Does Backsplash Go Behind Countertop?

Backsplashes serve both aesthetic and functional purposes in kitchens. Installed on the wall behind countertops, sinks, and ranges, they protect walls from water damage and spills while adding visual interest. But should the backsplash go behind the countertop? Generally, yes – the backsplash should be installed behind the countertop to properly protect the wall.

What is a Backsplash?

A backsplash is a protective surface installed on the wall behind kitchen countertops, sinks, ranges, and other work areas. Backsplashes are typically made of tile, stone, glass, metal, or other water-resistant materials. The main purposes of a backsplash are:

  • Protect the wall from water damage, stains, and splatters while cooking and cleaning
  • Provide an accent that ties together cabinetry, countertops, and other kitchen elements
  • Create visual interest and complement the style of the kitchen

Backsplashes most commonly extend 4-6 inches vertically from the countertop up the wall. However, they can also extend all the way to the underside of wall cabinets for a full wall of protection and design.

Should Backsplash Go Behind Countertop?

Yes, backsplash should be installed behind the countertop. Installing the backsplash only part way up the wall would leave the bottom portion unprotected and prone to water damage.

The key is making sure the backsplash overlaps any seams or gaps between the countertop and wall. This seals the joint and prevents spills and moisture from seeping behind.

If the backsplash ended at the countertop edge, the wall would be exposed. Drips and splashes could run down behind the countertop and onto the unprotected drywall or other wall material.

Benefits of Installing Backsplash Behind Countertops

There are several advantages to running backsplash behind countertops:

Prevents Water Damage on Wall

The main purpose of backsplash is to protect the wall from water damage. Countertop seams, faucets, sink edges, and range backguards are all areas where spills and moisture can penetrate. Installing backsplash behind the countertop seals these joints and vulnerabilities.

Tile, stone, glass and other backsplash materials resist water and are easy to wipe clean. They prevent stains, damage, and mold growth on underlying walls.

Creates a More Seamless Look

Installing backsplash behind the countertop provides a smooth, seamless look. The backsplash flows over the countertop edge for a continuous line.

This integrated appearance is much more aesthetically pleasing compared to abrupt edges and gaps between materials. The countertop looks like it was made to fit with the backsplash.

No Visible Wall Seams or Imperfections

Running backsplash behind the countertop also covers any imperfections where the countertop meets the wall. Old adhesives, chipped paint, cracks, uneven drywall, and other flaws can exist behind countertops – especially in renovation projects.

The backsplash hides these eyesores for a refined, finished look. The focus is drawn to the countertop and backsplash, not any unsightly seams.

Allows Full Height Backsplashes

Full height backsplashes that extend from countertop to cabinets provide maximum impact and visual appeal. The only way to achieve this is to install the backsplash behind the countertop.

Partial backsplashes lose design impact and leave the upper portion of walls unprotected. Proper waterproofing requires extending the backsplash all the way up.

How to Install Backsplash Behind Countertop

Installing backsplash behind countertops is standard procedure for professionals. But homeowners tackling DIY projects can also fully integrate backsplashes with proper planning and technique. Here are step-by-step instructions:

Step 1: Remove Existing Countertop

For new installations, the countertop won’t yet be installed. But for renovations, the old countertop must first be removed to gain access behind. Cut any caulk beads with a utility knife before carefully prying off the countertop.

Be sure to use proper safety precautions – old countertops can be heavy and fragile. Wear gloves and safety glasses during removal.

Step 2: Prepare the Wall

With the countertop gone, inspect the wall condition. Fill any holes or cracks with spackle and sand smooth. Seal the drywall or plaster with primer to create a uniform surface.

Check for level and plumb. Shims may be needed to provide a straight backdrop for the backsplash installation.

Step 3: Apply Waterproof Membrane

Before installing the backsplash, apply a waterproof membrane to the wall behind the countertop area. Liquid membranes like RedGard or sheet membranes like Kerdi create a moisture barrier.

Roll or brush on liquid membranes using a paint roller or thick brush. For sheet membranes, cut pieces to size and adhere with thinset mortar. Seal all seams and edges.

This protects walls from any moisture getting through cracks or grout joints. It serves as backup insurance against leaks.

Step 4: Install the Countertop

With the wall prepped, temporarily position the countertop back in place. Be sure overhangs and seams align correctly.

Mark the location on the walls and remove the countertop. Run a small bead of silicone caulk at the wall/countertop junction. When re-installed, this seals the seam.

Set the countertop in its final position. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for securing to cabinets or supports.

Step 5: Dry Fit the Backsplash

Dry fit the backsplash tiles or sheets. Hold pieces in place or temporarily tape or tack them to the wall.

Make sure they extend far enough to overlap the countertop edge. Adjust as needed for proper fit and alignment.

Step 6: Apply Thinset and Install Backsplash

With everything fitting correctly, remove the backsplash materials. Apply thinset mortar to the backside using a notched trowel.

Carefully press the backsplash into position, sliding back until excess thinset squeezes out evenly. Be sure all edges fully overlap the countertop. Let thinset cure before grouting.

Once grouted and sealed, the backsplash will provide a moisture barrier behind the countertop to protect the wall.

Should New Countertops Have Backsplash?

Yes, new countertop installations should always include backsplash. Leaving walls exposed leads to premature damage and deterioration. The extra cost of backsplash is a wise investment for any kitchen.

New countertops provide a perfect opportunity to integrate backsplash and countertops seamlessly. Coordinated designs and materials can make the installations look like single unified surfaces.

Many countertop companies offer full kits with pre-cut backsplash pieces to match the countertop edges precisely. This streamlines installation and eliminates gaps.

Even inexpensive backsplash tile or laminate sheets offer good protection. The minimal effort is well worth it for long-term performance and better aesthetics.

Can Backsplash End at Countertop Edge?

It is possible to end backsplash at the countertop edge, but this leaves walls vulnerable. Gaps at the counter/wall joint or any overhanging lip on the countertop would remain unprotected.

Moisture penetration through these openings can quickly ruin drywall, wood, or other materials. Food splashes also accumulate behind unfinished edges much more than flush backsplash.

The visible seam where backsplash abruptly ends at the countertop also looks disjointed. The transition disrupts the uniformity compared to a wrapped edge.

While physically possible, terminating the backsplash at the countertop is never recommended. The benefits of backsplash extending behind the countertop outweigh any perceived easier installation.

Backsplash First or Countertop First?

Professionals typically install countertops before adding the backsplash. But the order can be reversed if desired.

Countertops first is generally preferred because it establishes the primary surface everything else aligns to. The countertop provides a straight reference edge to butt the backsplash against for easy installation.

However, backsplash first is an option in cases where protecting the wall takes priority. Some homeowners want the backsplash sealed against the wall before exposing it to potential spills during countertop installation.

The key for backsplash first is allowing thinset to fully cure before placing countertops against it. Otherwise, the weight can squeeze out uncured mortar and prevent proper bonding.

In either case, take care to keep the joint tight. Caulk and sealant ensure nothing penetrates behind the countertop.

Can Backsplash Support Countertop Overhang?

Backsplash should not be relied upon to solely support a countertop overhang. Brackets underneath must support the front lip.

However, backsplash can provide additional support for an overhang:

  • Tile or stone backsplash mounted on cement board offers rigid support.
  • Backsplash adhesives add strength to the joint with the countertop.
  • The countertop can be physically joined to the backsplash with metal clips or other fasteners.

But minimal or no overhang is still recommended for backsplashes without full structural support underneath. The overhang should not exert leverage or stress.

Excess weight could compromise backsplash adhesion and cause the tiles or sheets to separate and peel off the wall.

Typical Backsplash Heights

Backsplash heights usually fall within a standard range:

  • Minimum: 4 inches
  • Common: 4-6 inches
  • Full Height: Countertop to cabinets

The 4-6 inch height is popular because it protects the most exposed area while using fewer materials. It provides partial coverage but doesn’t take over the entire wall behind the counter.

Full height backsplashes make a bolder design statement and offer more protection. But they require more tile or other material and additional labor.

For DIYers, a 4-6 inch backsplash is fairly easy to install. Full height backsplash is best left to experienced pros.

In general, backsplash should at minimum extend above the back lip of the countertop. This seals splashes from dripping behind.

Contemporary Backsplash Design Trends

While backsplashes serve a functional role, they have also become a focal point for personal style. Some current trends include:

  • Subway Tile: Classic rectangular white tiles arranged in a brick pattern.
  • Large Format Tiles: Porcelain slabs 12 inches or larger on each side.
  • Metro Tiles: Glossy rectangular tiles in bold colors.
  • Moroccan Fish Scale: Intricate mosaic tiles forming tessellated patterns.
  • 3D Tiles: Dimensional tiles with texture and depth.
  • Geometric: Tiles cut into triangles, diamonds, hexagons, and other shapes.
  • Sustainable Materials: Recycled glass, reclaimed wood, bio-resin, etc.
  • Unconventional Materials: Leather, corrugated metal, pennies, pebbles, and more.

While protecting walls, today’s backsplashes can display creativity and make a unique design statement.

How High Should Backsplash Go with Tall Cabinets?

For kitchens with particularly tall upper cabinets, the backsplash has some height options:

  • To bottom of wall cabinets: Leaves gap between backsplash and cabinets.
  • To top of wall cabinets: Maximizes splash protection.
  • Partial height centered: Aesthetic balance on the wall.
  • Only behind countertops: Focused protection.

Many homeowners opt to extend backsplash all the way to the ceiling behind the range for full coverage. Areas with only countertops can remain partial height.

The desired height often comes down to personal preference and the types of materials used.

Full floor-to-ceiling backsplash provides the most protection. But wide expanses of certain materials like natural stone can be costly. Centered partial backsplashes are a good compromise, giving complete coverage behind appliances but reducing overall square footage.

Backsplash Ideas for Rental Homes

Renters updating backsplash on a budget have several solid options:

  • Peel-and-Stick: Removable vinyl backsplash panels offer tons of styles. Just stick on and pull off when moving out.
  • Removable Tiles: Some adhesive tile varieties can adhere temporarily without damaging walls.
  • Contact Paper: Waterproof vinyl sheets mimic tiles, stone, patterns, and more.
  • Laminate: Low-cost laminate sheets easily mount with construction adhesive.
  • Paint: Create geometric shapes, contrasting blocks of color, faux marble, or an artistic mural.

Look for materials that can be cleanly removed with minimal residue. This allows restoring walls to original condition when vacating.

Focus backsplash around key areas like stoves, sinks, and prep zones. No need to cover every inch of wall space.

Prioritize easy installation, low commitment, and budget savings for rentals. Backsplash can still provide personality without permanent upgrades.

Should Backsplash Match Countertop?

Matching backsplash to the countertop material or color provides a cohesive, seamless look. However, contrasting backsplashes are also eye-catching.

The decision depends on the overall design approach:

  • Matching backsplash complements countertops for minimalist style.
  • Contrasting backsplash accentuates the countertops as a distinct focal point.

Matching materials like Quartz countertops and Quartz backsplash tiles blend beautifully. Or pair neutral countertops with an expressive backsplash hue.

Don’t forget about finish – glossy backsplash can contrast with matte countertops. But both finishes can match for uniformity.

There are no set rules – matching or contrasting backsplash with countertops comes down to personal preference.

Can Backsplash be Used Without Countertops?

Backsplash can be installed as a standalone wall treatment without countertops underneath. This approach needs some special considerations:

  • End the backsplash at a cabinet, window, or other vertical break rather than leaving open ends.
  • Add trim, bullnose, or framing for a clean finish along the bottom.
  • To meet building codes, maintain proper clearance from ranges, sinks, and appliances.
  • Ensure adequate wall support – attach cement board, blocking, or framing behind the backsplash.
  • Take care waterproofing and sealing the wall and edges to prevent moisture intrusion.
  • Select materials that visually work when not connecting to a countertop.

Floating backsplashes can work above non-countertop spaces like ranges, utility sinks, or art niches. With careful installation, backsplash offers durable and decorative protection standalone.

Do’s and Don’ts of Backsplash Installation


  • Extend backsplash behind countertop edges.
  • Use waterproof membrane behind backsplash.
  • Dry fit materials first before installing.
  • Allow adhesives and thinset to fully cure before grouting.


  • Assume walls are perfectly plumb or level – shim where needed.
  • Allow gaps where countertop and backsplash meet.
  • Support heavy countertop overhangs solely on backsplash.
  • Rush through installation – take it slow for best results.

Other Tips:

  • Clean surfaces thoroughly and prep walls for best adhesion.
  • Plan backsplash layout to minimize cuts and waste material.
  • Account for outlets, switches, and other obstructions on walls.
  • Pay close attention to grout spacing based on tile size and layout.

With proper planning and careful technique, even DIYers can achieve backsplash success.Patience and focus creates a finished look that seamlessly ties the kitchen together.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplash Placement

Does backsplash have to go all the way to ceiling?

No, backsplash does not have to extend all the way to the ceiling. Common heights are 4-6 inches or up to the bottom of wall cabinets. Full ceiling height is optional for maximum splash protection and design impact.

Should backsplash overlap countertop edge?

Yes, backsplash should overlap the front countertop edge by about 1/8 inch or more. This seals the joint between the countertop and wall to prevent moisture intrusion.

What height should backsplash be with no upper cabinets?

With no upper cabinets, backsplash can either terminate at a standard 4-6 inch height or extend all the way to the ceiling as a full-height backsplash. Keep in mind the ceiling option requires more materials and labor.

How do you attach backsplash without drilling holes?

Adhesive-backed backsplash panels like peel-and-stick can be installed without drilling. Use silicone caulk to fully seal edges and prevent moisture getting behind. Mesh backsplash sheets can also attach directly to adhesive on walls.

Should I do backsplash or paint behind stove?

For protection and easy cleaning, porcelain or ceramic tile backsplash is preferable behind stoves versus paint. Use heat-resistant varieties rated for high temperatures. Enamel paint can chip, burn, or discolor from stove exposure.


Properly installing backsplash behind countertops provides both form and function. Backsplash seamlessly integrates with the countertop installations while protecting walls from damage.

Careful technique ensures backsplashes overlap countertop edges and keep joins watertight. Full integration not only prevents leaks but provides a polished, upscale look.

With smart planning, even DIYers can achieve professional-looking results. From matching materials to creative contrasts, an integrated backsplash tied to the countertops completes the kitchen.

: The backsplash behind the countertop protects the walls, offers high-end styling, and makes home chefs happy when cooking and entertaining! Get the details on proper backsplash placement to take your kitchen upgrades to the next level.