Tile has been a go-to product for the Kitchen Backsplash for decades.
The choice of size, color, shape, pattern and texture in tiles is almost infinite making it an ideal choice for designers.
When you add in that designers can mix & match and position tile for a one-of-a-kind look your may wonder why would you even want to look at an alternative.
There are several reasons a Kitchen Design would call for something different, so read on to be inspired for your next backsplash design!
Often when a Kitchen Designer is looking for an alternative to tile for a kitchen backsplash it is because they want to eliminate the grout lines needed for a tile backsplash.
Solid slabs of stone, quartz or porcelain are ideal for a grout-less backsplash while still offering unique looks.
By choosing a nature stone with a lot of movement the backsplash can become the focal point of the room.
A subdued quartz for the backsplash that matches the countertop can provide a neutral backdrop letting other elements in the kitchen shine.
Often the thickness of a natural stone or manmade quartz entails pulling out the electrical in the backsplash to accommodate for the thickness of the product.
Designers also need to watch out for faucet controls which could interfere with a thick backsplash.
Recently much thinner porcelain slab products have been introduced that can solve this problem.
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Coved Solid Surface
Even though a large single slab used as a backsplash will eliminate grout lines there will still be a seam where the countertop and backsplash meet.
To eliminate this seam and produce an easily sanitized joint, specify a solid surface material for countertop and backsplash that can be fused together.
My favorite to work with is the “Corian” brand.
This product can be fused with a smooth cove transition at the joint between the counter and the backsplash.
This eliminates any place where dirt and grime can collect.
Many years ago the trend was to make the backsplash only 3″ or 4″ high using this technique, but now a qualified fabricator can produce a full height backsplash for a clean & simple look.
For a cost effective slab style backsplash you may want to consider a laminate product.
The choice in laminate products is growing yearly offering the Kitchen Designer many options.
One of my favorites is the “Chemetal” product offering every metal look you can think of in a easy to work with sheet.
I used a copper looking metal laminate in one of my own kitchens years ago and loved the look and the cleanability.
Recently the laminate manufacture Wilsonart introduced their “Wilsonart Backsplash” product line offering Kitchen Designers sheet goods that echo popular tile backsplash patterns without the grout lines.
Borrowed from the commercial kitchen is the stainless steel backsplash.
It is a non-porous material that is heat proof making it ideal for a backsplash, especially behind the cooking equipment.
You may want to use a stainless steel backsplash as an accent behind a pro-style range or cooktop or as a full backsplash with matching countertops.
Stainless steel works with a variety of Kitchen Décor styles, so do not think of it only for an industrial styled kitchen.
For more information on popular Kitchen Décor styles check out my blog “The Top Décor Styles Consumers Want for Their Kitchens”
Wood is a natural material we are seeing being used more and more in Contemporary Kitchens.
It lends itself to both modern and country styled spaces.
In a Modern Farmhouse style Kitchen the designer could choose a bead board or a shiplap material for the backsplash.
Modern or European styled Kitchens will often use a unique veneer as a backsplash alternative to tile.
In both cases it is important that the wood be properly sealed to allow cleaning of the surface in this area.
Advancements in sealers make using any type of wood in the backsplash much easier now than in the past.
For coatings I am referring to trolled on products such as concrete or plaster.
Concrete could be the perfect backsplash material in an Industrial style Kitchen Design.
Different types of plaster applications would work well in a Modern Mediterranean or Provence styled Kitchen Space.
Often these coating would patina over time adding to the authentic look of the style the Kitchen Designer was working with.
Before specifying a backsplash like this ensure your client knows the pros and cons of the material being used.
Sheet Glass can be a very elegant backsplash material.
Glass can be back lite, back painted or textured to produce a variety of looks.
This type of backsplash is a great look in Modern or High-Tech style Kitchens.
As the designer you need to consider electrical outlet locations carefully when specifying sheet glass.
Avoid having holes cut into this product since it can be very fragile prior to installation.
Everyone loves natural light in their kitchens so Designers have been looking for additional spaces to include windows.
The backsplash could be the perfect place to add windows in your Kitchen Designs.
In the right setting this can be a stunning focal point in a kitchen.
Something to consider though is the view from outside looking in.
I use to walk in a neighborhood where windows were installed in a backsplash of a kitchen at the front of the home.
The homeowners torso was framed every night during meal prep when I walked by. Not the best picture!
Many Designers love it when original brick is exposed during the renovation of an old home and will highlight it in their Kitchen Designs.
A brick backsplash can give an Old World or an Industrial feel to a kitchen.
It can also be right at home in a loft conversion.
The biggest downfall of a brick backsplash is its maintenance since the brick is often porous and it has even wider grout lines than a traditional tile when installed.
There are new sealers that can be applied to these surfaces once installed that could help.
A plus is it is heat proof so can work well around a pro-style gas range.
Definitely consider it in the right setting in your Kitchen Designs.
A fun alternative to tile backsplash is chalkboard paint.
This look came from the popular Bistro Kitchen décor style.
It definitely brings a youthful feel to a kitchen.
This could be a interim backsplash while the client waits to install a more expensive backsplash in the future.
It could also be a backsplash finish reserved for a specific area in the kitchen such as a beverage bar.
As you can see tile is not the only product that can work in the Kitchen Backsplash area.
I encourage you to explore alternatives when creating your client’s Dream Kitchen.
I would love to see your backsplash treatments. Drop a comment below or reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Jan Rutgers has been designing kitchens and products for over 25 years and is a recipient of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Top Innovators in 2020 for the Kitchen & Bath Industry. She has designed more than 1000 kitchens learning valuable skills with each one! Her experience in Kitchen Design, Millwork Manufacturing and Product Development has led her to create VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.