Backsplashes do more than protect the walls near sinks, stoves, ovens, and countertops.
They also take a lot of money from a wallet or bank account to purchase and install, even if done as a do-it-yourself (DIY) project.
They do add charm and beauty to the kitchen, often considered the most valuable focal point of a home.
Backsplashes vary in materials used, cost, and installation techniques required.
Here are 10 reasons a backsplash is so expensive.
Why Is A Backsplash So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. Often Part Of A Larger Project
The installation of a backsplash usually does not happen as a single project.
Instead, this activity often occurs as part of a larger kitchen remodeling or home improvement project.
Kitchen remodeling is an expensive endeavor, often running from $12,500 to $35,000, though some renovations can far surpass these amounts.
Similar to remodeling projects in other parts of the house, the cost of kitchen remodels often exceeds the budget planned for them.
Indeed, the plumbing and electrical work, tiles, countertops, and other components make bathrooms and kitchens the most expensive spaces within a house for updating and improvement.
With so many elements coming together, anyone beginning a kitchen remodel would be wise to plan for the unexpected.
National “averages” may not accurately reflect local market conditions.
Get estimates for in-home improvements from multiple sources.
Backsplash installations that are part of a larger project may suffer from cost overruns, a shortage of workers, or similar problems that the installer’s company may not be able to address immediately.
What may have started as a simple backsplash addition could mushroom into a home improvement transformation.
Costs can escalate, depending on a variety of factors.
These include where a person lives, the size of their kitchen, the quality of the project, the time of the year, and industry cost standards.
That’s some food for thought to nibble on while standing in a kitchen that needs some remodeling!
2. Countertops May Need To Change, Too
Depending on the presence of an already existing backsplash, the ability to remove it, and the area where it meets the countertop surface, this job also may require the removal and replacement of countertops.
If no backsplash presently exists, the job could be a simple one.
Just have the backsplash installed.
This assumes, of course, that a person has no immediate plans to replace their countertops anytime soon.
If they do, it makes great sense to complete that task before installing a backsplash that will reach down to touch the counter.
Otherwise, when removing the countertop at some point in the future, the effort required might crack the tiles or other backsplash materials.
If crews lift the old warped wooden countertop too quickly, they may damage the backsplash in very visible areas.
Unless the homeowner conveniently has stashed an ample supply of the original backsplash material for just such a circumstance, they should budget for a new countertop to accompany their new backsplash.
3. Costly Glass
Composed of thin pieces of glass, this backsplash offers an attractive alternative.
With translucent glass placed on the back, then fired and finished, some glass tiles also have mosaic patterns placed upon their backing.
One of the more expensive backsplash options, these glass options often fall within the range of $7 to $30 for each square foot.
Beyond raw materials, the installation of a glass backsplash usually exceeds $30 per square foot.
Remember that this is an industry average, not the price in a particular market.
Some argue that glass offers an eco-friendly alternative.
Creative designers sometimes use mosaic tiles that are recycled from unique materials.
For those who have kitchens with smaller footprints, glass backsplashes may offer an alternative to consider for two reasons.
First, when properly designed and installed, light and shiny glass reflect natural light and gives the impression that a space appears larger than its true size.
Second, since the size of the kitchen is already smaller, one needs fewer glass tiles to cover the space.
Among glass alternatives, brick-like and rectangular glass subway tile is usually a more affordable option than customized mosaic tiles.
Subway tile is a traditional design, harkening back to the tiles used in early subway stations more than a century ago.
Many kitchen designers agree that glass subway tile will always remain a valid and valuable style option for new and remodeled backsplashes.
In most cases, a person wanting glass tiles should plan to work with a professional installer familiar with this material.
4. Costly High-Quality Ceramic Tile
Ceramic tile remains a popular home improvement alternative for those adding or replacing a backsplash.
Many varieties of ceramic tiles are available on the market.
Some are bland and basic.
Glossy glazed ceramic tiles in common colors fit this description.
Others are trendy and terrific.
Hand-made, inlaid ceramic tiles are at the other end of the spectrum, with matte-glazed, crackle-glazed, hand-painted, large format, and mosaic options offering many ceramic alternatives between the least and most expensive.
Traditionally, these clay-based pieces are placed in a high-temperature kiln.
Once hard, they receive a liquid glaze and a return visit to the kiln to let it bake into the clay.
Compared with glass, many basic ceramic tiles offer a more economical option.
Many tiles cost between $4 and $8 per square foot and are generally easier to install than glass tiles.
This makes ceramic tiles more of an option for DIY remodelers.
Additional labor costs should also be factored into your budget if you have requested that the installer incorporate a complex pattern, especially one requiring a variety of tile types and sizes.
Some tiles created from ceramics are known as penny tiles.
Circular in shape, they come in a variety of sizes and colors.
Bold and refined, penny tiles may also be created from glass, marble, or porcelain, too.
Mosaic ceramic tiles offer another customizable option and may come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Due to the complexity of installation, those wanting a backsplash created from mosaic tiles are wise to hire a professional installer.
Whichever tile a person selects, they should plan to purchase extra ones in case any need to be replaced in the future due to cracks.
5. Costly Quartz, Marble, Or Granite
Expect to pay in excess of $90 per square foot for the purchase, preparation, and installation of most quartz or marble backsplashes.
Granite ranges from approximately $50 to $75 per square foot.
As manufactured stone, quartz has unique patterns and may cost 20% to 40% more than granite.
These prices may vary depending on the veining on the material, as well as any other patterns or designs.
Other factors that affect the price include the geographic location, quality of the stone used, supplier, and time of the year.
For a high-quality, custom-made backsplash, one could expect to pay more than $200 per square foot.
These backsplashes have different qualities.
Quartz offers a non-porous surface, meaning it lacks microscopic holes that would attract moisture or dirt.
Versatile and stain-resistant, quartz works with many designs, cleans easily, and resists mildew and mold.
However, quartz has a lower heat resistance and may experience damage from sunlight.
Marble offers a stunning alternative that adds a sense of luxury.
This comes at a cost, both from the pocketbook and also since it requires regular cleaning to assure that acidic foods do not leave stains on the marble.
Marble also scratches easily.
One benefit of these options is that the amount of time to install tends to be much less than with glass or ceramic since workers mount one or a few pieces rather than many tiles.
Granite and other stone tiles such as slate offer a natural look and durability.
Those with softer stones may easily scratch, however, and require occasional resealing.
Glazed or unglazed porcelain offers another option, but many people associate porcelain with a necessary place in the other room with a sink!
6. Time Or Labor Involved
No matter which type of backsplash a person selects, they also need to budget for both the time and labor involved.
If the kitchen has a unique arrangement, many electrical outlets and light switches, or windows, a professional installer familiar with cutting, placing, and arranging designs may be the best option.
Similarly, if the wall already has an existing backsplash requiring removal, a professional or a person with some experience in performing careful demolitions should handle the job rather than a DIY amateur.
Professional installers come to work sites with all of the necessary tools in hand.
They charge more per hour for their labor, but they will bring what they need to perform the task.
For a DIY amateur to perform the installation, they will have to buy, rent, or borrow what they need for the task.
These items could include caulk, cement backer board, grout, spacers, and a trowel, among other things.
A general tile installer placing subway tiles in horizontal rows will get the job done rather quickly.
Installers hired to create complicated layouts of tile mosaics command upwards of $100 an hour in many markets and will require additional time to create the desired patterns.
Contractor rates for more general jobs may fall within the range of $40 to $80 per hour in an average market.
This cost should include about $10 per square foot for materials installed, depending on the market.
This assumes that the labor pool for talented installers remains strong.
If seeking an outside professional installer, remember that delays often become an inevitable part of the process.
Those who demolish existing backsplashes will also charge a fee, and will likely add a disposal fee.
Some folks with talent and creativity may decide to install the backsplash themselves.
While it is certainly a project that many DIYers have done successfully, be sure to budget for the extra supplies and tools necessary.
Also, remember that if a busy schedule means time is money, an installer who does this regularly may be the best bargain in the long run.
7. May Cause Wall Damage
If a backsplash already exists, some think about saving a little money by simply installing new tiles over an old backsplash.
While it may be possible to do that, depending on what is already there and what one plans to install, the final product may not live up to expectations.
The new tiles atop the old surface would create a very thick backsplash.
In most cases, the better plan involves removing the previous backsplash.
Although it is possible to perform this task as a DIY activity, one has to take great care so that they do not damage the wall to which the original tiles are attached.
This link offers some general steps one would take to remove an already existing tile backsplash without damaging the drywall.
If an older backsplash occupies the area, it should be removed.
This requires proper supplies, tools, and methods.
While it is possible to install over existing tiles, plaster, textured walls, and painted or unpainted drywall, one should not install tiles atop plywood, glossy surfaces, older walls with lead paint, or wallpaper.
8. May Need To Remove Old Tile
Consider any effort to remove existing tiles carefully, and call a professional if this task seems too difficult.
Even in the best circumstances, most tile removal projects will take some of the drywall as well.
This makes sense since the purpose of the grout or adhesive placed on and between the tiles was to keep them in place forever.
Indeed, one sign of a well-installed tile backsplash is when there is evidence of damaged drywall after its removal.
That is the irony one faces when they decide to remove an item already attached to the drywall.
They must accept that “forever” has come and gone and a new backsplash will replace the old one.
If the drywall does suffer damage, either the contractor or the DIYer will need to make the necessary repairs so that the new backsplash will adhere to the old wall.
Hopefully, this will be “forever,” or at least until the house is sold.
Inspect and prep the area where the old tile used to sit along the wall for any holes, divots, or cracks.
If substantial damage is noticed, it needs to be addressed rather than ignored.
Covering an older damaged area with a new backsplash may hide the issue, but this will not make it go away.
If left unattended, even costlier repairs await on the horizon.
While costs vary by the market and availability of skilled workers, expect to pay approximately $3 to $6 per square foot to have someone with experience remove an existing tile backsplash from the wall, in addition to disposal fees.
9. Cheaper Alternatives Cost In Other Ways
Some people choose to go a less expensive route.
They may use peel-and-stick tiles or a simple coat of the cheapest paint they can find.
While these solutions may serve their purpose, they may also come at a cost.
If adding these to a wall in a house that must sell quickly, they do offer an inexpensive way to protect the drywall from moisture exposure.
Those interested in a higher-end kitchen do look at backsplashes and might be turned off by these alternatives, however.
Paint, wallpaper, and peel-and-stick tiles offer moderate resistance to moisture.
They will not shield these walls from continued exposure to stains, food, oils, grease, or smoke,
If not applied carefully, cracks or spaces between peel-and-stick tiles may become magnets for dirt, grease, moisture, mold, and mildew.
10. A Necessary Part Of The Kitchen
Backsplashes are more than aesthetic additions.
Given the number of exposed areas near sinks and countertops, a high-quality and properly-installed backsplash is a necessity to shield these areas from cooking stains, heavy grease, moisture, and other items.
While the rule of thumb is to save money by not installing a backsplash where it’s not visible—such as behind a refrigerator—it does make sense to have one behind the cooktop and near the hood vent, areas where grease, spills, stains, and splashes often are present.
As one considers how expensive a backsplash is to purchase and install, one should remember that these helpful kitchen additions do add value to a home.
This is something to consider as they begin to chisel at the old tile on the wall!