A kitchen remodel is a massive undertaking. Not only the obviously large decisions (like, “Can we fit an island in here?”) as well as the smaller details (“What type of cabinet pulls will look best?)

One of the major decisions to make is choosing a kitchen backsplash. It’s the focal point of the kitchen’s design and a wonderful chance to show off your creative side. It may seem like a simple task, but choosing tile for your backsplash can be complicated, there are a variety of things to consider that will affect your overall kitchen design. So, do you take a risk with color? Play it safe with white subway tile? Whatever you choose, follow our guide on how to choose a kitchen backsplash. 

Reminder: Always speak with your designer or contractor about your preferences before a project begins! If you need help finding a kitchen contractor in your area, talk to one of HireHaven’s experts today!

Top tips for choosing a kitchen backsplash

  • Start with the proper budget
  • Size the backsplash properly
  • Know how to draw the eye to high impact areas
  • Choose the right material for you
  • Pick colors to stand out or fit in
  • Contrast your design with your countertops
  • Make smart shape and pattern choices
  • Don’t forget that seal and grout are key


Start with the proper budget

According to HomeAdvisor.com, installing a backsplash in your kitchen costs an average of $1,000. You could pay as little as $600 or as much as $3,000 depending on kitchen size. 

Price factors include finish types, amount of tile needed, pattern complexity, and the level of difficulty. This could depend on whether the area has an electrical socket, door, or window.

If your budget is tight, you'll want to lean toward standard sizes. However you can still add fun details. Bordering a few Handpainted pieces with classic white field tile is a great budget friendly way to add handmade, artistic appeal to your kitchen without breaking the bank.

Keep in mind that specialty shapes and more intricate glazes do cost a bit more.  The manufacturing process is more detailed, and we make everything by hand.  Custom colors will also drive up your price.  

When on a budget, avoid trendy tile and revisit classic white ceramic that can cost less than $1 per square foot. If you need to cover lots of area, like an entire wall, you can add interest without emptying your bank account by opting for practical metal panels.


Ceramic kitchen backsplash with colorful dish rags


Size the backsplash properly

OK, so now that you’ve got your budget sorted out, think about how much tile you’ll actually need to get this done. Multiply the width by the height of the wall to determine the square footage, which will tell you how much material you'll need. Account for an extra 10 percent of tile just to be safe.

If you just want a hint of tile, only bring your backsplash up to the bottom of your cabinet or first shelf in an open shelving design. If you want more tile, you can often extend your backsplash to the ceiling in areas where there are no cabinets.  


Know how to draw the eye to high impact areas

Most visitors to your kitchen will naturally look towards two areas - the space above the range and above the sink. There is more square footage of wall space above the range and sink, so you can play with tile design. Consider a neutral field tile for the rest of the kitchen, then bring in a funky glass tile to create a showy centerpiece above the stove.

Work in strong patterns here, if you’d like. Some options include installing tile on the diagonal, or applying a staggering brick pattern with slim subway tiles (now they come in sizes like 1-by-2 inches or elongated 4-by-12 inches).


Choose the right material for you

Tile is, and always has been, the most popular choice for kitchen backsplashes. But recently other options have presented themselves. Glass is beautiful, but not budget-friendly. Natural stone is visually striking, but requires an updated sealing once a year. Ceramic is durable, easy to clean and low cost. Ceramic’s cousin, porcelain, is actually denser and therefore more durable and resistant to moisture.

Cork mosaic tiles are appropriate for walls or floors, and tiles made of 100-percent bamboo are sealed to create a backsplash that's warm yet contemporary. Recycled glass tile is durable, stain resistant and comes in a range of unique colors that result from melting and repurposing recycled glass. Lastly, if your kitchen is rustic or industrial, brick might work best.


Checkerboard kitchen backsplash color and butcher block countertop


Pick colors to stand out or to fit in

As with the material choice, choosing a color for your kitchen backsplash is key to the entire renovation process. Before you make any material or color choice, live with the samples for awhile. Tape color and tile samples to the walls to see what they look like throughout the day as natural light changes. Choose one main color and a couple of accent colors to use throughout the kitchen, including the backsplash.

If you choose a colorful countertop material you'll want to choose a neutral tile color (but you can still go wild with pattern).  If your countertops are neutral, choose tile that complements the texture and tone of the countertop material.


Contrast your design with your countertops

Being too coordinated between backsplash and countertops leads to a boring look. Play with colors and shapes (as well as horizontal vs. vertical alignment) when designing your backsplash and countertops. Your tile backsplash is always going to be right up against your countertops, so it is important to make sure the two materials and colors work well together. 

Try mixing metallic tiles in different shades with various finishes, such as brushed stainless steel, oil-rubbed bronze or even an antique brass. By including small tiles of marble or granite, you can pull in the countertop color without being boring with a panel of granite that extends up from the countertop. 

You’ll also want to consider how your lighting fixtures and other hardware either match or clash with the backsplash choice.

Square kitchen tiles in front of bar with stools

Make smart shape and pattern choices

Show your originality but choosing a tile shape that suits your tastes. If you want a timeless design, choose a classic size such as 3x6 subway tile layout or 4x4 squares. This will never go out of style. 

If you want to get a little more funky, specialty shapes can be fun, too. If your kitchen is otherwise rather bland, a backsplash tile shape that draws the eye will be a show-stopper. Think triangles, circles, or even a custom shape.


Don’t forget that seal and grout are key

Different tile materials have different sealing needs. Natural tile like granite, marble, and slate needs to be resealed once a year, while travertine needs resealing every two years.