Choosing the right backsplash material for your kitchen can be an exciting yet daunting task. With so many options to choose from like tile, stone, glass, metal, and more, it’s important to weigh all the factors to find the best backsplash for your needs and style. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the pros and cons of various backsplash materials to help you select the perfect one for your kitchen.
Tile is one of the most commonly used and versatile backsplash materials. Available in a wide range of sizes, colors, textures, and patterns, tile provides endless design possibilities for your backsplash.
Benefits of Tile Backsplashes
- Budget-friendly – Tile comes in a range of prices to suit any budget. Ceramic and porcelain tiles tend to be the most affordable options.
- Durable – Tile is very durable, long-lasting, and stands up well to heat, stains, and moisture.
- Easy to clean – Tile backsplashes are seamless and non-porous, making them easy to clean and maintain.
- Variety of looks – From natural stone and ceramic to glass and metal, tile backsplashes can create any style you want.
- Easy to install – Tile is a DIY-friendly material that is relatively easy to cut and install.
Things to Consider for Tile Backsplashes
- Grout can stain – Grout between tiles needs regular cleaning and sealing to prevent stains and discoloration.
- Can chip or crack – Dropping heavy objects on tile can result in cracks or chips. Porcelain and ceramic tiles are more prone to chipping.
- Moisture sensitive – Some natural stone tiles like marble are prone to water damage and need to be sealed properly.
- Pattern overload – Busy or complex tile patterns can sometimes make a small kitchen look cluttered.
- Cold to touch – Tile floors and walls can feel cold in winter months unless radiant heat is installed underneath.
Popular Types of Tile for Backsplashes
Ceramic tile – Affordable, durable, and available in tons of colors/finishes. Ideal for bold patterned backsplashes.
Porcelain tile – More durable and moisture-resistant than ceramic and comes in matte sheens. Good for a modern, sleek look.
Glass tile – Adds a shiny, glamorous accent wall. Prone to scratches so best used in low-traffic areas of the kitchen.
Metal tile – Creates an industrial chic look, often made from stainless steel, tin, copper or aluminum. Great heat resistance.
Stone tile – Elegant and natural but requires sealing. Marble, travertine, granite, and slate are common examples.
Mosaic tile – Small tiles mounted in sheets create artistic mosaics and patchwork designs. Beautiful but labor-intensive.
Natural and engineered stone make for stunning statement backsplashes that add warmth and texture. Granite, marble, travertine, limestone, and slate are among the most popular.
Benefits of Stone Backsplashes
- Timeless, classic beauty – Few materials match the elegance of natural stone. Makes a kitchen feel luxurious.
- Unique patterning – Each stone slab has its own natural veining, colors and flaws, imparting one-of-a-kind character.
- Enhances resale value – High-end materials like granite and marble boost a home’s resale value significantly.
- Easy maintenance – Stone requires minimal upkeep. Only needs occasional sealing and cleaning.
- Heat and stain resistance – Hard stones like granite stand up to pots, pans, and oil splatters. Adds durability around stoves.
Things to Consider for Stone Backsplashes
- Porous and may stain – Marble, limestone and travertine are porous and prone to staining if not sealed properly.
- Can chip – Though hard, granite can still chip if struck forcefully. Chips are difficult to repair seamlessly.
- Heavy weight – Professional installers are needed to mount heavy slabs. Extra structural support may be required.
- Improper sealing – If not sealed well, moisture can seep in and cause warping, discoloration, and mold.
- High cost – Natural stone is one of the most expensive backsplash materials, starting around $50 per square foot installed.
Popular Types of Stone for Backsplashes
Granite – Extremely hard and durable with heat resistance. Its polished look has timeless appeal.
Marble – Elegant veining with upscale aesthetic but requires diligent sealing/cleaning.
Travertine – Has an Old World, Tuscan style. Holes in the stone add rustic texture.
Slate – Beautiful grayish-blue hue. Its subtle cleft pattern hides stains well. Easy maintenance.
Limestone – Off-white color with natural pits, pores, and fossils visible. Softer than other stones.
Quartzite – Non-porous engineered stone with granite-like visuals. Gain durability without sealing needs.
Glass backsplashes impart a sleek, radiant look through their reflective, light-bouncing effect. Available in clear, frosted, stained, or color-tinted finishes.
Benefits of Glass Backsplashes
- Sleek and modern – Glass backsplashes lend a contemporary, trendy aesthetic popular in new builds and remodels.
- Reflective qualities – Their shine and luster make small kitchens appear larger and airier.
- Easy to sanitize – Smooth non-porous glass is easy to clean and resists mold/mildew growth.
- Artistic touches – Color tinting and varied textures like bubble glass allow for unique designs.
- Durable – Though prone to chipping, tempered glass backsplashes stand up well to bumps and high temperatures.
Things to Consider for Glass Backsplashes
- Can chip or scratch – Glass can be scratched by metal utensils or dented by impact. Usually not repairable.
- Shows water spots/dirt – Glass needs frequent cleaning and careful drying to prevent unsightly spots and streaks.
- Heat damage – Prolonged direct heat exposure causes clouding. Not ideal behind cooktops.
- High installation cost – Smooth glass mosaic sheets are difficult for DIY. Professional install expertise is advised.
- Seams visible – Clear glass reveals any advisor or uneven sections, marring the seamless look.
Popular Types of Glass for Backsplashes
Clear glass – Provides the most pure, reflective glass-like sheen. Frosted clear glass softens the shine.
Colored glass – Tinted glass in vibrant hues like amber, jade, cobalt, or sapphire liven up a space.
Recycled glass – An eco-friendly option using salvaged glass pieces in ocean blues and greens.
Bubble glass – Floating air bubbles provide whimsical imperfections and texture. Diffuses light beautifully.
Mirror glass – Adds ultra shiny brilliance and illusion of depth with light reflection. Needs diligent cleaning.
The sleek, sharp look of metal backsplashes brings an edgy, contemporary vibe through stainless steel, copper, brass, and aluminum finishes.
Benefits of Metal Backsplashes
- Industrial aesthetic – Metallic finishes evoke modern lofts and cutting-edge stylistic elements.
- Highly durable – Metals like stainless steel stand up to heavy wear and tear, moisture, and heat.
- Low maintenance – Smooth metal surfaces just need occasional wiping down to keep clean and shiny.
- Highly reflective – Bounces light dramatically around the kitchen for an airy, open feel.
- Easy installation – Many metal backsplash tiles have peel and stick application for DIY-friendly projects.
Things to Consider for Metal Backsplashes
- Shows smudges/fingerprints – Repeated wiping is needed to eliminate marks since metal shows everything.
- Noise potential – Sound reverberates sharply off hard metal surfaces, making clanging pots louder.
- Less warmth than other materials – The sleekness of metal can feel cold and sterile if not balanced with other textures.
- Prone to scratches – Softer metals like copper scratch fairly easily. Stainless steel better resists markings.
- Conducts heat – Metals quickly get hot when exposed to heat sources, creating a burn risk.
Popular Types of Metals for Backsplashes
Stainless steel – Most common choice with its commercial-grade durability and sterilized look.
Copper – Warms up the space with its inviting golden/rose patinas in brushed or hammered finishes.
Aluminum – Lightweight and affordable option for retro, Art Deco inspired kitchens.
Zinc – Galvanized metal develops an aged gray patina. Also available in silver, black, and copper-tone.
Tin – Versatile affordable option coming in silver, copper, brass, and other metal-inspired hues.
The utilitarian chic look of concrete adds an urban, raw ambiance popular in modern and industrial spaces. Concrete can be polished, etched, or stained for varied textures.
Benefits of Concrete Backsplashes
- Industrial, sleek aesthetic – The modern, edgy look of concrete suits contemporary kitchens.
- Highly durable – Nearly indestructible strength stands up to heavy use. Doesn’t scratch or stain.
- Seamless look – Concrete finishes as a molded, continuous surface for a unified minimalist look.
- Economical option – Pre-cast concrete panels are an affordable alternative to stone.
- Low maintenance – Easy to clean and resistant to moisture damage.
Things to Consider for Concrete Backsplashes
- Cold, hard appearance – The solid mass of concrete lacks the visual warmth and character of natural materials.
- Prone to cracking – Shrinking and expansion of concrete leads to hairline cracks forming over time.
- Difficult DIY installation – Concrete requires proper molding and shaping. Professionals typically handle.
- Lacks color flexibility – Dyeing concrete is an imprecise science, making custom colors a challenge.
- Needs resealing – Concrete sealants help protect the finish but need reapplying every few years.
Popular Concrete Backsplash Styles
Acid-stained – Mottled, variegated look where different staining creates marbling effects.
Polished – Grinding and polishing achieves a smooth, shiny looking reminiscent of stone.
Honed – Matte, non-reflective finish with little sheen. Achieved through fine sanding.
Stamped – Textured impression from stamping makes it resemble materials like wood planks and stone.
Exposed aggregate – Raw pebbles and stone are revealed for a chunky, multicolored finish.
Used brick backsplashes impart a charming cottage or industrial vibe through varied colors, shapes, and brick layout patterns. Real or faux brick both work beautifully.
Benefits of Brick Backsplashes
- Timeworn character – Imperfect, worn bricks tell the story of their origins for old-world appeal.
- Rustic warmth – Fiery reds and earth tones create cozy ambiance in cottage kitchens.
- Budget-friendly option – Salvaged bricks or thin faux brick sheets cost well under other materials.
- Matches outdoor aesthetics – Looks seamless continuing the style from outdoor patios.
- Easy installation – Lightweight faux bricks have peel and stick application suitable for DIY.
Things to Consider for Brick Backsplashes
- Permeable and prone to staining – Brick needs to be sealed to prevent absorption of oils and liquids.
- Lack of uniformity – Natural brick shapes and colors vary. Consistency is challenging to achieve.
- Difficult to cut – Jagged edges may result when attempting to cut brick thinsets around outlets and corners.
- Heavy weight – Professional installation is ideal for real brick, which gets extremely heavy.
- Cold to the touch – Brick’s hard, porous surface lacks ability to retain heat. Feels cold.
Popular Brick Backsplash Styles
Running bond – Staggered rows create offset seams in traditional straight-line courses.
Herringbone – Angled brick orientation makes a V-shape pattern for visual interest.
Basketweave – Overlapping bricks mimic a woven basket texture.
Stacked bond – Rows are stacked closely with barely noticeable seams for a monolithic look.
Penny tile round – Tiny rounded bricks create an artsy, mosaic penny tile effect.
The beauty of wood backsplashes comes from the dramatic grains, knots, and color variations that give warmth and texture. Many waterproofing finishes are available.
Benefits of Wood Backsplashes
- Warm, inviting aesthetic – Wood backsplashesintroduce natural elegance that softens stainless steel appliances.
- Rustic or modern looks – Woods like birch, oak, and bamboo can create either rustic cottage or sleek high-end styles.
- Endless customization – A myriad stains, finishes, cuts, and wood types mean unlimited personalized options.
- Eco-friendly choice – Many wood backsplashes use reclaimed barn wood or ethically harvested bamboo.
- Enhances resale value – Wood’s enduring popularity guarantees its timeless appeal to home buyers.
Things to Consider for Wood Backsplashes
- Prone to water damage – Water-proofing treatments are an absolute must for wood backsplashes.
- Stains easily – Wood needs extra care to prevent stains from cooking oils, sauces, or liquids.
- Fades and changes color – Expect color changes as wood backsplashes age, yellow, or gray. Embrace the patina.
- Not heat resistant – Burning or discoloration can occur near ranges. Maintain a safe distance.
- Scratches show – Knives or heavy pans can scratch soft woods. Use extra care during food prep.
Popular Types of Wood for Backsplashes
Oak – Prized for its dramatic grains. Stains enhance the wood pattern’s depth.
Maple – Light, pale wood prized for kitchens thanks to its clean, airy look.
Cherry – Ages beautifully from golden red to deep garnet hues. Stains easily.
Walnut – Luxurious chocolate brown wood that mimics marble or granite.
Bamboo – A sustainable grass quickly replenished. Provides a clean modern look.
Laminate provides an affordable alternative to pricier backsplash materials, offering simulated looks of stone, metal, wood, and more.
Benefits of Laminate Backsplashes
- Inexpensive option – Laminate backsplashes cost a fraction of stone, tile, or metal options.
- Stone and metal mimics – Realistic faux finishes like marble, slate, or hammered metal available.
- Easy DIY installation – Many laminate backsplash panels have peel-and-stick adhesive.
- Customizable lengths – Laminate sheets can be cut to fit any wall length. Minimal seams.
- Impervious to moisture – Highly water-resistant, making it ideal around sinks.
Things to Consider for Laminate Backsplashes
- Prone to bubbling – Improper installation can lead to blistering or bubbles behind the laminate.
- Temporary fix – Laminate may need replacing after 5-10 years as adhesive fails or colors fade.
- Fake appearance – The patterns tend to look obviously artificial up close, lacking authenticity.
- Limit on sizes – Laminate sheets wider than 4 feet require professional seamless installation.
- Difficult repairs – Once damaged, laminate backsplashes cannot be patched and full sheets need replacing.
Popular Laminate Backsplash Options
Faux marble/granite – Mimics the elegance of stone with streaking, veining, and speckles.
Weathered wood – Realistically replicates distressed, aged barn wood planks.
Faux metal – Metallic foil finishes like stainless, copper, and bronze.
Faux subway tile – Grout lines applied to laminate recreate classic ceramic tile geometry.
Abstract patterns – From geometrics to floral, options like Formica offer unique modern designs.
Choosing the Best Backsplash for Your Kitchen
With this overview of the many backsplash materials and options available, assess your kitchen space and style to select the right fit. Keep the following tips in mind:
- Consider the existing cabinetry, countertops, appliances and overall decor. Choose a material that complements your kitchen’s current elements.
- Take into account the size and natural lighting of the kitchen. Certain reflective materials like glass or metal maximize light.
- Determine your kitchen’s color scheme and style aesthetic. A material like wood or brick provides rustic, earthy hues.
- Factor in ease of cleaning/maintenance and your own habits. If prone to staining, avoid porous unsealed choices like stone.
- Decide what texture appeal you prefer from ultra-smooth glass to rough multi-tonal brick or stone. This impacts visual interest.
- Weigh durability needs, especially around stoves. Hardy metal or stone withstand heat better than wood or laminate.
- Set a budget and find affordable options within it, like scored DIY ceramic tile or faux stone laminate sheets.
- If concerned about resale, choose classic looks like subway tile, marble, or stainless steel with widespread appeal.
With careful consideration of all the factors unique to your kitchen, select the ideal