Kitchen Backsplash – Selecting Materials

By Todd Fratzel on Kitchens

Selecting Materials For Kitchen Backsplash

We’re going to write a series of article in the coming weeks on how to tile a kitchen backsplash. We’re going to cover everything from choosing materials to installation of an actual tile backsplash. Installing a backsplash in your kitchen is a fairly straight forward DIY project that can add a completely new and fresh look.

Kitchen Backsplashes

Kitchen backsplashes serve a functional role as well as a major design feature on most modern kitchens. Most kitchen backsplash materials are a durable material that makes kitchen clean up much easier. The wall behind the countertop typically get’s splashed with food, grease and water which highlights the need for a durable surface.

Today kitchen backsplashes are made from an infinite list of materials including:

  • Porcelain or Ceramic tile
  • Natural Stone (granite, marble, slate, etc)
  • Metals such as stainless steel
  • Decorative paints and/or wall paper

As you can see from the adjacent photo there are endless designs that incorporate all of the above materials. On a recent trip to Lowe’s we looked through dozens of these type of idea boards.

Details About Our Backsplash Project

Our project involves installing a new tile backsplash in our somewhat new kitchen (our new home is about 4 years old). As you can see in the photo the kitchen currently has a 4 inch high granite backsplash with the remaining height just painted drywall.

For this project we’re going to leave the 4 inch granite backsplash in place and add tiles and a decorate accent above it. The reason we’re doing this is purely based on the existing condition. When the house was built the granite fabricator didn’t need to scribe a tight fit to the wall as the granite backsplash covers any gaps. So, if we removed it there’s a very good chance the tile wouldn’t fully cover the gap. In new construction you can order the granite for a tight fit when you know there will be a tile backsplash.

Our Backsplash Design

After spending time at Lowe’s looking over lots of tile idea boards we came home with two different ideas in mind. To test the ideas we purchased a few pieces of each tile type and set up a mock layout to see which one we liked best.

The design that we decided to go with is shown in the adjacent photo. We chose between this layout and a similar one that used small 1×1 tiles and the same accent tile. The small 1×1 tiles seemed too busy for our liking so this is what we’ll be installing.

It consists of 3×6 tumbled marble tiles along with a 3×8 pewter (looking) tile with a decorative design. The tumbled marble closely matches the color of the walls in the kitchen and some of the tan highlights in the granite. The pewter looking accent tiles bring out some of the gray and blue in the granite along with the stainless steel appliances.

Tile Mastic and Grout

For this project we’ll be using a pre-mixed tile mastic instead of thin set. I’ve made this choice for a couple of reasons:

  • Thin set adheres to tile and walls much better and creates a better “hold” in vertical applications. This makes setting the tiles on the wall much easier.
  • Our backsplash doesn’t see much water as the lower 4 inch tall granite section takes the brunt of wet splashes. In really wet applications I prefer using a thin set product.
  • We’re going to install the tiles directly over the painted drywall, mastic works great in this type of application.

As far as grout is concerned I was thinking about using an epoxy grout as they are very easy to use these days. Epoxy grouts are great in kitchens where grease stains can be very unforgiving. However, epoxy grouts can be very difficult to use with unglazed tumbled stone like the marble we’ve chosen. Because of that we’ll use a regular un-sanded cement based grout.

Follow This Project

If you’d like to see the final pictures of our new backsplash along with a summary of all the backsplash articles then visit our complete guide on how to install a kitchen backsplash.

About the author

Todd Fratzel

I'm full time builder for a large construction company in New Hampshire. I run their design-build division that specializes in custom homes, commercial design-build projects and sub-divisions. I'm also a licensed civil and structural engineer with extensive experience in civil and structural design and home construction. My hope is that I can share my experience in the home construction, home improvement and home renovation profession with other builders and home owners. I'm also the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Tool Box Buzz. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions or you'd like to inquire about advertising on this site.

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