How to Choose a Kitchen Backsplash

Zillow

A backsplash can boost your kitchen’s style — if it’s the right backsplash — says certified master kitchen and bath designer Bev Adams.

“This is not as simple as buying some tile and slapping it on the wall,” said Adams, president and chief executive officer of Denver-based Interior Intuitions. “The truth is, if the line, form, color or texture of the backsplash you choose doesn’t complement the kitchen, it’s not going to look good.”

Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing a kitchen backsplash for your home.

Materials

The standard 4-inch backsplashes that were common a decade ago have been replaced with backsplashes that extend to the bottom of upper cabinets and beyond. It’s a change that’s practical and makes choosing the right materials even more important.

The backsplash materials you choose should meld functionality and appearance. What works in your best friend’s contemporary kitchen, for example, would likely look out of place in your more traditional space.

Some of the most popular backsplash materials include:

  • Granite – Appreciated for its beauty and durability, this stone must be resealed twice a year to maintain protection from moisture.
  • Marble – This attractive, low-maintenance material is porous enough that it actually absorbs grease and dirt.
  • Ceramic tile – This option comes in a vast array of colors, textures and finishes, from off-the-shelf choices to one-of-a-kind art pieces. As carefree as tile may be, don’t forget that grout must be regularly cleaned and resealed.
  • Stainless steel – This product is easy to clean and goes with nearly every color and design scheme, but it also scratches and dents. Stainless tiles can be pricey (up to $200 per square foot). Stainless sheets are less expensive ($20 and up per square foot), but they’re tricky to work with and generally require professional installation.
  • Glass – Whether plate-glass or glass tiles, the colors and reflective qualities of these backsplashes have made them favorites. Glass resists stains but can be scratched.

Installation

Watch home improvement TV shows, and you’ll hear over and over that installing a backsplash is a straight-forward, do-it-yourself job. But Adams argues that because it’s such a high-impact feature, you might want to turn to professionals for help.

For starters, consult a skilled designer who can help you coordinate colors, shapes and sheens. The designer also can direct you toward materials that complement your cabinetry and countertops while reflecting your style.

“Additionally, if any old material has to be removed, you may have to replace drywall. If you’re using a tile, you can’t just use the old electrical outlets. The boxes have to be bumped out so they’re flush with your new wall surface,” Adams said. “There really is a level of expertise involved. Crooked tiles, bad cuts and uneven grout lines are not going to make the impression you’re hoping for.”

Function

With so many material choices out there, you can’t forget the main purpose: to protect kitchen walls with a splatter-proof surface.

Handcrafted art tiles with grooves and protrusions may look gorgeous, but how effortlessly can they be cleaned? If your backsplash is stainless or copper, will abrasives scratch it? Is the material so sleek that every fingerprint will show? If a porous material such as bamboo or cork is used, must it be sealed?

No matter which material you’re considering, ask yourself: If tomato sauce splatters onto this backsplash, can I easily wipe it off? If the answer is no, think long and hard before adhering it to your wall.

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Mary Boone is a freelance writer for Zillow Blog. Read more from her here.

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