What is a Backsplash?
A backsplash is a protective surface that is installed on the wall behind a sink, stove, or countertop in kitchens, bathrooms, and even laundry rooms. The main purpose of a backsplash is to protect the walls from water damage, stains, and splashes. It also accentuates the design aesthetic of the kitchen or bathroom.
Backsplashes are commonly made of ceramic tiles, metal, glass, marble, and stone. The most popular options are ceramic, porcelain, and glass subway tiles. Backsplash height varies – it can either run from the countertop to the bottom of the upper cabinets or extend all the way to the ceiling.
Should Backsplash Go Up to Cabinets?
Whether the backsplash should touch the cabinets or not is an individual preference based on the desired look and functionality. Here are some key considerations:
- Going all the way up creates a seamless, built-in look for a more upscale aesthetic.
- It makes the space look taller and roomier.
- Gives an opportunity to add visual interest and textures with mosaic tiles or geometric patterns.
- Not going up to the cabinets creates a visual break between the backsplash and cabinets.
- Extending backsplash to cabinets provides extra protection from spills and splashes.
- Minimizes the gap that collects grease and grime.
- Prevents water from seeping behind backsplash into cabinetry.
- Not going all the way up makes it easier to clean the countertop-to-cabinet surface.
- Backsplash that extends to cabinets requires more tile and labor, increasing overall project cost.
- A partial backsplash is more budget-friendly.
Pros of Backsplash Going All the Way Up
Seamless Look – A full-height backsplash running from countertop to ceiling creates a streamlined, built-in appearance for a high-end, designer look.
Prevents Grime Buildup – Leaving a gap between backsplash and upper cabinets creates a place for grease splatters and grime to accumulate. A full backsplash provides a seamless transition to prevent buildup.
Extra Protection from Spills – Extending tile or other backsplash material all the way up safeguards the wall behind cabinets from drips, spills and splashes.
Easier to Clean – A full backsplash is wiped down in one smooth motion during cleaning. A disjointed partial backsplash with countertop gap requires extra attention when cleaning.
Visually Expand Small Spaces – Floor to ceiling backsplash makes the kitchen appear taller and roomier, helping small spaces feel more open.
Showcase Creative Designs – It enables the use of decorative mosiacs, 3D tiles, metallic accents, or geometric designs as an artistic focal point.
Enhanced Resale Value – Upscale, designer elements like a full backsplash improve a kitchen’s value for resale.
Cons of Backsplash Going All the Way Up
Higher Cost – More surface area covered in tile equals higher material and installation costs. Extending up to 9 feet can add significant expense.
Harder Installation – Tiling a continuous floor-to-ceiling backsplash is more labor intensive, tricky around outlets, and requires precise cutting.
Limited Access to Wall Outlets – Floor to ceiling tile can make it harder to access outlets on the backsplash wall for plugging in countertop appliances.
Darkens the Space – Dark backsplash tile running up to the top can close off the space and make it feel darker.
Limits Wall Decor – Eliminates the option to hang art, clocks or other decorative items on the backsplash wall.
Magnifies Irregularities – Any uneven tiles, grout lines or mitered edges are more visible and obvious from countertop level.
Difficult to Modify Later – Removing portions of a full backsplash for modifications or access to the wall is trickier.
Not to Ceiling in 8-Foot Room – It will look odd and disjointed if the backsplash only extends partway up a standard 8-foot kitchen.
Partial Backsplash Height Options
For those who opt not to extend the backsplash fully up to the cabinets, here are some stylish options for partial backsplash height:
- 4 Inches – This is the minimum height required to protect the wall from minor splashes. It gives a minimalist, clean look.
- 6 Inches – Adds more impact and protection than 4 inches. This works well with both contemporary and traditional kitchens.
- 10-12 Inches – This height style allows you to incorporate a decorative border or liner at the top edge. It offers ample splatter protection.
- 16-18 Inches – A mid-height style creates a noticeably bold backsplash that becomes a focal feature of the kitchen.
- Countertop Height – Backsplash that ends right where the upper cabinets begin is a popular, cost-conscious choice.
- Varying Heights – Consider mixing backsplash heights on different walls or sections for interest. Try a full height focal wall.
Factors to Consider
Here are some important factors to help guide your decision on backsplash height:
- Cabinet Style – Full backsplash works well with shaker style cabinets. With ornate cabinets, a partial backsplash prevents an overly busy look.
- Countertops – Backsplash traditionally matches countertop materials like quartz or granite. Extending quartz up can get pricey.
- Sink Location – Full height makes sense above a sink. Partial heights work for other walls or non-splash zones.
- Appliances – Need access to outlets for appliances? That may dictate not tiling up to the receptacles.
- Ceiling Height – Standard 8 foot ceilings look best with 4-12 inch partial backsplash. Higher ceilings suit the full height.
- Window Placement – Consider how high backsplash may interfere with any lower wall cabinets or windows installed above the sink.
- DIY Skills – For novice DIYers, it is easier to install a shorter partial backsplash; full height is trickier.
While the choice depends on your kitchen plans and personal taste, in general we recommend:
- Extend backsplash fully from countertops to ceiling when possible for high-end remodels or new construction.
- For more budget-friendly options, 4-12 inch partial backsplash heights add an attractive, protective pop of tile.
- To get the look of full height for less, do a focal wall of floor-to-ceiling tile behind the cooktop for impact.
- For resale value, cleaner look, and better protection, at minimum do countertop height backsplash under upper cabinets.
No matter what height you choose, always use durable, water-resistant backsplash materials like ceramic, porcelain or glass tile. Properly seal the edges and caulk the joints for a finished look. Take into account the overall kitchen design, cabinetry, countertops and your budget when planning backsplash height. With strategic design choices, you can create a backsplash that both protects and enhances your kitchen’s style.
FAQs About Backsplash Height
What is the standard backsplash height?
The most common backsplash height is 4 inches, but many designs today extend to the bottom of the upper cabinets at about 18 inches. Full height to the ceiling is also popular.
How high should a backsplash be?
Ideally, backsplash should extend to at least 4 inches above the countertop. For best protection and design, go to the ceiling if possible. Standard heights are 18-24 inches or countertop to cabinet height.
Should backsplash go to bottom or top of cabinets?
Backsplash to the bottom of upper cabinets provides good splash protection and a cleaner transition, which is ideal. Taking it to the top of cabinets is even better for a seamless look.
What height is easiest for DIY backsplash?
The easiest DIY backsplash height is 4-6 inches. Partial heights up to 12-16 inches are manageable for beginners. Full floor-to-ceiling is tricky and best left to pros.
What backsplash goes best with white cabinets?
White shaker cabinets suit marble, glass or subway tile backsplash. Dark grout adds contrast. Take backsplash to ceiling for an upscale look. For traditional white cabinets, try blue, black or beige tile.
Can backsplash be wider than cabinets?
Yes, it is possible to have a backsplash wider than your cabinets. This creates negative space for a modern look. The backsplash can protrude 3-5 inches beyond the cabinet edges.
The decision about how high to take your backsplash comes down to your room dimensions, design taste, and kitchen needs. While a full backsplash provides maximum protection and a streamlined look, partial backsplash designs give you more flexibility and budget-conscious options. Take into account your cabinets, countertops, appliances and overall kitchen aesthetics. Plan tile placement strategically so outlets aren’t obscured. With smart planning, you can design a backsplash that is both stylish and functional. Protect your walls while adding a pop of color and texture with the perfect backsplash height.