Make a Splash: Backsplash Options for Your Kitchen and Bathroom

Incorporate your personal style into your kitchen and bathroom by treating the backsplash as a work of art.

| September/October 2006

A backsplash’s basic function is to protect your walls and cabinets from water, grease and spills. It’s sometimes treated as nothing more than an extension of the countertop, yet this decorative surface can set the tone for an entire room. When you enter a kitchen or bathroom or view it from afar, the backsplash is often the first thing you see.

A backsplash is a vertical surface set back from the main work area behind a sink or stove; it catches cooking and cleaning splatters, so unless you’re willing to clean after each use, you might want a surface that hides minor messes. In selecting backsplash materials, consider your cooking and cleaning habits, as well as the tasks you usually perform near the range or sink. Factor in durability and cost, and remember that the backsplash is the place to add personality, bold color accents, subtle glimmer or souvenirs from your travels.

Soapstone Slab or Tile
Smooth, soft, nonporous stone

• Durable; won’t burn or stain
• Requires little maintenance
• Requires nontoxic sealant (mineral oil)
• Acids and alkalis won’t etch surface
• Nearly seamless joints possible
• Endures temperature changes

• Nonrenewable material
• Monthly mineral-oil reapplications recommended to maintain luster and color
• Can look worn over time  
• Only available in light gray, which oxidizes to dark charcoal

Cost: Tile (12x12-inch)--$8 to $12 per tile; Slab--$70 to $85 per square foot

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