Guide to Selecting Kitchen Backsplashes

Guide to Selecting Kitchen Backsplashes

Guide to Selecting Kitchen Backsplashes


Most design attention in kitchens goes into the layout, the cabinetry, and the countertops. What is often overlooked by amateur designers, however, is the art of developing the perfect backsplash.

The backsplash is the area of the wall above the kitchen counters. It is typically framed on the top by either cabinets or a ventilation hood. While backsplashes started as a purely functional matter, they have since moved into an aesthetic affair, bringing refinement and integration to the kitchen.

When the backsplash was first introduced, it was viewed more for its functionality and convenience: protecting kitchen walls within the proximity of the sink and the cooktop from grease, water, spills, and splatters.

kitchen sketch highlighting the area that is the backsplash

Soon after, kitchen designers and homeowners realized that backsplashes could actually up the ante of how a kitchen looks. From an aesthetic point of view, a backsplash can also serve as a focal point in a kitchen. Before, kitchen backsplashes were typically short, only ranging from four to six inches in height from the top of the counter, accenting just the bottom of the space between countertop and cabinetry.

Now, you can explore many different backsplash looks, most of which extend from the top of the counter, up to the bottom of the overhead shelves or cabinets. This new type of backsplash ties together the look of the counter and cabinets, giving this the kitchen a more cohesive look.

Apart from their function and aesthetic appeal, backsplashes may also be one of the more convenient updates to make in a kitchen. Little to no removals or changes of other kitchen elements are needed, making a backsplash a popular choice for improving a kitchen's look.

Considerations in Installing Backsplashes

Although there are no strict guidelines when it comes to choosing a backsplash, there are several factors to consider.

The first being what type of "run" (height, length, and placement) to use, which you have several options for. One could go with the traditional backsplash design, where the height of the backsplash is only around four to eight inches. Another option would be to install panels within specific areas where the cooking, cleaning, and food preparation happen, which will emphasize and highlight these sections of the kitchen.

However, if you want a cohesive design for your kitchen walls, the best way to do this would be to install a backsplash on the entire wall from the countertop up. This type of kitchen design also lends a more polished look to your kitchen.

The second consideration is choosing what type of material to use for the backsplash. Aesthetically, your backsplash should complement the material finish of both your countertop and cabinets.

Types of Backsplash Material

Ceramic Tile Backsplashes

kitchen counter with marble countertop and ceramic tile backsplash

Image source: Nandina Home & Design

One of the most popular materials used for backsplashes is ceramic tile. Ceramic is made from mixing clay, water, and minerals and then firing that material at high temperatures, creating a hard material. Glazed tiles have an additional step of treating the surface with a liquid glass coating before it is fired again, resulting in a surface that is resistant to stains and scratches. Unglazed tiles are a less popular choice, but some prefer their more textured feel.

Using ceramic tiles for a backsplash is a good choice since the material is typically durable, easy to clean, inexpensive, and comes in a variety of colors and sizes. However, you're planning to have ceramic tiles installed as your kitchen backsplash, make sure to order enough—the coloration of ceramic tiles varies per batch, which makes achieving a consistent look tough.

Another challenge to watch out for when it comes to ceramic tile installation would be the grouting. The spaces between tiles should be equal, or not visible at all, and if you do plan to have a visible grout between tiles, make sure that it is adequately sealed to avoid water absorption and staining.

Installing a ceramic tile backsplash is pretty much the same as installing ceramic wall tiles. A tile adhesive needs to be applied to a clean wall, and then start from the center base and work your way through the first row. Use a level to ensure you apply the tiles in straight rows

Solid Surface Backsplashes

kitchen with solid concrete backsplash

Image source: Design Directives, LLC

A solid surface backsplash is a backsplash that, unlike tile, is made up of one large slab of material. Solid surface options come in plain colors, as well as a simulation of stone finishes. Using a solid surface backsplash is a good choice if your countertop is of the same material, which will provide a sleek and seamless appearance.

One of the main advantages of choosing a solid surface as a backsplash is its easy maintenance and durability. This material is not susceptible to water, spills, and stains, and if it gets scratched, you can easily sand and buff it.

If you plan on installing a solid surface backsplash, it would be best to have it only as a transition material of about four inches in height at a maximum.

The price range for a regular four-inch height backsplash costs $30 to $35 per linear foot while a four-inch covered backsplash costs around $50 per linear foot. If you're planning to have a full-height solid surface backsplash, it will set you back around $75 to $80 per linear foot for the material alone.

Accredited suppliers do the fabrication and installation of solid surface backsplashes. They will take the dimensions of the surface where the material will be installed, fabricate it in the shop, and install the material on-site, typically by using a silicone adhesive.

Wallpaper Backsplashes

kitchen counter with wallpaper backsplash that's the image of a mural

Image source: Limitless Walls

Using wallpaper for your backsplash is a fun, non-traditional, and inexpensive way to update the look of your kitchen. These days, there is a multitude of options for durable wallpapers with beautiful, intricate patterns that will offer a breath-taking backsplash. You can even opt for customized wallpaper backsplashes to make it unique and highly personalized.

One of the main reasons why people are using wallpaper for backsplashes is the cost-efficiency, especially when compared to using tiles, stone, glass, or metal.

Another reason wallpaper backsplashes are becoming increasingly popular is due to their versatility; with the unlimited design and color choices, you can easily install something on-trend. And, when the trends change, it can be quickly and inexpensively replaced. Think of it more like an outfit than a permanent selection!

A primary disadvantage of using wallpaper as a backsplash is that most of the products being sold in the market have low durability and are quite tricky to remove. Wallpaper backsplashes are also susceptible to heat. That's why, if you decide to use this material, you should look for wallpaper backsplashes that are high-quality, easy to maintain, self-adhesive, will resist moisture and mold buildup, and can be removed easily.

If you are keen on using wallpaper as a backsplash, we offer high-quality, self-adhesive, and moisture and mold-resistant wallpapers. Our wallcoverings can also be customized according to size, allowing for a tailor-fit backsplash.

A high-quality wallpaper will give your backsplash a seamless patterned look and will save you from having any wastage of materials. An adhesive-backed wallcovering is extremely easy to install- no professionals are needed for the application (or removal) process.

If a wallpaper backsplash calls you, you can:

Glass Panel Backsplashes

kitchen counter with light blue glass backsplash

Image source: Jeri Koegel Photography

A painted glass panel backsplash can make your kitchen wall look modern and sleek, especially if paired with covered or hidden LED lighting in the overhead cabinet. Aside from its neat look, it is a preferred choice since the glass surface is very durable, non-porous, and very easy to clean.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to glass backsplashes. First, the glass panels are pre-cut in modular sizes, meaning if you want to use this material and have an entirely smooth look, devoid of any edges, you will need to have the glass panel customized. The second consideration is the price; the typical cost for colored or back-painted glass ranges from $180 to $200 per square foot.

However, it is possible to get a glass panel for around $100 per square foot and paint the back yourself, but this will require additional cost and time, however. Installing a back glass panel backsplash can be done in several ways such as direct adhesion, standoffs, adhered fasteners, or by framing.

Stainless Steel Backsplashes

Image source: Betty Wasserman

A stainless steel backsplash can give your kitchen a modern, urban look. Even with less variety in color and finish, stainless steel can blend well with almost any color scheme. Its popularity as a backsplash material stems not only from its aesthetic appeal but also how durable and easy to clean they are; they don't require constant polishing to maintain their shine.

Unfortunately, being a material known for its sheen, stainless steel is subject to dents and scratches, so finding hairline scratches on your backsplash is relatively standard. One of the main disadvantages of using a stainless steel or metal backsplash would be the cost. A stainless steel sheet is priced at an average of $20 per square foot sans the installation labor. Because of the difficulty of the work, consider hiring a professional installer to mount the backsplash onto its substrate, and make the necessary cutouts.

Stone Backsplashes

kitchen counter with faux stone backsplash

Image source: Nandina Home & Design

Over the years, natural stone has become more affordable and available as a countertop and backsplash material, with the most common choice being granite. Aside from its elegant appeal, granite is known for its strength, making it an aesthetically pleasing and durable choice.

However, since it's a natural stone, each slab of granite is unique, meaning you will need to be highly observant to make sure that your backsplash has a uniform look throughout. Aesthetically, this material looks great when installed as a backsplash. Granite is easy to maintain, but keep in mind that it is not impervious to stains; liquid and food stains can easily happen, especially if the spill is not quickly cleaned up, remaining visible on the surface. To avoid this, you will need to have your granite backsplash periodically sealed.

Alternative natural stone backsplashes would be marble and soapstone. These materials are softer than granite and require more upkeep regarding stains and scratches. Similar to the solid surface backsplash, natural stone backsplashes often need to be installed by a contractor or expert installer.

How to Match your Backsplash to your Kitchen

One way to begin planning how to incorporate a backsplash is to look at the current theme of your kitchen, especially the areas that will host the new backsplash. If you are planning on changing only the backsplash, let the countertop material guide you. This will help direct you to what materials, colors, or images that will match well with your existing setup.

When it comes to color or pattern, your backsplash does not have to be exactly the same as your countertop. A rule of thumb here would be this: if the pattern of your countertop is already quite visually busy, you might want to go with a backsplash with a subtle pattern. However, if you're feeling a bit more adventurous, take a cue from the design or pattern of your countertop and match it with an equally exciting choice for your backsplash.

Image source: Wendy Fishes Interiors

If you are thinking of upgrading other elements in your kitchen, finding the perfect backsplash can be a fantastic start. Beginning with a backsplash can help narrow down the choices for your countertop and specify the theme of your kitchen.

If a full kitchen upgrade isn't what you are looking for, but instead, you want to change up the look, consider updating the kitchen walls along with the new backsplash. Walls can be painted in any color of your choosing, whether you want to give the space a bright, clean look, or adorned with a unique wallcovering that will match the style of your backsplash.

A backsplash shouldn't be treated as a separate entity, but as a visually pleasing element that can bring both drama and cohesiveness into the space.

If a wallpaper backsplash calls you, you can:

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