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Buying Guide for Kitchen Tile Backsplash

Tile backsplashes make up a large category because tile is available in several materials, shapes, sizes, colors and patterns. Our purpose here is to outline your options and give you information you can use to narrow your choices. This guide is also useful for comparing tile backsplashes to the other types available and covered in our guides including glass, onyx, stainless steel, granite, marble backsplashes and more.

Tile Kitchen Backsplash

What is a Tile Backsplash?

A tile backsplash is created with one of a wide range of tile types including ceramic, porcelain, glass and brick. The tile is affixed to the wall, and the space between tiles is filled with grout or a similar material.

Some tile backsplashes rise just a few inches above the surface of the countertops while others extend up to the cabinets or even to the ceiling.

Tile sizes range from small mosaic tile about 1 inch square or round to large wall tiles of 12 inches square. Subway tiles in sizes such as 2”x16”, 3”x14” and 6”x18” are popular too. Tile is produced across the entire color spectrum. You’ll find many with patterns and textures as well.

The diversity of tile types and sizes means that each tile backsplash can be a custom work, created to mesh beautifully with the other elements used in your kitchen remodeling scheme.

Tile Backsplash Wear and Durability

Tile is extremely durable. When it is on the wall, it gets less wear than it does on a countertop, so will last indefinitely.

The real key to kitchen tile backsplash durability is not the tile; it is the grout between the tiles. First, the right type of grout must be chosen for the application to ensure that it adheres to the tile and does not settle or crack. Secondly, the grout must be sealed properly to resist stains caused by water, splashed juice, splattered grease, etc. While grout can be redone during the life of the tile, it can be quite expensive.

Tile Kitchen Backsplash Advantages and Disadvantages

These tile backsplash pros and cons give you an idea of what it’s like to have this type in your kitchen.

Tile Backsplash Pros – Tile:

  • Is available in such a diverse array of choices that you can creatively tailor the exact look you desire
  • Resists staining, heat and water, so it is ideal for use in kitchens
  • Cleans up with just mild soap and water when the tile and grout are properly sealed
  • Material is more affordable than most other quality options

Tile Backsplash Cons – Tile:

  • Is more costly to install than most other materials because the work is labor intensive
  • Grout will stain when not adequately sealed as often as every year
  • Can vary in color from box to box

The Cost of Tile Backsplashes

Tile is one of the most affordable backsplash materials to consider. Here’s how the price of tile backsplashes breaks down:

  • Tile backsplash material cost: $3 to $20 per square foot. The low end of the price spectrum reflects discount tile. The high end reflects patterned and textured tile. Most tile costs $5 to $10 per square foot.
  • Tile backsplash labor cost: $5 to $15 per square foot for standard installation, with an average of about $10 psf. If you’re having an artistic design or mosaic installed, the labor cost can be as high as $20 per square foot.

See our full tile backsplash costs guide for information broken down into materials, removal and installation of tile backsplash.

Is a Tile Kitchen Backsplash Right for You?

You’ll enjoy a tile backsplash in your remodeled kitchen if you:

  • Like the clean, structured lines of tile and grout
  • Prefer a material that is easy to clean
  • Want to create a backsplash design that is truly unique
  • Are looking for an affordable material
  • Don’t mind having the grout sealed regularly or doing the work yourself
  • Plan to move in the next few years and want to update the kitchen with something that has wide appeal

FAQ for Tile Backsplashes

Here are answers to common questions we receive about tile kitchen backsplashes.

Can tile backsplashes be installed behind a range or cooktop?

Yes. Tile is an excellent choice for those locations because it stands up well to heat, moisture and grease splatters as long as the grout is properly sealed.

What factors make some jobs more expensive than others?

The more complex the work is, the higher the labor costs will be. Creating tile mosaics requires skill and time, and you’ll pay more for both.

How often should tile grout be sealed?

Ask your tile dealer about the specific grout being used, but it can be as often as once per year.

How should I clean my tile backsplash?

Tile can be cleaned with any mild detergent and water. Remove all the detergent to prevent it from clouding the finish of the tile.

Is grout sealing a DIY job?

Yes, it can be. If you’ve got some experience working with tile, it shouldn’t be too hard. Cleaning the grout to ensure adhesion of the sealer is the most important step in the process. Follow the grout sealer directions carefully.

How can I be sure of using the right kind of grout?

The tile manufacturer should make it clear in the information that comes with the tile. An experienced tile contractor will know too.

Can I use floor tile for my backsplash?

Tile is rated by its hardness and ability to withstand traffic. There are six classes ranging from wall tiles to commercial-grade floor tiles. Wall tiles are Class I tiles and should not be used on floors. Most residential floor tile is found in Class II, III or IV. Those tiles can be used on walls, but the fact that they are denser makes them heavier, and it’s possible they’ll be harder to install and may fall off the wall more easily. The best bet is to choose one of the hundreds of lovely wall tile styles available.

How long do kitchen tile backsplashes last?

With proper care, your tile backsplash will last more than 20 years.

Where can I find a good tile backsplash installer?

Friends and neighbors might have recommendations. You can also use the service we provide. It is free, and there is no obligation to accept one of the estimates. You’ll receive competitive written estimates from local tile installers who have been screened for expertise.

Related Content in this Series

View other guides in this series which you may find useful.