Should certain backsplash materials be avoided because they can easily be damaged by high heat or food stains?
Lisa Elkins, Architect:Sometimes there are places where you'll be tempted to use paint instead of tile, and if you do that, make sure it's not a flat paint. Try to use a higher gloss paint that's easier to clean off. Also, really white grout can harbor stains like soy sauce.
David Portales, Spanish Tile Association:Usually the area that can get stained, grow bacteria, and generally result in the most complaints, is the grout. There are options though, you can apply special sealers to the grout to make it more resilient, or select a rectified tile. In rectification, tile edges are shaved off to an exact calibration, meaning all tiles are exactly the same. This allows you to get a very tight "credit card" joint line, therefore limiting the amount of grout exposed to kitchen wear and tear.
Lori Kirk-Rolley, Tile Industry Professional: Whenever a natural stone is used on a backsplash or behind a cook-top or range, we recommend that the stone be sealed. This will enable items that may splash on the stone to clean off more easily. Generally, glazed ceramic or porcelain tiles do not need to be sealed.
Verdict: Many backsplash tiles are durable enough to be placed behind a cooking area, but as always, it's best to check with the tile manufacturer (or distributor) on the best way to care for the backsplash. Also, don't forget to properly care for your grout, which can be susceptible to staining and other damage. Epoxy grout is often recommended in backsplash applications, as it highly resistant to stains.