Do I Install Floating Shelves Before or After Backsplash?


Backsplashes and floating shelves are popular elements in many kitchen designs. A backsplash protects the wall behind a countertop from splashes and stains. Floating shelves provide open storage and display options.

When renovating or building a new kitchen, deciding on the installation order of the backsplash and shelves impacts the workflow and final aesthetic. Careful planning allows you to avoid extra work and re-dos.

Installing Shelves Before Backsplash

Installing floating shelves on the wall before adding the backsplash has some advantages:

Easier Shelf Installation

It is generally easier to install and level floating shelves when there is no backsplash in place. With an unobstructed expanse of drywall, you can position and mount the shelves precisely where desired.

Once the backsplash tile or panels are up, installing shelves requires working around the finished backsplash. Extra care is needed to avoid damaging the backsplash during shelf mounting.

Backsplash Covers All Gaps

Another benefit to shelves first is that the backsplash can cover any gaps or irregularities between the shelves and wall. This results in a smooth, seamless look.

The backsplash tiles or panels fit snugly around the shelves all the way to the wall. Any minor shelf alignment issues won’t be visible after the backsplash is added.

No Need to Cut Backsplash Materials

When shelving goes up before the backsplash, you avoid the hassle of carefully cutting tiles or panels to fit around the shelves. Full sections of backsplash materials can be installed as intended without notching to accommodate shelves.

This makes the backsplash installation process more straightforward and efficient. Simply apply the backsplash as normal across the entire wall from countertop to ceiling.

Installing Backsplash Before Shelves

Alternatively, some homeowners prefer to add the backsplash prior to mounting any floating shelves. Reasons for doing backsplash first include:

Backsplash Acts as Shelf Guide

The backsplash provides a visible guide for ideal shelf placement. You can use the backsplash lines and grout joints to ensure shelves are mounted at the desired heights and horizontal positions.

This allows you to perfectly align shelf brackets with backsplash tile or panel sections for a coordinated look.

No Gaps or Overlap with Backsplash

Since the backsplash is already in place before shelf installation, you can ensure there are no unsightly gaps between the two elements.

The shelf brackets and sides can be carefully positioned flush against the backsplash for a seamless, built-in shelf appearance. No backsplash material overlaps the shelves.

Shelf Mounting Holes Are Hidden

An advantage of backsplash first is that any shelf bracket mounting holes that end up visible will be hidden behind the backsplash.

If shelf brackets are secured slightly off-center or too close to an edge, the surrounding backsplash will conceal this once the shelves are installed. No unnecessary holes are visible in the final design.

Key Comparison of the Approaches

To recap, here are the main differences between installing shelves or backsplash first:

| Backsplash First | Shelves First | |-|-| | Utilizes backsplash as guide for shelf placement | Easier to position and mount shelves | | No gaps or overlaps with shelves | Backsplash hides any shelf gaps or mounting holes | | Bracket holes are concealed | Avoid notching backsplash materials |

Deciding What Works Best for Your Kitchen

So when planning your kitchen backsplash and floating shelf project, should you install the shelves before or after the backsplash?

Unfortunately there is no universally right answer, as each approach has its own advantages. Key factors to consider include:

  • Skill level – Less experienced DIYers may find it easier to do shelves first. Professionals can work around an existing backsplash.
  • Shelf mount style – Basic floating shelves mounted into studs are simplest before backsplash. Precise mounting of fixed rails or French cleats is easier after.
  • Chosen materials – Natural stone backsplashes are more difficult to cut around shelves than tile.
  • Access to wall – If backsplash goes to ceiling, shelves may be easier to install first.
  • Design priorities – Gaps vs precise alignment and flush shelves vs hidden mounting holes.

Carefully thinking through the entire process for your specific kitchen can help determine the best order. Many homeowners are happy with either approach with proper planning and care.

The most important tip is to avoid waiting until both backsplash and shelves are installed to realize the order should have been reversed! Think through the pros and cons for your project early on to ensure your finished kitchen gets the look you want.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some common questions about backsplash and floating shelf installation order:

Is it easier to install shelves before or after backsplash?

For DIY installations, it is generally easier to mount the shelves on the bare wall before the backsplash goes up. With a pro installation, the order is less impactful on difficulty.

Should you put up backsplash before or after painting?

Backsplash should be installed after wall painting is finished. This allows the backsplash to be cleanly applied to the pristine painted wall.

What is the proper order to remodel a kitchen?

The typical sequence is:

  1. Demo existing kitchen
  2. Relocate plumbing and electrical
  3. Install new flooring
  4. Add cabinets and countertops
  5. Paint walls
  6. Add backsplash
  7. Install floating shelves and other accessories

Can you install backsplash around existing shelves?

It is possible but challenging. The backsplash tiles or panels will need to be carefully cut and fitted between and around the shelves. Removing the shelves first for a simpler install is recommended.


Determining whether to mount floating shelves before or after the backsplash depends on your project plans and design goals. While there is no definitively right choice, carefully thinking through the pros and cons of each approach can lead to a smooth installation and beautiful finished kitchen.

With proper planning and attention to detail during installation, you can achieve a seamless, integrated look with your dream backsplash and floating shelves.