How to Choose The Perfect Backsplash

Whether you are looking to add a design upgrade to your kitchen, embarking on a total overhaul, or starting in a fresh space, a natural stone backsplash can be the finishing touch your newly designed kitchen needs.

Not only does a kitchen backsplash add a beautiful design element, it’s extremely practical as well. Your backsplash will protect your walls from splatters and splashes – pun intended. There are choices ranging from tile to natural stone, each carrying it’s pros and cons. In this article we will explore the different material options and help guide you to the perfect backsplash for your kitchen design.

Choosing the Right Material for your Backsplash

Here is your opportunity to display your personality. Refined or artsy, neutral or loud, what is your style? Whatever material you choose to adorn that space between the countertop and cabinets should showcase the color scheme of your kitchen and the theme of your design style. When you enter the room, the backsplash is a focal point, and your opportunity to be creative.

You can choose from a variety of materials for your kitchen backsplash. Natural stone, mosaics, glass, stainless steel, ceramics, and even metals. It is an area that you can use as your artists’ canvas. Designers often use a backsplash to add dimension to the aesthetic appeal of a kitchen design. In this article we are going to explore Natural Stone and Tile Backsplash options.

Benefits of a Natural Stone Backsplash

Natural Stone is a perfect choice for a kitchen backsplash, granite especially is naturally resistant to heat, water, scratches, and most acids found in the kitchen. This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of natural stone. Let’s explore further.


Natural stone has wide appeal, and great staying power. Not only is this a look you can enjoy in your home, should you decide to move, it will appeal to a large buying audience.

Smooth Granite Surface Coffee Pots

Natural stone is often the last countertop or backsplash you have to buy. Design style and preferences may change, but natural stone will outlast most other elements in your kitchen.


The beauty of natural stone is that it will provide a design look that is just yours. Inherent in every natural stone is an element of variation, even within two slabs of the same color. The veins, colors, and patterns will play out uniquely in your space.


Natural stone is budget friendly, especially when you consider durability, lifespan, uniqueness and timeless quality. Natural stone can also be obtained in a variety of prices, colors, and sizes, from small marble tiles to entire slabs of granite or marble.


Granite, marble and quartz are traditionally 1-¼” (3CM) thick.  This is something to keep in mind when designing your kitchen as it will affect nearby cabinetry trim, outlets, and more. It is possible to mill granite, marble, quartz down to ¾” thickness. This is an option you would want to discuss with your fabricator or supplier.

Care & Maintenance

Let’s face it – the kitchen is a messy place at times! Your backsplash is often the landing place for grease, spaghetti sauce, or other food “splashes”. It can be difficult to keep your backsplash clean, the good news is that you can take care of your natural stone with ingredients you have at home already.  For everyday cleaning and maintenance you can use a mild dish soap diluted with water on your natural stone backsplash. Using a cotton cloth or soft sponge is your best bet for cleaning, and minimizing streaks. It is important not to use an abrasive scrubber on your natural stone, or an oil based cleaner like Murphy’s Oil Soap. You also want to avoid cleaning products containing lemon, vinegar, or other acids. Steer clear of ammonia, bleach, or cleaning products with solvents or caustics that could remove sealers. There are also a variety of natural stone cleaners on the market that can be used if you desire.


Natural Stone is generally resistant to heat. Under normal conditions, granite will absorb heat from hot trays without being harmed. Limestone, quartzite, slate, and silestone are also heat resistant. Marble and quartz tend to be more subject to excessive heat damage so you want to be more cautious with these stones and use trivets.


Of course in a perfect world, you would wipe up stains and splashes as soon as they happen. That isn’t always the case, many of us are pretty messy cooks! The longer the stain sits, the harder it will be to remove later. As a best practice, try to wipe your countertop and backsplash during normal meal cleanup. As far as natural stones go, granite and slate have very low porosity and are resistant to staining damage. Marble can be sensitive to oil and acidic based products, meaning you’ll want to be more diligent with spills on marble surfaces.

For more information on the care & maintenance of your natural stone, please refer to our Ultimate Countertop Guide.

Benefits of a Tile Backsplash

Ceramic tile is one of the most common backsplash materials we see. It is widely available, has a wide range of styles and can meet a variety of different budgets from something simple to something elaborate and intricate.

Design Freedom

Tile offers a vast array of design possibilities. There are countless colors, textures, sizes, and price points. Resistance to heat and moisture are two characteristics that are of great importance in a kitchen or bathroom. Ease of clean up is another important factor. Ceramic, porcelain, and glass tiles all fit the bill of being resistant to heat and moisture as well as easy to clean due to their glossy finish.

Modern Kitchen Stone Wall Backsplash


There is an opportunity to choose really extravagant and expensive tile to adorn your kitchen walls. You can also achieve a stylish look with a very economical tile. Depending on your preferences, you can typically do a tile backsplash more affordably than natural stone.

Ease of Installation

With tile, typically a homeowner can install the backsplash, giving an option that can save money as well as time of scheduling. With natural stone, the backsplash would need to be installed by a professional – typically this could be done at the same time as countertop installation.

Low Maintenance

Whether you’ve chosen natural stone, or tile, the backsplash is still the landing place for grease, spaghetti sauce, or other food “splashes”. Similar to with natural stone, for everyday cleaning a mild dish soap diluted with water with a soft sponge or soft cloth will work great. Tile is typically kiln fired, closing the porosity of the surface, then a glaze is applied over the tile. This makes the tile itself very resistant to absorption, staining, and scratching.

The Importance of Grout

If you have decided on a tile backsplash, the next decision you will encounter is choosing your grout. Grout is what is between your tiles, it’s job is to lock tiles tight, keep out water, and give the backsplash a finished look. In many cases grout will go unnoticed, until it is cracked or stained. Although this may not seem like a monumental choice, it is another one that is important. The two most common choices are cement based or epoxy grout. Let’s explore the differences to determine which is best for your kitchen backsplash.

Unsanded cement grout is simple cement, powder pigments, and water. Sanded cement grout has those three ingredients plus sand. The sand is added to the grout to give it a thicker density and prevent shrinking in the joints (aka the space between the tiles). As a general rule if your space is smaller than an eighth of an inch you should use unsanded grout. If your space is wider than an eighth of an inch you would choose sanded grout. Cement grout is often a less expensive option, however it is porous and subject to staining. It is recommended to seal your cement grout.

Considering your kitchen is likely a high traffic area and the backsplash may be protecting your walls from grease and other splashes, maintenance could be a key factor. Epoxy grout is made of resin and hardener, making it resistant to most substances and not easily stained. Epoxy grout also comes in sanded and unsanded varieties. Epoxy grout has come a long way in recent years, newer versions not setting as quickly making them much more workable for installation. Epoxy grout is expensive compared to cement based grout, but for high traffic areas, it’s resistance to chemicals, stains, and traffic will make up for the added cost in the long term maintenance consideration.

Choosing your Grout Color

Your grout color selection can be to used complement, contrast, or conceal. By complement, we mean playing off the colors in the backsplash tile, green grout with green tile for example. Contrasting would be creating a distinct difference between the tile and grout, such as dark gray grout with a bright white tile. When concealing grout, you want it to stand out as little as possible. In this case, we see people choose a neutral shade, such as white, cream, or grey for their grout. The best tool to see which grout compliments or contrasts the tile is to put a small amount of grout on the tile and then see how far you have to back away before the grout either compliments or contrasts in the fashion you are desiring.

Grout Care & Maintenance

As cement by nature is porous, you will want to be conscious of grout stains and splashes with a cement grout and try to wipe those up as quickly as possible to minimize the opportunity for them to set in. As epoxy grout is not porous by nature, it is more resilient against stains, making it a lower maintenance solution.

Matching your Backsplash to your Countertop

Whether you choose tile or natural stone for your backsplash, you will want to ensure you are choosing a color that complements your counters as well as the rest of your kitchen decor.

If you have selected natural stone, one of the benefits is that you can potentially source both the countertop and the backsplash from the same slab, giving you a consistent appearance. Another benefit here is that the countertop and the backsplash will have the same thickness, allowing a good seal where the countertop and backsplash meet and the backsplash meets the wall. You have the ability to carry the same stone as your countertop up the wall in either a four-inch cap or a full backsplash. With the same stone, you can bookmatch your stone to achieve a special look. Bookmatching can be done when you have a slab that lends itself to this technique. Opposing sides of slabs are polished so that the two polished sides face each other in a stone block. Think of opening a book, both opposing “pages” or slabs would be polished. If you are working with a stone supplier that has a polisher in house, they can help you achieve this look with the right slabs. With the bookmatching technique we need to match the veining on each slab, and a natural byproduct of doing this is more waste in the project. This special look is something most stone fabricators and installers only do upon request or if it is possible to do without incurring additional waste.

Modern White Kitchen In Estate Home

Despite the dramatic effect, it can be more expensive which is something you will want to weigh out. You can learn more about bookmatching in our templating and seams article.

You can also select a different natural stone to pair with your natural stone countertop. If this is the route you go, you will want to consider the variation and movement in your slab when pairing with another natural stone.

If you have a low to no pattern countertop such as white quartz, you can pair with a high pattern, high contrast natural stone for the backsplash. If you have a dark natural stone countertop with little pattern and flow, you can pair with a nice light colored stone for the backsplash, achieving a nice balance of the two natural stone products.

If ceramic tile is the way you decided to go, you could select a color from your countertop and create your backsplash based on those colors. We talk about complement, contrast, or conceal again here. If you want to complement your countertop you could select a color that is in your countertop – for example, if your granite countertop has tan or grey veining throughout you can select a tan or grey backsplash. If contrasting is what you are after you might select a dark tile with a light countertop or a light tile with a dark countertop. If you want to conceal your backsplash, making another aspect of your kitchen design the star of the show you would try to match your tile to the main color of your natural stone countertop and use a grout that closely matches your tile selection as well.

You can even mix your backsplash options. One design option is to put a natural stone backsplash behind the range and then a tile backsplash on the adjacent walls. This would create an appealing and interesting look.

Another way to highlight your backsplash is to install under-cabinet lighting to spotlight both your backsplash and your countertop.

What is the right height for your Backsplash?

A backsplash can be full height or four inches high or anything in between that fits your design intent.. A variety of factors can play into this decision, from cost, to function, to design preference.


Four inch is less expensive in materials of course, and can be quicker to install.


A full height backsplash offers more protection for areas susceptible to heat, moisture, and stains.

If you want the function of a full height backsplash but are concerned with cost, or prefer the look of a shorter backsplash overall, you could run a full backsplash up behind your cooktop and do a shorter or standard backsplash in the remaining countertop areas in the kitchen.

White Kitchen With Stainless Steel Hood Over Gas Cooktop

Design Preference

Bringing the backsplash full height to the ceiling definitely makes a design statement. Tile or natural stone from countertop to ceiling provides a dramatic and sleek focal point for your kitchen.

Of course, you can opt for a more subtle or low-profile backsplash.

If you have a smaller kitchen, wrapping the backsplash around the entire room can make the room appear larger by giving it a look of visual continuity. This is especially true when using a light colored stone, as a darker stone can actually make the room appear smaller.


Choosing your backsplash will come down to many factors, and ultimately whatever you choose, as long as it reflects your overall design style, it will be the perfect backsplash for you.