Do You Put Backsplash Up Before Countertop?

Installing a beautiful backsplash can really enhance the look of your kitchen. But when tackling a kitchen remodeling project, it’s important to do things in the proper order. So do you put up the backsplash before or after the countertop? Here’s a detailed look at the right process.

What is a Backsplash?

A backsplash is a decorative, protective wall covering that is installed directly behind sinks, stoves, ranges, and countertops. Typically made of ceramic, metal, glass, or stone tile, a backsplash serves both form and function. It adds visual interest and color to the kitchen while also protecting the walls from splashes, spills, and stains.

Reasons to Install the Backsplash First

There are a few good reasons why it’s generally best to install the backsplash before putting in new countertops:

Easier Installation

It’s often easier for the backsplash installer to get right up against the wall without cabinets or countertops in the way. This allows for tight fitting joints and precise installation.

Better Seal with Countertops

After the countertops are installed, the bottom edges can be sealed directly against the backsplash for a water-tight joint. This helps prevent moisture from getting behind the backsplashes.

Avoid Chipping Countertops

It can be challenging installing a backsplash against an existing countertop without accidentally damaging or chipping the countertop material.

Total Design Visualization

Seeing the backsplash fully installed helps envision how the countertops will eventually complete the whole look.

Reasons to Install Countertops First

However, there are a few scenarios where it may make more sense to install the countertops prior to the backsplash:

Matching Backsplash Edge to Countertop Thickness

If you want the edges of the backsplash tiles to perfectly align with the front edge of the countertop, then the countertop border thickness needs to be known prior to backsplash installation.

Solid Surface Countertops

For countertops made of solid surface materials like quartz or Corian, the backsplash can often be created from the same material in one seamless piece.

Prevent Backsplash Damage from Countertop Installation

Pre-installing the countertops means that the backsplash won’t risk getting damaged or cracked during the countertop installation process.

Easier Planning of Backsplash Layout

With the countertop in place, the backsplash tile layout can be test fit and planned more precisely before installing.

Tips for Proper Installation Order

Whichever order you decide to install them, here are some tips:

  • Communicate the plan clearly with your contractor upfront
  • Double check that the countertop and backsplash materials chosen will properly interface together
  • For best results, have the same company/installer handle both the countertop and backsplash installation
  • If installing countertop first, tape and protect the counter edges so the backsplash installation won’t damage the material

Questions and Answers

Q: What if my countertop material is granite or marble?

A: Natural stone countertops are very heavy, so it’s best to install them after the backsplash. This prevents the risk of the stone cracking, chipping or breaking the backsplash during installation.

Q: Should tiles go all the way up to ceiling as a full backsplash?

A: Full height backsplashes can look great and offer more protection. But standard backsplash height is 4 inches above countertop level. Full height works well with stone tiles or small mosaics. Large format tiles may look overpowering taken all the way up.

Q: Is it okay to install a backsplash just using mastic adhesive without mortar?

A: For a long lasting installation, it’s best to spread thinset mortar on the wall and use mastic just to the back of each tile. Mastic alone risks the tiles eventually sagging downward over time. Using both creates a super strong bond.

Q: Can I install a backsplash over existing laminate countertops to refresh the look?

A: In most cases, yes. Just be sure to thoroughly clean and scuff sand the existing laminate first to help the thinset mortar adhere. Use a specialty primer made for laminate to help bond. Make sure screws from existing backsplash are removed.

Q: What about using backsplash grout that matches the countertop color?

A: Choosing a grout color that matches or contrasts with the countertop and tiles can be strictly an aesthetic choice. Both options can look great. Just be sure to seal the grout properly for the kitchen environment.


While there is no definitive right or wrong order, installing the backsplash prior to countertops is recommended in most situations. This allows for a seamless and integrated look. Whether you choose to install the countertops or backsplash first, be sure to plan the sequence in advance with your contractor. Careful planning and communication will ensure your kitchen remodeling project comes together perfectly. With stunning new countertops and backsplash, you’ll have a kitchen space you can really be proud of.