Backsplash Designs by a Colorado Carpenter

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Sep 13, 2010 | Kevin Stevens

A backsplash provides a water resistant cover to areas that are often damaged by “splashes” from nearby sinks.  It also provides a transitional surface between a counter and a wall. Gaps behind cabinets, due to irregular wall surfaces, are often covered with a backsplash. In the kitchen a backsplash can add style and color, and provide a robust surface that can stand up to repeated cleanings. I have worked on, and seen, many types of backsplashes, these range from simple up curved molded tops in basic Formica, to custom tile and stone creations.

One of my more colorful backsplash installations was a mixture of 4” glazed Italian tiles with hand painted Mexican tiles. Here a diamond pattern was used to provide even more visual impact. The Mexican tiles were slightly larger than the Italian tiles so each tile got about an 1/8” trimmed from each side, this was a fairly easy task since those tiles were soft terra cotta. In addition to the new tile counter and red cast iron sink, this project also has me build a custom drawer and new doors for the lower cabinet area. This “cabinet” was site built over 20 years ago and was integral to the adjoining walls. The owners went for a more economical face lift rather than a complete tear out and new installation.

As bold and colorful as the previous backsplash is, it is not for everyone. Here the client chose more subtle hues to match the décor of this kitchen. This backsplash was done in glazed 3” ceramic tile. The color here is a closer match to the cabinets and laminate countertop.

I have done a number if kitchen projects using granite tiles. Granite, as many people know, is a great material for kitchen work areas. It is extremely durable and is available in a multitude of colors and patterns. This backsplash uses the same granite as the work surfaces. This kitchen remodel was a project designed with a simple budget, off-the-shelf cabinets from a big box store and some mid-priced granite tiles. Here the tiles are set on a built up top and custom maple trim was installed with walnut screw caps.

This kitchen in this home was remodeled prior to the current owners purchase, but a backsplash was never installed. The installation of this backsplash then was simplified by not having to remove pre-existing material. Here the homeowners decided on glass subway tiles.  Glass tiles present some added challenges in the installation, as the cut edges can chip more easily than ceramics, and care must be taken to not damage the colored backing. This elegant backsplash was further highlighted with the installation of low voltage under cabinet lighting.

I recently installed the granite tile on my pantry cabinet, I built this cabinet with African Stripped Mahogany, and as time permits I will build more cabinets for the rest of my kitchen. Unlike a lot of other tile installations, I used large granite tiles for this project. I found a vendor who sells large 18” x 21” tiles. These, combined with 3” wide bull-nosed edge pieces, can give you a “slab” look at a very reasonable cost. Using these same large tiles in the backsplash results in fewer grout lines and a cleaner look. 

One challenge in backsplash installations often involves edge details. It is possible to polish the edges of natural granites and marble, but if your design involves ceramic tiles, check to see if “special” tiles are also available. Here we used bull nosed edge tile for the outside row, and special edge tiles for the counter top. Strong under cabinet light provided here by fluorescent lights really make this sky blue backsplash pop.

This unique installation had a pre-existing tile backsplash, albeit not that attractive. This tile was installed on a concrete wall and the upper wall cabinets were installed over that tile. To remove the old tile would have been a very complex and costly project. In this project, new counter tile was installed, and a simple row of tile was installed over the existing tile to result in a more modern backsplash.

Custom backsplashes can add flair to bathrooms as well. In this installation a small wooden shelf with a cubby below was replaced with a granite backsplash. The two colors of granite here were also used in other areas of the home. The consistent use of materials brings the overall home décor into balance.  Black granite with polished edges adds sophistication and style.

If your kitchen or bath is dated, a simple replacement of the backsplash may provide the facelift that will please the eye and provide some protection for the wall behind the sink or work area. I hope that some of these photos have inspired you to create something unique for your own home.

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