Kitchen backsplashes are easy-to-clean, vertical extensions to the kitchen countertops that protect the kitchen walls from being splattered with oil and food. They also prevent spilled liquids from leaking behind the kitchen cabinets. A distinctive backsplash can also help a kitchen look great. It gives the room a finished quality.
The commonly used materials for kitchen backsplashes can vary from ceramic tiles to soapstone. Each material has advantages and disadvantages. As an Architect, I have described ten of the most popular kitchen backsplash materials in detail, so that you can decide whether it is suited for your requirement and your kitchen:
What are the best options for kitchen backsplashes?
Ceramic tiles as kitchen backsplash?
Metal tiles as kitchen backsplash?
Stainless steel as kitchen backsplash?
Glass blocks as kitchen backsplash?
Glass tiles as kitchen backsplash?
Granite as kitchen backsplash?
Marble as kitchen backsplash?
Engineered stone as kitchen backsplash?
Slate as kitchen backsplash?
Soapstone as kitchen backsplash?
WHAT ARE THE BEST OPTIONS FOR KITCHEN BACKSPLASHES?
While selecting a backsplash it is important to match it with the permanent fixtures in your kitchen, but not the appliances, since they will change over time. The most popular materials for kitchen backsplashes are ceramic or porcelain tiles, natural stone and glass or metal tiles. But before you decide on a backsplash material, consider all the advantages and disadvantages of each material, that I have listed here:
1. CERAMIC TILES AS KITCHEN BACKSPLASH:
Ceramic tiles are undoubtedly the most versatile backsplash material by virtue of their sheer variety in colour, texture, shape and size. As an Architect, I suggest that you choose the same tile for your kitchen backsplash as you’ve chosen for the floor – but in a smaller size. You can have custom painted tiles to match any theme or design, just to add that dash of colour.
Advantages of Ceramic tiles as backsplash:
Cost: Ceramic tiles are considerably more affordable;
Durability: Glazed tiles are tough and durable;
Variety: Wide variety of patterns, textures and designs are available;
Maintenance: Ceramic tiles are easy to clean and maintain;
Porosity: Glazed ceramic tiles are non-porous and hence resistant to stains and acidic foods.
Customizing: For that exclusive look, you can customize byusing specially hand-painted tiles;
Replacement: When a kitchen mishap chips or breaks a tile or two, it’s much easier and cheaper to replace the affected tiles than it would be for a slab of granite.
Disadvantages of ceramic tiles as backsplash:
Joints: There are too many joints and grout in a ceramic backsplash, which trap grease and dirt.
Smoothness: Ceramic tiles are not as smooth as steel or glass.
Installation: Since every single tile is hand-set, it is more labour-intensive and the final appearance depends on the skill of the layer.
Water resistance: Unglazed, porous tiles in areas near the sink or stove absorb liquids and grime and are impossible to clean.
Brittleness: Ceramic tiles can crack under hard impact.
2. METAL TILES AS KITCHEN BACKSPLASH:
Kitchens feature many metals besides steel — brass, copper, pewter, tin, and aluminum, to name a few. However before you go in for a long-term investment, think about the inherent advantages and disadvantages of the metals.
Advantages of metal tiles as kitchen backsplash:
Appearance: Brass and copper cast a nice glow while antique embossed tin looks great; Metals gently reflect light, which creates the illusion of a larger kitchen space;
Porosity: They are non-porous and hence waterproof and resistant to fungal growth and stains;
Durability: They are durable.
Disadvantages of metal tiles as kitchen backsplash:
Maintenance: All metal backsplashes are high-maintenance. Food, grease and fingerprints all show very clearly, necessitating continual cleaning;
Scratch-proof: They often shows scratches and can be dented;
Noise: They can be quite noisy if not stabilized properly with a strong backing;
3. STAINLESS STEEL AS KITCHEN BACKSPLASH:
Stainless steel backsplashes, long used in restaurant kitchens are becoming popular in home kitchens because they can give your kitchen a modern streamlined look and are able to blend in well with stainless steel kitchen appliances like the stove, refrigerator and dishwasher.
Advantages of Stainless steel as kitchen backsplash:
Durability: It is durable and is highly heat resistant;
Brittleness: It is crack resistant;
Porosity: It is non-porous and hence, resistant to stains and corrosion, is waterproof and easy-to-clean;
Flexibility: Stainless steel is flexible which enables it to be installed in all kinds of unique spaces;
Installation: It is easy to install and is generally installed as one solid piece;
Joints: It does not have grouts or joints which trap food, grease, dirt;
Appearance: It adds to the appearance of the kitchen by giving it a sleek and modern look; Also, stainless steel gently reflects light, which creates the illusion of a larger kitchen space;
Variety: These sheets come in a variety of finishes, including quilted, non-directional, checkerboard, and a variety of diagonal designs.
Disadvantages of steel as kitchen backsplash:
Scratch-resistance: It often shows scratches and can be dented;
Noise: It can be quite noisy if not stabilized properly with a strong backing;
Maintenance: Food, grease and fingerprints all show very clearly, necessitating continual cleaning.
4. GLASS BLOCKS AS KITCHEN BACKSPLASH:
A very recent backsplash option that has garnered a lot of interest from designers and home owners is Glass blocks or solid-glass-sheet backsplashes. These are usually part of an exterior wall and let in natural light. Just like conventional windows, glassblock units must be set into adequately framed openings with load-bearing headers.
Advantages of glass as kitchen backsplash:
Appearance: In modern kitchens, it offers a sleek backdrop to the counters, cabinets and appliances; It looks good in contrast with stainless steel.
Light: It lets in a lot of light and brings the outdoors inside.
Smoothness: Glass sheets are very smooth and so easy to clean.
Porosity: Glass is non-porous and so resists fungal growth, is stain resistant and water-proof.
Variety: Glass is available in a variety of colours and textures.
Disadvantages of glass as kitchen backsplash:
Installation: It is more difficult to assemble and if the workmanship is not neat, it can spoil the interiors;
Cost: It is expensive to use glass or acrylic block since it requires framing and lintels.
Brittleness: Glass can easily break on hard impact.
Maintenance: Glass is easy to clean but shows water marks and fingerprints and hence needs constant cleaning.
5. GLASS TILES AS KITCHEN BACKSPLASH:
A new design trend in kitchen backsplashes is glass tiles, which can add beauty to a kitchen and make it appear brighter. The tiles may be glued to the wall or mounted with brackets. With clear and translucent panels it’s especially important to ensure that no unsightly debris finds its way between the glass and the wall. Clear glass can be used to protect walls made of materials that should be protected from moisture and food splatters, e.g. antique bricks, vintage wood, or delicate wallpaper.
Advantages of glass tiles as kitchen backsplash:
Porosity: Glass tiles are non-porous, so they resist mold, mildew and staining.
Appearance: Glass reflects light, so it makes the area look brighter and larger.
Eco-friendliness: Glass tiles are more eco-friendly as it takes half the energy to produce a glass tile compared to a ceramic tile. You can also find glass tiles made of recycled glass;
Flammability: A glass backsplash is also non-flammable.
Variety: Textured glass tiles, frosted glass, back-painted glass, coloured glass are some of the options available.
Disadvantages of glass tiles as kitchen backsplash:
Cost: Glass tiles are more expensive than ceramic;
Scratch resistance: They can scratch, and the scratches may show;
Cutting: Glass tiles are difficult to cut;
Brittleness: Glass can break and is unsuitable if there are young children;
Maintenance: Glass is very smooth and so, easy to clean but shows water marks and fingerprints and hence needs constant cleaning.
6. GRANITE AS KITCHEN BACKSPLASH:
Nowadays, natural stone like granite is becoming popular because it has lot of advantages over other backsplash material. A granite backsplash possesses an inner illumination that has a way of softening the room and giving it a more elegant and sophisticated appearance.
Advantages of granite as kitchen backsplash:
Durability: Granite is one of the hardest materials and can last for several years;
Heat resistance: It is impervious to extreme heat, ultraviolet light, acids and abrasions;
Appearance: It adds elegance to a kitchen; Many people like the small flecks of light present within the granite which can be seen from the surface.
Maintenance: It is very smooth and so, easy to clean and maintain;
Shine: It retains its shine and actually shines more with repated cleaning.
Disadvantages of granite as kitchen backsplash:
Porosity: It is somewhat porous and requires annual or frequent maintenance with a penetrating sealer to deter stains.
Cost: It is quite expensive and not suitable for many budget-conscious people. However, granite tiles are less expensive.
Replacement: Because granite is a natural stone with unique colouring and patterns, it may be difficult to find matching pieces if you later want to extend the countertop or a part of the countertop is broken and needs to be replaced.
7. MARBLE AS KITCHEN BACKSPLASH:
Marble is luxurious, yet soft and porous, requiring regular waxing and sealing. While not ideal as countertop material, it is fine for backsplashes if not located near a heat source, since it is available in a wide range of lighter shades which make the kitchen look brighter.
Advantages of marble as kitchen backsplash:
Appearance: It is a beautiful material that gives a luxurious touch to the kitchen; Since it is available in a wide range of lighter shades, it makes the kitchen look brighter.
Maintenance: It is easy to clean and maintain. In fact with repeted cleaning, it shines and sparkles.
Disadvantages of marble as kitchen backsplash:
Porosity : It is soft and porous and not stain resistant, hence requiring regular waxing and sealing.
Heat resistance: It is not very heat resistant;
Discolouring: It gets discoloured when exposed to citric acids (lime and lemon juices);
Replacement: Because marble is a natural stone with unique colouring and patterns, it may be difficult to find matching pieces if you later want to extend the countertop or a part of the countertop is broken and needs to be replaced.
While not ideal as countertop material, it is fine for backsplashes if not located near a heat source.
8. ENGINEERED STONE AS KITCHEN BACKSPLASH:
Engineered Stone with 94% quartz and 6% high-performance polymers, is extremely durable, yet very flexible, and suitable for a wide range of domestic, commercial and industrial applications.
Advantages of Engineered stone as kitchen backsplash:
Durability: Engineered stone is extremely durable and resistant to fractures and any kind of damage. If taken care of properly, an engineered stone backsplash can last for decades.
Flexibility: It is more flexible and easier to install, handle, and maintain than natural stones.
Scratch resistance: An engineered stone backsplash is resistant to scratches from pointed objects like stainless steel knives, mugs, ceramic pots, etc.
Heat resistance: Engineered stone can resist heat from hot surfaces like plates and pots.
Maintenance: An engineered stone backsplash is easy to maintain and clean.
Porosity: It’s non-porous surface makes its high-polished luster last for years and does not harbor the growth of mold, mildew, and bacteria. It can also resist stains caused by oil, wine, acids, soda, and common household cleaning products. Therefore, unlike granite, it does not need sealing.
Variety: Engineered stone has a wide variety of colors and patterns to choose from. Some patterns imitate the real thing, while others come in pastel colors.
Disadvantages of Engineered stone as kitchen backsplash:
Appearance: An engineered stone backsplash does not look natural in terms of color, pattern variations, aesthetic beauty. Moreover the edge seams are visible.
Cost : It is expensive, sometimes even more than Granite;
Installation: It requires professional installation.
9. SLATE AS KITCHEN BACKSPLASH:
Slate is a fine-grained metamorphic rock that is derived from sediments of clay and fine silt. The uniquesness of each piece and permanence of slate allows it to fit into either a traditional design or a modern kitchen scheme. Unlike marble or granite, slate is affordable which makes it a popular choice.
Advantages of Slate as kitchen as backsplash:
Durability: Slate is durable and strong.
Porosity: Slate has low-porosity and hence has a low absorption rate and does not take stains.
Heat resistance: It is heat resistant.
Smoothness: Slate is not as smooth as glass or steel and will attract dirt.
Maintenance: A slate backsplash is almost maintenance free.
Disadvantages of Slate as kitchen backsplash:
Variety: The colours are generally light to dark gray with red, green, and purple stones mixed in. Many people feel restricted by the colour choice.
Installation: Slate is heavy and so requires special tools and materials for installation.
10. SOAPSTONE AS KITCHEN BACKSPLASH:
Soapstone is a metamorphosed stone that feels “soapy”. It is ideal for a backsplash because of it has advantages of natural stone and is much lower in cost.
Advantages of Soapstone as kitchen backsplash:
Durability: Soapstone is durable and does not crack easily.
Discolouring: Soapstone does not discolor when acidic substances like wine and vinegar are accidentally spilled on it.
Heat resistance: Soapstone is an excellent retainer of heat – The heat is evenly distributed throughout the surface.
Porosity: It is non-porous and smooth and does not stain easily.
Variety: Soapstone comes in various colors and textures.
Disadvantages of Soapstone as kitchen backsplash:
Maintenance: Because it is made of natural materials, soapstone backsplash requires scheduled maintenance. Soapstone needs to be coated with mineral oil several times a year to prevent discoloration and cracking.
Replacement: Soapstone backsplash may be difficult to replace if there are damages or cracks on the surface, since each slab has its own unique pattern and shade.
Scratch resistance: Soapstone can scratch, so while it isn’t commonly used for countertops, it can make a lovely backsplash. Similarly, regular limestone has limited countertop use, but may be considered for backsplashes.
For a concise Vastu guide and evaluation of your Kitchen and Kitchen Backyard, please refer to the posts on my blog: House construction in India
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