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Ceramic Tile Backsplash Cost

Ceramic Tile Backsplash Cost

National average
$900
(30 square feet of handmade tile in a straight pattern)
Low: $225

(30 square feet of basic machine-made tile in a straight pattern)

High: $3,000

(30 square feet of decorative handmade tile in a complex pattern)

Cost to install a ceramic tile backsplash varies greatly by region (and even by zip code).
Get free estimates from tile, marble and granite contractors in your city.

The average cost of installing a ceramic tile backsplash is $900​.

In this guide

Ceramic tile costs
Pros and cons of ceramic tile backsplashes
Patterns and tile shapes
Sizes
Installation process
Labor costs
Maintenance
Ceramic vs porcelain backsplash
Enhancement and improvement costs
Additional considerations and costs
FAQ

How much does it cost to install a ceramic tile backsplash?

While it is the last thing to be installed in the kitchen, the backsplash is arguably one of the most important parts of the kitchen’s style and design. Unlike any other component of the kitchen, the backsplash serves no practical purpose. It really only adds color, detail, and design to the space.

Ceramic backsplashes are one of the most versatile ways to personalize your kitchen. Ceramic tiles can be machine-made or handmade. They come in multiple shapes, sizes, and colors and can be installed in numerous patterns. For this reason, there is also a wide range of associated costs with installing a ceramic tile backsplash. Most homeowners find that they spend between $600 and $1,200 on a ceramic tile backsplash, with most homeowners spending around $900 on a 30-square-foot backsplash made of 4-inch handmade tiles set straight with no border.

Ceramic tile backsplash costs

Ceramic tile backsplash installation costs
National average cost$900
Average range$600 - $1,200
Minimum cost$225
Maximum cost$3,000


Ceramic tile costs

Ceramic tiles have varying costs due to several factors, including the size, thickness, and how they are made. A ¼-inch thick machine-made tile costs around $2.40 a square foot. A ½-inch thick handmade tile costs anywhere from $10 to $50 a square foot, depending on manufacturing techniques.

Ceramic tiles can be machine extruded and machine cut, which makes them very even. They can be machine extruded and hand cut with a hand-applied glaze. They can also be hand pressed into molds with a hand-applied glaze as well. The more human interaction there is with the tile, the higher the overall costs.

Likewise, the size of the tile and how decorative it is also influences the price. Ceramic tiles can be as small as ⅜ inches or as large as 12 inches. They can be plain or carved, rustic or smooth, or have an inlaid or hand-painted design. Some of these characteristics also influence how much they cost to install. A machine-made tile will be more even and quicker and easier to install. A rustic, handmade tile will be more uneven, which means the installer must use a wider grout joint and go slower, increasing the installation cost.

Pros and cons of ceramic tile backsplashes

Like any material, ceramic tile backsplashes have positive and negative attributes to consider. Ceramic tiles are lightweight, attractive, and easy to cut and install. They come in numerous colors, patterns, sizes, and styles, so it is possible to create a very custom backsplash for your home.

Ceramic tiles are easy to clean as well, so any splatters that occur will not harm the tiles in any way. Most ceramic tiles are also easy to remove and replace. So if you choose to have a new backsplash in a few years, this will not be difficult to accomplish.

Ceramic is a clay tile that is covered with a glaze. Any glaze may craze over time, meaning getting thin cracks in it. Sometimes this is a design choice, but even solid glazes may craze, especially those installed above the cooktop because heat can contribute to crazing. Crazed tiles must be sealed to prevent staining and can be higher maintenance than other materials.

If using a handmade tile, you will likely have a wider grout joint than with some other materials. Some grouts can stain, which will mean either choosing a pre-sealed or epoxy grout that is harder to install or choosing to seal the grout yearly.

Finally, if you choose to use a hand-painted or decorative ceramic tile, keep in mind that for the cost, these can become dated quickly.

Patterns and tile shapes

One of the best things about ceramic tile is its wide range of different shapes and sizes and that it can be installed in nearly countless patterns. There are several more common sizes, shapes, and patterns, however, that many people use on the backsplash.

Most backsplashes are 18 inches in height from the countertop to the underside of the cabinets. Therefore, the most common sizes and patterns will likely fill that space. In addition, there is sometimes a focal point area installed above the cooktop but below the range hood, if there is one. This larger area is usually filled with a different pattern or material than the countertop areas.

In most kitchens, the backsplash is confined to being between the cabinets and counter. However, it is becoming more common to tile the entire wall from countertop to ceiling, around the cabinets, as well as around windows.

modern ceramic kitchenware and utensils on the black granite counter top


Common shapes and patterns include:

  • 4-inch tiles laid straight, which gives you 4 rows of full tiles and either a half course of a 2-inch border, which is usually installed one tile up from the countertop
  • 4-inch tiles laid on the diagonal, which gives you around 4 rows of tiles, depending on grout and nominal tile sizes. There are always half tile cuts involved in this pattern, so the tiles at the top or bottom row may be cut larger or smaller
  • 4x8-inch subway tiles laid in an offset pattern, which gives you 4 full rows of tile and either a cut tile or a border 2 inches tall
  • 3x6-inch subway tiles laid in an offset pattern, which gives you 6 full rows of tile
  • 3x6-inch subway tiles laid in a herringbone tile behind the cooktop, usually paired with an offset pattern on the countertop areas
  • 3x6-inch subway tiles in a stacked or straight pattern, which gives you 6 full rows of tile
  • 3x6-inch subway tiles in a vertical stacked pattern, which gives you 3 full rows of tile
  • 3x6-inch subway tiles in a vertical offset pattern, which gives you 3 rows of tile, with cuts
  • 2x4-inch subway tiles in an offset pattern - usually sold and installed in a mesh
  • 2-inch mosaics, which gives you 9 rows - usually done in multiple colors and sold and installed in a mesh
  • 1-inch or smaller mosaics - usually done in multiple colors, sometimes with decorative tiles mixed in, and sold and installed in a mesh

Other patterns often installed on the backsplash include:

  • Step patterns of one large and one small tile, with the small tile “stepping” off the larger
  • A mixture of 4-inch and 2x4-inch tiles with 2 of the rectangular tiles matching the single square
  • Any combination of larger tiles with a border of mosaics one tile up from the bottom
  • Any combination of larger tiles with a solid border or decorative ceramic tile one tile up from the bottom

Keep in mind that when installing any pattern other than a straight set tile, you will need to increase the amount of tile that you purchase by about 20% to accommodate the cuts required. Patterns will also increase the cost of labor. So while a straight set tile may cost $5/sq.ft. to install, the same tile turned on the diagonal will cost closer to $10/sq.ft. because of the intense labor needed in cutting all the edge pieces.

Sizes

Ceramic tiles come in a very wide range of sizes. They also come in shapes such as circles, thin “stix” of ½x8 inches, diamonds, beveled edges, and multiple sizes of rectangles and squares. It is possible to find ceramic tiles in sizes up to 18 inches, but these are rare and made for flooring. Most backsplashes are made of tiles ranging from 1 to 4 inches in size. It is also possible to blend the tiles in different sizes to create a unique look. 

Installation process

The installation process varies depending on a variety of factors, from the type and size of the tile to the shape of the kitchen. But most installations are carried out similarly.

The backsplash is measured, and an area is marked off on the floor of equal size and shape. The positions of the outlets are noted and marked in the floor layout. The tiles are now laid out in this area in what is called a dry fit or a dry layout. This is very important for handmade tiles because the glazes must be mixed for an even look. Any cuts that must be made to make the tiles fit in the space or around the outlets will be made here, and the tiles returned to the dry fit to ensure they are correct. Outlet box extenders are installed to allow the covers to fit over the new thickness of the backsplash. 

A thin layer of mortar is applied to the wall and keyed. This is the process of having the mortar dragged to a consistent depth with a trowel. The tiles are pressed into the mortar in the same pattern that was determined in the dry fit. If necessary, grout spacers may be inserted between them. The tile is allowed to sit undisturbed for about 24 hours. At this point, if the tile is crazed or textured, it will be given a grout release sealer or a coat of oil soap to make cleanup easier.

The grout is applied to the backsplash, and caulk is applied to the corners and 90-degree angles. The grout needs to dry for an additional 24 hours, and your new backsplash is ready. 

Labor costs

Labor costs are generally priced per square foot but can vary depending on a few different factors. For example, a machine-made tile is easier to cut and install. Thinner tiles are also easier to cut and faster to install. The thicker and more rustic the tile, the more difficult and time-consuming the installation is, which leads to higher costs. Typical labor costs for a tile backsplash installation range from $5 to $10 a square foot. For a 30-square-foot installation of a handmade ceramic tile backsplash, the installation would cost around $300 of the $900 total.

Maintenance

Ceramic tile is very easy to maintain. The grout may need to be sealed to help prevent staining, particularly when using a handmade tile that needs a wider grout joint. After that, however, the backsplash can be washed with soap and water unless the glaze begins to craze. If cracks are present in the glaze, it should be sealed yearly with an impregnating sealer to help impede staining. Otherwise, there is no additional maintenance.

Ceramic vs porcelain backsplash

While the names may sound similar, a ceramic and porcelain backsplash look very different. Ceramic tile is a clay-based tile that has a glaze on it. It is made from wet clay and may be fired, then glazed and fired again (bicottura), or it may be glazed and fired once (monocottura). While there are floor-rated ceramic tiles, most of the tiles used on the backsplash are designed solely for wall use. They may have bright colors, different shapes, and the glaze may be matte, glossy, rustic, have a watercolor look, or it may be crazed.

Porcelain tiles are made from compressed clay dust that has been fired to high temperatures. They are not usually glazed, although they can be. The tiles usually come in 2-inch, 6-inch, 12-inch, and larger sizes, so there is less variation in size and shape. The tiles may be textured, smooth, or polished, but they lack the decorative nature of the ceramics. A porcelain tile is generally longer wearing, so they are usually designed for flooring.

It is possible to use porcelain on the backsplash, and some porcelains have a lot of color variation between the tiles. This can give your backsplash more of a look of stone, wood, glass, or fabric, rather than the look of tile.

Porcelain tends to be more expensive than ceramic tiles, starting at $7 a square foot. It is harder to cut and install, so installation costs usually start a little higher as well, beginning at $10 to $12 a square foot. Porcelain is virtually maintenance-free and does not require sealing because there is no glaze that may crack or craze.

Enhancement and improvement costs

Removal of Old Backsplash

Backsplashes are relatively easy to remove and change out, so it is common to replace them when the kitchen needs an update. Backsplashes are removed using a prybar and can be done DIY, or the installer can remove the old one, usually for a cost of around $2 to $3 a square foot, or about $60 to $90.

Drywall Repair

If the drywall is damaged where you need the backsplash to go, it may need to be repaired or replaced before the new tile can be put on. This can cost between $60 and $100, depending on the level of the repair. 

New Countertops

If you are giving your kitchen a new look with a backsplash, you may also want to replace the countertop. New countertops cost between $1,200 and $6,000, depending on the type of material, with an average cost of $3,000 for granite countertops. 

Additional considerations and costs

  • Depending on the tile and pattern, you will need to order at least 10% to 20% more to account for breakage and cuts. Complex patterns require a minimum of 20% extra. It is always good to have a few extra tiles left over for future repairs as well.
  • Some installers may offer discounts on the backsplash if you have it tiled at the same time as a countertop, floor, or other project. Always ask about available packages.
  • Use a contrasting or bright color or decorative pattern in your backsplash to create a focal point in the room. This is particularly true if you have a larger area to tile, such as behind the cooktop.

FAQ

  • How much does it cost to install ceramic tile per square foot?

Costs range from between $5 and $10 a square foot on average for installation, depending on the type of tile.

  • How long does it take to install a ceramic tile backsplash?

​The tile itself can go up in just a few hours, but it takes 24 hours before grouting can occur and an additional 24 hours for the grout to cure.

  • Is ceramic tile good for a kitchen backsplash?

Yes, ceramic tile makes an excellent material for kitchen backsplashes due to the many colors and patterns available. 

  • How do you clean a ceramic tile backsplash?

Clean a ceramic tile backsplash with your favorite cleaner unless the tile has a green glaze. In this case, use a pH-neutral cleaner to avoid discoloration.​

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Cost to install a ceramic tile backsplash varies greatly by region (and even by zip code). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.

White ceramic backsplash in a kitchen

Labor cost by city and zip code

Compared to national average
Aiken, SC
+6%
Albuquerque, NM
-14%
Athens, GA
-9%
Atlanta, GA
+24%
Aurora, CO
+10%
Austin, TX
+13%
Bedford, TX
+5%
Bronx, NY
+32%
Chicago, IL
+40%
Colorado Springs, CO
-3%
Dallas, TX
+10%
El Paso, TX
-28%
Fairburn, GA
-9%
Gig Harbor, WA
-2%
Gilroy, CA
+13%
Groveport, OH
+5%
Henderson, NV
+10%
Houston, TX
+24%
Huntley, IL
+19%
Indianapolis, IN
+6%
Jacksonville, FL
-1%
Katy, TX
+63%
Kihei, HI
+14%
Las Vegas, NV
+7%
Lincoln, NE
-13%
Long Beach, CA
+16%
Los Angeles, CA
+11%
Louisville, KY
-7%
Lowell, MA
+36%
Minneapolis, MN
+25%
Northville, MI
+47%
Oklahoma City, OK
-12%
Orlando, FL
+2%
Patchogue, NY
+17%
Philadelphia, PA
+40%
Phoenix, AZ
0%
Reno, NV
0%
Riverside, CA
+13%
Round Rock, TX
-5%
Sacramento, CA
+8%
Saint Louis, MO
+16%
Salt Lake City, UT
-6%
San Diego, CA
+11%
Santa Ana, CA
+20%
Schaumburg, IL
+42%
Scottsdale, AZ
-1%
Seattle, WA
+9%
Smyrna, GA
+10%
Surprise, AZ
-2%
Tampa, FL
-2%
Labor cost in your zip code
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