Does Backsplash Go On Before Or After Countertop?

Installing a beautiful backsplash is one of the most rewarding parts of a kitchen remodel. Not only does it provide an opportunity to add visual interest and personality, but it also protects the walls from splashes and spills. However, one question that often comes up is whether the backsplash should be installed before or after the countertops. Here is a detailed look at the pros and cons of each approach.

Should Backsplash Go On Before Countertops?

Installing backsplash before countertops has some advantages:

Easier Installation

It’s often easier to precisely cut and fit the backsplash tiles when the countertop is not in place. With an open back wall, you have full access which allows for easier layout and alignment. This can result in a more seamless look.

Complete Coverage

Tiling the backsplash first means you can take the tiles all the way to the wall without gaps that would be caused by overlapping with the countertop. This gives you complete splash coverage behind the countertop.

Better Adhesion

Since the backsplash has a solid wall to adhere to, tiling before the countertop can allow for stronger adhesion. Without a countertop lip in the way, the backsplash can be firmly pressed into the wall adhesive.

Avoid Countertop Damage

Installing the backsplash first eliminates the risk of damaging a finished countertop during the tiling process. Grout and adhesive can stain or scratch countertops if not carefully applied.

Continuity with Wall Tile

If using the same tile for the backsplash and wall, it may look more uniform to tile the entire area at one time before adding the countertop. This creates one continuous look.

Should Backsplash Go On After Countertops?

However, there are also some good reasons to install the backsplash after the countertop:

Better Fit with Countertop

Since countertops rarely sit perfectly flush to the wall, installing the backsplash after allows you to account for any gaps or unevenness. The backsplash can be cut and fitted to match up exactly with the countertop edge.

Utilize Countertop as Starting Point

The countertop can act as a handy guide when installing the backsplash. Rather than measuring, you can start the bottom row of backsplash tile right on top of the countertop to ensure it lines up accurately.

Highlight Countertop Edge

Putting up the backsplash after the countertop creates a distinct border that highlights the countertop edge. This can help accentuate the look of natural stone, quartz, or other countertop materials.

Protect Countertop During Tiling

When tiling, small bits of adhesive, grout, and tile shards can land on the countertop surface. By installing the countertop first, you avoid damaging or dirtying up a finished surface.

Allow for Countertop Overhang

Solid surface or stone slabs often have a slight overhang beyond the cabinetry. Installing backsplash first can interfere with this overhang. Doing it afterward allows the overhang to freely extend beyond the backsplash.

Best Practices for Backsplash Installation

Whichever order you choose, there are some important tips to ensure backsplash success:

  • Carefully measure and layout tile placement before applying any adhesive. Chalk lines are very helpful.
  • Grout lines should align with main features like windows or cabinets.
  • Use masking tape and drop cloths to protect other surfaces.
  • Thoroughly clean and prep the surface for maximum adhesion.
  • Use tile spacers for even grout lines.
  • Seal grout once fully cured.
  • Caulk perimeter edges with a flexible sealant.
  • Consider trim pieces like bullnose tile for a finished look.


While there are good arguments on both sides, most experts recommend installing backsplash tile before the countertop. This allows for a more seamless application and avoids damaging the countertop during the tiling process. However, if care is taken to properly protect the countertop, tiling after can also produce great results. The most important thing is doing the prep work, carefully laying out the tile, and taking steps to get clean finished edges. With proper planning and technique, you can end up with a stunning backsplash that perfectly complements your new countertop.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplash Installation

Below are some common questions homeowners have about backsplash installation:

Should I do the backsplash or countertop first?

It’s generally recommended to install the backsplash before installing the countertop. This allows you to take the backsplash all the way to the wall without any gaps, and also avoids damaging the countertop during the tiling process.

What is the best material for a kitchen backsplash?

Tile is the most popular backsplash material for its durability, easy cleaning, and design options. Ceramic, porcelain, glass, and natural stone tile all make great backsplash choices.

How high should a backsplash be?

The minimum recommended height for a backsplash is 4 inches. However, a backsplash typically looks best at 18-24 inches high or up to the bottom of wall cabinets. Extending to the ceiling can also be an option.

Should backsplash match cabinet color?

The backsplash does not have to match cabinetry. Many homeowners opt for contrasting colors to make the backsplash a focal point. However, you can also pick up an accent color from cabinets for a coordinated look.

How do you end a backsplash without an outlet?

If ending a backsplash in the middle of a wall without an outlet, finish it off with a trim or bullnose edge. You can also end it along the nearest grout line for a clean look.

Can backsplash tile be installed over existing tile?

In most cases, it’s not recommended to install new backsplash tile over existing tile. The layers can separate over time. It’s best to remove old tile and start fresh on the wall.

Should backsplash tile span the entire wall?

Full wall backsplashes have a dramatic effect but require more tilework. A more common approach is tiling just the area behind the countertop to protect the wall near cooking areas.

How do you cut backsplash tile around outlets?

Use a tile wet saw or angle grinder with a diamond blade to carefully notch out small openings in tiles to fit around outlets and switches. Take precautions against broken tiles.

Should backsplash grout match tile color?

Grout does not have to match the tile color. White and off-white grout provides contrast and visually outlines each tile. However, matching grout can create a monolithic look if desired.

Installing a backsplash is very rewarding, just be sure to plan the layout and tile cuts carefully. With some skill and patience, you can create a backsplash you’ll enjoy showing off for years to come!