Backsplash (also known as splashback) started out as a practical and useful part of the kitchen. The original purpose was to protect the walls from over spray and splashes at the sink, and cooking spatters around the stove area. (Backsplashes can also be used in the bathroom around the sink and/or bathtub areas to protect the walls from water.)
Over time – as different materials and more options were made available – backsplashes evolved in to a type of showpiece or art form for the kitchen.
Picking out the material for your backsplash gives you the opportunity to be creative! The possibilities are limited only to your imagination and the materials that are available. You can choose anything from simple to elaborate designs and from modern to rustic styles.
Backsplashes are meant to stand out, but you will also want to make sure that it is compatible with the existing décor throughout your kitchen. You will want to pick out a backsplash material/style that goes well with your cabinet color/appearance, countertop, paint or wallpaper color(s), the flooring, and even the appliances and fixtures. For a more cohesive look, it is possible to get a backsplash material to match the countertop or the flooring.
Many backsplash materials have coordinating trim (decorative borders and listellos) so that edges can be finished or a “picture frame” area can be enclosed. Within the “picture frame” you can use the same material in a different layout pattern (ex: vertical, horizontal, herringbone, chevron, etc.). You could also use a completely different type of material, or a mural/medallion could be added. These “picture frame” or showcase areas are typically installed above the stove or the sink. Many backsplash materials have coordinating decorative pieces or ornamental/embellished elements that are meant to be added throughout the backsplash.
Aside from price, one thing to keep in mind while choosing the material(s) for your backsplash is maintenance. Some materials are higher maintenance than others. Ceramic and porcelain tile, glass, and metal are typically low maintenance since those materials are nonporous and easier to clean. Textured and rougher materials (such as natural stone) will be more difficult to clean. Porous materials will need to be sealed periodically to keep them waterproof and to prevent stains.
Some (but not all) materials will also need to be grouted. Keep in mind that grout can be difficult to clean, and that it can stain/discolor over time.
TYPES OF BACKSPLASH MATERIALS
You can choose one material for the entire backsplash or you can mix-and-match materials for a unique look. Break up a wall of ceramic subway tile with an accent row made of a 4-inch high band of glass mosaic. Or combine travertine stone tiles with cast metal deco and trim pieces. The possibilities are endless!
Backsplash materials come in varying sizes from small to large. Smaller sizes work better in more confined areas like backsplashes. Certain materials can also come in various shapes other than square or rectangular. These different shapes include round, hexagon, octagon, arabesque, etc. All of these shapes and sizes – as well as materials – can be combined to form different patterns that create an even more unique look for your backsplash.
Ceramic and Porcelain Tile
Ceramic and porcelain tile has been – and still is – the most common material used in backsplashes. Ceramic and porcelain tile is heat and water resistant. The only disadvantage is that the tiles will need to be grouted.
When it comes to ceramic and porcelain, the possibilities are nearly endless because tile comes in every color imaginable. You can choose anything from classic white subway tile to varying shades of blue tiles. You can even mix things up and have alternating purple, green, and black tiles. No matter what vibrant, uncommon, or bizarre color(s) you may like, you will most likely be able to find tile in that color.
But ceramic and porcelain don’t just come in solid colors. There are also tiles that resembles stone and wood. Tiles can be multicolored or have a pattern/decorative feature. Other multicolored or patterned tiles are meant to be combined in a certain way to create a larger design/pattern.
Ceramic and porcelain tiles come in various textures (smooth, bumpy, wood grain, etc.) and finishes (polished, matte, honed, etc.).
Glass backsplashes – which can come in either panels or various sized tiles – will give your kitchen a modern and trendy look. Glass tiles and panels are available in different colors and finishes (glossy, frosted, etched, textured, etc.) Glass tiles also come in various different shapes, and can be applied in different patterns.
Some of the advantages of using glass for your backsplash are that the material is durable, nonporous, and easy to clean. Colored glass will not fade after extended exposure to UV light. The material also reflects natural and artificial light, helping to brighten up the room. Glass tiles can be grouted, but do not have to be depending on the shape of the tile.
Natural stone backsplashes are available in multiple different types of stones. The types of stone include granite, marble, travertine, limestone, slate, and sandstone. The same type of stone can be used for the backsplash as well as the countertop and/or the floor.
Since most types of natural stone are porous, stone backsplashes will need to be sealed periodically. Certain stone backsplashes may require more maintenance when cleaning because of the stone’s rougher surface/texture.
Cultured Stone Veneer
Cultured stone veneer is also known as engineered or manufactured stone. The material is made out of a mixture of polymers, dyes, and lightweight cement. Cultured stone is made to look like an assortment of natural stones, and it is available in a variety of colors/looks. Cultured stone is much more lightweight than natural stone.
Cultured stone does not need to be grouted, but it will need to be sealed since it is a porous material. Because the surface is bumpy and uneven, cultured stone can be more difficult to clean.
A backsplash made out of concrete can give your kitchen a modern and edgy look – especially if it is paired with a concrete countertop, sink, and/or floor. Because it is a man-made material, concrete is available in a variety of colors, textures, and finishes. Designs can be imprinted into concrete, and items such as seashells, coins, or small knickknacks can be embedded.
A disadvantage of concrete is that the material is porous and will need to be periodically sealed so that it can repel moisture and avoid stains. Another way to protect a concrete backsplash from liquids and stains is to cover it with a clear glass sheet. Concrete is also susceptible to hairline fractures and can be damaged by abrasive cleaners.
While stainless steel, copper, tin, bronze, and brass are the most popular, virtually any metal can be made into tiles, sheets, or panels for a backsplash. Metal tiles come in a selection of sizes and shapes. Various styles, finishes, and textures are also available. Metal tiles can also come embossed with different designs. With all of the options available, you can either pick the one you like the most or create you own pattern out of various tiles (ex: a combination of brushed, polished, and embossed stainless steel tiles.)
If you want the metal look but you don’t want to use real metal, there are faux metal and thermoplastic options available as well.
When it comes to backsplash, a mosaic is defined as a decorative or inlay design pattern that is created by arranging together pieces of tile that are typically 2”x2” or smaller. The tile pieces can be made out of ceramic, porcelain, glass, natural stone, or metal. A mosaic can be made out of one material – either the same color or varying colors. A mosaic can also be made up of a combination of varying materials (glass and stone).
Due to the vast number of materials, colors, textures, shapes, and sizes available, there are countless different mosaic patterns. Mosaics can form an overall picture (ex: flowers, food, etc.) or a geometric pattern. Mosaics typically come in square foot sheets that are already arranged into a pattern.
Like laminate countertops, laminate backsplashes are made out of thick paper and/or particleboard, colored pigments, and resin that are bonded together at high heat and under intense pressure to form a solid, nonporous surface. Because they are man-made products, laminate countertops come in a nearly limitless selection of colors, textures, and finishes. Laminate is also able to mimic the appearance of other materials – including stone, metal, and wood.
Laminate backsplashes are durable and easy to clean, but, unfortunately, the material can be scratched and it is not resistant to high heat.
Solid surface backsplashes are man-made through the combination of acrylics and/or polyester resins and a filler material. Because they are man-made, there are hundreds of colors, patterns, and designs available. The material is easy to clean, and scratches and stains can usually be removed. And any seams will be virtually invisible.
Uncommon Backsplash Materials
Cork – Decorative cork tiles make for a unique backsplash that can also double as a message board. You can even make a backsplash out of wine corks! Just keep in mind that it will take a lot of wine corks to cover even a small backsplash. Cork is naturally waterproof, but applying a waterproof sealant will make it more resistant to stains.
Decorative Paper or Wallpaper – Even something as simple as paper or wallpaper can be used as a backsplash. Just be sure to treat it with clear shellac or varnish to protect it from splashes and spatters.
Mirror – Using a mirror or a mirrored surface for all or part of your backsplash can create the illusion of a larger space – especially in a smaller kitchen.
Exposed brick – if you live in an older, brick building it is possible to expose the brick wall and use that as a backsplash. You will want to make sure that the brick is in good condition before proceeding. The brick will also need to be sealed since it is a porous material.
Wood – If you are looking for a more rustic look, a backsplash made out of wood is an option to consider. Wooden panels are available in a number of different styles and appearances. Because wood is nonporous, the backsplash would need to be treated and sealed. Wood can also be harder to clean because of the texture and grain. If you want the wood look but don’t want to go through the hassle of maintaining it, there are wood-look tiles, laminates, and solid surfaces available.
You can learn even more about backsplash here.
If you are looking to simply replace your backsplash or remodel you whole kitchen, Shakespeare Home Improvement Co. is here to help. Contact us today for a free estimate. We are Lancaster, PA’s premier kitchen remodeling company. We offer StarMark Cabinetry and work with you to help create the kitchen of your dreams.