Choosing a Kitchen Backsplash: A DIYer's Guide

Choosing a Kitchen Backsplash: A DIYer's Guide

Whether you’re a new homeowner or you’re looking for a way to update your kitchen, consider installing a new backsplash. A backsplash is more than something to keep your walls clean from oil, food and other splatter—it’s a small detail that can make a kitchen look complete.

With many different materials and designs, choosing a backsplash can be a difficult choice. What’s the cost? Will it match the counters and the cabinets? How hard is it to install? Even if you aren’t sold on the idea of adding a full backsplash to your kitchen, here are some things to think about to help you make a decision.

Types of Backsplashes

Tile

Thanks to all of the different materials, designs, and placement patterns, I think it’s safe to say that tile is the most popular option when installing a kitchen backsplash. You can get ceramic tile (the classic subway tile falls under this category), space-opening mirrored tile, or mosaic tile for an artsy finish. You can even get glass and stone—two other backsplash materials I mention in this post—in tile form, making different patterns an easy project. Prices vary based on the material you choose, but a tile backsplash is still an affordable choice. You can buy sheets of tile backsplash with a mesh backing (which would speed up the installation) or install each tile one by one.

 

Glass

For a sleek, contemporary finish, consider using glass for your kitchen backsplash. Instead of using glass tiles, a whole sheet of glass will give your backsplash a streamlined look. Glass backsplashes are low-maintenance and easy to keep clean. Clean glass is more reflective than other backsplash options, meaning it will make your kitchen look bigger and lighter.

One trend I see popping up is back-painted glass, which is a simple way to add a pop of color to your kitchen. Glassprimer offers paint for these types of projects. No need to paint the wall if you don’t want to, and on the plus side, back-painting a sheet of glass makes for an even application (meaning no shadows or other imperfections).

 

Stone

Much like sheets of glass, full slab backsplashes create a seamless look for your kitchen. The streamlined slabs will add to a kitchen with contemporary or transitional décor. If you don’t like the idea of using a whole slab, try using it in isolated areas, like only over your stovetop. This would really pull the look of your kitchen together if you match it with the stone you used on your countertops.

While you don’t need to worry about scrubbing grout, certain types of stone require extra care—for example, a marble backsplash needs to be sealed during installation and resealed every couple years or so to prevent stains.

 

Laminate

If you’re sold on the idea of a backsplash but don’t quite have the funds for something extravagant, no need to worry. Laminate tends to be cheaper than the other options I’ve mentioned in this post and it comes in a wide variety of designs. Installing marble laminate will definitely be cheaper than installing a full slab and it would still look pretty good. Plus, a laminate backsplash requires little maintenance.

Katie from Bower Power had the idea to use laminate wood flooring as a backsplash in her kitchen, and the results are gorgeous. A little outside the box thinking and a few power tools can go a long way when it comes to deciding on a backsplash material.

 

Installation

DIY or Contractor?

Now that you have an idea of the different types of backsplashes, your next question might be “Is this something I can do myself? Or should I call in a contractor?” Here are some things to keep in mind. You could make installing your backsplash a DIY project, but you might pay more out of pocket for materials. If you go with a contractor, they might be able to get discounted prices on materials. The cost of labor might even everything out, but it’s something to think about.

Another thinking point is the level of difficulty of the project and your level of skill. With a little bit of experience and patience, I don’t see why a DIYer couldn’t tackle a tile backsplash project. On the other hand, I would leave any sheet glass or slabs of stone to a professional. If you opt for a self-adhesive backsplash, you’re good as gold to install it yourself.

Materials

If you’re going the DIY route, I’m going to assume you’re installing tile (forgive me if I’m wrong!). Some basic tools and materials needed for DIY backsplash installation are tile adhesive, a utility knife, sponges, notched trowel(s), and grout. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, so be sure to check with your local home improvement store or wherever you purchased your tile.

When it comes to grout, think about the type of tile you’re using as well as the tile’s finish. Depending on how far apart you’re laying the tiles, you might need sanded or unsanded grout. Areas more than ⅛th of an inch should typically use sanded grout; any less than that should get unsanded. For finishes that are glossy and would easily be scratched by sand (like glass or marble), opt for unsanded grout.

 

As you can tell, there’s a lot that goes into choosing a kitchen backsplash and deciding whether to do it yourself or hire a contractor. A stylish backsplash should be a finishing touch in your kitchen, so there’s no need to rush the process. But once you have one installed, just wait for the compliments from your guests to roll in.

Are you looking to replace your kitchen backsplash soon? Tell me about your project in the comments below or reach out to me on Twitter!

Comments

I am finding this harder than expected, I don't want my backsplash to compete with my granite. We are in the middle of a full kitchen remodel (to the studs). I will send you some pictures when finished. I love your blog and enjoy reading it!