How to Choose Glass Tile for Backsplashes

White Tiles in bathroom

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Looking for a way to update your kitchen or bath but want something that stands out with style? Replace those worn-out ceramic tiles with a luminous and colorful recycled glass tile backsplash. Glass tile installs just like ceramic and is widely available at tile retailers everywhere, making it easy to tackle the entire project yourself, if you're up for it.

Glass vs. Ceramic Tile

Ceramic (as well as porcelain) is the traditional tile material for backsplashes, and there's really no reason not to use it for this application. The same is true for glass, so which tile option is better? Because ceramic and glass perform similarly as backsplash materials, the better option really comes down to aesthetics.

Glazed ceramic tile has a glass-like surface and is generally just as washable, durable, and stain-resistant as glass tile. And both materials have grout joints, the Achilles heel of tile installations, at least in terms of maintenance. The surfaces of glazed ceramic and glass tile are very hard to stain, but the grout must be sealed for stain-resistance, and it should be scrubbed periodically to bring back its original coloring. If you wait too long to clean grout, it can be hard to bring it back.

As for aesthetics, ceramic is opaque, and all of its color is on the surface. Most glass tile is translucent, and light penetrates the entire tile. Some light is reflected off of the tile surface, and some light is reflected off of the wall behind the tile; this is why it's important to use white tile adhesive and to apply it consistently because you can actually see the adhesive through the tile. The translucence of glass gives the tile visual depth, and it gives the overall tile color a beautiful watery shine or glow.

Glass Tile Colors, Shapes, and Sizes

Glass tiles for backsplashes are available in just about every color you can imagine. They are also made in interesting shapes beyond the typical 4-by-4-inch format that backsplash tile calls to mind, or the popular subway tile pattern. Think long, slender tiles evocative of a luxurious spa, or vintage round and octagonal mosaic tiles. Glass tiles also come in more traditional configurations such as square shapes and decorative edge pieces. They are even available in larger sheets for a minimal, uncluttered look.

Colors of glass tiles for backsplashes range from white and black and everything in between, including natural beiges and greens to bright iridescent blues, purples, and reds. Some glass tiles feature intricate surface designs, others look crystal-clear or give off a mother-of-pearl sheen or a matte look. You may combine glass tiles with tiles made of stone, porcelain, or other materials for limitless options for your backsplash design.

Designer Tips for Glass Backsplashes

If you think glass tiles might be right for your kitchen or bath design, consider these tips for selecting and installing them:

  • Choose the backsplash colors after you've selected your other room finishes (unless you plan to base the entire design around the tile). That way you can incorporate shades that complement your wall color or countertop materials.
  • If you have a small kitchen or bath, opt for lighter and more transparent tiles, which reflect the most light and will make the space feel larger.
  • Mosaic glass tiles typically are mounted on a mesh backing, making them easier to install for do-it-yourselfers.
  • Buy extra tiles because a few may be broken in the installation process.
  • For those on a budget, incorporate a band of glass tiles as an accent among cheaper tiles such as ceramics.