The major DIY portion of our kitchen renovation was the backsplash. My husband installed it himself, and you'd never know it was his VERY FIRST tiling job. He did a fantastic job!
After considering a few different options (including patterned encaustic and mosaic tiles), I ultimately circled back to a favorite: ceramic tile installed in a classic subway pattern. A few factors contributed to the decision:
1. Subway tile is classic and timeless. Ceramic is highly durable, and a subway pattern never gets old. We actually installed a classic subway pattern in our guest bathroom shower, and a modern version in the main bathroom.
2. Material was a significant factor when deciding on the backsplash. I wanted to minimize any install issues since this was my husband's first tiling job. Ceramic tile is generally user-friendly when it comes to cuts, as opposed to glass or marble. It is also durable (strong) and practical (easy to clean) - ideal characteristics in utilitarian spaces like kitchens.
3. After doing some research, it seemed that most people did NOT recommend installing tile mosaics for a "first time" tiling project. Reasons varied, but the most common seemed to relate to pattern placement. Again, since this was my hubby's first tiling job, I wanted to make it as "straightforward" as possible. That being said, some of the cuts were not easy, especially around the cabinet crown molding. But he did it, and he did a great job!
4. Older homes like ours come with quirks like uneven walls. We knew that we'd have to "fudge" the tile installation a bit to account for it. Although a classic subway pattern can be tricky since it is linear, it was also easy to "manipulate" to disguise wall imperfections.
5. The particular 3" x 6" ceramic tile we chose had "grooves", so spacers were not required. I actually helped tile the area behind the range, and I found the tile quite "easy" to lay because of the grooves. Keep in mind, my DIY skills are limited...
6. You can't go wrong with subway tile from a resale perspective. Although we don't have any plans to sell, it never hurts to think long-term. Subway tile is very timeless and transcends many design preferences.
7. Subway tile suits the ranch architecture of our home, as well as the overall classic modern farmhouse aesthetic that we wanted to achieve. I did want some contrast against the white perimeter cabinetry, yet nothing too jarring. The soft gray color was perfect, and it picked up on the gray veining in the countertops.
8. Finally, the COST was unbeatable. We paid ~$115 for 40 square feet of tile. The installation quotes were at least 5x the actual tile cost, so the savings from the DIY install can go towards something else like island lighting. I didn't tally the exact backsplash cost, but I think it came out to ~$200 [$115 tile, $20 tile cutter, ~$70 for miscellaneous supplies (backerboard, thinset, grout, etc.)].
For those of you who are considering installing tile yourself, especially something like ours, you CAN do it! It just takes time, patience, the right tools, and proper preparation. Tip: Measure once, twice, three times, then cut. The less cuts you have to make, the better!