Tips for choosing the best tile for a kitchen backsplash

A kitchen backsplash not only protects your walls from splashes, smells and splatters — it can also serve as a focal point that reflects your style and ties together different design elements in your kitchen.

But with so many choices, it can be hard to know what to choose, where to save and when to splurge. To help make the decision easier, we’re sharing tips from a designer about how to choose the perfect backsplash tile for your kitchen.


Save the backsplash for last

Although it might be the most exciting part of your kitchen project, picking out backsplash tiles should be last on your to-do list. If your kitchen reno involves a complete overhaul, the first and most important thing to consider is the layout, followed by the cabinets and other big ticket items like the flooring.

“Once the layout of the kitchen has been decided on, the next item to check off the list is the area that will have the largest visual impact: the cabinetry,” says Sophia Reay, principal designer at LemonTree + Co. Interiors. The layout and cabinets will determine how much and what colour and style of tile you’ll need. Plus, you’ll have a better idea of what’s left in the budget.

“The backsplash tile is the absolute last piece of the puzzle,” says Reay.


Aim for a timeless look

To ensure your kitchen reno won’t look like a “before” picture anytime soon, it’s important to choose tiles that less likely to look dated in a few years.

“Nothing dates a kitchen like a trendy backsplash tile,” says Reay.

Bygone trends to avoid include busy-looking tiles with lots of contrasting colours and tiles arranged in a mural or pattern (similar to a wallpaper border) when installed. To achieve a timeless look, Reay recommends choosing a neutral-coloured tile that matches your cabinets (if you have wood cabinets, choose tile that matches the countertop).

“A neutral-coloured tile with an unexpected shape will be interesting and current, but still check the timeless box,” recommends Reay. To add more interest, consider arranging a neutral tile in a classic pattern like herringbone or offset.


Go neutral when choosing grout

Grout is the material that fills in the space between your tiles. While grout colour might not even be on your radar when selecting a backsplash tile, it can completely change the look and style of your backsplash.

To achieve a look that won’t go out of style, Reay recommends choosing grout that will blend seamlessly with the tile you’ve selected.

“If there are several shades in the tile, I like to match it to the mid-tone, rather than the lightest or darkest.  Keep in mind, grout generally dries lighter than when it’s first applied so don’t panic when you first see it on!” says Reay.

If you’re worried about a lack of colour in your kitchen, consider purchasing some bright dishes, planters or other accent pieces to display on your counter or shelves. These pieces can easily be swapped out depending on the season or what’s trendy.


How to save and when to splurge

Cost for a kitchen backsplash varies depending on the type and style of tile you choose. Materials like ceramic, glass and porcelain are on the lower end of the spectrum, with materials like marble and granite on the higher end.

“By the time the backsplash selection has to be made, the budget has usually worn pretty thin. Luckily, there are some beautiful ceramic tiles that are very cost effective,” says Reay.

If you have a large area to cover or you’re nearing the bottom of your budget, consider using a subway tile to achieve a classic look. If your kitchen has a smaller, separate area of cabinetry, consider splurging on a higher-end material like marble to subtly elevate the kitchen. Be sure to get a few sample tiles to check if your choice matches the flooring, counter and cabinets in your kitchen.

While there are hundreds of backsplash tile options to choose from, picking a timeless, affordable and interesting tile doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By choosing a neutral colour and using shape and pattern to add interest, you can achieve a timeless look and stick to your budget.