What to Know About a Kitchen Backsplash

kitchen backsplash with mirrored tiles

What to Know About a Kitchen Backsplash

The kitchen backsplash protects your walls from grease and moisture generated by cooking. Further, the kitchen backsplash can be a wonderful blank canvas you can use to express your personality in your new kitchen.  

What is the Kitchen Backsplash Exactly?

Traditionally, a kitchen backsplash is what goes into the area between the counter and the upper cabinets. It has one primary function, and that is to protect the wall from grease, heat and moisture, the byproducts of cooking. Installing backsplash tile behind the stove is a smart decision that will help to extend the life of your kitchen.

Just because the kitchen backsplash has a job to do doesn’t mean it can’t look good while doing it. The best backsplashes balance functionality and good looks.

An easy-to-wipe-down backsplash prevents a lot of cleaning. It will protect your walls from cooking residue while creating a statement look in your new kitchen. 

kitchen backsplash using metallics

Kitchen Backsplash Standards

In the past, the standard height for the backsplash was 4”. However, like everything else in kitchen design, that standard has been done away with. There are no more restrictions concerning how high the backsplash is or what material it’s made from.

In fact, in today’s kitchens, backsplashes can be as short as a few inches tall, or they can extend all the way from the countertop to the ceiling.

Kitchen Backsplash Benefits

1. A backsplash provides protection from steam and grease for your kitchen walls.

2. You can add some personality to your kitchen by selecting a backsplash material and pattern that appeals to you.

3. Backsplashes add texture, color and design to the kitchen.

4. They tie together the overall kitchen design scheme. 

5. Your backsplash can be the focal point or statement piece for your kitchen.

6. The area taken up by the backsplash is relatively small, so it won’t be expensive to tear out and replace if you change your mind and want something new.

Considerations for Choosing Kitchen Backsplash Material

You’ll want to make some decisions before you make your final backsplash choice, such as:

1. Which backsplash material is the easiest to wipe clean?

2. What material will fit in with the style of your kitchen?

3. Do you want the same tiles to cover the entire kitchen wall, or only a small section behind the range?

4. Is a decorative insert behind your range something you would like?

Kitchen Backsplash Materials

Whether you want a custom designed tile pattern, an unusual material, a pop of color, a metallic finish or a classic look like subway tile, a backsplash can be more than just practical.

Writing about backsplash materials is like writing about decorative cabinet hardware. The selections are endless, and everything depends on your personal taste. We’ve rounded up some backsplash materials found on the web; they are not recommended for anything other than they’re interesting and pretty. We did not go into wood or cork or brick, all perfectly acceptable options.  

1. Ceramic Backsplash Tile

Ceramic tile is probably the most popular material selected by homeowners for their kitchen backsplash. It’s incredibly versatile and comes in many shapes, sizes and colors. Further, it can be installed in numerous patterns so you can create a work of art with your backsplash.

Ceramic tiles provide a durable, heat-resistant and easy-to-clean surface.


  • Many shapes, sizes, colors and patterns to choose from
  • Can be low cost
  • Simple to clean
  • Easy to replace


  • More intricate finishes and designs can be costly
  • Cracks may form over time
  • Smaller tiles require more grout, making backsplash more difficult to keep clean
  • Tiles and grout can stain

2. Glass Backsplash Tiles

Glass tiles offer an unusual backsplash look and have become very popular. In addition to different colors, shapes and patterns, you can choose from different levels of reflectivity: glossy, frosted, matte and iridescent to create a dazzling shiny effect. Their light-enhancing good looks complement any kitchen design style.

Glass tiles are easy to clean. A damp cloth is all you need to make a tile backsplash look as good as new. Since glass is 100% impervious to water, it’s an excellent backsplash option for cooks who create a lot of steam, moisture and splashes in their kitchens.

And no, it won’t crack or shatter easily, don’t worry. Glass is heat-resistant.


  • Many shapes, sizes, colors and patterns to choose from
  • Reflectivity can make the room feel larger and brighter
  • Easy to clean
  • Can add resale value


  • Tiles cannot be repaired; if damaged, they must be replaced
  • Glass tiles are heavy, so walls may need reinforcement prior to installation

3. Porcelain Backsplash Tile

Porcelain tile has many of the same attributes as ceramic tile. Further, It can look like stone, wood or glass for less than a backsplash made from any one of those materials.

For example, if you love the look of marble but don’t love the price that comes with it, you may want to consider glazed porcelain.

Vitreous porcelain has a smooth surface, making it very easy to wipe down and maintain. It creates a classy, stylish look for your kitchen.


  • Long-lasting
  • Can look like a more expensive material
  • No sealing needed
  • Doesn’t crack


  • More expensive than ceramic

4. Marble Backsplash Tiles

The colors and natural veins of marble create its beauty and adds a sense of luxury to your kitchen backsplash. Marble contrasts nicely with dark colored cabinets, and it’s generally very easy to clean.

Marble tiles create a beautiful backsplash design, with a durable finish that’s naturally resistant to heat. Since marble is porous, it will need to be sealed.


  • Comes in a variety of types with different looks, colors and designs
  • Very durable
  • Will add resale value to the home


  • Must be resealed annually to avoid stains and discoloration
  • Difficult to repair
  • Can be chipped or stained

4. Stainless Steel Backsplash

No list of backsplash materials would be complete without mentioning stainless steel, the original backsplash material found in every restaurant and professional kitchen.

Stainless steel is a great option for a kitchen backsplash because it’s durable, easy to clean and creates a sleek contemporary look. It’s also great around hot pots and pans.

A stainless steel backsplash can have different design patterns, and different textures are also available, such as quilted, ribbed or hammered.


  • Easy to clean
  • Won’t crack or stain


  • Installation is difficult if windows, outlets or other features are cut into the design
  • Can be dented or scratched
  • Shows fingerprints, grease and food

5. Shell and Pearl Backsplash Tiles

You may be surprised to learn that Mother of Pearl shell tiles are a very durable tile material, despite their delicate and luminous appearance.

Although the pearl surface is tough, shell tiles must be sealed to ensure their longevity. To keep them shiny and beautiful, don’t use harsh chemical cleaners because they will abrade the surface. If properly sealed and cared for, you should be able to clean up splatters with nothing more than a damp cloth.


  • Unusual backsplash material of exceptional beauty
  • Durable
  • Easy to clean


  • Can be pricey
  • Must be sealed

6. Peel-and-Stick Backsplash Tile

Peel-and-stick backsplash tile is part of the home decorating DIY trend. This type of tile is a relatively temporary backsplash, although high-end options can last a few years.

In addition to its ease of application, peel-and-stick tile comes in a wide array of colors, shapes and styles to achieve just about any look imaginable. Since it’s not permanent, it’s a great option for renters or owners who don’t plan to stay in their home for long.


  • DIY installation
  • Inexpensive
  • Wide variety of looks to choose from
  • Great option for renters


  • Temporary
  • Can peel or fall off after time
  • Doesn’t add value to the home

Get Creative with Patterned Tiles

Today’s tile manufacturers have taken the guess work out of creating interesting patterns in a kitchen backsplash. If you’re not feeling confident that you can choose different sizes, shapes, materials and colors of tile to create the look you want, you can take advantage of the patterned tiles where the combinations are made for you.

To personalize your backsplash, bar tiles can be installed horizontally, vertically or on an angle. Here’s three different looks for the same glass mosaic tiles.

kitchen backsplash subway tiles installed as herringbone

You can also play with pattern. Some options include installing subway tiles in a staggered, vertical or herringbone pattern.

Add a Decorative Tile Insert to your Kitchen Backsplash

You can make your backsplash into a work of art by adding a decorative tile insert of a pattern-within-a-pattern. It can be monochromatic or colorful to make it pop.

You can also buy a ready-made scene to install behind the stove.

Don’t Break the Budget on Backsplash

If you’re remodeling your kitchen, the costs can add up. While there are certainly areas to splurge on and areas to save on, the backsplash doesn’t have to be the budget breaker. Many amazing tile options are available at great prices, such as these totally random selections:

Maravilla Jet Black Basalt Limestone Tile

Casa Antica Ocean Honed Marble Mosaic

Adessi White Picket Ceramic Tile

Designing with a Tile Backsplash

Having a focal point in a room is one of the basic principles of interior design. Most kitchen designs will have a focal point that catches your eye as soon as you walk in.

A kitchen backsplash can actually make a beautiful focal point. For example, a mosaic tile pattern or brightly-colored subway tiles could be the pop of color that your all-white kitchen needs. Mosaic tile is particularly great for creating an artistic focal point.

kitchen backsplash as focal point

On the other hand, if your kitchen already has another focal point, like a beautiful range hood, it’s best to go with a relatively simple backsplash design.

Your kitchen backsplash should complement your countertops, but they don’t need to match.  Most of the time, countertops and kitchen backsplashes will be different colors/designs, contrasting or complementing each other in some way.

Further, why stop at the cabinets when you can extend your tile backsplash all the way to the ceiling? This is a great way to make your kitchen feel taller.

Fear not: if you choose a bold color or trendy tile pattern for your backsplash and want to change it out after a couple years, it’s easy to do without tearing out your entire kitchen.


No matter how careful you try to be, when you cook you will create grease, heat and moisture in your kitchen. Therefore, you’ll want a backsplash that looks good, is easy to clean and is resistant to all of the above.  

It would be impossible to cover every possible material available for a kitchen backsplash. Our intention was to give you some options to think about as you plan your new kitchen and to point you in the direction of resources where you can actually purchase backsplash tiles.


KDP exists to offer insight and advice about all things related to kitchen remodeling. Our goal is to connect homeowners with talented, experienced kitchen designers who live and work in their communities. We are a serious resource for anyone preparing to remodel their kitchen so they can make the best possible choices about designers, contractors and products.