Ceramic tile splashbacks, properly chosen and installed, provide a versatile, attractive, hard-wearing, long-lasting and trouble-free finish that can be tailored to suit almost any design, style or environment.
Tiled splashbacks are more resistant to chemicals than many natural materials, and less susceptible to cuts or scratches (although they will scratch if they're properly abused).
Ceramic tiles are comprised of a mixture of clays, which are shaped then either fired at high temperature or kiln dried.
Ceramic tiles are installed using one of two basic methods – thin bed and thick bed. Kitchen splashbacks only require thin bed installation. Thin-bed installation is so called because the tiles are set bonded to the surface in a thin layer of adhesive, usually about 3mm thick.
Thin bed installation is reasonably cheap in terms of labour costs, and installation and curing are reasonably quick. Thin bed is also 'thinner' (as you'd expect), and therefore places less stress on the wall. Thin-bed installation does require that the wall the tiles are being fixed to is structurally sound, level or plumb, and properly prepared. The backs of the tiles also need to be smooth.
In dry areas (like behind cooktops and similar), a tile splashback can be installed directly onto plasterboard.
Grouting and waterproofing
Grout is what's used to fill the joints between tiles, and is usually selected together with mortar. Grout is normally a cement-based filling. One of the downsides of tile splashbacks is that grout can be difficult to maintain, and may get dirty or mouldy in wet areas.
Splashbacks in wet areas in general will need to be properly waterproofed using a special membrane, so that even if the grouting on the tiles fails and lets water through, the structure of your house won't be threatened by rot.
Tiles themselves are pretty tough and rarely fail - in most cases, if tile splashbacks do have problems it's because grouting or adhesive has been improperly prepared or has grown ineffective.
Cost of tile splashbacks
How much a tile splashback will set you back will depend on the style, size and colour of the tile you've chosen, as well as on the area of the splashback. Unless you're properly trained to do so, you'll need to hire professionals to install your tile splashback. Splashbacks in general need to be properly waterproofed - and where they're near sources of heat, walls will also need special preparation.