When it comes to selecting the right kitchen backsplash for your home, the process should be the same as when deciding on bathroom tiles and hardwood floors. It’s an important aspect of the kitchen and should be treated as such. There is a significant selection of backsplash material and design – so how do you know what’s best for your kitchen? Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. It’s best to read about the various pros and cons associated with different backsplash materials so you can decide on one that is perfect for your home. The following guide will explore the different backsplash materials available along with the cost, aesthetic appeal, and installation process associated with each.

What is a backsplash?


First, let’s explore what a backsplash actually is. When people use the term backsplash, they are referring to the wall behind the countertop and the material used to protect it. You can think of it as a continuation of the countertop that’s typically found in kitchens and bathrooms. The backsplash can be just a few inches or run up the entirety of the wall and meet the ceiling.

This backsplash protects the wall that it’s installed on from water damage. In our kitchens, the backsplash will cover much more than what’s behind the sink. It’s also important when it comes to meal prep as the easy-to-clean surface allows one to easily wipe away grease and food splatter. And because backsplashes come in a variety of styles and patterns, choosing the right one can really add to the overall look of your kitchen.

Do you need a backsplash?

It’s highly recommended to have a kitchen backsplash that runs the length of the countertop in order to protect the wall behind from water damage. Sink usage creates a significant amount of unintended water splash and this water can soak into the drywall and create a serious problem.

The backsplash is waterproof in nature and will prevent water and food splatter from ruining the wall.

Backsplash Installation Process

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The installation process differs depending on the types of backsplash material you’ve opted to utilize. Typical materials used in kitchen backsplashes these days include glass, metal, natural stone, ceramic, porcelain, faux metal, and manufactured stone veneer. Ceramic and porcelain tile are certainly the most popular material because of the vast design options, and as a bonus, the tiles make for a rather straightforward install. 

When it comes to installing backsplash tiles, the first thing you need to do is spread some thinset mortar to the wall you’ll be attaching the backsplash to. You can also choose to install a cement board as a backer first. Next, press the tile against the wet mortar – the easiest way to do this is to create straight tile rows and work your way up. A plastic spacer may also help during this process. These t-shaped spacers fit between the tiles and are removed once the mortar dries. If you are working on a DIY kitchen renovation, the ceramic tile installation is among the most simple. That said, you will likely need a wet tile saw to cut some tiles to make the precise fit.

Ceramic or Porcelain Tile

As previously mentioned, ceramic and porcelain tile are a common material for backsplashes. These materials are easy to wipe clean and are no concern when it comes to cooking messes like grease and food splatter. A ceramic tile backsplash is a cost effective option too. These tiles are made with a clay mixture before cooking in a kiln at an extremely high temperature – the end result equates to a near endless amount of design and colour options.

When it comes to porcelain, these tiles are also made of clay and spend time in a kiln to form. The big difference is that porcelain tiles are created using a more refined type of clay and enter that kiln at a higher temperature – this increases both the density and durability of the tile.

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Glass Tile

A glass tile backsplash offers a stylish and clean design. If your hope is to design a more modern kitchen, glass tile is certainly something to explore. And although glass will always be a popular material choice, you can really back yourself into a corner depending on the size and colour of glass tile you select.

It is a thicker material to cut compared to ceramic or porcelain, and will be a more costly material. That said, glass is an even easier material to wipe clean; comes in a wide array of colour options – and you won’t have to worry about the colour fading. Glass is not the most friendly of materials to work with for DIY projects as the cutting process is rather nuanced. 

Metal Tile

Historically speaking, a metal backsplash is constructed using large ceiling tiles that have been repurposed to serve as a backsplash. This can still be found in some homes and commercial settings to this day. But, as of late, smaller metal tiles have emerged in hardware stores and are available in a large selection of finishes and textures.

Best of all, because the tiles can be installed to the wall using a sticky adhesive, the installation aspect is pretty simple. The drawbacks are that the metal material is more costly compared to ceramic; and the material is more likely to be scratched and damaged. For instance, although newly installed copper tiles look great – over time, the material will tarnish. 

Natural Stone

Natural stone tile provides an aesthetic look that is perfect for the traditionally designed kitchen. Natural stone such as travertine tile is expensive, and the material is physically rough to the touch as it’s made using limestone. The porous rock is usually filled in and given a smooth surface before it ends up as your backsplash.

Although you’ll have a design style that is rather unique, the upkeep is significant. This is the drawback associated with natural stone tile – the maintenance involved can be a hassle to some. You will need to routinely clean this surface, and every so often, you will need to reseal the tiles in order to stop staining and discolouration from occurring.

Faux Metal

A great alternative to the metal backsplash are faux metal tiles. These tiles are made of thermoplastic and can be cut to size with a pair of scissors. They can be installed as a kitchen or bathroom backsplash using an adhesive or even double sided tape. That said, adhesive is always recommended. One thing to note if using as a kitchen backsplash material is that the thermoplastic has the potential to warp, bend, and become deformed if they are in too close proximity to a heat source that is in excess of 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

In short, this material cannot be used near the stove. These tiles are designed to resemble traditional metal tiles, but inexpensive and lower quality materials can have a cheap plastic appearance. It’s a good idea to get a sample tile first to see if this option is the right fit.

Manufactured Stone Veneer

When considering a kitchen backsplash material, you should always think about how it could assist, or perhaps detract, from the overall aesthetic of the room. This is where manufactured stone veneer enters the conversation. This material offers an exceedingly desirable appearance, however it is an expensive material that isn’t overly easy to install.

That said, the material is porous in nature, which permits for food, oil, and water splatter to cause problems. It is imperative to clean away any substances as soon as you notice them in order to prevent any potential discolouration. Sealing the stone backsplash is an option, but the uneven nature of the surface will make cleaning more challenging.

Considerations when Purchasing Backsplash Material

When replacing a dated backsplash or simply installing a brand new one, there are a number of different factors to consider when selecting one that will best meet your needs. Minor cosmetic flaws like slight fading and small scratches and stains can be more or less dismissed. You’ll just have to tolerate the drop in overall appearance. However, if the grout is breaking away and the tiles are chipped and damaged, you’ll want to tend to these matters immediately in order to protect the wall behind.

It’s always important to note that if you’re simply making repairs to a backsplash that has already been installed, it could be difficult finding materials that seamlessly match what’s already in place. You’ll want to consider the following when deciding on a material for your kitchen backsplash:

Maintenance – certain materials are simply easier to maintain than others. Materials such as ceramic, porcelain, or glass tiles need minimal maintenance to keep them looking their best. This material can be cleaned in the same manner as our countertops or stovetop. That said, materials like natural stone or manufactured stone veneer will need routine cleaning and maintenance in order to ensure they are in good working order. This will ensure things like food, water, and grease don’t seep through the pores of the stone. If your kitchen sees a lot of action, it might be good to avoid porous material.

Durability – you will also want to think about how you utilize this space and how these behaviours could impact the backsplash. For instance, a thermoplastic tile is easy to install and inexpensive, but if you use the oven often and are always cooking, the heat generated from the appliance will eventually damage the plastic tile. In addition, metal tiles can easily be damaged as they are susceptible to abrasions and scratching.

Functionality – your backsplash should work in conjunction with the other colours and designs in the kitchen, but more importantly, it’s important that your backsplash can do its job properly. The main purpose of the backsplash is to protect the wall behind the sink and countertop from cooking stains and water damage. If the material you want to install cannot do this, it isn’t a good backsplash option. 

Cost – since a backsplash is a smaller surface area than a shower stall or floor, the cost to install a new one is much more cost effective. That said, for budgetary purposes it is important to factor this in as cost can differ drastically depending on the material you’ve chosen. Thermoplastic, porcelain and ceramic tile are the most affordable options while natural and manufactured stone comes in at a higher price point. Glass and metal tiles sit around the middle of the price spectrum.

Buying in store – if you are fixated on the colour, pattern, and texture of your backsplash material, it’s a good idea to check out a local hardware store and browse the backsplash types to find exactly what you’re looking for. Stores typically have a wide array of materials to browse through, along with friendly and knowledgeable staff on hand to answer any questions you may have.

Buying online – if you are looking for a certain design pattern, colour or type of backsplash material, shopping online might be your best option. When you shop online, there are a lot more options to choose from as opposed to shopping in a store. You can select from a massive number of different material options and have them delivered directly to your home. You can also choose sample materials to see how it fits in the home. But don’t forget to check out the company’s warranty and return policy in case you encounter any hiccups along the way.

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There you have it! Everything you need to know to make an informed decision when selecting the best tile for the kitchen backsplash. Cost, installation, maintenance, and durability are all exceedingly important aspects to consider when selecting the right kitchen backsplash material. For more information or for assistance with your kitchen renovation, call the experts at NICKS Developments to get started. 

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