Using Glass Tile for Backsplashes

Worker installing a new bathroom mirror against a tile backsplash.

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At one time, bathroom and kitchen backsplash areas were usually simple continuations of whatever material was used with the countertop. If ceramic tile was used in the countertop, it was often continued up the wall to form the backsplash. Laminate, granite, marble, or solid-surface countertops similarly included a narrow strip of backsplash made from the same material. Either that or the backsplash area was simply left as a painted or wall-covered wall.

For some time now, though, glass tile of one form or another has been the trendy option for backsplashes. There is a good reason for this since glass tile tends to catch and reflect light in an almost luminescent fashion, brightening up the often dim spaces beneath overhanging wall cabinets. And since these vertical spaces don't get the heavy use of a horizontal countertop, more delicate glass is a good option for this territory. Finally, glass is one of the easiest surfaces to clean, making it a natural for backsplash areas.

Surfing Trends?

You may well wonder if using glass tile in any way creates a danger of dating your home since it is so trendy right now. Glass tile kitchen or bathroom backsplashes are everywhere in profusion at the moment, but will your house look dated in five years? Most designers, though, agree that glass tiles in backsplashes are here to stay, showing no signs of waning over the last 20 years or so. In terms of styles, designer Maria Killam advises not to worry too much about current trends, arguing that once established, style trends usually have great staying power. Subway tiles, for example, will likely always be in style, both as traditional ceramics and as luminescent glass tiles. Similarly, pencil tiles (narrow horizontal strips) and laser-cut geometrics are likely to be in style for decades.

Color schemes, on the other hand, may become dated more quickly than basic tile shapes. Designer Susan Serra, for example, points to the aqua-blue mosaic tile that became synonymous with "modern kitchen" in the late 2000s as a trend that may have passed its peak.

Mounted Tiles Are Easiest for DIYers

Whether in mosaic sheets of tiny 3/4-by-3/4-inch tiles or larger sheets of two-by-two-inch or four-by-four-inch tiles, glass tiles mounted on mesh sheets will be easier for DIYers to install. Rather than cutting tiles with wet saws, mosaic sheets can be cut apart with shears to fit available spaces. Tiles attached to mesh sheets are self-spacing, with no need for spacers to establish grout lines.

Use Glass Tiles for Accent

Individual glass tiles can be interspersed with other materials, such as traditional ceramic or stone tiles, to offer a jewel-like accent within the field of a backsplash. This is a good way to incorporate expensive, designer glass tiles into your room design without breaking the budget.

Use Glass Tiles as a Border or Band

A great way to use glass tiles is by including a row of individual tiles or mosaic strips in a field of ceramic tile or another material—either as an interim accent band or as a border at the top of the backsplash. Design options are almost unlimited when you reserve glass tiles for a border or band treatment.

Continue the Backsplash to the Ceiling

Increasingly, kitchen and bath designers are extending backsplash walls all the way to the ceiling. Especially in spaces lacking in natural light, the luminescence of glass tiles can brighten a room.

Use Very Large—or Very Small—Glass Subway Tiles

Combining tradition and trendiness, the standard three-by-six-inch subway tile can be replaced with tiny mosaic tiles or large individual tiles using the same two-to-one size proportions. Glass tiles with beveled edges are especially great in these variations of the classic subway tile look.

Install a Glass Tile Inset

The space immediately behind a range cooktop can be a great place for a full inset panel made from glass tiles. Glass is very easy to clean up, and it can help highlight a unique commercial cooking range. The space behind a sink is also a good place for a glass tile insert panel.

Use Contrasting Grout

Backsplashes, especially in kitchens, can be susceptible to stains. Glass tiles clean up easily, but grout lines are a different matter. Using a contrasting darker grout rather than traditional white grout can be a good option. Traditional glass subway tile, for example, can be paired with a dark grout that offers contrast while also simplifying cleanup.

Consider Recycled Glass

If you are environmentally conscious, shop for tiles made from recycled glass. Increasingly available from online retailers, recycled glass tiles are a "green" choice that can also be truly unique in appearance.