Architectural Home Designs & Decorating Ideas

Outdoor Kitchen Tile Walls - Elevate Your Grilling Experience

Gabriela Connell
5 minute read

Outdoor cooking areas provide a place to relax with friends and family while grilling up delicious food. But the typical unfinished walls of an outdoor kitchen can leave the space feeling drab and incomplete. Transforming the appearance with attractive, durable tile is a great way to elevate your outdoor living space.

Tile offers benefits beyond just aesthetics for outdoor walls. The right materials are designed to withstand exposure to weather, temperature fluctuations, moisture and the messes inherent with cooking. Regular cleaning and re-sealing allows tile walls to stay looking fresh for years.

Choose the Best Tiles for Outdoor Use

Not all tiles are suited for installation on exterior walls. Outdoor environments demand materials that resist cracks, stains and discoloration while retaining their beauty. Consider these top options:

outdoor kitchen tile walls

Porcelain Tile

Porcelain tile is an excellent choice for outdoor kitchen walls. The dense composition makes it practically impervious to water and moisture. Porcelain resists chips, scratches and stains even under heavy use. It stands up to temperature swings, direct sun exposure and humidity. With proper installation and sealing, porcelain tile walls can keep their like-new appearance for decades.

Porcelain comes in a vast array of colors, styles, finishes and sizes for tremendous design flexibility. Matte finishes help minimize visible smudges and fingerprints. The durability and low maintenance of porcelain tile makes it a smart investment for outdoor spaces.

Natural Stone Tiles

Slate, granite, and other natural stone tiles are another fantastic option for exterior kitchen walls. The timeless beauty and unique veining of natural stone add organic visual appeal. Materials like granite are extremely durable and naturally resistant to moisture.

Stone does require extra sealing to prevent staining. And the higher cost may deter some homeowners. But for a signature look, natural stone tiles bring elegance and long-lasting quality to outdoor kitchens.

Ceramic Tile

Standard ceramic tiles can work for outdoor installation provided they are designed for exterior use. Unglazed options will be the most durable and stain-resistant. For glazed ceramic tiles, verify an impervious exterior rating.

Compared to porcelain and natural stone, ceramic offers less strength and more porosity. Re-sealing will be required more frequently. Still, exterior-rated ceramic provides budget-friendly options in myriad styles.

Popular Styles and Patterns for Backsplashes

The backsplash area behind sinks, grills and appliances sees a lot of activity. Choosing tiles and patterns suited to the demands of this space is key.

Classic Tile Shapes

Subway tiles and mosaics are classic choices for backsplashes. The small square tiles make a timeless impression, especially when paired with kitchen counters and cabinetry.

Their diminutive size does require more grout lines, which can collect grease and dirt. But the rectangular shape of subway tiles simplifies cutting and installation.

Patterns

From basketweave to herringbone, backsplashes are a great spot to install tiles in an eye-catching pattern.

Be thoughtful about grout line width and color. Wider grout lines can trap more grease. But they also better define the individual tiles, enhancing the impact of the pattern. Contrasting grout color helps patterns pop.

Factors to Consider When Selecting Tile

Your choice of outdoor kitchen tile will affect durability, maintenance and design. Keep the following factors in mind.

Durability

The tile surface endures heavy use and will need to withstand cooking messes, grease, food stains and abrasive cleaners. Moisture resistance is also key.

Look for tiles rated for exterior use with durable, impervious finishes. Porcelain and natural stone offer some of the best resistance.

Slip Resistance

Outdoor kitchen floors can become slippery when wet from spills. While walls don’t require as much traction, some slip resistance is still useful.

A slightly textured surface helps tile maintain grip when wet. This also makes the tile less prone to fingerprints and smudges.

Moisture Resistance

Frequent exposure to water and humidity means outdoor tile needs to repel moisture. Denser materials like porcelain have very low porosity.

For more porous tile, sealing and re-sealing provides a moisture barrier. Well-applied epoxy grout also resists water entry into joints.

Ease of Cleaning

Opt for smooth, non-textured tile finishes that won’t trap debris and organic gunk in crevices. Use grout sealants to limit staining between tiles.

Avoid very intricate patterns that allow grease buildup in fine grout lines. Clean tile walls regularly with pH neutral cleaners to prevent soiling.

Aesthetics

Available in a limitless palette of colors, styles and patterns, tile allows you to match your design vision. neutrals like white, gray and beige enable versatility.

Consider how the tile coordinates with counters, cabinets, furnishings and flooring. Make sure to view samples in different lighting to judge true color.

Proper Installation for Outdoor Use

Professional tile setting is recommended to ensure your outdoor kitchen backsplash or walls stay beautiful for many years. Here are key installation tips:

Wall Surface Prep

Outdoor walls should offer a stable, water-resistant substrate, like cement backerboard or fiber cement. After thorough cleaning, seal the wall to prevent moisture wicking.

Fill any cracks or holes with acrylic or flexible polymer modified patching compounds. Outdoor surfaces flex more and require flexible fillers.

Mortar

Use a polymer-fortified thinset mortar modified to bond on exterior surfaces. Latex or acrylic additives improve adhesion. Allow the thinset to slake for 10-15 minutes before applying tiles.

Tile Spacers

Plastic tile spacers keep joints evenly spaced for proper grout lines. Make sure to remove the spacers once tiles are set before grouting.

Grout

Epoxy or urethane grout is more stain and water-resistant for outdoor use. Allow grout to cure fully before sealing or exposing to moisture.

Using a grout release prior to application prevents stubborn haze. Grout lines should be caulked at corners or changes in plane.

Sealing and Protection

Seal tiles and grout lines with a penetrating sealer formulated for exterior porous surfaces. Reapply yearly or as needed to restore water repellency.

Silicone caulk joints where walls meet counters, ceilings, or dissimilar materials. Use expansion joints for larger expanses.

While tile walls are meant to be low maintenance, keeping them looking pristine requires proper regular care:

Outdoor kitchen walls see a lot of activity. Choosing the right durable, moisture-resistant tile materials ensures they maintain their beauty through years of use.

With proper installation and routine care, tile backsplashes and walls upgrade the function and style of outdoor cooking areas. Achieve the upscale, polished look of indoor kitchens in your outdoor living space.