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What is a Backsplash?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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A backsplash is a section of material added onto the wall behind a sink or a counter, usually in a kitchen. Tiles are one of the most common types of backsplash materials. The main purpose of kitchen backsplashes is to provide an easy-to-clean surface so that messes or splashes such as spattering cooking oil won't mark painted walls or wall paper. Backsplashes can also add great style and color to a kitchen.

There is no set area that a backsplash should occupy other than being large enough to contain cooking splatters. Backsplashes range from those just big enough to extend a little past the stove or sink to a sort of running backsplashes that continues around the kitchen. An extended type of backsplash may add a look of cohesiveness to a small kitchen. For a large kitchen, a single backsplash can make a dramatic focal point. Having a focal point such as an interesting pattern or mix of colors can draw the eye to a certain kitchen feature such as a glass sink or stainless steel stove.

Backsplashes should coordinate with the style of the kitchen they're in. For example, a shiny ceramic tile backsplash is perfect for a modern kitchen, but is likely to look out of place in kitchens decorated in a more rustic, old fashioned style. Hand-painted and unglazed tiles may add quaint charm to a backsplash while materials such as stainless steel and stone tend to create a totally different mood.

Tiles that are formed to make a pattern can work in most kitchens if the design, color and textures work with the kitchen's style. A popular look for a backsplash is a border of tiles with other tiles placed in a pattern inside the border. The tiles used may be all solid colored or some could be patterned such as Talavera or other hand-painted tiles. Mirrors can be used as a backsplash, but they tend to show spatters easily and may reflect unflattering images such as odd angles of cupboard doors.

Backsplashes of any material usually look best if they contrast with the kitchen cabinet colors. For example, a white tile backsplash can look striking in a kitchen with black or dark wood cabinets. If the kitchen cabinets are white or a light wood, a stainless steel backsplash may add an interesting look. Although kitchen backsplashes are often associated with the stove area, they can also look great behind the sink area. For example, a glass block backsplash is sometimes used as an alternative to a kitchen window when the view is not that desirable.

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Discussion Comments
By andee — On May 07, 2012

When I was looking for an inexpensive way to update my kitchen I looked online at a lot of different backsplash pictures.

I ended up going with a faux stainless steel backsplash that I was able to put over my existing backsplash.

This was easy to do and immediately improved the look of my kitchen. I have a stainless steel stove, so this was a perfect complement.

I think what I like more than anything is how easy it is to clean. We use our kitchen a lot, and there is always a lot of grease that splatters all over the place.

This is also something that is easy to replace if I get tired of it and want a different look.

By bagley79 — On May 06, 2012

There are a lot more trendy backsplash designs available than there used to be. My kitchen is mostly white with white cabinets and counter tops.

I was looking for a very neutral look and didn't want a lot of color. My husband does most of the cooking, and while I appreciate this, he is a very messy cook.

I needed a backsplash that was very easy to clean. I didn't want something that had a lot of crevices for dirt to get stuck in.

I ended up going with large neutral tile pieces that were very smooth. This was the perfect complement to my kitchen area and makes clean up a breeze.

By sunshined — On May 06, 2012

I saw some great kitchen backsplash ideas when I was watching a home and garden television show.

One of the ideas was to use strips of paneled beadbord to cover up old tiles instead of completely replacing them.

I thought this was a very clever idea - especially if you didn't want much expense or work involved.

This was also a great way to spruce up an outdated kitchen backsplash with a look that was more modern and up to date.

They ended up looking like small strips of paneling and you could stain them whatever shade you wanted. I thought they added a warm look to the kitchen without going to a lot of extra expense.

By golf07 — On May 05, 2012

I see a backsplash as serving more than one purpose. From a practical standpoint, they are great for protecting an area from grease and grime in the kitchen.

From a decorating standpoint, they can also add a focal point in your kitchen or help you pull a certain look or theme together.

When I was remodeling my kitchen, I went with a tile backsplash to tie in the colors I wanted to use. There are a lot of neat looking backsplash ideas out there, and it was hard to decide on just one of them.

I have a contemporary look in my kitchen with stainless steel appliances, so wanted something that was modern, but would also add some color. It is not hard to find colorful tiles to use in a kitchen backsplash.

By kylee07drg — On May 05, 2012

I saw a very artistic mosaic backsplash on an artist's website. I never would have thought that what she had done with it would have been possible.

Instead of just having a geometric design within the tiles, she cut them by hand to fit her ideas. I don't even think there were any square tiles in the piece.

She had swirls and curves, along with several pieces that were almost round and brightly colored. These had been placed here and there to add color and points of interest.

The main background was a mixture of beige and gray, and the swirls were gold. The round pieces varied from red to purple and blue.

I'm sure a backsplash like this would cost a fortune. It's obvious that a lot of work and thought went into it.

By lighth0se33 — On May 04, 2012

@wavy58 – I used glass tiles in my kitchen backsplash design, and I have never broken or chipped one. The glass is tempered, and it can tolerate more abuse than you could imagine.

I decided to use glass tiles after my friend used them in her bathroom floor. I questioned the wisdom of walking on glass, but she told me that the tiles were designed to hold over 400 pounds of weight!

That convinced me that they should be fine to use in a backsplash, which wouldn't have to support weight at all. I have accidentally bumped things against it, but it has never protested.

By wavy58 — On May 04, 2012

Has anyone here ever used glass tiles in a backsplash? I think they look really cool, but I'm afraid of how fragile they might be.

I'm pretty rough on my kitchen, and I can just see myself banging a pot handle into the glass backsplash and shattering the tiles. Is this easy to do, or has something been done to the tiles to toughen them up?

I saw a sample of a glass backsplash in a home improvement store, and I really loved the look of it. The tiles looked like little cubes of ice. They would have been transparent, but they were so thick that they appeared frozen.

By cloudel — On May 03, 2012

I know that my decorative backsplash has done well in protecting my kitchen walls. It goes all the way around the room, and it is made of ceramic tile.

I am the worst about spilling things in the kitchen. If I didn't have the backsplash, then all the wiping I would have done to the walls over the years would have probably worn the paint away.

Also, it is pretty. The tiles alternate between orange and glittery gold. They go well with my medium brown wooden cabinets and counters. I painted the walls peach, and though this goes with the orange tiles, they are just enough darker than the paint to provide a bit of contrast.

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