Make a Splash | Backsplash Options that Put the Fun in Functional

A backsplash can make an average Joe or plain Jane feel like a veritable Rachel Ray or Guy Fieri, cooking the day away in a kitchen that is nothing short of pure glam. Offering protection from the inevitable splashes that happen near sinks and ranges, backsplashes are both functional and stylish.

If you plan to tackle your backsplash as a DIY project, prepare yourself for the technical aspects in advance. Consider tricky spots in your kitchen layout, like outlets and switches that require specific cuts and an added element of precision in measuring and application. Supplies will vary depending on the backsplash style you choose, but you’ll definitely need a tape measure and a level. In addition to backsplash material, other supplies may consist of adhesive, grout and caulk. For application, many projects require a notched trowel, along with tools to cut and shape tile, including a tile saw, tile cutter and tile nipper.


GROUT TIPS, TRICKS & CAUTIONS

Grout can be the transformational component that defines your space.

  • The texture of grout you choose will depend on tile size and joint specifics. Consult an expert for suggestions among options such as unsanded, finely-sanded, quarry-type and epoxy.
  • If you want to enlarge your space and make fine lines disappear, choose white on white. If you want to draw the eye to the geometric pattern of the tile, opt for a contrasting color (i.e., black or gray grout for white subway tile).
  • Neutrals aren’t for everyone. If you want to create an intentional vibe like cheerfulness or match or contrast other colors in the room, look to the other colors of the rainbow for inspiration.
  • Color caution: Be sure to read reviews. While some cement-based grouts mixed with pigmentation can fade, others that feature color baked into a high-quality resin, for instance, can often stand the test of time. Also note that a colorful grout isn’t easy to change if you don’t like it. You might want to ask for other opinions or play around with some interior design websites like Modsy or Decorist to test out your vision before committing.

Choosing a style should be fun, but it’s not a choice a homeowner makes every day. If the project feels less like a lighthearted splash and more like a tidal wave of analysis paralysis, it’s time to explore and narrow it down.

WHITE SUBWAY: Ceramic horizontal rectangular tiles fitted in rows and columns. Ideal for modern kitchens and bathrooms with pops of color elsewhere, coupled with unique statement pieces in the form of light fixtures, barstools and fancy gadgets. DIY or DI-Don’t? It depends. You can go about it the old-fashioned way by hiring a contractor to measure, cut, grout and place; or you can purchase peel and stick rectangles and arrange them yourself. No muss, no fuss.

VENETIAN PLASTER: Layers of plaster, sealed with a water-protectant wax. Ideal for the thrifty homeowner with a flair for European vibes, looking for a quick project that makes an immediate difference. DIY or DI-Don’t? Perfect DIY project that requires less precision compared to other options for backsplash projects. Watch an instructional video, gather your goop and a spatula, and roll up your sleeves.

STONE SLABS OR PANELS: Variety of stones with asymmetrical coloration differentiation. Ideal for earthy types with an affinity for nature colors with an air of luxury. DIY or DI-Don’t? This will depend on experience level and weight of the stone. If it’s lightweight and you’re good with your hands, you may want to give it a shot. If the task is weighing you down, call in an expert.

METALS: Sheets of copper or stainless steel panels, available in slick, textured or patterned varieties. Ideal for contemporary or industrial style kitchens. DIY or DI-Don’t? This can be an easy DIY that doesn’t require the tedium of placing and fitting multiple pieces. Order precut sheets. Apply construction adhesive (or even double-sided tape depending on the weight), fit, press, and voilà! 

VINYL WALLPAPER: More durable than traditional wallpaper, pattern possibilities are endless. Ideal for high traffic areas like kitchens, due to the wipeable nature of vinyl. Excellent for eccentric kitchens and bathrooms that make a bold statement. However, neutral options are available. DIY or DI-Don’t? DIY it up on this one! Peel and stick varieties are very user friendly and super quick.

PAINT: Any color or chalkboard variety conducive to wet and humid environments. Ideal for homeowners wanting a simple change, and artsy types who want to have fun with stencils or mimic other backsplash styles with the stroke of a brush. DIY or DI-Don’t? Terrific, budget-friendly DIY project if you have a little time and patience to apply paint tape and any extra stencil or stroke features.

THERMOPLASTIC: Features a metallic finish of nickel and bronze. Ideal for variety seeking folks who want that metallic look with many traditional and modern options to choose from; low-maintenance installation and cleaning. DIY or DI-Don’t? Easy DIY with some simple precision and a dash of silicone glue.

RECLAIMED WOOD: Panels of various cuts and types of reclaimed wood. Ideal for rustic cabin-style kitchens and bars; strategy for making a plain bathroom cozier and more inviting. DIY or DI-Don’t? Unless this is your trade or passion, reclaimed wood construction can be tedious and expensive. In most cases, it’s better to give a pro a go.

GLASS: Timeless choice for brilliant shine, easy cleaning, and no grout lines. Ideal for low-hassle living, with the possibility for creativity. Choose a wallpaper in a fun pattern and place behind the glass for a statement look. DIY or DI-Don’t? It’s possible to DIY a glass backdrop yourself, but without a lot of experience, the cutting and measuring leaves room for error, not to mention danger. If you’re a novice, better leave it to an expert.

ANTIQUE MIRROR: Discolored sheet mirror that disguises splatters because they blend in (for better or for worse).Ideal for a retro wet bar, a butler’s pantry, or an old-fashioned backdrop to an otherwise ultra-modern kitchen with clean lines. DIY or DI-Don’t? Like glass, antique mirror handling requires specific precision. For safety, call a pro.

If it feels like you’re drowning in a sea of options, come up for air and inspiration. Make a splash!


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