Installing a backsplash is one of the final steps when remodeling a kitchen. It makes sense to want to get it installed as soon as possible to finish the look. However, the order of operations is important during a kitchen remodel. So, can you install backsplash before countertop?
Overview of Backsplash and Countertop Installation
When remodeling a kitchen, the order of operations usually goes as follows:
- Cabinets and drawer installation
- Countertop installation
- Backsplash installation
The countertop forms the surface on which the cabinets and drawers rest. The backsplash goes up the wall behind the countertop to protect the walls from splashes and spills while cooking and cleaning.
Typically, the countertop needs to be installed first before the backsplash. But why is this order of operations important?
Why Install Countertops Before Backsplash
There are a few key reasons why countertops should be installed prior to backsplash:
Countertop Provides Critical Support
The countertop provides the necessary support system and base on which the backsplash rests. The bottom edge of the backsplash sits on top of the countertop. If the countertop is not in place, the backsplash has nothing to securely attach to.
Backsplash Installation Can Damage Countertops
Installing the backsplash involves drilling into the wall, applying adhesive, grout, and sealant. If the countertop is not protected during this process, it can easily get damaged or stained. The countertop installation is best done after the messy backsplash application.
Achieving the Right Fit Between Surfaces
The countertop and backsplash need to fit tightly together to prevent gaps and separation over time. It is much easier to get this tight fit if the countertop is installed first. The backsplash can be cut to rest snugly against the countertop edge.
Countertops Add Structural Rigidity
The countertops add important structural support to the base cabinets and overall kitchen framework. Without countertops in place, the cabinet structures may shift or flex when applying backsplash materials.
Is It Possible to Install Backsplash First?
In some situations, it may be possible to install backsplash before countertop:
- If using a floating countertop that does not rely on the backsplash for support.
- For simple snap-in place plastic laminate countertops without seamless backsplash integration.
- If using a countertop material that is impervious to damage from backsplash installation, such as stainless steel.
However, these situations are less common. The typical quartz, solid surface, stone, or tile countertop installation will require the countertop to be in place before backsplash.
Attempting to install backsplash before countertop risks damaging the countertop finish during installation. There also may be gaps, uneven seams, and lack of proper support for the backsplash.
Planning Backsplash Install After Countertops
If undertaking a kitchen remodel, be sure to schedule the countertop installation first. Here are some tips for smooth installation:
- Select countertop and backsplash materials that fit well together, such as matching tile or stone. Get materials from the same manufacturer if possible.
- Be on site during countertop installation to note exact measurements. This allows precise backsplash sizing.
- Schedule the backsplash installation within 24 hours of countertop completion. This prevents countertop damage or movement before backsplash is applied.
- Have the installer align the backsplash seamlessly with countertop edges for minimal gaps between the two surfaces.
Achieving the Ideal Finished Kitchen
By installing the countertops prior to backsplash, you ensure proper structure, fit, and finish. Countertops provide support, remain undamaged, and align seamlessly with the installed backsplash. Planning the order of operations helps achieve a beautifully finished kitchen remodel.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I install a floating backsplash before countertops?
It is possible to install a backsplash that floats off the wall before the countertop in some situations. However, the countertop edge must be finished and made available for taking measurements. The floating backsplash won’t have proper support without the countertop edge.
What if my countertop material is prone to damage during backsplash installation?
If using a more delicate countertop material like marble, travertine, or concrete that stains easily, take extra care to protect the surface during backsplash work. Use masking tape, plastic sheeting, cardboard, or plywood to fully cover the countertop surfaces next to the backsplash area.
Should I remove old backsplash before installing new countertops?
It is best to remove any existing backsplash before new countertop installation. This allows the countertop to be fitted properly without existing backsplash materials interfering. It also lets you inspect the wall structure before applying new backsplash.
What about situations with integrated backsplash and countertop?
For specialized countertops like Caesarstone that integrate a backsplash lip into the countertop surface, the countertop must be installed first. The backsplash is unified with the countertop pieces during fabrication and installation.
Can I just caulk the seams if I install backsplash before countertops?
Applying caulk between backsplash and countertops risks gaps from lack of proper support. It also makes it hard to achieve a tight fit and completely sealed seam between the two surfaces. Proper installation order is recommended.
In most kitchen renovation situations, the proper order of installation is countertops first followed by the backsplash. Countertops provide structural support, must be protected from backsplash installation mess, and allow for tight seam alignment when installed first. While possible in some unique cases, installing backsplash before countertop risks damage and substandard finished results. Careful planning of the order of operations helps create a beautifully finished kitchen.