Dreaming of a fresh way to update your home? Look no farther than your kitchen wall. A striking new backsplash may be the answer. While it can be part of a major kitchen redo, it doesn’t have to be. For less money and mess than new counters or cabinets, you can add a backsplash.

Or add the backsplash along with a new countertop and cabinet hardware. You may even decide to go one more step and paint or refinish the existing cabinets.

Whatever its surroundings, a backsplash gets noticed – whether it’s contemporary or transitional, Arts & Crafts or cottage chic.

“Treat it like a canvas, a piece of artwork,” said Karen Mattoon from the Tile Shoppe at Homestone Gallery, 4401 Walden Ave., Lancaster.

Today’s backsplash tiles and eye-catching accent pieces – think dots, bubbles and liner bars – come in a wide array of sizes, colors and materials, including the expected ceramic, porcelain, stone, glass (including newer crackled looks) and metals, but also exotic tropical woods, bamboo and coconut shells.

Of course, practicality comes into play. Not all materials are suited for every spot in the kitchen. Coconut shells work best away from water in dry areas, for example, said Barb Reformat, design/color consultant at Tiles International, 6140 W. Quaker St., Orchard Park.

Depending on the style of their kitchens and their own tastes, some homeowners go with simple tilework. Others will choose something more intricate, such as a design that resembles a wallcovering, framed artwork or wall sculpture.

A new backsplash does not have to cost big bucks – but it can. You’ll find ceramic backsplash tiles priced at $3 or $4 per square foot, a single 10-by-10-inch sheet of Venetian glass mosaics priced $80 to $120 – and everything in between.

For a typical 30-square-foot area, “you can spend $250 for a basic backsplash with 4-by-4-inch tiles or $500 for that same backsplash infused with a punch of color or accent. Or you can spend $1,000 to $1,500 for something a little more special – a nice tile with nice glass accents – or $6,000 for a drop-dead, eyes-fall-out-of-your-head backsplash,” Mattoon said.

This does not include labor, Mattoon noted. Keep in mind, too, that the more complex the design, the more you’re going to spend on installing it.

One option: Learn to install it yourself. There are books and magazines galore and many online videos, tools and information. Home Depot offers tile workshops as part of its ongoing free weekly workshops, including one on tiling floors and walls scheduled for Feb. 10. (See, where you’ll also find a video on adding a tile stripe to your wall.)

So whether they do it themselves or hire a pro, how do people get started with a backsplash design? Some want to pull colors from their granite countertops to design a backsplash, Mattoon said. Others want it to echo the style of the tile on the kitchen floor or adjoining foyer. A collection of pottery, iron trivets or other items in the kitchen can provide inspiration for a backsplash that truly reflects one’s personality.

However, you may also want to consider how long you plan to stay in the house.

“You want to love your backsplash now, but you also want someone else to love it in five years if you plan to sell the house,” Mattoon added.

Then there are all those materials to choose from – with all their pros and cons.

“Stone is really hot; I tell people it’s timeless. It has become much more affordable because of the new technology involved in mining the stone. Also, there is more competition, many more sources for it,” Reformat said.

However, stone has to be sealed, she said, and it still is generally more expensive than ceramic or porcelain, which, these days, can be designed to emulate travertine or limestone.

“You can spend $8 to $15 a square foot for travertine vs. $3 to $4 for a ceramic imitation,” said Reformat, noting these are starting prices.

No wonder walking into a tile showroom or down the tile aisle at a home-improvement store can be overwhelming. But it can also be inspiring. Here are some tips:

• Check out all the various tile materials and styles – from ceramic to stone.

• Come in with a feeling of the style you want – transitional, Arts & Crafts, contemporary, etc.

• Bring along a piece of your countertop. Room photos, a cabinet door and samples of your paint, floor material and hardware can help narrow the field, too.

• Take home tile samples and look at them in natural and artificial lighting throughout the day and evening. Under-cabinet lighting, in particular, can alter tile color.

• Consider movement and color. “While it is relatively easy to coordinate colors with your counter, tackling the issue of movement is more difficult. Balance busy granites with sedate large format backsplash. More muted or solid color counters can handle the ‘wow’ factor of, for instance, iridescent glass mosaic tiles,” according to

• Consider the texture. If keeping it perfectly clean is a top priority, “you may not want something so creviced and detailed – especially near cooking areas where you have a lot of splattering sauces and oils,” Mattoon said.

• This from the experts at Invest in the high-impact zone – the areas above the range and sink. Choose a neutral field tile for the rest of the kitchen but bring in a funky glass tile to create a showy centerpiece above the stove, they suggest. Or try taking the same tile and turning it different ways or using a contrast tile to create a border.

• “An inexpensive way to add an accent is to buy a sheet of 2-by-2-inch mosaics and cut them into individual pieces with a utility blade and place them here and there as part of the design. It can start at $8 for a 12-by-12-inch sheet,” Reformat said.

• Take your time deciding. Study photographs. Research online (bloggers love to talk backsplashes). Visit local tile showrooms and home-improvement stores. Talk to design consultants.

Your backsplash is a focal point in your kitchen.

“You’re going to see it every day,” Mattoon said. “You’re not only doing it for yourself; you also want to impress your guests. It’s a ‘wow’ factor. Don’t rush it.”