Do You Replace Backsplash or Countertop First?

Planning a kitchen remodel? One of the most common dilemmas homeowners face is deciding whether to replace the backsplash or countertops first. There are good arguments on both sides, so let’s explore the pros and cons of each approach.

The Case for Replacing the Backsplash First

There are a few reasons why it may make sense to replace the backsplash before tackling the countertops:

It’s Less Expensive

Backsplashes are generally less expensive than countertops. Tile, metal, glass, and other backsplash materials cost a fraction of natural stone or solid surface countertops. Since backsplashes cover less surface area, replacing them first allows you to refresh part of your kitchen for less money.

It’s Easier

Installing a new backsplash is a relatively simple DIY project for many homeowners. Countertop installation is more complex, often requiring professional help. Doing the backsplash first can let you check one thing off your remodel list quickly.

It Allows More Design Flexibility

Your new backsplash can inspire your choices for countertops and cabinetry. Once you pick the countertops, you’re more restricted in backsplash options. Doing it in this order allows you to create a more cohesive look.

It Minimizes Construction Mess

Countertop installation is messy – holes for sinks, faucets, and cooktops make dust and leave debris. Installing backsplashes first avoids damage during countertop replacement.

The Case for New Countertops First

However, there are also good reasons to tackle the countertops first:

Countertops Make a Bigger Impact

The countertops are a kitchen’s focal point and have the biggest effect on its look and feel. New countertops can make the entire kitchen feel updated, even with old backsplashes and cabinets.

It Allows Precise Backsplash Planning

Once the countertop material and colors are selected, you can choose a backsplash that perfectly coordinates with them. Getting the backsplash-to-countertop transition right requires seeing the countertops in place.

Backsplashes Can Disguise Problems

If there are gaps, seams, or other issues with the new countertop installation, a backsplash can hide imperfections. Good backsplash placement can make countertops look flawless.

Fewer Installs Mean Less Hassle

Doing countertops first means you only have to manage one installation process. Coordinating installers twice for backsplash then countertops can complicate scheduling and extend the remodel timeline.

Key Tips for Ordering Your Project

Whether you opt for new backsplashes or countertops first, a few tips will ensure your project goes smoothly:

  • Don’t Skimp on Measurements: Precision measurements are crucial, especially if pieces like cooktops and sinks are being installed. Careful planning avoids gaps, overlaps, and other issues.
  • Factor in Lead Times: Countertop materials like natural stone often have long fabrication and installation lead times. Make sure to account for potential delays.
  • Communicate with Contractors: Make sure your backsplash and countertop installers coordinate plans. Good communication ensures proper sequencing and installation.
  • Have a Game Plan: Think through all the logistics – tear out, dust and debris control, protection of other surfaces, etc. Planning makes the process organized.
  • Inspect and Seal: Examine new countertops and backsplashes carefully for damage or imperfections. Properly seal surfaces to protect your investment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I replace the backsplash or countertops first in my kitchen remodel?

There’s no definitively right or wrong order. It depends on your budget, design goals, and the scope of your remodel. Many experts suggest doing countertops first, but backsplashes first works too. Carefully weigh the pros and cons for your situation.

Can I install a new backsplash directly over the old one?

In some cases yes, but you’ll get better results by removing the old backsplash first. This allows you to fix any underlying issues with the wall, ensures proper backsplash-to-countertop alignment, and gives the most seamless look.

Should my new backsplash match my new countertops exactly?

Not necessarily – contrast can be attractive too. But make sure the styles and colors complement each other. A dramatic mismatch between countertops and backsplash can look disjointed.

How do I protect my new backsplash during countertop installation?

Covering it with plastic sheeting prevents damage from debris and drips. Don’t remove protection until construction and clean-up is 100% finished. Have countertop installers be very careful around the new backsplash.

Should I hire separate contractors for the backsplash and countertops?

Not always – many kitchen remodelers and countertop fabricators can install both. But you may want to hire a tile professional for a complex backsplash project. Discuss your options with the contractors.


When planning your kitchen remodel, there’s no universally perfect order for replacing backsplashes and countertops. Carefully thinking through the advantages and disadvantages of each approach will lead you to the best decision for your specific situation. Whichever you choose to tackle first, planning ahead, precision measurements, and clear contractor communication will lead to a smooth installation process and stunning results. With some thoughtful preparation, you’ll end up with a beautiful, cohesive new kitchen design.