The wall space above the counters in a bathroom or kitchen is a prime area for splashes of all kinds — water, soap, dirt, grease, Aunt Jodi’s famous tomato sauce, and even flames (oh, my!). Protecting your home with a durable backsplash — a material that covers this wall space — is a solution that takes advantage of this area as a prime decor opportunity, as well.
We’ve compiled this complete guide to backsplashes to highlight the best backsplash material for providing both durability and style.
The Benefits of a Backsplash
Designing a kitchen or bathroom presents many fun design choices for homeowners. Just one of these choices is to install a backsplash, whether during new construction, remodelling, or as a quick update to existing decor.
A backsplash can make a big splash with color, shape, size, texture, installation pattern, or all of the above! You may think that achieving such a style impact is time-consuming or expensive (or both). Because backsplashes tend to be small areas (as opposed to floors and complete walls), they are typically an affordable project that DIYers can accomplish over the weekend (as opposed to floors and complete walls). Despite being a relatively small-scale undertaking, adding a backsplash packs a design wallop with valuable benefits.
The most important benefit of a backsplash lies beyond the style impact, in functionality.
The area behind the counter in a kitchen or bathroom must be able to withstand moisture (that can lead to mold growth), stains, heat, and impact from daily activity (that can mar the appearance), all of which can destroy an unprotected wall surface.
Backsplashes can protect your wall, ensuring that your space stays strong and stylish for years to come.
What to Look for in a Backsplash Material
A homeowner’s primary concern when considering backsplash materials is that it needs to be able to stand up to the elements that the space is exposed to on a daily basis.
The material you choose should be moisture- and flame-resistant for your family’s health and safety. Also, your backsplash should be low-maintenance since the backsplash is an area that can get messy and require regular cleaning (think of simmering sauces in the kitchen or makeup stains in the bathroom).
Choosing a material that works with your cabinetry, flooring, paint, fixtures, and appliances may sound like a tall order. A backsplash can coordinate with your existing elements or you can use the backsplash as an opportunity for a pop of color or pattern. Most importantly, choose a backsplash material that is stylistically versatile — one that gives you many options so that you can find the perfect backsplash design for your kitchen or bathroom.
Ceramic Tile Backsplash — Why It’s a Superior Choice
To fulfill the essential requirements of a kitchen or bathroom backsplash, ceramic tile is the natural choice. No other material can compete with the benefits of ceramic tile.
Properly installed ceramic tile is water-resistant and can provide wall protection from stray splashes, boiling liquids on the stove, and condensation from steam.
While other products may claim to be water-resistant, non-ceramic surfaces often lack a method to keep residual moisture from hiding under the surface. Undetected moisture trapped behind materials (and that has no opportunity to dry) could create a dark, moist environment that is a breeding ground for mold.
Kitchen backsplashes often surround the stove or oven, meaning that flame exposure is a possibility. Ceramic tile won’t produce smoke, burn, melt, or give off toxic fumes when in contact with flames. While some plastic-based materials will melt when exposed to heat, ceramic tile is noncombustible and may reduce the spread of flames.
Ceramic tile has the following low-maintenance benefits:
- Stain resistance:Splashes and spills are bound to end up on your backsplash and you can rest assured that they won’t stain your ceramic tile.
- Easy cleaning: When messes do happen, wiping with water is usually all that’s necessary to clean your ceramic tile — no need to use harsh chemicals around food you’ll be consuming!
- Scratch resistance: Daily activity in a kitchen and bathroom often involves small appliances, pots and pans, and utensils that can mar an unprotected surface. Ceramic tile is scratch-, dent-, and cut-resistant.
- Mold and mildew resistance: Ceramic tile is naturally resistant to the growth of mold and mildew.
Versatile Style Options
With a limitless selection of design options, ceramic tile gives you the ability to custom design a unique look to reflect your individual style.
Because ceramic tile has the functionality to be installed as a backsplash and on ALL your kitchen and bathroom surfaces — the walls, counters, floor, shower, and even the ceiling — you can coordinate your look with a “family” of tile options. Choose a consistent style, or combine different designs that contrast with and complement one another.
Best Backsplash Designs — Choose Your Ceramic Tile Style
Small mosaic tiles are beautifully suited for smaller surface areas such as backsplashes.
Tile mosaics have come to be known as a creative combination of shapes, colors, and textures. New manufacturing technologies have made even more imaginative combinations possible. Manufacturers may mount small mosaic tiles on strips or mesh sheets to simplify the installation process.
Subway tile is admired for a classic look with clean lines that works well in a broad range of decorating styles, ranging from farmhouse to ultra-modern. Traditional white subway tile has inspired a new generation of subway looks that are available in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and dimensional shapes.
Backsplashes can provide an excellent space to show off patterned tile, especially if you want the backsplash to be the focal point of the room or when you might shy away from patterns in larger spaces. Tile patterns can also be created through the layout installation by combining tiles in a purposeful repetition or by random selection to create a unique design.
Hexagons have a vintage heritage that continues to transcend time and be ever-contemporary. Hexagons lend a playful honeycomb texture to your kitchen or bathroom backsplash while also creating a satisfying, organized look. For a unique twist, consider going with bold contrasting colors or a staggered design (read on for more about staggered designs).
Herringbone Tile Pattern
The herringbone tile pattern adds visual interest to a tile installation and can look completely different depending on the size and color of tile you go with. Choose a monochromatic tile color and colored grout to emphasize the pattern itself or a mix of colors to create a dazzling design.
Irregularly Shaped Tile
If you’re only considering flat tile options, you’re overlooking an entire avenue of design possibilities. Advances in manufacturing allow you to bring your backsplash to another dimension and add a textured look to your space. The pictures above depict just a couple of the amazing 3D tile styles available.
You may think of tiles as relatively small objects, but gauged porcelain tile panels/slabs can be large enough to make up your entire backsplash. We love this option with marble-look tile slabs, and in the photo above, you also see an option for “design-your-own” tile slabs created with your own custom image.
Single-color tile slabs create a minimalistic look with a lack of patterns and grout lines, while patterned tile slabs are a great option if you want the look of wallpaper with the benefits of ceramic tile (i.e., moisture, bacteria, stain, and heat resistance).
Tile Backsplash Trends
You can’t go wrong if you choose one of the ceramic tile designs we’ve discussed. As a bonus, here are some tile backsplash trends that are especially popular right now.
Blue Backsplash Tile
Choose a tile shape and pattern to pair up with the perfect shade of blue for your kitchen or bathroom. Some of our favorite blue backsplashes from Instagram are showcased in Tile Trends We Love: Blue Backsplash Tile.
Staggered Tile Backsplash
While most backsplashes end in a straight line, staggered backsplashes end along the tiles’ natural shape to create an “unfinished” look. Staggered backsplashes work particularly well with hexagon tiles, don’t you think?
Full-Wall Tile Backsplash
Can’t get enough of your backsplash tile design? The full-wall backsplash is for you. Rather than stop at a certain point, full-wall backsplashes continue up to the ceiling, giving you more wall protection and also more to admire.
Range Backsplash Tile
Gaze upon something beautiful while you’re cooking up something wonderful at the stove. A range backsplash is a look in the right direction.
Range backsplashes can be the same style as the rest of your backsplash, or can incorporate a unique design as in the kitchen above. Whatever look you choose, ceramic tile’s flame and stain resistance will protect your wall from heat and messes.
Kitchen Island or Bar Tile
You might want to call this option a “foot backsplash.” Your kitchen island or bar receives constant kicking and bumps from barstools. Add a ceramic tile facing and protect your kitchen island or bar while also adding a unique decorative element that can coordinate or contrast with your backsplash and floor tile. As with a traditional backsplash area, tiling a kitchen island or bar is a small area that can be a weekend DIY project.
Bring on the Backsplash Tile!
Armed with an understanding of ceramic tile’s benefits and the many backsplash tile designs you can choose from, it’s time to get started on your kitchen or bathroom backsplash. Find even more inspiration by visiting our Design Gallery and Pinterest board and then get tiling!