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Backsplash basics

The functional use of a backsplash is to protect the wall, but the right backsplash can do so much more for the aesthetics of your kitchen.

 It brings in color, texture, and pattern to the space.  It can either be the star and liven up the space or quietly play a supporting role highlighting another element in the kitchen like the countertop.  It can also be the unifying element bringing cabinets, countertop, floor, and other finishes together.  Because it is a vertical surface like the cabinets it draws your eye to it.  So much visual responsibility in one element!

What are the options in materials?



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Tile backsplash-

Tile is the first thing people think of for backsplash.  There is a staggering range options and prices.  They are made of ceramic, porcelain, glass, stone, wood, even bottle caps or coins.  We’re going to stick with the first four.  Porcelain, ceramic, stone, and glass are all resistant to heat, water, and scratches though some more than others.  A natural stone should be sealed to make it easier to clean and prevent staining especially anything with a pitted surface like tumbled travertine.  Glass can scratch so always use unsanded grout and test any cleaner before use.  Porcelain and ceramic are the easiest to maintain


Photo by jones | hayduBrowse kitchen photos


Countertop material as a backsplash-

Whether it’s stone, marble, engineered quartz, acrylic or laminate your countertop material can run up the wall giving a continuous, easy to clean surface.  You will probably pay the same per square foot as you do for your countertop which can be expensive.  And it might be too much of a good thing if you’re running it the full height. A busy countertop makes a busy backsplash.  The 4″ backsplash of your countertop isn’t as popular as it was a few years ago, but it can save you some money and you can easily paint or paper the wall (see below).


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Metal backsplash-

Metal is heat resistant and easy to clean, but can scratch, spot, and dent.  It is non porous so very hygienic. A brushed or textured finish will minimalize the appearance of future marring. Imagine hammered copper behind the stove reflecting the flames.  Pretty dramatic!  You can also use tin ceiling as a backsplash.  Easier for a DIYer to install and there is a wide variety of patterns and colors.


Photo by DHV ArchitectsMore kitchen photos

Glass or Mirror-

Seamless or with minimal seams, easy to clean with no grout, any color you can imagine, what’s not to like about glass? I’m not talking about glass tiles.  I mean sheets of glass.  It can be painted on the back of the glass or on the wall.  It can go over wallpaper or decorative paper.  Remember that glass has a green tinge to it.  If you don’t like that, ask for Starphire or similar glass.     Mirror also can be used as backsplash, such as this one from the Kitchen Cousins on Houzz.  Google custom glass to find a local installer.  And remember to get a glass that can hold up to the heat of the stove.


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Paint is easy, cheap, and a quick change.  Can’t afford something else right now?  Paint it!  Use a good quality, scrubable paint and prep it well.  It can last for years (or months if you get tired of the color).  Like any paint color decision get samples and try them out in a couple of areas and look at them in the different light you get over a few days.  Remember the lighting under the cabinets is different than across the room, so try it out where its going.

Photo by judith mackinBrowse kitchen photos


Hear me out!  This isn’t your granny’s wallpaper- some wallpaper is coated making it very easy to clean.  There is also the removable type so you can change it out as the mood strikes you and don’t have to fuss with using or removing glue.

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The take away-

If you’re expecting me to tell you what material to choose you’re out of luck.  Your choices are motivated by budget, aesthetics, and how much upkeep you want to have. Backsplashes come in a wide variety of materials, styles and prices.  They are DIYable or something left to a professional and can range from easily changed out to permanent. If you’re aiming for cheap and cheerful look at paint and wall paper.  If you have some DIY skills, a simple tile will work.  It all depends on your budget and end result you’re looking for.

 thanks to for the photos

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