust/debris spread.
- Ensure proper lighting for detail work. Supplement with portable task lighting.
- Communicate your schedule availability so work can be efficiently planned and completed.
With ample prep, your installer arrives ready to execute the project efficiently. A little planning goes a long way toward backsplash installation success!
Backsplash Maintenance Tips
Follow these simple maintenance practices to keep your backsplash looking like new for years:
- Allow grout and caulk to fully cure for a minimum of 72 hours before cleaning. This prevents damaging sealants before they are fully set.
- For everyday cleaning, use a soft microfiber cloth or sponge and mild dish soap or tile cleaner. Avoid abrasive scouring pads.
- Spot clean messes like grease splatter promptly to avoid staining grout. Don’t let buildup occur.
- Seal grout periodically according to manufacturer guidelines to fortify moisture resistance and prevent staining.
- Avoid spraying cleaners directly onto backsplashes. Instead, apply to cloth and wipe gently. This prevents buildup in grout.
- Check for deteriorating or missing caulk or sealants annually. Reapply as needed to prevent moisture issues.
- Dust wall tile and grout regularly with a microfiber duster or dry cloth to prevent greasy film.
- Don’t use vinegar, bleach or ammonia cleaners on marble, limestone or natural stone tiles. Use specialty stone cleaners instead.
- For deep cleaning, consult a professional tile and grout cleaning service to avoid DIY damage.
Shield your investment with proper care. With routine upkeep and prompt mess clean-up, your lovely backsplash stays pristine.
The perfect backsplash solution brings your design vision to life while shielding your kitchen or bath from inevitable messes. By understanding the backsplash installation process, assessing qualified pro installers, and preparing your workspace properly, you can achieve stunning, worry-free results. Invest in a backsplash that matches both your functional needs and decorative tastes for a centerpiece that delivers joy for years to come.