Can You Replace Kitchen Backsplash Without Removing Cabinets?

Replacing your kitchen backsplash can give your space a quick and easy facelift. However, if your backsplash is installed tightly against your cabinets, you may be wondering if you need to remove the cabinets for the project. Luckily, in most cases, you can replace the backsplash without taking out the cabinets. Here’s what you need to know about updating your backsplash with the cabinets in place.

Assess Your Existing Backsplash

The first step is to look closely at how your current backsplash is installed.

  • Is it a self-adhesive material that was stuck directly to the wall? This will be the easiest type to remove.
  • Is it a tile backsplash mortared to the wall? This may take some extra effort to detach.
  • Does the backsplash go all the way to the underside of the upper cabinets? This can make replacement harder.
  • Is the backsplash also installed partially behind the countertops or cabinets? This will likely mean removing the cabinets and/or countertops.

Choose a Backsplash Material That Allows for In-Place Installation

The material you select for the new backsplash will impact how easily it can be installed without removing the cabinets. Here are some top options:

  • Peel-and-stick backsplash tiles or panels: These thin materials are designed to go right over the existing backsplash. They have an adhesive backing, making installation straightforward.
  • Metal backsplash sheets: Aluminum and stainless steel backsplashes can be cut to size and applied over the old backsplash with adhesive.
  • Vinyl backsplash rolls: Sheet vinyl can also be sized to fit around cabinets and applied on top of the old backsplash.
  • Removable backsplash panels: Some materials like beadboard panels install with brackets or grooves, avoiding adhesive. This also allows them to be easily removed later.

Prepare the Surface Under the Cabinets

Once you remove the old backsplash, you’ll need to make sure the area under the upper cabinets is smooth and clean for the new backsplash installation.

  • Sand or scrape away any adhesive residue or uneven spots from the old backsplash.
  • Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle and sand smooth.
  • Clean the surface thoroughly to remove dust.
  • Paint if needed to give the new backsplash a uniform background.

Carefully Cut and Apply the New Backsplash

When it’s time to install the new backsplash, carefully measure and cut pieces to fit neatly under the cabinets and around outlets or switches. Apply adhesive and press the backsplash firmly into place. Use a utility knife to trim any excess material. Take care not to bump or shift the cabinets out of position. Work slowly and double check your measurements.

Finish the Edges

Once the backsplash panels are installed, you’ll need to finish the edges where the backsplash meets the countertop, cabinet, or wall edges.

  • For tile backsplashes, apply trim pieces, caulk, or grout to give a clean finish.
  • For vinyl, beadboard, or metal, use trim strips or caulk for polished edges.
  • Take time with the finish work for the most seamless look.

Hire a Professional for Complex Jobs

If your backsplash has complex patterns, mixes multiple materials, or extends behind cabinets, it’s often worth calling in a pro. Experienced contractors have the skills to remove and replace backsplashes while keeping cabinets intact. This also ensures the finished look is neat and professional.

When Cabinet Removal Is Required

In some cases, you’ll find it’s unavoidable to remove cabinets for backsplash replacement:

  • If the existing backsplash is mortared directly to the wall behind cabinets.
  • If the countertops sit atop the backsplash, preventing access.
  • If the backsplash spans multiple walls or rooms.
  • If replacing with heavier tile, stone, or glass materials.

Cabinet removal adds time and complexity. But it allows you to replace the backsplash with any material and ensures a flawless finished appearance.

FAQs About Replacing Backsplash With Cabinets In Place

Can I install a tile backsplash without removing cabinets?

Yes, it is possible to install a tile backsplash without removing the cabinets in many cases. Use peel-and-stick tiles that can be applied directly over the old backsplash. Be sure to prepare the surface under cabinets thoroughly first.

What about stone or glass backsplash?

Stone, glass, and other heavy backsplash materials are harder to install without removing cabinets. The weight requires adequate support and high-quality adhesive. It also makes cutting and fitting pieces under cabinets challenging.

How do I get a smooth backsplash edge under cabinets?

Use caulk, trim pieces, or extra grout to get clean, smooth edges where the backsplash meets cabinets or countertops. Take time to neatly finish edges for a seamless look.

What if outlets or switches are in the way?

When outlets, switches, or other obstacles block backsplash installation under cabinets, carefully cut openings in the backsplash material to accommodate them. Take measurements to get openings accurately positioned.

Can I do a full height backsplash with cabinets in place?

It is possible, but difficult, to install a full height backsplash without removing cabinets. It’s easier to remove upper cabinets, install the backsplash, then reinstall cabinets atop the new backsplash.


Replacing your backsplash without removing cabinets is doable in many kitchens. Assess your existing installation, choose a backsplash material conducive to in-place installation, take care prepping the work area, and neatly finish edges for a seamless look. Call a pro for tricky situations or heavy backsplash materials requiring more support. With some diligence and care, you can transform your kitchen with an updated backsplash while keeping your cabinets right where they are.