Different designers will tell you different things, and the truth is that there’s no right answer. From a design perspective, some people like to make the backsplash the focal point and they play around with color and pattern. However to get the most value out of your space the countertop should come first and be the focal point, and the backsplash should just be there to support it. The counter is the item that takes the most abuse and has to stand up to the most wear and tear, so choose it first and then find a backsplash to complement it.
The counter you choose needs to fit your style and budget, but more importantly it must fit your lifestyle. It’s the workhorse of the kitchen, and it needs to put up with whatever you and your family inflict on it. Before thinking about design, you must think about durability.
Laminate – One of the least expensive counter options, laminate comes in a wide variety of colors and styles, and is durable enough to withstand everyday use, however it’s not as durable as stone, nor is it heat resistant.
Quartz – Currently one of the most-desired materials, quartz is low-maintenance and extremely durable.
Marble – A beautiful-looking stone that adds a layer of luxury, however marble is very porous and as a result can stain and scratch easily.
Granite – A popular stone that is heat resistant and requires very little maintenance. Keep in mind that it’s very heavy and must be well supported.
Concrete – Tough, heat resistant and stain resistant, but very heavy and difficult to install.
Tile – Affordable and an easy DIY project, tile can be difficult to maintain and keep clean due to the necessary grout.
Stainless Steel – While it can scratch and dent fairly easily, stainless is completely stain and heat resistant, and lends itself to a commercial kitchen look.
Butcher Block – Affordable, warm look and feel, and naturally anti-bacterial. But not very heat or water resistant, marks easily, and requires regular maintenance.
While the backsplash plays a largely decorative role, it also exists to capture the splashes and spills caused by food preparation. Make sure that it doesn’t just look good but is also relatively easy to clean.
Tiles – Whether it’s glass, ceramic, porcelain or stone, tiles are the most common type of material for backsplashes. There’s literally an endless supply of color and pattern ideas.
Stainless Steel – Lends an industrial look to kitchens and works best when there is also a stainless counter. But be aware that marks and fingerprints will show very easily.
Paint – A painted backsplash is a decent option if you’re on a tight budget or if you get bored and like to change things up often. It won’t stand up as well as other options like tile, so be prepared to do a lot of maintenance.
Solid Surface Stone – A look that’s becoming increasingly popular, solid surface backsplashes (those that are made of one continuous material) are smooth and seamless. Stone surfaces such as Quartz work particularly well.
Mirror – This type of backsplash, whether smoked or clear, can make your kitchen look bigger, however remember that any mess will be reflected so it’s only a good idea if you keep your kitchen clean and organized. Otherwise it looks like you have twice as much mess!
Brick – Lends a historic, and even industrial look to a kitchen. Brick can be absorbent and somewhat difficult to clean, but on the plus side it’s easy to install.
‘Reno to Reveal’ Callout
For a streamlined look consider using one material for both counter and backsplash. Here we used Cambria quartz in Ella and brought it all the way up to the ceiling to create a smooth transition and streamlined focal point. To get the most out of your money make sure to have accurate measurements taken. Using a professional installer (we used My Countertop Shop) that takes digital measurements to fit will also eliminate the need for cutting and grinding on site during the installation. While the installer is on site, discuss the plan for any required seams to minimize the disruption of the quartz pattern.
Top 2 photos courtesy of Cambria
Don’t put too much stock in trades who give free estimates over the phone. A plumber or electrician can’t properly diagnose an issue unless it’s in person. A free estimate given over the phone is likely to go up significantly once he or she is on-site.