Installing a new tile backsplash can instantly transform an outdated kitchen or a boring bathroom into a beautiful new space, which is one reason it's one of the most popular home improvement projects. With a relatively small budget and minimal installation time, a new backsplash can take your room to a new level. You can install a new kitchen backsplash as part of a kitchen remodel, or you can install a tile backsplash as a quick-turnaround, stand-alone project. If you're not up for the financial investment of a bathroom remodel, installing a tile backsplash breathes new life into your guest or master bathroom and, depending on materials used, can often be completed in less than one day.
Tile backsplashes are installed between the countertops and cabinets to protect the wall from the dings, dents and splashes of a busy kitchen or bathroom. In bathrooms, they may be an add-on to a natural stone sink counter or flat-topped bathroom vanity. Although backsplashes certainly add aesthetic appeal, they first originated as a way to prevent painted drywall in bathrooms and kitchens from becoming damaged or getting wet. Tile backsplashes not only look terrific, they stop moisture and mold from doing major damage to your home.
Backsplash tiling makes stains, splashes and spills much easier and more sanitary to clean up than they would be on wallpaper or paint. Backsplash tiling between your kitchen counters and cabinets or above your bathroom vanity can actually save you money down the road by preventing water damage to your walls. You can create any look for a tile backsplash using different colors and materials for your tiles. Popular types of tile and materials for backsplashes include ceramic tile, porcelain tile, glass tile, marble tile, stainless steel, and even vinyl peel-and-stick. The cost for professional backsplash tiling really depends on your project and the number of square feet you need covered. It will typically cost less than installing a new tile floor, as the project size is almost always smaller and there is less prep work than readying a floor for tile requires. Wall tiles are also lighter and thinner than floor tiles, so be sure to select the right materials if you're doing it yourself.
When hired to install your backsplash, the tile backsplash installation professionals remove your old backsplash and smooth the walls. If your walls do not yet have a backsplash, you'll likely save on labor costs due to reduced wall preparation time. When the walls are smooth and ready, the pros typically dry-fit the tiles to make sure your pattern and the pieces lay out properly. Precision is crucial for a polished backsplash look, so the pros will measure and cut your tiles to fit your space, carefully working around counter edges, electrical outlets and cabinetry. Tiling pros then typically use thinset (or a similar water-resistant adhesive) to secure your new backsplash to the wall. The thinset or adhesive should set for the indicated amount of time before grout is applied over the top, to ensure your tiles don't sag. Many tile backsplash installation specialists charge an hourly rate for labor plus the cost of materials. This may calculate out as a price per square foot, or they may quote you a flat rate for an backsplash installation project. The tiles you choose will certainly affect the total cost of your project, as will the overall size of the project and the intricacy of the tile patterns and design.
If you're ready to revamp your kitchen or bathroom, here are the cost considerations for installing for a new tile backsplash.
The material of your new tile backsplash will determine the look and feel of your kitchen. Cool glass tile neutrals can make for a modern style, while warm, Tuscan-inspired ceramic tile will create a rustic farmhouse vibe. To decide what type of backsplash tiles to choose, search Pinterest, follow kitchen designers on Instagram, or consult with an interior designer for guidance. Although a tile backsplash isn't the priciest addition to a kitchen or a bathroom, it will make a major visual impact. So it is important to spend time considering the look you want to achieve. If you plan to sell your home in the near future, simple and neutral colors and designs are always a great choice. If this will be your forever home, or you're willing to change your backsplash if you plan to sell, go wild and install those fuschia and orange triangular tiles you fell in love with to offset your white cabinets.
The size of your new tiles and the design will play into the cost, as will the material. Usually, larger tiles are easier to install, requiring less labor, which typically means a lower price. Basic square or rectangular tiles are often easier to install than geometric shapes or circles, so if you're looking to cut back on labor costs, keep the tile shape simple. Numerous materials are available for backsplash tiling. Stainless steel is one of the more expensive materials, but it goes well in modern, industrial-style kitchens. It's also very easy to clean and resists heat and staining. Less expensive, although no less fabulous, tile materials include ceramic, marble, stone, glass and porcelain. Vinyl and beadboard are the least expensive materials for backsplash tiles. You may be able to install these yourself, but they don't always have the beauty, staying power or resale value of traditional tile backsplashes. If you have your eye on a high-end tile designer or need custom materials made for your backsplash, your costs can go as high as you're willing to pay for the luxury you want. Fortunately, many affordable and attractive high-quality options are available for homeowners.
Your tile installation specialist may break down your project cost into a price per square foot. Not surprisingly, the more tile that needs to be cut and laid, the more expensive the overall project will be. However, for large tile backsplashes, the cost per square foot may actually be lower than the cost per square foot for smaller projects. The pros can offer their customers economies of scale for larger projects because they already have their workers and equipment on-site and lined up to do the job. For a miniature tile backsplash, such as in a 2-foot by 1-foot space, the pro will probably have to charge more per square foot than they would for a 13-foot by 2-foot job in order to meet their business expenses. Usually the price per square foot is separate from the cost of materials. Many backsplash professionals charge by the square foot for installation after material costs. Average pricing per square foot can run anywhere from $10 to $40 per square foot, depending on the pro, the size of the project and the intricacy of the design.
Removal and damage
If you already have a tile backsplash but you want it removed, your price will likely be higher than it would be for installing a tile backsplash over a painted wall. Perhaps you tried to install your own backsplash and don't like the final look, or have fallen out of love with the bright yellow tiles you installed two years back. Whatever the case, existing tile on the wall must first be carefully removed before a new installation can take place. The pros may use a combination of crowbars, hammers, dremel tools or chisels for the demolition. If the tile comes cleanly off, you can avoid drywall repairs, but if you have damage to your drywall, new drywall will have to be installed before the project can continue, which will increase your costs. Once healthy drywall is free of old tile, the pros can start the new installation.
When your tile installation pro is quoting your price, the "unknown factor" will always be a consideration in the final cost. If you bought an older home and are cutting into the walls for the first time, there's no telling what can be uncovered. Usually, there's no problem, but if there is mold, moisture or structural damage under existing tiles, it's important to have it resolved before proceeding with the tile installation.
A gorgeous double diamond design with contrasting colors and varying shapes of tiles looks amazing, and can cost more than something simple. Because of the added labor required to set and arrange fancy looks, your overall project costs will rise with more intricate and complex tile backsplash designs.
In addition to design, areas that are difficult to reach or that have awkward angles can also make the installer's job more difficult and end up costing you more. Working around electrical outlets and finishing edges can also be challenging. Precision is critical to make these areas look good, but this extra work can add to the overall cost. Although it does cost more than doing it yourself, precision is precisely the reason to pay a professional. You're in your kitchen every day. Lopsided subway tiles or off-center designs will haunt your morning coffee. It's better to do it right the first time.
Many professionals can complete a backsplash job—including cutting and laying the tiles—in about a day. Their labor makes up a significant portion of the cost. The installer must measure and put up the backer board, lay out and fabricate the tiles, install them, grout the surface and more. This type of tile installation is considered by many to be a work of artistry and requires a fair amount of expertise. Most tile professionals charge an hourly rate for the labor. Some charge an additional transportation cost. Other installers charge a flat rate for their labor. Absolute Tile and Stone in Chicago has a minimum day rate of $340. Others roll the labor cost into their price per square foot.
If you want a new tile backsplash but don't have a massive budget, there are a few insider tricks to get your look for less.
- Use less costly materials for a backsplash. Ceramics and porcelain usually cost less than marble or stainless steel.
- Shop around for specials. Choose larger tile sizes and simple designs to cut down labor installation costs.
- Get the backsplash installed at the same time you are getting new counters or are remodeling your kitchen — some installers may offer discounts when several jobs are bundled into one.
- Purchase the tile yourself from a distributor and avoid the installer's markup.
How to hire a tile installation specialist
Since your tile backsplash is the center of your kitchen or bathroom, you want it to look good. Before hiring a tiling contractor or general contractor to do the work, read online reviews and make sure the company is legitimate. Ask the installer if they guarantee or warranty their work, and ask for proof of that in a written contract. Don't ever pay in full upfront. For example, Marshall & Sons Construction of Fort Collins, Colorado, guarantees all of its labor for five years. Finally, be clear on what you want and don't want. Have measurements and pictures to add to the visual. Get everything written in a simple contract that outlines materials, scope of work, project timeline, budget, all deposits that have been paid, and final project cost.
- Read client reviews and follow up with references to make sure you're choosing the right tile pro for your project. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring.