Water and grease splatter from cooking are major problems in a kitchen. The wall behind the stove and sink is one area at risk for damage and staining, which is why you need to have a backsplash in your kitchen.
A backsplash is the vertical surface at the back of a countertop. You need to have a backsplash in a kitchen because of water, grease, and other elements that can damage or discolor the wall behind the sink and stove. The backsplash acts as a protective surface and should be made of materials that are durable and easy to clean.
Aside from protecting the kitchen wall, the backsplash prevents dripping between the back of the cabinets and the wall below the countertop. This area should be properly sealed and protected. The backsplash is a functional aspect of the kitchen but can also be accentuated as a design feature. Take advantage of the backsplash to bring the entire kitchen design together.
I am Jorge Fontan, an architect and owner of New York based architecture firm Fontan Architecture. In this post I will show you some backsplashes in kitchens from our projects, while reviewing some key reasons why you need a kitchen backsplash. I will also discuss what some of your options are for materials and cover a few important factors I like to consider when I am designing a kitchen backsplash.
Do You Need A Backsplash Behind The Stove?
You need a backsplash behind the stove to protect from grease and cooking splatter that could damage the surface behind the stove. The backsplash should be made of durable, nonabsorbent, and easy to clean material that will not discolor easily.
When making a backsplash behind your stove you may have a few different types of conditions. If you have a cooktop installed in a countertop you probably have a strip of countertop behind the cooktop. In this case you can tile right up the wall and have the bottom course of tile right over the countertop. If you have a range which is free standing you will have a gap between the appliance and the backsplash. which begs the question how far down to tile behind the stove.
When tiling a kitchen backsplash behind a stove, the best practice is to continue the tiles down the wall a minimum of one full course below the countertop height. This is done in order to prevent any visual discontinuity so you cannot see any untiled wall surface.
We often think of the backsplash as a design feature but remember its primary function is protection.
Does the Backsplash Have To Go All The Way Up To The Cabinets?
The kitchen backsplash prevents runoff between the back of the cabinets and the wall. The backsplash should also go all the way up to the wall cabinets in order to fully protect the wall behind the stove and sink from water, grease, and cooking splatter.
If you are building a kitchen in a new home or renovating an existing one you probably do not want to do it again anytime soon. This means making a durable and long lasting kitchen. Build the backsplash all the way up to the cabinets behind and you will have the best option for your kitchen wall protection. Use this as an opportunity to make something beautiful as the backsplash is one of the first things you will notice when you walk into the kitchen.
Kitchen Backsplash Design
Whether you make the backsplash a feature or make it blend in, you need to think about the backsplash design when designing your kitchen. The backsplash is an important feature in a design and nothing should be left as an afterthought. The entire kitchen should work visually as a single element. I have another post if you are interested in reading more about Kitchen Backsplash Design Ideas.
There are many different materials that you can use for your kitchen backsplash.
List of Kitchen Backsplash Materials
- Solid Surfacing
- Glass Tile
- Porcelain Tile
- Ceramic Tile
- Back Painted Glass
- Stainless Steel
Paint Instead of Backsplash
Paint instead of a backsplash is not a good solution for a kitchen because the paint is not as durable and waterproof as typical backsplash materials. You need to consider the lifespan of the work you do in your kitchen. You need to install some type of resilient material for a kitchen backsplash. Paint will not seal the back of the wall and the back of the countertop edge.
Paint is not good enough for a backsplash alternative.
No Backsplash in the Kitchen
You do not want to skip the backsplash in the kitchen, but there may be a few situations where it could be acceptable not to install one.
I am an architect in New York, where exposed brick is a very popular feature for NY apartments and lofts. In the picture below you will see a kitchen built against a brick wall. We left the brick exposed as it is a durable material and can handle the abuse from the kitchen.
You should know that brick is porous, therefore it will absorb and discolor over time. In this particular situation the brick wall is already over one hundred years old, so it has plenty of imperfections as it is, adding to its character. Another problem is that the backsplash is normally installed after the countertop in order to sit over the counter. This fills the gap between the countertop and the wall behind closing up that seam. Without this, the backsplash runoff can get behind the base cabinets. At minimum you can caulk to seal the seam if you do not install a backsplash. We warned the owners about the risks and they were okay with it, so this is the one situation where we did not install a backsplash in one of our kitchen designs.
Kitchen Backsplash or Not?
You do need a kitchen backsplash and this should not be overlooked in your kitchen. The backsplash will act as a protective surface and can be a critical part of the overall kitchen design.
Thank You for Reading Our Blog Post on Why You Need a Backsplash in Your Kitchen.
I hope this was helpful. If you would like to speak with an architect about a potential project you can contact us at Fontan Architecture directly.
This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.