Inexpensive Backsplash Ideas

Get all the info you'll need on inexpensive backsplash ideas, and get ready to install an attractive and economical backsplash in your home.
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By: Sean McEvoy

If you're looking to install a kitchen backsplash on a budget, you'll surely want to browse as many inexpensive backsplash ideas as possible.

10 Kitchen Updates That Won't Break the Bank

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Window Dressing

When it comes to the kitchen, unless you're up for a major project and a big expense, you're pretty much stuck with your layout and appliances, explains Dona Rosene, ASID, the owner of Dona Rosene Interiors in Dallas, Texas. "If you have windows that you can put fabric on," she notes "it softens and finishes the kitchen in a really nice way." In terms of fabric selection, Rosene says a pattern is the best way to make a big impact and tie things together. For short windows like these, go for a valance that's about 15 to 18 inches long. Hang the treatment above the window so that it just covers the top molding — this visually elongates the window.

Weighty Walls

While the saying "If you've got it, flaunt it," isn't typically used regarding kitchens, the sentiment is true. If you're lucky enough to have a breakfast nook, do what San Francisco interior designer Cristin Bisbee Priest of Simplified Bee did and call attention to it. "I wanted this space to have an impact," explains Priest. In order to set the space apart from the kitchen but still have the two flow together, she chose a wallpaper in one of the accent colors used in the kitchen. Whenever you paper a room, the wallpaper has to be the launching point for the rest of the design choices, so choose a paper with fresh contrast and a bold motif, she advises.

Fashion Hardware

We're not pretending that this stunning kitchen designed by Lucy Earl co-owner of the Michigan design firm Jones Keena & Co is anything other than the highest end, but the pairing of elegant white cabinetry with vintage-inspired hardware is a lesson any homeowner can learn. "When the hardware is as big as this," explains Earl, "it becomes an important detail." The long polished nickel handles add a dramatic and glamorous touch to the kitchen. "We were going for a 1920s icebox look," notes Earl when discussing her choice of cabinet hardware from Christopher Peacock, "you can get a similar feeling by buying the small latch hardware they used in the 1920s," she adds.

Sound Surround

Finding yourself with a large kitchen is hardly something to complain about, that is, unless you really want to tile around the range but the cost to do so is prohibitive. That's the situation that Karla Barton, founder and president of McBurnery Junction in Langley, British Columbia, found herself in when designing the kitchen above. "We chose to wallpaper around the range because it was a money-saving idea," she explains. By choosing a "bossy" pattern, Barton was able to keep the rest of the enclosure simple, including the millwork and trim. Barton's best advice for pulling this off yourself: Let the wallpaper be the focal point and choose a soft barely there wall color.

Photo By: Janis Nicolay ©Copyright: janis nicolay photography 2011

Framed Window

Painted window mullions: Well if this isn't the most straightforward idea that we'd never have thought of ourselves! "It's a good trick," explains New York designer Katie Ridder, "to add a little color without painting the entire kitchen." The punch of green gives the kitchen architectural structure and defines the space, she adds. The same technique works with a lighter color, such as a dove gray, and has a more subtle effect — you can tell the window frame is a different color but it doesn't jump out at you in the same way. Ideally you should paint trim with an oil-based paint, but if you live in a state where oil paints aren't available, Ridder recommends Benjamin Moore's Satin Impervo line and, of course, always test the color out first before painting all of the mullions.

Photo By: Photo by Eric Piasecki; Katie Ridder Rooms, 2011. Used with permission from The Vendome Press.

Get Jacked

You'd never guess it but on the wall behind this chicly painted Union Jack motif is a tile backsplash. "We were stuck with a narrow and dark space and we wanted to brighten it up," Allison Bloom of Dehn Bloom Design says of the kitchen pantry she and Tinsley Hutson-Wiley designed for the 2012 San Francisco Decorators' Showcase. The designers decided to use the flag design on the wall as a way to expand the space and draw the eye up. "The hardest part," explains Hutson-Wiley, "was mapping out the dimension of the Union Jack. It's slightly distorted to account for the space being more of a square than a rectangle." To create the plank look for the wall, eight sheets of high-grade oak finish plywood were sawed into 6-inch boards and nailed to the wall. Then, a combination of paints and stains were applied to complete the design.

Factory Chic

The right lighting, like the pendants that Tobi Fairley chose for this kitchen, can help to unify different elements in the room. "I chose [these lights] because they add an unexpected industrial element to the kitchen," notes Fairley. "They are showstoppers, yet they are balanced by the very soft color palette and traditional architecture." The pendants also visually draw together the coffered ceilings and kitchen island. To update your own kitchen lighting, look for something with a bit of contrast. As Fairley puts it: It's the contrast that makes a room more dynamic and visually exciting.

Backsplash Bling

Skip boring white and add some pizzazz to your kitchen with a colored tile backsplash. "We knew that the client wanted to have black countertops," says Los Angeles-based architect William Hefner of his kitchen design above, "and we thought that white tile would be too stark of a contrast. The colored tile helps to give the kitchen character and was chosen to be soothing and not so strong that the homeowner would tire of it quickly." To pick a tile that will work for your kitchen, think of an overall feeling that the room is part of, advises Hefner, and choose a color that will compliment. In a room that doesn't get a lot of light, Hefner suggests choosing a tile with a glossy surface that will bounce the light around. And most importantly, he says, select a color you really love and can live with and enjoy for many years to come.

Found Style

Sometimes a fast update can actually take the form of an artifact from the past, as was the case in this kitchen designed by Harry Bates a partner at Bates Masi Architecture in Sag Harbor, NY, in which a center island was sided with reclaimed wood. "Aged patinated wood," explains Bates, "has a character and history that is not easily obtained through stains and paints. It brings a warmth to the room and compliments the other material selections throughout the house." When looking for reclaimed wood, Jim Morgan, owner of Tall Cotton Supply, advises to "go see the pile of wood in its entirety before you sign off on it — don't just buy it off one sample piece." Working with the wood can be tricky too. "Don't just spring it on your installer that you'll be using reclaimed wood," he says, "discuss it ahead of time and make sure your installer has experience working with old wood."

Stencil It In

Not-so-perfect floors are easy to hide with area or scatter rugs but for a really fresh looking update, stencil on a bold motif. "This kitchen was part of a whole house remodel," explains Laura Zeck founder of Zinc Interior Concepts, a Seattle-based design collective. "We used a bold flower motif wallpaper in the adjacent hall and we wanted to echo that by using a large pattern in the kitchen. The floor was the perfect area since the original fir floors had some damage and were being refinished anyway." Zeck found an inspiration image online and with a little Photoshop magic and then a trip to Kinkos to print it out on YUPO (a plastic-like paper sold at art supply stores) she had a custom stencil for the floor. To stencil your own floors, sand them first then apply two coats of finish. When the finish is set, paint on the stencil and then apply a final coat of finish when the paint has thoroughly dried. Because scale can be hard to get right, Zeck suggests getting several sizes of stencils and laying them out on the floor to see which one works best before starting any painting.

Kitchen backsplashes can run the gamut from minimalist affairs to elaborate, floor-to-ceiling designs—but depending on your goals for a kitchen backsplash, you may be able to install the design you're looking for and still stay on (or under) budget.

Your first step toward installing an inexpensive backsplash is to define exactly how much backsplash your kitchen needs. First, you'll need to decide if you want the backsplash to cover the entire wall area above your countertops, or simply a portion thereof. Obviously, the more extensive your backsplash design, the more expensive it will be. So, if it's your intent to create an inexpensive backsplash, you may want to consider covering only a portion of the walls above your countertops. Many homeowners implement a design that covers 25% to 75% of the wall above the countertops. If you're trying to minimize the effect on your budget, you should choose the minimal level of coverage that will still provide adequate protection for the walls based on how much cooking you do and how close the wall is to the most active cooking area.

Beautiful Backsplashes

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Once you've settled on the scope of your backsplash project, it's time to think about materials. Budget will definitely be a consideration if you're looking to keep this project fairly economical—and luckily, there are many options for backsplash materials that are priced to move. Ceramic tile, one of the most popular options, is also one of the cheapest. It's so widely available and comes in so many different styles, colors and textures that you'll likely have no trouble finding the option that's right for your kitchen design and budget. Additionally, ceramic tile is available in several pricing tiers, each of which corresponds to an ascending level of quality. Glass tile can also be an option for an inexpensive backsplash. Similarly to ceramic tile, it's available in a vast array of colors, styles and textures, and it can also be found in various pricing tiers. At the higher end of the backsplash tile pricing spectrum are natural materials like granite or travertine. These are significantly more expensive than ceramic or glass, in general, so if you're attempting to stay on budget, it may be challenging to find these within your price range.

When you've settled on the scope, materials and style for your inexpensive backsplash design, it's time to get to work. The only question remaining is who's actually going to do the work in question. A DIY backsplash installation will save you a significant amount of money versus hiring a contractor to install your backsplash design. Depending on the complexity of the design, the surface area that needs to be covered and your general handiness, you may be able to install the backsplash yourself without too much trouble. Conversely, if you don't have the requisite time or expertise to install the backsplash, you may need to hire a contractor, which will likely impact your bottom line and other considerations like scope and materials.

3 Kitchen Makeovers, 3 Budgets

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