If you’ve spent any time clicking through exotic kitchen photos, you know that kitchen backsplash ideas can range from the ridiculously luxurious (hand-painted imported porcelain tile from Italy?) to the plain ridiculous (wood tiles over your gas stove?)
But there’s no denying it: The kitchen backsplash is the part of your kitchen that may turn out to be the most fun to work with. It can make your kitchen design come alive with sparkle and excitement, or it can pull together seemingly disparate parts of your kitchen (wood, stainless steel, granite) into perfect, blissful harmony… or it can just blend in with everything else to make your kitchen look seamless and serene. It’s your call. You can do what you like using your imagination and a just a few optional guidelines.
For those who need a review, the kitchen backsplash is the vertical area between the counters and the high kitchen cabinets. It may be small or large depending on the size of your kitchen and how many cabinets you have, how many windows you have and how large the window(s) may be. Some large and spacious kitchens have huge backsplash areas while tiny kitchens may have just the space directly over the stove (and under the stove hood and vent) and perhaps a few inches above the counters.
Making Use of the Concept
Some people will downplay the idea of a kitchen backsplash designed as a distinct feature. Among these may be your contractor who wants to extend the same stone or tile you’re using for your countertops throughout the backsplash areas. They may tell you this will help “unify” your design but what it really does is make his job easier and possibly more profitable.
There is nothing wrong with extending the counter material to the wall, but not doing so can give you more opportunities to add creative and interesting design touches to your kitchen. The possibilities are almost limitless!
Of course, those who choose laminate or wood countertops will not have to decide whether to extend, as those materials are not likely to be recommended for backsplashes.
Before you make that momentous decision of what you want your backsplash to look like, consider the options available to you.
The “Wow” Effect
Your backsplash idea can offer a sharp contrast to your cabinets and countertops with a combination of materials, colors, textures and patterns. This approach works especially well when your cabinets and countertops are similar in color, texture, grain, and so on.
For example, suppose if you have cabinets painted in white semi-gloss and your countertops are matte white tile… For a dramatic effect, you can choose bright or richly colored hues in your backsplash and use glass or metallic tiles to further accentuate the contrast. Then you can have these tiles arranged in patterns that offer a focal point to your kitchen… you may even wish to have a picture painted with tile or on tile to really draw attention to that area.
You can also use mostly color to provide contrast. For example, suppose you have natural wood cabinets in a rich maple finish and your countertops are a subtle-grained granite such as Santa Cecilia. They are similar in color, but not really in texture (the granite is glossy, the wood is not) or pattern (the grains are very different). So you choose a mottled emerald green tile to make a contrasting color statement, but the texture and pattern is not too exotic, because you already have plenty of variety.
The Unified Effect
You can also use materials, colors, textures and patterns that repeat and combine elements from the existing surfaces. This works really well when your countertops and cabinets are already made from sharply contrasting colors or materials.
For example, suppose you have black cabinets with stainless steel countertops. So you choose a silver and black mosaic pattern that echoes the colors and effects of what you already have.
Or perhaps you have cabinets with a natural wood finish and gleaming white tile counters… a beige-white-brown combination appeals to you the most with perhaps some interesting patterns or accent colors thrown into the mix.
The Seamlessly Serene Effect
You can also use materials, colors, textures and patterns that blend seamlessly with one or another existing feature of your kitchen… but with just enough contrast to liven up the design and keep things from getting too serene (serene is fine for bedrooms, but you do want to stay alert in your kitchen).
For example, let’s say you have dark brown cabinets and light green laminate countertops… and you simply want to extend the light green into your backsplash areas using green glass tiles. So the color is seamless but the glass adds some sparkle and perhaps some mottling of color… with perhaps a few accent tiles of brown or gold to add more interest.
You can add both contrasting and unifying elements in multiple ways, using material, color, texture, and pattern. Each option can be beautiful in a different way. It is up to you to decide what effect speaks to the depths of your soul.
Certainly the overall design scheme of your kitchen will also have a say in your choice of backsplash. Some materials just seem destined to merge with a French country style kitchen, while others lend themselves to the ultra-sleek and cool contemporary. Some materials shout out “retro!” while others quietly murmur “traditional English country kitchen if you please.” Certain designs fall into transitional or combination kitchens, Mediterranean, or 1920s vintage. If you don’t believe you have any particular style, you may be surprised at what happens when your kitchen backsplash ideas take effect — suddenly you have a style!
This is why the kitchen backsplash can be the canvas of great ideas that beautify, unify, and stylize your favorite living space.
What is a butcher block countertop? It is a countertop fabricated from wood rails joined tightly together to make a wide, solid plank. The rails are made from hardwoods, the most common being maple, cherry and walnut, but beech, ash and oak are also used.
There are three types of butcher block countertop: endgrain, edgegrain and wide plank.
End grain uses the ends of wood, the cross section of the wood rails, and joins them together usually in an attractive checkerboard pattern. End grain can be used for long countertops but more often for small counters, cutting boards and table tops.
Edge grain uses the lengthwise narrower section of the milled wood and is more commonly used for long counter spaces.
Wide plank uses the wide or “top” part of the milled wood rails, so the individual sections of the butcherblock are much wider than edge grain, and there are less of them. This type is not as common for kitchen countertops as the other two.
How is Butcherblock Made?
The strips or squares of wood are glued together to form solid planks which are then cut and finished. You may have a choice of varnish or oil finish. Each one has advantages and disadvantages.
Varnish finishes are easier to keep clean and withstand water and stains better than the oil finish. You will not be able to cut directly on your countertop, but you can roll dough on it. It is, in fact, the preferred surface for bakers. Varnish requires less regular maintenance than oil.
An oil finish allows you to cut directly on the surface, but because it is more absorbent than varnish, stains can be a problem. An oil finish also requires more care, as you need to clean your counters thoroughly every day and apply mineral oil on a weekly basis. See below for details.
Unlike many kitchen surfaces, butcherblock countertops can be cut and finished by the homeowner using regular woodworking tools. If you are a skilled DIY-er, you might consider this, as it can save you a nice chunk of cash.
Not for the Lazy or Ultra-Busy
Butcherblock is a preferred choice of countertop among many professional and amateur chefs. That makes it sound quite desirable, however… it is very high maintenance compared to other counter surfaces.
You must be willing to put in the work required to maintain your kitchen counters in top condition to avoid not only unsightly wear and staining but also an adequate level of sanitation. Wood is absorbent, so you must be vigilant about cleaning, oiling and sanitizing to avoid bacteria taking up residence and also to prevent permanent food stains.
When it is properly cared for, however, butcherblock countertops can be just as clean and sanitary as any other counter surface that is cleaned regularly.
Why Foodies Love Butcherblock
Wood is very easy on knives, which is why it is the preferred cutting surface of cooks and foodies everywhere.
Butcherblock is also beautiful, with the warm, rich, luxurious glow that you’ll only experience with live wood. It can give any kitchen a more intimate and inviting aspect. Because the surface absorbs more light than it reflects, the full beauty of the wood grain and color can be fully exposed and enjoyed. There is no glare and the surface is never cold or slippery.
So Who Should Buy?
If you love the look of wood and are meticulous about cleaning and oiling to maintain not only the beauty but also the cleanliness of the surface, as mentioned, then this might be the counter surface for you.
You also need to understand the limitations of wood especially in regard to water and heat, two abundant elements of the kitchen.
In other words, you need to be a devoted home cook who loves spending time in your kitchen and don’t mind the cleaning and maintenance chores involved. It also helps if you appreciate the particular function and aesthetic benefits of wood and are willing to go the extra mile to make it last longer.
I only emphasize this because wood can start to deteriorate quickly in a kitchen when neglected.
Wood has features that other countertops lack, especially butcher block which is designed for heavy use.
- With an oil finish, it is a self-healing surface, so you can cut directly on it if you wish.
- Oil-finished wood is kind to knives, so your precious chef’s collection can retain its sharpness and integrity for a longer time. Also, there is less likelihood of slippage, a precious characteristic in a cutting surface.
- It is a forgiving surface as long as you don’t let water stand on it or expect to put set hot items on it or allow food to stain it. Well, maybe it’s not so forgiving after all! But it is easily sanded and refinished if you mess it up, so in that way it is renewable if not forgiving.
- It is generally bolted directly to the cabinet without needing toxic glues. In fact, gluing is contraindicated, as it prevents the natural contraction and expansion of wood in response to temperature and humidity changes.
- It is a quiet surface, absorbing some of the jarring clattering sounds associated with most kitchen work.
- It absorbs impact well, so will not crack or chip like tile and stone.
- It is a warm, smooth surface in both appearance and function, so is kind to the eyes as well as the hands.
- It smells good as long as you keep it properly cleaned and maintained.
- It gives your kitchen an earthy look that blends well with traditional, country and contemporary kitchen designs.
- It eliminates the need for extraneous cutting boards (although it is highly recommended to have one board set aside for meats and seafood to cut down on your sanitation risks).
The disadvantages of butcherblock are mainly its low tolerance of water, heat and stains, and its high maintenance, as previously mentioned!
If you are not willing to put the time into caring for wood countertops but still want it in your kitchen, you can install it on one countertop only, or on a kitchen island or any table you use for food preparation. That way you get the main advantage but only have to clean one surface rather than a whole kitchen. Wood blends well aesthetically with other countertop materials such as tile and granite as long as you use subtle colors and grains on those surfaces so there are no clashes of color or design.
Costs and Price Range
How does butcher block compare to other countertops in price? Generally it is in the mid-to-high price range, comparing favorably to most granite and stones but more expensive than laminate and tile. Prices range from $40 to $100 per square foot, so a 30″X60″ plank would cost about $500 to $1250, depending on your supplier, edge treatment, finish, type of wood you choose, and so on.
Taking Care of Your Pride and Joy
Once you have your butcherblock countertops installed, there are a few things you must do regularly every day, and a few things you must do periodically. These things will vary according to what kind of finish you have. Varnish requires much less upkeep than an oil finish, but oil is required for those who prefer to cut and chop directly on the countertop.
Cleaning for varnished finish: clean with a dishcloth dipped in mild soapy water. Avoid using harsh cleaners or even full-strength dish detergent. Wipe up all spills and stains quickly with a wet cloth. Do not let water sit on the surface of the block for any length of time.
Cleaning for an oil-finished block: first scrape off loose food and dirt (you might want to keep a wide paint scraper in the kitchen just for this purpose), then use mild soapy warm water with a dish cloth and rub thoroughly over the surface. Rinse using plain warm water and a dish cloth. Then dry the countertop with a clean dry cloth. Microfiber is best to soak up all the water. If you have stains after cleaning, you can sand lightly with fine sandpaper (120-220) and then apply mineral oil, as outlined below.
Oiling: it is best to oil your butcher block countertop (with oil finish) at least monthly. If you give them heavy use, weekly is better. Only use pure mineral oil. Do not use ordinary rubbing oils from your hardware store, as they are not food-grade and may be toxic. Also avoid using vegetable oils, such as olive oil, as they are not meant for this purpose and will turn rancid. Apply the oil with a clean soft cloth with the grain, rubbing into the wood thoroughly. Allow to penetrate, then wipe the excess with a clean dry cloth.
Sanitizing: If you cut and prepare food ingredients on your counter, you will need to safely sanitize your surfaces after use. There are several ways to do this.
- Use vinegar full strength. A spray bottle is always handy for this purpose. Spray on, then rub in vinegar with a paper towel, let sit for a few minutes, then wipe off with a clean damp cloth.
- Use 1 tablespoon of bleach in one quart of water. Again, a premixed solution in a spray bottle (clearly labeled so you don’t use it accidently) makes it more convenient. Spray on solution, let sit several minutes, then rinse with plain water and blot dry with paper towels.
- For more heavy duty sanitizing, such as after working with meats or fish after wiping vinegar over your countertops with a paper towel, use hydrogen peroxide (3 percent) to finish the job. Pour it on a paper towel, wipe the surface, let stand for five minutes, then rinse with clean damp cloth.
Treating stains: If your oil finished surface has stains, you can try using a 1:1 hydrogen peroxide solution. Pour a drop on the stain and let sit for a while.
Treating small cracks: sprinkle salt over the crack and rub with lemon. Let sit overnight.
Sanding: If your butcherblock countertop has more wear than you can treat using simple methods, you may need to sand the surface with fine sandpaper, then apply a mineral oil finish.
Sealing: if the mineral oil applications aren’t doing the job to your satisfaction, there are some food-grade wood sealants on the market designed especially for kitchen counter use.
Before deciding on a countertop, it’s best compare materials and prices… then also face the truth about how you behave in the kitchen. If you are willing to nurture a butcherblock countertop, you will be rewarded with the warm, rich durable, beauty of authentic wood!
A wall mount kitchen faucet is attached entirely to the wall over the sink rather than to the sink or counter, which is, of course, most typical. Most of these faucets have two handles and a long spout that swivels from side to side. Most offer a matching side sprayer and soap dispenser if you desire these additions (and if your plumbing can accommodate them).
There are some unique advantages to having a wall-mounted faucet, but if you are converting from a traditional sink or counter-mounted faucet to a wall fixture, you will probably need to hire a plumber to move your water supply lines to the proper place.
Features and Options
The design features of a wall-mounted kitchen faucet favor an antique, rustic or vintage style with S-shaped spouts and curvy spindle-shaped lever handles. If your preference is decidedly vintage, you can have the old-fashioned 4-pronged (cross) porcelain handles. You can also choose the clean, lean, simple lines of more contemporary design with a high-arched spout and flat or tubular handles.
This faucet type is for those who like the look and style of a wall mounted fixture and also appreciate the functional aspects, such as the high clearance when filling or washing tall pots, the flexibility of having your spout swivel cleanly with no obstacles… and of course the extra sink and counter space freed up.
A wall-mount faucet will make your kitchen appear roomier and more streamlined. If counter and sink area space is at a premium, or if you are remodeling a small kitchen and want to make the most of what you’ve got, a wall-mounted kitchen faucet makes sense. Plus you can’t deny the coolness factor. A good-looking faucet can be an asset to a kitchen, lending style and character, rather than just a necessary, mundane piece of plumbing.
The price range of wall mounted kitchen faucets are quite similar to regular faucets — they start quite reasonably, say $40 to $50, and can go into the stratosphere at $1000 plus. If you are buying for purely practical reasons — for example, you already have this style fixture and need to replace it and don’t have a lot of money to spend — the lower-end of the price range will afford you some nice-looking, well-made specimens, with simple, no-frills designs that will get the job done. If you want something more stylish and luxurious, expect to pay about $150 to $300 for a distinct look and an exotic finish, plus some cool add-on features like a longer spout and a side sprayer.
Where to Buy
Many online and offline sources offer kitchen faucets, wall-mounted and not. Your largest selection will probably be online from large plumbing retailers such as Plumbersurplus.com and Faucet.com.
But if you are changing over to this style from a sink-mounted faucet, it is always best to see what you’re buying face-to-faucet, so to speak. In that case, the offline stores will be the place to start. You can then comparison-shop by brand and model online.
As mentioned, you will need water supply lines in the wall. If you are remodeling, keep in mind that your biggest selection of faucets fall into the two-handle installation category. There are a few fixtures that allow for one handle, and a few more that accommodate a side sprayer or soap dispenser, but most are two-hole. Make sure you can get the faucet you want before you talk to your plumber.
If your sink is already in place, determine what length of spout would be most suitable. The length varies from 7 to 14 inches. Also decide what height is best for your kitchen. Too high of a spout could cause splashing, while too low could limit the range of movement so you can’t reach all areas of your sink. Seeing the faucet in action, or at least in person, will be a big help if you are new to this type of fixture.
How They Compare
Wall mount faucets compare well to sink-mounted and counter-mounted faucets in price and performance, but your handle options are more limited. While there are a few single-handle versions, most have two handles. Reaching up to turn on the water may take some getting used to.
Brands and Types
All the major faucet brands make these faucets, including Kohler, Pfister, Delta, Moen, American Standard, Danze, Kingston, Elements of Design, and a few more you may or may not have heard of. Whether your local retailer will carry more than a few brands is questionable, but online your options expand greatly.
Overall, the wall-mounted kitchen faucet can add an interesting design feature to any kitchen while giving you more counter space and better clearance while washing pots and pans. They are particularly helpful when combined with a small or narrow sink and their style options fit into any décor… most notably traditional, country or vintage with two handles and high, curved spout.