How much does it cost to install a porcelain tile backsplash?
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Porcelain Tile Backsplash Cost Guide
Updated: August 18, 2022
If you are looking for a contemporary backsplash that completes your kitchen design, consider porcelain tile. Porcelain is a unique material made of compressed clay dust that is fired to very high temperatures. It comes in a range of sizes and styles and gives your backsplash a very contemporary or modern look.
Porcelain comes in several varieties and sizes, which impacts the project cost. The average cost range for a porcelain tile backsplash is $600 to $1,200, with most people paying around $887 for 40 square feet of 12-inch glazed porcelain tile installed.
Porcelain Tile Backsplash Costs
|Porcelain Tile backsplash Installation Costs|
|National average cost||$887|
Porcelain Tile Backsplash Cost by Type
Porcelain comes in many different varieties and finishes. Most are considered a color-through clay body, meaning the color goes right through, but some are glazed while others are ground to a high polish. Each type of porcelain has a range of costs that impact the price of your installation:
|Type of Porcelain||Average Cost per sq.ft.|
|Unglazed||$3 - $10 per sq.ft.|
|Glazed||$5 - $15 per sq.ft.|
|Polished||$7 - $18 per sq.ft.|
|Metallic||$20 - $30 per sq.ft.|
|Large Format||$20 - $30 per sq.ft.|
|Mosaic||$20 - $30 per sq.ft.|
Unglazed Porcelain Tile
Most porcelain tile is unglazed with a color-through clay body. If the top chips, it does not show and is not obvious because there is no color change. No glaze means no cracking or crazing like ceramic tile and makes the tile impervious to stains. Unglazed tiles may be matte or textured and have an average cost range of $3 to $10 per square foot.
Glazed Porcelain Tile
Porcelain tile may be glazed to enhance its appearance. Sometimes, the glaze is the same color as the clay body underneath, often with slight variations like veins to give it more depth or layered to produce an appearance of fabric, wood, or stone. They cost between $5 and $15 per square foot on average.
Polished Porcelain Tile
Porcelain tiles may have their surface ground down and polished like marble. This gives them an incredibly reflective and high gloss surface. Because porcelain is nonporous, polishing produces a brilliant shine that surpasses marble. Using this on a backsplash dramatically enhances the light in the kitchen. They average between $7 and $18 per square foot.
Metallic Porcelain Tile
Many porcelain tiles have a metallic glaze that contains real metal particulates for a shimmering and modern appearance. Because the glaze contains metal, it must be kept from certain cleaning solutions to avoid etching or marring the finish. When used in the kitchen, steer clear of lemon juice splashes or other acids on the wall because it could harm the finish. These tiles cost between $20 and $30 per square foot on average.
Large Format Porcelain Tile
Porcelain forms into very large tiles, meaning fewer grout lines. A large format tile is often ½” thick and up to 3” in width or length. Care must be taken during installation to avoid lippage, where one corner of the tile sticks up higher than the surrounding installation. With this tile on the backslash, it is possible to use a single tile from counter to cabinet so that you have a clean and contemporary look with very few grout lines. They cost between $20 and $30 per square foot.
Mosaic Porcelain Tile
Not all porcelain tiles come in a mosaic form, but several floor tiles have matching 2” mosaics, which are usable on the backsplash as borders, accents, and other decorative features. The tiles are sold on a mesh sheet and installed 12 inches at a time. Costs start between $20 and $30 a square foot.
Porcelain Tile Backsplash Cost by Pattern
While ceramic tiles come in a nearly endless range of colors, sizes, and shapes that you can use to create a wide range of backsplash patterns, porcelain is slightly more limited. A few varieties are available in 6” squares, which allows for a set of 3 tiles stacked or offset in a typical 18” backsplash, but only two when turned on a diagonal.
Most porcelain tiles are available in 12”, 16”, 18”, and larger varieties, as well as unique rectangular shapes like 4”x24”, 6”x24”, and 12”x24”.
When using porcelain on the backsplash, you must understand the size of the space. The typical kitchen backsplash is 18” from countertop to cabinet. If you have a 4” integral countertop backsplash, you only have 14” left to fill. Some kitchens have larger areas behind their cooktops to fill more decoratively, while others do not, especially those with microwave vents.
When choosing a pattern for your porcelain tile backsplash, consider the 18” height and what will fit there. A 12” tile would take 1½ tiles to fill, so you do not see much of a pattern. Setting a tile of this size on a diagonal gives one full tile with two cut tiles framing it. However, a 4”x24”, 6”x24”, or other large format plank tile creates a unique running bond or offset pattern.
It is also possible to stack rectangular tiles for a more contemporary look or a single large format tile to fill the space with relatively few grout lines.
Any diagonal or running bond pattern you create, regardless of the tile size, increases the project cost by roughly 20%. You need more material for the many cuts required, which increases the labor for the installer.
A 30sq.ft. porcelain backsplash with 6 inches set straight costs around $630, while a 30sq.ft. porcelain backsplash with the same tiles on a diagonal costs around $756.
Labor Costs to Install a Porcelain Tile Backsplash
Porcelain tile is a hard and dense material, so cutting and working it has a higher labor cost than other materials. It needs to be cut on a tile wet saw with a fresh diamond blade, and any tiles larger than 12” must be back buttered during installation to avoid lippage, where one corner of the tile sticks up higher than the others around it. Most installers charge around $15 on average to install porcelain tile. Add at least 20% to this cost for tile laid in a pattern or mosaic tile.
Porcelain tile rarely has bullnose or finish tiles available for the edges of the installation. However, your installer can create one if the tile does not have a glaze or a different colored clay body than the glaze. For each bullnose tile that your installer creates, add another $15 to your installation cost.
Like all backsplash installations, porcelain should be dry fit first, or laid out in the pattern and style you want, so that cuts, bullnose tiles, and outlets are configured. The outlet covers are removed, and outlet extenders are placed. Due to the thickness of porcelain tile, every backsplash needs an extender at each outlet or switch.
Porcelain is installed in a thin-set mortar, usually with a latex additive. The mortar is keyed to the correct depth, and the porcelain set in place unless it is over 12” in size. In this case, several softball-sized mounds of mortar are put on the back of the tile first, and then it is pressed into place. Once a few tiles are in, a flat piece of wood is placed over them, and they are beaten into the mortar with a rubber mallet. This ensures an even installation and prevents lippage.
Once the mortar has cured - about 24 hours - the tile is grouted.
Pros and Cons of a Porcelain Tile Backsplash
Porcelain gives a contemporary backsplash with the look of marble, stone, metal, fabric, or even glass. Most have relatively few grout lines, and unique sizes make for more modern appearances. Porcelain is easy to care for and does not require any sealing or special cleaners, so any splashes of food or liquid wipe up easily.
Porcelain is more difficult to cut and install, so it costs more than other materials. Shapes and sizes are more limited, and if you want bullnose or edge tiles, your installer needs to create them. Due to the thickness of some larger format tiles, your backsplash is thicker than if you use ceramic or marble tile.
Porcelain Tile Backsplash Maintenance
Porcelain tile is a very low-maintenance material that does not require special cleaners or sealers. If you did not use a pre-sealed grout, seal the grout to impede staining. Otherwise, clean the porcelain with your favorite household cleaner as needed to remove dirt or food stains.
Ceramic vs Porcelain Backsplash
Porcelain and ceramic sound similar but are made in two very distinct ways producing two different tiles. Ceramic tiles are made of wet clay that is either extruded and cut by machine or by hand. It always has a glaze that is matte or glossy, and it comes in a nearly endless array of colors, decorative pieces, and styles.
Porcelain is made of compressed clay dust that is fired to extremely high temperatures. It is not typically given a glaze because it does not need one to be water-resistant. It is usually thicker, larger, and has fewer size and pattern variations than ceramic. Its color palette is more limited, and there are not many different shapes available.
While porcelain tile is more expensive to cut and install, it has similar costs to a ceramic tile backsplash because the more decorative ceramic tiles tend to cost more than porcelain tiles. The average price of both is around $900 for 30 square feet installed.
Marble vs Porcelain Tile
Marble is another popular backsplash material. This is a natural stone that comes in many different colors and is found in numerous tile sizes and shapes. Some porcelain tiles are created to mimic the look of marble.
Marble is high-maintenance and needs to be sealed to impede staining. Porcelain does not require sealing, so it is possible to get the look of some marble tiles without the maintenance. Marble has a natural variation in color and pattern from piece to piece that porcelain does not have. If you like the idea of a natural look, marble is the better choice. In comparison, porcelain is the better choice for a lower maintenance kitchen.
Marble backsplashes cost around $800 for 30 sq.ft. on average, so they are comparable with the cost of most porcelain backsplashes.
Enhancement and Improvement Costs
Old Backsplash Removal
Backsplashes are one of the most decorative parts of the kitchen and one of the easiest to change for a new look. If you have an existing backsplash, remove it for around $50 on average to give the room an updated look.
Sometimes, removing the old backsplash damages the drywall behind it, which needs to be repaired before installing new tile. This adds about $100 - $300 to the project, depending on the damage.
For a truly fresh look in the kitchen, replace your countertop at the same time as you install the new backsplash. A new countertop costs around $3,000 on average.
Additional Considerations and Costs
- The backsplash is the most decorative part of your kitchen design, so make sure it complements the space and has the look you want. If your kitchen is plain, a busier pattern adds contrast and dresses things up. If your kitchen already has a lot going on, consider a more subdued design for the backsplash area instead.
- Porcelain tiles are stain and impact-resistant and make great coverings for all areas, including the backsplash.
- Always order at least 10% additional material in case of breakage or cuts. When installing tiles in a pattern or using mosaic tiles, order at least 20% more because it is better to have leftover tiles for future repairs than to run out in the middle of installation.
- Ask your installer if they offer discounts for tile jobs if you complete them at the same time as other tiled areas. For example, tiling the floor or countertop may yield a discount on the backsplash.
- Is porcelain tile good for a kitchen backsplash?
Porcelain makes an excellent kitchen backsplash. It resists staining and creates a contemporary look.
- Should your backsplash match your countertop?
A backsplash does not need to match your countertop. They should coordinate in some way for the best appearance.
- Is ceramic or porcelain tile better for a backsplash?
Both materials make an excellent choice for a backsplash, but they create different looks. For a contemporary look, choose porcelain. If you want something more cottage or traditional in style, choose ceramic.
- Does porcelain tile need to be sealed?
No, porcelain is nonporous and does not require sealing. However, if you use it underfoot and want to increase its slip resistance, use an impregnating sealer.