Does Backsplash Go In Before Countertop?

Installing a beautiful backsplash is one of the most popular ways to upgrade your kitchen. Not only does a backsplash provide an extra layer of protection behind sinks, stoves, and countertops, it allows you to add visual interest and personality to your kitchen design. However, when undertaking a kitchen remodel or renovation, one common question arises – does the backsplash go in before or after the countertops?

What Is a Backsplash?

A backsplash is a protective covering on the wall behind a countertop, sink, or stove. The purpose of a backsplash is to protect the walls from water damage, stains, and splatters. Backsplashes are typically made of tile, metal, glass, stone or other water-resistant materials. They range from 4 inches to 6 inches in height on average.

Backsplashes serve both practical and decorative purposes. In addition to safeguarding the walls, backsplashes can complement cabinetry and tie together the whole aesthetic of a kitchen. Backsplashes are available in a vast array of colors, textures, shapes, and patterns to match any design style.

Benefits of Installing a Backsplash

There are many advantages to installing a backsplash in your kitchen:

  • Protects walls – Backsplashes prevent moisture damage on drywall, plaster, or painted walls caused by water splashes and spills. This helps preserve the integrity of the wall.
  • Easy to clean – Due to the nonporous nature of materials like glass, metal, or tile, backsplashes can be easily wiped clean. This helps maintain hygiene in food prep areas.
  • Adds visual interest – Backsplashes provide the opportunity to add pops of color, texture, and patterns to your kitchen. This creates depth, dimension, and overall aesthetic appeal.
  • Increases resale value – Tasteful, updated backsplashes are attractive features for home buyers. They help kitchens appear more modern and luxurious.
  • Allows creativity and personalization – With limitless backsplash products available, you can get creative and design a backsplash that showcases your personal taste and style.
  • Durability – Materials like tile and metal are very durable and able to withstand decades of use. This provides long-lasting protection compared to basic painted drywall.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Backsplash

Selecting the ideal backsplash involves taking into account several factors:

  • Purpose – Consider whether you need moderate or maximum protection based on how heavily the area will be utilized. Areas around stoves require more durable materials.
  • Moisture resistance – Choose a highly water-resistant material like glass tile if the area will often get wet. Avoid porous materials like natural stone near sinks.
  • Cleanup – Opt for smooth, non-porous materials that will be easy to wipe clean of messes, grease splatter, and grime. Avoid textured surfaces that trap debris.
  • Stains – Materials like metal and glass will resist staining better than grout or natural stone that can absorb spills over time.
  • Heat resistance – Use durable materials like metal or stone by a stove versus plastic, which can melt from the heat.
  • Style – Pick a material and color scheme that matches your overall kitchen aesthetic – modern, rustic, traditional, etc.
  • Budget – Prices range greatly based on material from affordable vinyl to high-end handmade tile. Set realistic expectations.
  • DIY vs. professional – Large intricate tile patterns often require a pro. Simple small tiles may be DIY-friendly. Know your skill level.

Popular Backsplash Materials

There are a number of gorgeous, functional options for backsplash materials:


Tile is one of the most common choices for kitchen backsplashes. It is available in endless colors, shapes, textures, and patterns. Glass, ceramic, or porcelain tile can provide a water-resistant, easy-to-clean surface. Tile offers versatility in design. Popular patterns include subway tile, mosaics, and large statement tiles.


Metal backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, and tin add a contemporary, industrial vibe along with strength and durability. Metal is great for protecting walls near stoves and sinks. It offers a sleek, modern look. Metal backsplashes are low maintenance, scratch-resistant, and easy to sanitize.


Elegant natural or engineered stone like marble, granite, and quartz can make a high-end impact as a backsplash. While moisture can damage some natural stone, stone backsplashes remain charming, durable options. They bring texture and warmth to a space.


Unique, eye-catching glass backsplashes make a gorgeous design statement. From recycled glass mosaics to large custom glass tiles, glass makes for an artful, glossy surface. Glass backsplashes are smooth, easy to clean, and water-resistant. Glass tiles can even illuminate as backlighting shines through.


While not as water-safe as other materials, wood paneling remains a popular backsplash choice for a natural rustic aesthetic. Wood backsplashes pair beautifully with butcher block counters. Just take care to quickly wipe up spills and splatters to avoid any potential warping or water damage.

Does Backsplash Go In Before or After Countertops?

When planning your kitchen renovation, you may be wondering – should the backsplash be installed before or after the countertops go in?

The typical order is to install the backsplash after the countertops. Here are some reasons why:

  • Installing countertops first allows you to rest the bottom edge of the backsplash on top of the countertops for support.
  • Countertops need to be cut to size on-site. It’s easier to achieve a precise fit without a pre-existing backsplash in the way.
  • Edge details like countertop beveling or laminate matching might overlap the backsplash area, so it looks best done after.
  • The counter installation process may damage the backsplash if done after. Backsplash materials like tile and glass can crack or chip.
  • Smudges and mess from the countertop installation are avoided if backsplash goes in later.
  • Precise measurements of the countertops make it easier to customize and cut the backsplash.
  • Lighting or variations in cabinet color underneath may impact your backsplash choices.

Of course, there can be exceptions in unique kitchen layouts. For example, full-height backsplashes that extend from countertops to ceiling would obviously need installing first. But in most standard kitchen designs, backsplashes are done after setting countertops.

Installing Your Backsplash After Countertops

Once your countertops are in place, use the following process to add your backsplash:

1. Gather Supplies

  • Backsplash material (tile, metal sheets, glass mosaic, etc)
  • Thinset adhesive mortar
  • Grout
  • Trowel
  • Grout sponge
  • Grout sealer
  • Caulk/silicone sealant
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutter
  • Safety glasses and gloves

2. Prepare the Area

  • Remove outlet covers and switch plates
  • Clean the wall area thoroughly
  • Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle
  • Sand and wipe away dust
  • Apply painter’s tape near the ceiling, cabinets, and countertops

3. Plan Your Layout

  • Measure the space and use masking tape to map out your backsplash design.
  • Figure out any tile cuts you may need to fill the shape correctly.
  • Dry lay tiles on a large table if needed to visualize the full layout.

4. Apply Thinset Mortar

  • Mix thinset adhesive mortar using manufacturer instructions.
  • Spread even 1/4″ layer across the wall area using a notched trowel.
  • Apply enough thinset for only one or two tiles at a time to avoid drying.

5. Set Backsplash Tiles

  • Press tiles firmly into thinset starting at the bottom near the countertops.
  • Use plastic spacers between tiles for even grout lines.
  • Cut any custom tiles needed with tile cutters.
  • Let thinset dry completely for 24-48 hours.

6. Apply and Clean Grout

  • Mix and apply grout using a grout float. Spread into tile joints.
  • Let dry slightly then sponge away excess gently.
  • Apply grout sealer protectively over the entire surface.

7. Finish With Sealant

  • Run a thin bead of silicone caulk along the top, bottom, and vertical seams.
  • Smooth the caulk with a wet finger for a tidy finish.
  • Wipe away any haze on tiles right away. Let dry.

And that’s it! Applying your backsplash after installing countertops allows for a more seamless, professional looking finish. Just be sure to care properly for your backsplash once in place.

Caring for Your Backsplash

To keep your backsplash looking like new:

  • Use non-abrasive cleaners only recommended for your material type. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Clean spills immediately to prevent stains, especially with grout and natural stone.
  • For grout, routinely apply grout sealer every 1-2 years to protect from moisture and grime.
  • Avoid scraping or bumping the backsplash with heavy objects that could chip tiles or glass.
  • Use soft cloths only – no abrasive sponges or scrubbers.
  • Protect behind stoves from grease splatter with removable splatter screens.
  • Ensure any loose tiles or grout lines are promptly re-adhered to prevent moisture issues behind the backsplash.
  • Limit direct sunlight exposure which can cause fading especially with natural materials like wood or stone.

With the proper care and maintenance, a beautiful backsplash can last for many years of enjoyment while protecting your kitchen walls.

Backsplash Ideas to Inspire Your Kitchen

Here are some stunning ways to incorporate a backsplash and make your kitchen shine:

Rustic Wood Planks

Warm wood planks arranged in horizontal rows infuse rustic country character. The multi-toned wood grains paired with white cabinets create an inviting farmhouse vibe.

Rustic wood backsplash

Rustic Wood Backsplash // Source: Thousers

Modern Marble Herringbone

Marble herringbone tile in soft greys and whites provides an elegant, opulent look with a hint of modern flair. especially paired with dark cabinets and brass accents.

Herringbone marble backsplash

Herringbone Marble Backsplash // Source: Pinterest

Vintage penny tiles

Classic black penny round tiles offer a retro vibe, mimicking early 20th century subway tiles. Their small scale adds ageless appeal to both modern and traditional kitchens.

Black penny tile backsplash

Vintage Penny Tile Backsplash // Source: Pinterest

Contemporary Geometric

For contemporary flair, angular Moroccan-inspired tiles in glossy white and grey create direction through bold geometric shapes. The pattern provides modern sophistication.

Geometric pattern backsplash

Geometric Tile Backsplash // Source: HGTV

Vintage Greens

Vintage green and blue mosaic tiles lend timeless old-world character. The soft colored tiles paired with plenty of natural light brighten up any kitchen.

Green vintage backsplash

Vintage Green Backsplash // Source: Pinterest

Retro Pastels

For a retro 1950s vibe, soft pastel tiles in shades of pink, yellow, blue, and green create a cheery, nostalgic atmosphere. The colors instantly lighten up the whole kitchen.

Pastel tile backsplash

Pastel Tile Backsplash // Source: Pinterest

Natural Stone

Natural stacked stone backsplashes infuse organic texture with the welcoming warmth of an outdoor fireplace right into the kitchen. Rich authentic materials create coziness.

Stacked stone backsplash

Stacked Stone Backsplash // Source: Pinterest

Mirrored Glass

For contemporary glamour, mirrored glass backsplashes reflect light around the kitchen and create the illusion of depth. The retro mirror effect pairs with any color scheme.

Mirrored glass backsplash

Mirrored Glass Backsplash // Source: Pinterest

Metal Subway Tiles

The edginess of metal meets the retro charm of classic subway tiles. The combo of stainless steel or tin tiles with exposed brick lends industrial ambiance.

Metal subway tile backsplash

Metal Subway Tile Backsplash // Source: Pinterest

FAQs About Backsplashes and Countertops

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about backsplash and countertop installation:

Should I choose my backsplash before countertops?

It’s recommended to finalize your countertop choice first, since that is a bigger investment and foundational kitchen element. Then pick your backsplash to match. However, if you have your heart set on a particular backsplash tile, it is okay to choose that first and select countertops to coordinate later.

What if I want an oversized backsplash?

For backsplashes that extend from countertops all the way to the ceiling, also called a full-height backsplash, the order is reversed. The full backsplash must be installed prior to the countertops being brought in and cut to fit.

Should my backsplash match my countertops?

Backsplashes do not necessarily have to match countertops exactly. Contrasting materials and hues can work well together. Just ensure the two surfaces complement each other. If your countertops have a bold pattern, choose a more simple, neutral backsplash.

Should I avoid certain backsplash materials?

Porous natural materials like wood or unsealed natural stone are best avoided for heavy splash areas near sinks due to potential water damage and staining. Careful sealing is required. Also avoid paper-based wallpapers that can peel.

How do I clean behind a backsplash?

Use a toothbrush and mild cleaner to periodically remove grime buildup from grout lines and corners. Avoid spraying water directly behind the backsplash. Make sure tiles are properly re-adhered whenever any seem loose.

Can backsplashes increase resale value?

Yes, updated backsplashes in desirable materials like marble, glass, or subway tile add value and design appeal to kitchens. They also make kitchens appear well-maintained and modern for buyers.

Get Inspired and Install Your Kitchen Backsplash!

We hope this guide has helped explain the order of operations for countertops and backsplashes, as well as provide loads of gorgeous backsplash inspiration!

Installing a backsplash is an easy DIY opportunity to make a visual impact, protect your kitchen walls, and increase functionality. Just be sure all materials are properly sealed, follow installation best practices, and care for your backsplash properly once in place.

With so many beautiful backsplash designs to choose from, you’re sure to find just the right look to make your kitchen backsplash dreams come true!