Types of Backsplash Materials and How to Pick the Best One for Your Kitchen

C.E. Larusso
Written by C.E. Larusso
Updated July 7, 2021
Mother and daughter laughing at kitchen sink
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Design isn't the only factor to consider

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Your backsplash is an opportunity to enhance your kitchen with personal detail, adding a stunning flash of color or unique texture to the room. It’s functional, too, protecting the walls from water, grease, or splattered marinara. 

Before you pick out your backsplash, consider all the pros and cons of each material to ensure you get the design that makes the most sense for your home.

How to Choose Your Backsplash Materials

You should consider a variety of factors before you choose your backsplash. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Design

What color are your cabinets, your countertops, and your floors? You’ll want your kitchen backsplash to pair well with the tones and overall style of the rest of the room. That said, a backsplash can also add contrast or a dramatic highlight to an otherwise simple look.

Check out our gallery for ideas to match your backplash to white kitchen cabinets.

Kitchen Traffic

Are you addicted to cooking blogs and always learning new techniques to perfect your bolognese? You may want to select a backsplash material that isn’t prone to staining, is less porous, and overall more durable. If you rarely turn on the stove, aesthetics might be paramount.

Budget

As always, some materials are more expensive than others. Tiles in standard sizes are usually cheaper than ornate mosaics. 

Installation

Some options are DIY-friendly, while others require special handling you’ll want to source out to a professional. This can add to the backsplash installation cost, especially if they need to move electrical boxes, do any re-painting, or alter the countertop.

Types of Backsplash Materials

To help you make the best choice for your home, here’s a breakdown of popular backsplash materials plus their costs, pros, and cons.

Ceramic

Green hexagon ceramic kitchen backsplash
IZ1737/Shutterstock.com

Ceramic tiles are an ever-popular choice for kitchen backsplashes, and they tend to be kind on the wallet, typically $20 to $25 per square foot. You’ll want to look for Group-1 and Group-2 tiles, which have a hardness appropriate for walls.

Pros:

  • Cost-effective

  • Available in many colors, shapes, and designs

Cons:

  • Fragile and prone to chipping

  • More porous than porcelain

  • Because it is manufactured in production runs, there can be a lot of variation between different lots. You’ll want to check that the caliber number (size) and lot number (color) are the same for your whole order.

Porcelain

Large white kitchen sink and grey porcelain backsplash
Elena Elisseeva/Shutterstock.com

Porcelain tiles are another classic, affordable option. They’re strong, repel water, and don’t stain easily. But their durability means porcelain is pricier than ceramic, around $35 per square foot.

Pros:

  • Denser than ceramic tiles, thus able to withstand more wear and tear

  • Stain, scratch, and water-resistant

  • With full-bodied tiles, damage from chipping is hardly noticeable. This is due to the fact that a uniform color runs throughout the tile.

Cons:

  • Because porcelain is so strong, you’ll likely want to hire a professional to cut and install it

  • It’s costlier than ceramic

Natural Stone

Tan natural stone backsplash and kitchen stove
Joe Hendrickson/Shutterstock.com

The lines and general textured look of natural stone—such as travertine, quartz, granite, and marble—can add an appealing, organic look to your kitchen. Still, these materials will require extra maintenance as they are very porous. The cost greatly depends on which stone you select, ranging from $30 per square foot for granite and up to $200 per square foot for some marble and quartz options.

Pros:

  • They’re unique! Variants in the stone’s patterning and veins are part of the appeal, and no two backsplashes are identical.

  • Affordable

Cons:

  • High maintenance; the tiles need to be sealed periodically, as they are extremely porous

  • Design can be unpredictable; the showroom backsplash stone won’t be the exact same stone you’re getting for your kitchen

  • Requires special cleaning products; always check manufacturing guidelines

  • Could be a poor choice if you cook a lot or have kids, as they are prone to staining

Glass

White glass backsplash in white kitchen
Berkay Demirkan/Shutterstock.com

Available in several finishes, glass mosaics can offer a luxurious, artistic touch to any kitchen, but they are one of the more expensive choices on our list, coming in around $20 to $35 per square foot, with some options as high as $50 per square foot.

Pros:

  • Don’t require special cleaning products like natural stone

  • Many styles to choose from

  • Easy to install as they can be arranged on fiberglass mesh

Cons:

  • If you choose an intricate design, cleaning might become time-consuming as you’ll need to navigate all the nooks and crannies

  • More expensive than other options

  • Mass-produced, so they might not be the most unique option

Wood

Dark wood backsplash in white kitchen
Photographee.eu/Shutterstock.com

A good DIY, eco-friendly option, wood can be used as a backsplash if properly sealed and protected, but it does require regular maintenance. The price can vary depending on the wood used but is usually between $3 and $40 per square foot.

Pros:

  • Environmentally friendly, as you can use salvaged wood

  • Works with virtually every style of design

  • Many kinds of wood to choose from

Cons:

  • Fire code dictates that nothing flammable can be installed within 18 inches of gas burners, so you’ll need a different backsplash option for your oven area

  • Must be properly sealed to prevent water damage and regularly treated with mineral oil or other protectants

  • Will likely need to be sanded and refinished every 10 years

  • Softer than tile or stone, therefore can damage easily

Metal

A comparatively low-cost (averaging $3 per square foot for tin, with costs higher for stainless steel at $35 per square foot), contemporary choice with options ranging from polished stainless steel to embossed tin tiles, a metal backsplash is easy-to-install and non-flammable but can be damaged by highly acidic items. 

Pros:

  • One of the easiest choices to install yourself; some even come with self-adhesive backing

  • Almost limitless options for stamped patterns and designs

  • Safe—the metal is non-flammable and therefore a great backsplash option for behind the stove

  • Easy to clean with soap and water

  • Eco-friendly—many tiles are manufactured using recycled materials

  • Very inexpensive

Cons:

  • Prone to scratches

  • Acidic items like lemon, vinegar, and coffee can wear off the finish and cause the metal to rust and corrode

  • Dents easily

  • Require gentle handling as they can bend easily and are sharp

Backsplash Comparison

To choose the kitchen backsplash that’s perfect for your home, you’ll want to consider which factors—price, durability, style, or installation ease—are most important to you. 

To select the best backsplash, start with the materials that are the most aesthetically pleasing and would fit with your home’s style, and then rank various other factors, like this:

Best for High-Use Kitchens

  • Ceramic

  • Porcelain

Environmentally Friendly Choices

  • Reclaimed wood

  • Metal

Easiest to Install

  • Wood

  • Glass

  • Metal

Most Unique Options

  • Natural stone

  • Porcelain

  • Ceramic

Least Expensive

  • Metal

  • Ceramic

  • Porcelain

  • Wood

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