Think a backsplash is all about practicality? Think again. A backsplash, or splashback, can bring a splash (pun intended) of color, texture, and fun to your kitchen or bathroom. And, if you’re up for installing a backsplash DIY, it can be a cost-effective way to refresh your space.
Budget is important and there are three main things to consider when looking into the cost of installing a backsplash:
1. The square footage you want to cover
2. Labor costs
3. Material costs
The cost of materials and labor will vary depending on the area you want to cover, so your biggest consideration is size. So, we’ve asked the experts how much the average installation costs are when you want to recreate your favorite kitchen backsplash ideas at home.
1. How many square feet will your backsplash be?
The most important factor that influences the cost to install a backsplash is the square footage you're looking to cover, according to Robin Burrill, CEO and principal designer at Signature Home Services (opens in new tab). If you want to create a counter-to-ceiling mosaic masterpiece, it's likely to require lots of time and materials.
Options are quite varied, so it's smart to get an idea of what you like before hiring an expert or tackling the project. 'Some kitchens have gorgeous two-wall backsplashes that stretch from the counter up to the cabinets, or even to the ceiling,' says Burrill. 'Other kitchens feature focal-point-worthy backsplashes that really “pop,” centered right behind the stove and nowhere else.'
If you are working with a limited budget, create a smaller backsplash that covers just the space behind your sink or stove, where it's most needed. If you find a fun tile, your backsplash can act as a feature wall too.
2. Are you going to DIY or hire a professional for installation?
Another potentially large cost involved in installing a backsplash is the labor cost. Often backsplashes are tiled, and tiling takes time. The labor cost will depend on the intricacy and size of the design you choose.
DIY can be quite straightforward if you opt for a simple tile design with minimal tile cutting. Designs with mesh backing or on peel-and-stick tile sheets, like these from Wayfair (opens in new tab), make DIY so much easier. If you're into DIY, but not ready for tiling, you could use other materials such as chalkboard paint or DIY a micro-cement backsplash.
‘DIY will more or less always be cheaper since you’re saving on labor costs, but there is a startup cost since you’ll have to supply your own materials,' explains David Akenhead, head of construction at Block Renovation (opens in new tab). 'So unless you already have those tools lying around, you’ll have to pick that up at the hardware store as well ... we’d say you should budget at least ~$500 for a DIY backsplash.’
If you’re planning on creating an elaborate backsplash and you have the budget in your kitchen remodel, then it’s worth considering hiring a professional for installation. 'For the professional route, you’ll save on materials costs, but the labor will bolster costs,' says Akenhead. 'It’s important that you get an expert you can trust if you want to avoid crooked tiles or worst-case scenarios, like contractors walking out halfway through a job. Same variables like tile and grout specifications and coverage area apply, but we say you should budget at least ~$1500 for something like this.'
Taking the time to install a backsplash yourself could potentially result in a saving of around $1000. For your budget, get some quotes from reputable contractors and figure out the likely cost for your specific space.
3. How much will the materials cost?
The other main thing to consider is the cost of materials. Tile costs will vary depending on the square footage. Other costs such as buying or hiring tools, grout, and sponges will likely be the same even for a larger backsplash.
The cost of tiles also varies depending on whether you buy ceramic, glass, vinyl, marble, or another material. Finding an inexpensive tile can make a big difference to your backsplash cost. These simple peel-and-stick subway tiles from Wayfair (opens in new tab) are an absolute steal at under $3/sq.ft.
If you have the budget, then the sky’s the limit. To create a more unique look, you could use hand-painted artisan tiles like these Mexican Talavera style tiles (opens in new tab) from Amazon or these intricate marble and metal mosaic tiles from The Home Depot (opens in new tab).
Jared Bowcutt, renovation expert at Armor Restoration (opens in new tab), notes that the 'average kitchen backsplash is 20 inches tall by 12 feet long,' but in many cases, people only purchase exactly what they need. 'A lot of DIYers forget or don't add extra tile to accommodate for having to cut tiles on the end to line everything up depending on your pattern,' he says. 'So a good generalization is to add 10–15% more sq. ft. to your total need. Tile comes in all shapes and patterns and materials. You can find cheaper ceramic tile on sale for the lost cost of $1.40 sq. ft. if you catch a good sale or … you can get into the higher end tiles which are upwards of $25 a square foot and more.'
Bowcutt notes another example: If you pick out a tile that rings in at $10 per square foot and you need 55 sq. ft, of tile, you'll be paying $550 for tile alone.
Tools should be included in your budget too. You could purchase an inexpensive tile cutter tool like Q.E.P's 14-in Tile Cutter from Lowe's (opens in new tab), but we’d recommend hiring a good-quality tile saw instead. ‘I will always recommend renting a tile saw from your local hardware store,' says Bowcutt. 'They make better and cleaner cuts and you will have less tiles break during cutting.’ They are usually rented out by the day, so try to do all your cuts in one day.
Then there are other materials — such as mortar (or tile adhesive), grout, and caulk — that won't vary much based on square footage. We've included all these costs in our list below.
Using our 55 sq. ft. example above, the approximate total material cost would be:
- Tiles - $550
- Premixed Grout (opens in new tab) - $40/gl at The Home Depot
- Grout float (opens in new tab)- $20 at Amazon
- Caulk (opens in new tab) - $5 at The Home Depot
- Tile adhesive (opens in new tab) - $25/gl x 2 - $50 at Rona (unless you're using self-adhesive)
- Adhesive spreader (opens in new tab) - $10 at The Home Depot (unless you're using self-adhesive)
- Buckets (opens in new tab) - $5 at Home Depot
- Grouting sponges (opens in new tab) - $5 for 3 at The Home Depot
- Tape measure (opens in new tab) - $12 at The Home Depot
- Level (opens in new tab) - $10 at The Home Depot
- Protective gloves (opens in new tab) - $5 at The Home Depot
- Tile spacers (opens in new tab) - $5 at Rona (unless you're using mesh back)
- Notched trowel (opens in new tab) - $10 at Rona
- Tile saw rental (opens in new tab) - $40/day at The Home Depot
TOTAL = $767 to DIY
How much does it cost to install a backsplash?
To find out approximately how much it’s going to cost to install a backsplash in your space, use this equation:
Total cost = Tile per sq. ft. x (backsplash sq. ft. + 15%) + cost of other materials + labor cost
If you're on a tight budget, focus on a smaller area for your backsplash and find tiles that are on sale to keep the costs down. DIY tiling does take some time and effort. You may have to dedicate a couple of weekends to complete your backsplash, but if you're looking for a more affordable option DIY is definitely the way to go.