A backsplash is one of the most visible parts of any kitchen. Not only does it serve the functional purpose of protecting the walls from spills, but it also provides a major design opportunity when curating how your kitchen looks. Kitchen backsplashes can be used to add visual interest, color, and texture to your kitchen aesthetic.
With so many backsplash tile options to choose from, it can be overwhelming trying to select the right material that balances quality, cost, and design appeal. In this article, we’ll review the most popular backsplash tile materials on the market and compare their strengths and limitations to help you make the best choice for your needs.
A Deep Dive into Common Backsplash Materials
There is a wide variety of materials used for kitchen backsplashes today, ranging from classic ceramic tile to modern metal and glass mosaics. Here’s an in-depth look at the most popular backsplash tile options:
Using the same material for both your countertop and backsplash creates a streamlined, integrated look. Granite, marble, quartz, or other stone countertop materials make for an upscale, natural stone backsplash.
The downside is these materials tend to be more expensive and some like marble, require more maintenance to keep them looking pristine. DIY installation is also not recommended for the average homeowner.
Ceramic or Porcelain Tile
Ceramic and porcelain backsplash tiles are classic, timeless, and inexpensive options perfect for a variety of design styles.
Ceramic tile is made from clay and other natural ingredients fired at high temperatures. Porcelain contains a higher percentage of refined clay, making it denser and more durable than ceramic. Both offer great variety in colors, textures, shapes, and designs.
Easy to clean, water-resistant, and heat-tolerant, ceramic and porcelain tiles are simple for DIYers to install. Their affordability makes them one of the most budget-friendly backsplash options.
Glass backsplash tiles lend a contemporary, sleek style with their reflective, transparent, or colored glass. Popular design options include glass mosaic tiles or large-format glass subway tiles.
Glass tiles can be tricky for DIY installation due to their fragility. Professionals are best equipped to cut glass tiles without breaking or chipping them. Over time, the grout between glass tiles can also discolor and require more frequent cleaning. Nonetheless, the luminous, modern look of glass backsplashes makes them a trendy choice.
Metal backsplashes offer an industrial chic, modern aesthetic reminiscent of old tin ceiling tiles but with more durable and stylish metal materials. Stainless steel, copper, brass, nickel, and tin tiles are popular options.
Metals like stainless steel are easy to install, need very little maintenance, and hold up well against heat and moisture. Softer metals like copper may dent and scratch more easily. The cost is higher than ceramic or porcelain tile. The bold metallic sheen of metal backsplash tiles lends high visual impact.
Natural Stone Tile
For Old World charm, natural stone tiles like travertine, marble, and granite make elegant backsplash options. Their earthy colors, unique veining, and textural depth create a high-end, timeworn look.
Stone tiles are porous and require yearly sealing to prevent staining and discoloration. As natural stones, their finish can also vary widely from tile to tile. Professional installation is recommended. While beautiful, natural stone backsplash tiles come at a premium cost.
Faux Metal (Thermoplastic)
For the look of metal at a lower cost, faux metal thermoplastic tiles mimic the appearance of stainless steel, copper, tin, and other metals using resin materials. The resulting tiles have a convincingly realistic metallic finish.
More affordable than real metal tiles, faux metal does have some limitations. They can warp under high heat, so professional installation is advised. That aside, their simulated metallic look is not as authentically dynamic as real metal. Nonetheless, faux metal backsplashes add a trendy, industrial vibe without the higher price tag.
Manufactured Stone Veneer
Manufactured stone veneers offer the organic, eco-friendly aesthetic of real stone at a more affordable price. Made from a mixture of crushed rocks and binding materials, the stone veneer replicates the color variations, pores, and textural depth of natural stone.
Stone veneer tiles are thicker and more fragile than ceramic or porcelain tiles and require special cutting tools. Grout also tends to get dirty faster with stone veneer. However, their authentic stone-like look transforms backsplashes into a charming, rustic showpiece.
Here’s a bar graph showcasing the popularity of each backsplash material type:
Key Considerations Before Making a Purchase
With an overview of the common backsplash materials available, here are the key factors to weigh when deciding which option best suits your kitchen:
Ease of Installation
For DIYers, ceramic, porcelain, and glass mosaic tiles are fairly straightforward to install. Natural stone, large format tiles, and metal tiles often require professional installation. Faux metals like thermoplastics can also be temperamental for amateur installs under heat.
Porcelain, ceramic, glass, and metal tiles are the easiest backsplashes to clean and maintain. Natural stone requires yearly sealing and is prone to staining. Metals like copper will naturally patina over time. Faux metals can lose their luster under high heat.
Porcelain tiles are the toughest, thanks to their dense composition. Ceramics and glass also hold up very well over time. Softer metals like copper and brass will scratch and dent more easily. Natural stone’s porosity also makes it less impervious to damage.
For high-traffic kitchens prone to splashes, stains, and daily wear-and-tear, porcelain, ceramic, or glass backsplashes are easiest to keep looking pristine. Avoid more porous, staining-prone materials like natural stone.
Ceramic and porcelain tiles are the most budget-friendly options starting under $5 per square foot installed. Glass tiles start around $15 per square foot. Metal tiles cost between $15-30 per square foot. Natural stone tiles range from $40-100 per square foot installed.
Where to Shop
Big box home improvement stores offer the convenience of in-person shopping and immediate purchase. Online retailers give you more variety and customization options that you can get shipped directly. For unique, specialty tiles, shopping local tile showrooms are best.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the easiest backsplash material to keep clean?
Nonporous materials like porcelain, ceramic, metal, or glass are the easiest to clean and maintain. Avoid porous natural stone that requires sealing and can stain.
- What is the most durable backsplash material?
While metal tiles might seem durable, they are prone to scratches. Porcelain, glass, or ceramic tiles offer superior durability thanks to their hard, impervious composition.
- What is the difference between porcelain and ceramic tiles?
Both are made from clay mixtures fired in kilns, but porcelain uses a more refined clay and is fired at higher temperatures, making it denser and more durable than ceramic.
Choosing the perfect backsplash tile involves balancing aesthetics, functionality, cost, and installation considerations. For many homeowners, classic ceramic or porcelain tiles offer an ideal mix of affordability, durability, and design versatility.
Metal or glass backsplashes bring contemporary flair, while natural stone imparts elegance. Weigh how your kitchen is used, your design tastes, skill level, and budget to select the ideal backsplash material for your space.
With proper installation and care, your backsplash can serve as a stunning focal point and functional accent wall for years of cooking and entertaining to come. Take your time and make an informed decision to ensure you get the look, durability, and ease of maintenance you desire from your new kitchen backsplash.