Does Backsplash End at Cabinet or Countertop?

Backsplashes provide an attractive and functional accent wall in kitchens and bathrooms. Their purpose is both decorative and practical – protecting the walls from moisture, stains and splashes. When designing your backsplash, an important decision is determining where it should end. Should the backsplash go all the way to the ceiling or stop at the cabinet or countertop? Here is a detailed look at the options to help you decide where your backsplash should end.

The Purpose and Benefits of a Backsplash

A backsplash is a vertical surface, usually made of tile, installed on the wall behind a countertop, stove or sink. Backsplashes serve several purposes:

  • Protect the walls from water damage and stains. The backsplash takes the brunt of water splashes and spills instead of the drywall or paint. This prevents moisture damage and makes the wall easier to clean.
  • Add visual interest and style. Backsplashes come in an endless array of materials, colors, textures and patterns. They provide an opportunity to add personality and style to your kitchen or bath.
  • Tie countertops and cabinets together. A backsplash helps connect the countertops to the wall cabinets for a unified, finished look.
  • Make cleaning easier. Materials like ceramic tile, metal and glass are easy to wipe down and keep clean.
  • Increase resale value. Upgraded backsplashes are an attractive selling point and can recoup over 70% of their cost at resale.

Where Should the Backsplash End?

When designing your backsplash, there are two main options for where it should stop:

Ending at the Cabinet or Countertop

This is the most common approach and generally considered the standard place to end a backsplash. The backsplash runs from the countertop to the bottom of the upper cabinets, usually 4 to 6 inches above the countertop.

Benefits of ending at the cabinet:

  • Visually pleasing proportions. Ending at the cabinet keeps the backsplash an appropriate scaled accent.
  • Less expensive. Shorter backsplash requires fewer materials and less labor.
  • Allows using different wall finishes. Space above backsplash can be painted, wallpapered or use alternative finishes.
  • Easier access to outlets. Outlets mounted on the wall above the counter remain accessible.


  • Lower splash protection. Finishing at the cabinet provides less protection from spills on wall.
  • Visible unfinished wall. The section of wall above the backsplash may look unfinished or require additional treatment.

Backsplash Running to the Ceiling

A full-height backsplash extends all the way from the countertop to the ceiling. This provides maximum splash protection and a bold visual statement.

Benefits of a full ceiling backsplash:

  • Full splash protection. Leaves no exposed wall space that could get damaged by moisture.
  • Makes a design statement. Running tile or other materials to the ceiling makes the backsplash a dramatic focal point.
  • Fully finished look. No visual break between backsplash and wall.


  • More expensive. Requires more backsplash material and labor to install.
  • Can make room feel closed in. Dark or bold backsplash colors extending to ceiling can overwhelm a space.
  • Outlets may need to be relocated. Electrical outlets in the backsplash area will need to be moved or require extension rings.
  • Harder access to the wall. The full wall of backsplash makes it difficult to reach the wall behind to make repairs or alterations.

Factors to Consider When Deciding How High the Backsplash Should Go

Here are some things to take into account when choosing where to end your backsplash:

  • Room size: Does the room need a ceiling-height backsplash for visual impact or would it make the space feel cramped?
  • Cabinet style: Will a short backsplash look cohesive or out of sync with the type and height of wall cabinets?
  • Countertop material: Natural stone and porous countertops benefit more from a full backsplash to protect the wall behind.
  • Personal taste: Do you prefer the clean look of backsplash ending at cabinet or a bold floor to ceiling statement?
  • Budget: A ceiling backsplash costs more in materials and labor so consider overall project budget.
  • ** Electrical:** Check locations of outlets, switches and fixtures when planning backsplash height.
  • Access needs: If planning repairs or upgrades, a full backsplash makes wall access challenging.

Creative Solutions and Workarounds

If you’re torn on backsplash length, there are some creative solutions to get the best of both options:

  • Run backsplash to ceiling only in certain areas, like behind the stove, for targeted splash protection.
  • Use two different materials – tile to the cabinet and painted drywall above – to visually differentiate the sections.
  • Install a narrow border tile along the ceiling over a short backsplash to get the look of it running up higher.
  • Opt for a two-tone backsplash with lighter tiles above that don’t overwhelm the room.
  • Hide the backsplash-to-wall transition with crown molding installed along the top edge.


Determining the ideal stopping point for a backsplash comes down to visual appeal, function and your overall design vision. Ending at the cabinet provides classic proportions and style. Extending to the ceiling makes a bold statement but requires more planning and expense. Creative solutions like two-tone designs can give you the benefits of both approaches. Consider all the factors and options to create the perfect backsplash for your space and style.

FAQ About Backsplash Height

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about how high to install a backsplash:

Should a backsplash end at the bottom or top of wall cabinets?

Most standard backsplashes end at the bottom of wall cabinets, usually 4-6 inches above the countertop. This leaves a small section of exposed wall between the cabinets and backsplash. For a more seamless look, you can opt to extend the backsplash to the top of the cabinets.

How high is a standard backsplash?

The typical backsplash height when installed under wall cabinets is 18-24 inches. This covers the wall from countertop to cabinet bottom. Full height backsplashes extend from countertop to ceiling, which can be 30 inches or taller.

What’s the best height for a backsplash with no upper cabinets?

Without overhead cabinets, you have flexibility. Run the backsplash to the standard height of approximately 18-24 inches above the counter or extend to the ceiling for maximum impact. Factor in room height, backsplash materials, and overall design aesthetic.

Should backsplashes extend behind or around windows?

If possible, the best look is continuing the backsplash tile or materials behind and around the edges of windows located over counters or sinks. Wrap-around window backsplashes provide clean sightlines and a fully finished design.

How do I finish edges of a partial height backsplash?

For a clean finish with partial backsplashes, use bullnose edge tiles, trim pieces like pencil tile, or cap off top edges with crown molding. This helps transition between backsplash and bare wall.

What about backsplashes in bathrooms?

Bathroom backsplashes should extend far enough to protect the wall from water splashes. At minimum, run it up to 6 inches above the faucet height. For full coverage, take it from counter to ceiling.

How do I clean area above a short backsplash?

Use a step stool to reach the wall area above a backsplash. Clean regularly with a multi-surface spray cleaner and microfiber cloth. Avoid excessive moisture and immediately wipe up splatters to prevent stains or damage.