Kitchen and Bathroom Backsplashes Guide


Backsplashes play a crucial role in protecting walls from splashes and spills in kitchens and bathrooms. Choosing the right backsplash can elevate the look and functionality of these important rooms. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about backsplashes for kitchens and bathrooms.

We’ll discuss popular backsplash materials like ceramic tile, glass tile, and stone. You’ll learn backsplash design tips, get ideas for creative backsplash patterns and visual effects. We’ll also cover how to choose backsplashes for different design styles from modern to farmhouse.

Read on for advice on backsplash installation, care, and maintenance. With the help of this guide, you’ll be able to select the perfect backsplash to suit your needs and style.

What is a Backsplash?

A backsplash is a protective layer of material installed on the wall behind sinks, stoves, ranges, and other areas prone to splashing. Backsplashes prevent water damage and make clean-up easier by protecting the wall from grease splatters, water, sauce stains, and more. They also serve as an attractive visual focal point that ties together your kitchen or bathroom decor.

Backsplashes are typically made of tile or stone but can also be crafted from metal, glass, and other materials. They range in height from 4 to 6 inches and run along the wall under cabinets and extending to counter level. Full-height backsplashes that extend all the way to the ceiling are also an option.

In addition to their function and aesthetics, backsplashes can also add monetary value and appeal to your home. When considering resale value, stone or tile backsplashes are a bigger asset than painted walls which require more maintenance.

Benefits of Installing a Backsplash

There are many benefits that come with installing backsplashes in kitchens and bathrooms:

Protect Walls from Damage: Backsplashes create a protective barrier that prevents walls from succumbing to water damage, stains, grease buildup, and discoloration. The easy-to-clean surface also deters mold and bacteria growth.

Easier Cleaning: Food splatters, grease, and grime wipe right off glass, metal or stone backsplash tiles. This decreases chore time spent scrubbing the walls.

Add Visual Interest: Creatively tiled backsplashes can lend color, texture and personality to a room. They can complement your cabinetry, flooring and other finishes.

Increase Resale Value: Updating to a glass, ceramic or stone backsplash is an easy upgrade that can instantly increase home value and appeal to buyers.

Hide Imperfections: A backsplash can conceal any flaws or uneven textures on drywall. Tile covers cracks, corner gaps, paint drips and other imperfections.

Customizable Design: With endless tile shapes, colors, materials and accents, backsplashes can be customized to match any design aesthetic.

Long-Lasting Durability: Materials like stone and tile stand the test of time and retain their beauty. This durability also resists scratches, heat and moisture.

Popular Kitchen Backsplash Materials

Kitchen backsplashes take abuse from high heat, splattering oils, staining from sauces and more. Popular backsplash tile materials must be water, grease and heat-resistant. Some of the most common choices include:

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic tiles have versatile design options. Glossy, matte, textured, patterned and hand-painted ceramic tiles pair beautifully with any decor. Colors range from neutral whites and beiges to bold primaries and jewel tones.

Ceramic tiles stand up well to heat, grease, mildew and heavy use. Their hard, non-porous finish resists staining and wipes clean easily. Affordability makes ceramic a budget-friendly option, with prices as low as $5 per square foot.

Ceramic backsplash ideas include utilizing mosaics, mixing colors or patterns, inset borders and decorative tile accents. One popular decorative ceramic tile design is the backsplash inset behind stoves, featuring beautiful hand-painted tiles.

Porcelain Tile

Porcelain tile backsplashes offer further design versatility. Porcelain has a similar appearance to ceramic tile but boasts higher density and durability. The extra toughness makes it highly stain, scratch, and heat resistant.

Machine-made porcelain often mimics looks of natural materials like stone, concrete, marble and wood grain. These realistic designs replicate the beauty without some drawbacks like porosity. Porcelain is an excellent choice for active kitchens prone to spills and splatters. Pricing ranges from $7-$25 per square foot.

Glass Tile

Glass tiles lend eye-catching brilliance and reflectivity to a backsplash design. Their luminous, glossy finish instantly brightens any space. Glass tile backsplashes refract light and can create unique dimensional effects.

While prone to cracking or chipping if highly impacted, glass tile holds up surprisingly well to common kitchen backsplash hazards. The non-porous glass resists moisture, stains, and heat. Glass tiles are easy to wipe clean but may require sealing for maximum stain protection. Costs range from $8-$20 per square foot.

Backpainting glass tiles improves waterproofing and adhesion to the wall. Mixing glass tiles with other materials can create striking combinations. Iridescent and frosted glass tiles provide further options for customized designs.

Stone Tile

Backsplashes made of stone tiles infuse elegance and luxury into a kitchen design. Granite, marble, and travertine are among the most popular stones used for backsplashes. Others include slate, limestone and quartzite.

Stone offers gleaming natural veining, colors and patterns that make each backsplash unique. Durability varies depending on the type of stone; some are prone to etching or staining. Sealing is recommended to limit porosity. Costs range from $15-$50 per square foot.

Stone backsplash accent strips paired with ceramic field tiles balance durability and affordability. Pebble mosaic sheets create a charming cottage look. Certain sedimentary stones like travertine have holes that require back-buttering with mortar for proper installation.

Metal Tile

For an ultra-modern, industrial vibe, metal backsplashes bring contemporary style. Stainless steel, copper, brass, and aluminum are popular metals used in tile, sheets, or mosaic patterns. Prices range from $15-$50 per square foot depending on the metal.

Metal backsplashes have a sleek, lustrous appearance. Stainless resists corrosion and stands up well to splatters and moisture. Copper and brass will patina over time for an antiqued look. However, cleaning products with bleach or acid can harm metal finishes.

Metal backsplash ideas include checkerboard mosaics, bold solid sheets of color, or futuristic splashes of metallic accents. Cut metal tiles in varying sizes and overlapping patterns for a unique custom design.

Additional Materials

More unique kitchen backsplash ideas include:

  • Wood: Real or faux reclaimed wood planks for rustic charm
  • Vinyl: Budget-friendly, waterproof, and easy to install
  • Wallpaper: Removable and available in countless patterns
  • Pegboard: Multi-use for hanging utensils and towels
  • Laminates: Affordable and mimic styles like stone and wood

Popular Bathroom Backsplash Materials

The humidity and splashing water in bathrooms requires backsplash materials that resist moisture. Mildew-resistant choices that withstand cleaning products are key. Some top options include:

Ceramic & Porcelain Tile

Just like in kitchens, ceramic and porcelain tiles are common backsplash choices in bathrooms. Their non-porous, dense finish shrugs off water damage and wipes clean easily. Matching ceramic wall and floor tiles lend a cohesive look.

Mosaics, subway tiles, and accent strips work well. Avoid glossy tiles, which show water spots and fingerprints. Instead opt for matte or textured tiles. Porcelain tiles rate higher for water resistance than ceramic.

Glass Tile

Glass mosaic tiles bring glittering accents of luxury even in small bath spaces. Their polished finish rinse clean with just a swipe. Glass tile backsplashes prevent mold and mildew growth in humid bathrooms. Use backpainting and proper sealing to reduce moisture penetrating grout lines.

For high traffic baths, select tempered safety glass tile to prevent cracking. Combine clear and frosted glass for dimensional effects. Accent strips of glass tile paired with ceramic wall tile provide an affordable compromise.

Stone Tile

Marble, travertine and granite backsplashes elevate bathroom elegance. But keep in mind moisture can stain and erode certain natural stone over time. Annual sealing is a must. Granite rates highest for water resistance.

For a budget-option, use stone only for accents rather than the full backsplash. Stone mosaic sheets or inlay border strips maximize drama without maxing out your wallet. Or opt for porcelain tiles that mimic real stone looks.

Metal Tile

Metal backsplashes add modern personality to bathrooms. Stainless steel offers the most protection from humidity and water. Limit porous unsealed metals like copper which oxidize over time. Metal backpainting improves adhesion and water resistance.

Clean metal only with non-abrasive cleaners and avoid bleach or acidic cleaners. Use small stone and glass mosaic accents to punctuate a metal backsplash design. Combining metal tiles and natural stone creates an eye-catching textural pairing.

Additional Materials

  • Cement Tile: Has vintage charm but requires sealing for moisture protection
  • Painted Drywall: Most DIY-friendly option but less durable and prone to mold
  • Laminate: Affordable, water-resistant choice that imitates other materials
  • Wallpaper: Adds bold prints, removable for easy updates

How to Select a Backsplash Design and Color

Choosing a backsplash design and color palette can be overwhelming given the endless options. Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Match cabinets and countertops: For a cohesive look, select backsplash tile in similar hues and materials to surrounding cabinetry and counters. Contrasting textures in harmonious colors also visually unite spaces.
  • Consider the room size: Small spaces appear larger with light, reflective materials like glass or mirrored tiles. Darker colors and large patterns suit bigger kitchens.
  • Complement existing floors and fixtures: Look at your space’s flooring, sink, faucets and other pre-existing elements. Choose backsplash tile colors and designs that coordinate.
  • Focus on focal points: Use bolder tiles or patterns behind sinks, stoves and shelving. Simpler tiles work better as whole wall backsplash field tile.
  • Factor in lighting: Warm incandescent lighting interacts with color differently than cool fluorescents. View tile choices in the room’s actual lighting for accurate color.
  • Gather inspiration: Look at photos online or in design magazines to find backsplash styles that appeal to your taste. Adapting others’ designs helps spark imagination.
  • Choose timeless over trendy: Classic styles have longer staying power than fleeting trends. But feel free to use trends like bold colors sparingly as accents.

Backsplash Ideas for Specific Kitchen Design Styles

Certain backsplash styles align well with particular kitchen design aesthetics. Here are backsplash ideas tailored to popular kitchen genres:

Modern Kitchen Backsplashes

Modern kitchen backsplashes revolve around clean lines, bold colors, and innovative materials. Glass, metal and porcelain tiles in solid blocks of color or futuristic patterns create contemporary flair.

Highlight high-tech elements like stainless steel appliances with complementary metallic backsplashes. Industrial touches like exposed ductwork pair well with metal backsplash tiles or bricks.

Creative mosaic designs, illuminated tiles, dimensional patterns like subway tiles, and asymmetric unique shapes evoke modern style. Limit grout lines for a seamless look.

Bright colors interspersed with neutrals or iridescent glass mosaics generate energy. Porcelain tiles that mimic concrete, wood grain or natural stone add organic warmth.

Rustic & Farmhouse Kitchen Backsplashes

Rustic backsplashes embrace wood, stone, or vintage-look ceramic tiles for timeworn charm. Natural imperfections in materials and visible grout lines reinforce the handmade appeal.

Wood planks, weathered tin tiles, or faux reclaimed wood panels create homespun warmth. Natural stone mosaic sheets with pebbles and uneven cuts suit farmhouse living.

Terracotta tiles, classic white subway tiles, checkerboard patterns, and painted ceramic tiles evoke old-fashioned kitchens. Accent with salvaged shutters, tin ceiling tiles or distressed wood for backsplash trim.

Soft pastel or neutral subway tiles, ceramic roosters, and fruit border tiles invoke French country charm. Clusters of framed photos, floating shelves and open cabinets reinforce the casual vibe.

Traditional Kitchen Backsplashes

Traditional kitchen backsplashes goal is a timeless, classic elegance that seamlessly matches cabinetry. Expect polished styles crafted from fine materials for upscale appeal.

Elegant choices include marble tiles, stone and glass mosaics, classic white subway tiles, and ceramic accents that elevate the ambiance. Mirror tiles or stainless steel inject glamour.

Designer details like decorative trim borders, pretty ceramic inserts, or antique medallion accents at focal points provide character without overpowering. Contrasting grout in crisp white enhances definition.

Neutral stone, glass or ceramic tiles keep the look timeless. Soft pastel tiles offer an updated yet classic look. Warm wood plank accents add organic interest.

Creative Backsplash Design & Pattern Ideas

Backsplash patterns and designs can range from basic to bold. Here are creative backsplash tile ideas to inspire:

Contrasting Grids

Playing with grout line spacing adds modern edge. Thin brick tiles laid in offset rows make diagonal lines. Mix wide and narrow grout gaps, or materials with varying grid alignments.

Geometric Shapes

Hexagons, elongated rectangles, or interlocking zigzag and diamond shapes combined with classic squares inject interest. Geometric designs suit modern to bohemian decors.

Moroccan Fish Scale

Overlapping circular tiles mimic a fish scale pattern. Available in ceramic, glass or marble tiles, these add artistic flair and dimension. Accent with mosaic floral bursts.

Graphic Patterns

Make a statement with bold graphic patterns like retro flowers, checkerboards, or concentric circles. Use sparingly against plain tiles to avoid overwhelming.

3D Effects

Overlapping subway tiles at varying depths or stacked leathered marble mosaics create a textural illusion. Cubist glass tile designs also lend visual depth.

Metallic Sparkle

Bits of glimmery glass, marble, stone or metal tile scattered across the backsplash mimics a starry night sky. Illuminated tiles amp up the dazzle.

Backsplash Ideas for Small Kitchens

In compact kitchens, smart backsplash choices can maximize available space visually. Some small kitchen backsplash ideas include:

  • Extend to the ceiling – Floor to ceiling backsplashes make walls appear taller.
  • Mini tiles – Tiny mosaic tiles create a seamless look that recedes. Avoid oversized tiles.
  • Light colors – Whites, pastels and glass tiles reflect light to create an airy effect.
  • Mirrored tiles – Reflective mirrors cast depth and the illusion of more room.
  • Open shelves – Floating glass or wire shelves layered over backsplashes save space.
  • Limit patterns – Smaller kitchens do best with solid tiled backsplashes or simple border accents.
  • Draw the eye up – Vertical subway tiles, stacked stone patterns, or floor to ceiling designs direct sightlines up, maximizing height.

Backsplash Ideas with White Cabinets

All-white kitchens with white cabinets and countertops make a crisp, timeless statement. Backsplashes help add character. Try:

  • Pale pastels– Soft hues like mint, lavender or sky blue
  • Jet black – High contrast punch of deep espresso tiles
  • Warm metallics – Copper, brass or gold mosaics
  • Pop of color – Bright red or emerald glass tile accents
  • Natural stone – White marble or travertine marble tiles
  • Subway tiles – Classic white or light grey colors keep it cool
  • Wood accents – Weathered wood planks add organic contrast

Creative Backsplash Ideas with Tile Accents

Using accent tiles is an affordable way to sprinkle color, texture and interest into a backsplash design. Accent tile ideas include:

Bands and Borders

Design a frame by outlining the entire backsplash perimeter with border tiles in a contrasting color or mosaic pattern. Tile trim along the bottom or top also defines backsplash boundaries.

Focal Point Medallions

Mark important areas like behind sinks or stoves with circular, starburst, square or rectangular ceramic insert tile medallions. Handpainted and crackled tiles work well.

Scattered Geometric Tiles

Dot a field of subway tiles randomly with metallic dots, transparent glass tiles, or ceramic hexagons. Limit to 10-15% of the field for best results.

Chair Rail Bands

Run contrasting stripes horizontally at chair rail height to break up larger expanses or add color. Perfect for rental backsplash upgrades.

Accent Stripes

Add thin columns of glass, stone or ceramic mosaic tiles in between sections of field tile. Vary height placement and experiment with diagonal stripes.

How to Design a Full Height Backsplash

Extending backsplashes from countertop to ceiling makes a dramatic design statement. Tips for pulling off full height backsplashes include:

  • Use extra durable and moisture-resistant tile materials like glass, porcelain or natural stone.
  • Select lighter tile colors to avoid overwhelming in a tall expanse. Accent with a few darker tiles.
  • Incorporate floating shelves into the backsplash for extra storage and display space.
  • Combine an accent strip of speciality tile at chair rail height