How Do I... Choose Tiles for My Kitchen Splashback
Tough, low-maintenance and easy to clean – tiles are a great choice for kitchens. Here’s how to find the right style.
Christie Wood, strategic designer at Beaumont Tiles, reveals how to select a tile colour and shape to complement your kitchen.
The splashback is often the focal point of a kitchen, and provides a real opportunity to inject some colour and personality into the space.
Tiles are a great choice for splashbacks as they’re hygienic, durable and easy to wipe down.
And because splashbacks are usually just a few square metres in size, you can splurge on a tile you love – and make a visual impact – without blowing the budget.
What are the main materials?
- Porcelain: Affordable, hardwearing, low-maintenance (they need little more than the occasional wipe down) and non-porous. Porcelain can be digitally printed to mimic a range of other materials, such as timber, marble and terrazzo.
- Ceramic: This is the most popular tile material on the market. Ceramic tiles are budget-friendly, durable and moisture-resistant. Just like porcelain, they come in all manner of low-maintenance, look-alike finishes.
- Natural stone: Materials such as marble, concrete and composite terrazzo look beautiful, but they tend to be costly and require sealing.
- Glass: Tiles made from glass are available in virtually every colour, but they are often very delicate and can scratch easily. Glass tiles tend to be expensive and require professional installation. If they’re going behind a gas stovetop, they will need to be specially toughened.
- Stainless steel: Mosaic tiles in stainless steel are a popular choice right now. But as stainless steel conducts heat well, these tiles do require careful installation – they need to be backed onto a fire-resistant board, and if you have a gas stovetop, there is a minimum 200-millimetre clearance.
What sizes do tiles come in?
Tiles range from tiny 19-millimetre penny rounds to huge tile slabs that measure 1 x 3 metres in size (so you can effectively specify a single tile to run along your entire kitchen splashback).
Which size will suit my kitchen?
There are no rules about what you can and can’t use where – it comes down to the look and feel you want to create in your kitchen.
Subway tiles, which typically measure 75 x 150 millimetres, are a popular choice for heritage, Shaker and Scandi-style kitchens, while oversize slab tiles with minimal or no grout lines work well in contemporary kitchens as they have a sleek and seamless appearance.
Which shapes are popular?
Tiles come in just about every shape imaginable nowadays, from hexagons and arabesques to rhomboids. The following styles are trending for 2020:
- Classic subway tiles have been popular for splashbacks over the past few years, particularly when laid in a herringbone format.
- Fan-shaped mosaics.
- Penny rounds.
- Huge, slab-size tiles that give you the look of luxurious natural stone slabs such as Calacatta marble and dramatic onyx.
- Hexagonal and triangular tiles.
- Fish scale-shaped tiles.
Which colours and patterns are trending?
Decorative encaustic tiles are on-trend right now, and are great for injecting colour and character into an otherwise neutral kitchen.
We’re seeing subway tiles in soft blues and greens coming through, which add a touch of sophistication and flair to white or white-and-timber kitchens. Tiles in deep oceanic blues and greens with an oceanic gloss are also coming in.
Designers and homeowners are currently making a statement with matt black tiles – often paired with metallic touches for a dramatic, contemporary look.
Concrete, stone and marble porcelain slabs are popular. These are increasingly used to create a colour contrast with a porcelain-clad benchtop and cabinetry.
What’s good to know when selecting a tile colour and finish?
- A dark-coloured splashback will visually recede, making your kitchen appear bigger than it actually is.
- A splashback in light-coloured tiles will help create a bright and airy feel in your kitchen.
- Give your kitchen definition by choosing a colour for your splashback tiles that contrasts with your joinery.
- If you choose the same or similar colours across your splashback, benchtops and cabinetry, it’s a good idea to add in plenty of textural contrast to provide visual interest. So, you might choose a smooth finish for cabinetry and a structured or undulating surface for the splashback tiles.
- Tiles in charcoal or black will add drama to a neutral kitchen.
- Bold patterns and bright pops of colour or patterns work well with minimalist benchtops and cabinetry in a solid colour.
- Glass tiles or those with a reflective or gloss finish will show splatters and splashes more than those with a matt or smooth-satin finish.
- If you’re concerned about food splatters, choose a tile with movement in the design, such as a timber-look or stone-look tile.
- Heavily textured tiles aren’t great for splashbacks as they can be tricky to clean.
What do I need to know about tiles and heat?
- Ceramic, porcelain, stainless steel and glass tiles are non-combustible, although they conduct heat fairly well, so be mindful of heat transfer to substrates and timber framing behind them.
- Glass needs to be certified as toughened if it’s going behind a gas cooktop.
- If you choose a combustible material for tiles and you cook with gas, ensure there is at least 200 millimetres of horizontal space between your splashback and cooktop. The rules are less restrictive with electric and induction cooktops, but it’s always a good idea to check with the tile retailer.
And what about grout?
All tiles will need grouting. Epoxy grout is a little more expensive than cement grout and more difficult to work with, but it’s a far better choice for kitchens as it’s stain-resistant, easy to wipe clean and more consistent in colour.
Remember, the smaller the tile, the more grout lines. If you dislike cleaning grout, opt for a large-format tile with fewer grout lines. Or, have the grout in your small tiles sealed to reduce cleaning.
How can I prepare for a showroom visit?
You can speed up the selection process by doing the following:
- Measuring up your splashback.
- Choosing a tile that fits your splashback dimensions, with no cuts required.
- If you plan to install the tiles yourself, choose tiles that are easy to cut.
Source: Georgia Madden, Senior Writer, Houzz Australia, Houzz