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Choosing the Right Backsplash Tile

The first question I’m often asked by a Client when discussing backsplash tiling, is “what style of tile would you recommend?”   My answer, following a smile, is “whichever tile you like.”

Selecting the right tile for your backsplash can be overwhelming.  Do I select a stone?  Or is glass mosaic still in?  What about plain subway tiles?  Walking down the tile aisle in any home improvement store, these are often the questions you ask yourself.  You go into the store with one idea of what you like, and walk out questioning your whole design.  Today, choices range from stone, mosaic, glass, mirror, stainless steel and plain white tiles.  Not to mention colour choice and layout orientation (horizontal vs. vertical).  Designers may be best to help walk you through this process.  However as a Contractor, I can offer some advice when selecting a backsplash and can even make the selection process easier on you.

What is your focal point?

Clients are taken back when I ask them this question, but really it’s something to consider. What do you want your guests to notice when they walk into your kitchen?  Your backsplash?  Or do you want their eyes drawn to your cabinets, or countertops?   Do you plan to have an accent tile above your stove? (yes…that’s a whole other conversation).  If you are planning to bring in colour through decor and accent pieces, then maybe selecting a neutral tile may be the way to go.  Most often, your countertop will dictate the type of tile you can choose.   If you have a plain, quiet countertop, then use your backsplash to add some character to your kitchen.   A busier style countertop may require a plainer, more subtle backsplash to compliment it.

Will the tile have longevity?

What I mean by this is, will the tile still look great in 10-15 years.  Sometimes we just go for that eye-popping colour or style to mimic that same ‘wow’ factor you saw in a magazine.   Then to realize that the FAD is not only gone, but is now an eyesore, or even worse….is noticed by potential buyers when you are trying to sell your house.   I get it, sometimes we want to be daring in our colour choices.  But often daring is better left for wall colour and decor items, which are a lot easier to change down the road compared to removing and replacing a backsplash.  I recommend keeping with your home’s design style, whether that be contemporary, modern, Victorian or country.

What is your budget?

Understanding this will help you narrow down your choices.   Backsplash tiles can cost you anywhere from $7 – $30 a square foot.  Depending on the size of your kitchen, combined with installation, the costs start adding up.    Don’t feel obligated to go for an expensive tile, as there are plenty of tiles in the lower price point that will add style to your kitchen.


In my opinion this is the most important aspect. The original purpose of a backsplash is to protect your wall from any cooking ‘splashing back’ onto it.  For me, a backsplash tile should be smooth and non-porous.  There is nothing more frustrating than trying to scrape away tomato sauce or grease from the nooks and crannies of a tile.   You should be able to clean the tile with a simple wipe of a wet cloth or sponge.

Remember, before purchasing the tile, ask for samples, bring them home and put them in your kitchen for a few days or a week.  See how the tile’s colour and style works in your home, with your lighting and dŽcor.   I suggest placing your samples along the back of your countertop for a few days. You’ll quickly notice that your eyes are drawn to 1 or 2 of the samples as you walk into your kitchen throughout each day.   Then remove the samples you don’t like so you can narrow it down to your final choice.   Remember, its easier to remove tiles at this stage then it is after it’s installed.  If all else fails and you’re still not having any success, then ask your contractor to bring you tile samples.  A good contractor will learn your style and design tastes beforehand, and bring you samples that works for you and your kitchen project.

John Ambrosio, Owner of Ambrosio Construction & Renovations Inc.