Backsplashes are a popular kitchen design element that protect walls from splashes and stains. But how do you properly finish or “end” a backsplash? There are a few techniques to get a clean look.
Choosing Where to End the Backsplash
The first decision is choosing where you want the backsplash to stop. Here are some common options:
End at Wall Cabinets
Ending the backsplash where wall cabinets begin is a clean look. This prevents you from having to cut tiles around cabinetry. It also lets the wall cabinets stand out visually.
End at Countertop
Ending at the countertop is another seamless option. This allows your countertop material like granite to be a focal point. It also avoids awkward cuts around a sink.
End at Bottom of Upper Cabinets
You can end the backsplash just below the bottom of upper cabinets. This leaves a small gap of wall space and avoids interfering with cabinets.
End at a Specific Height
Some homeowners end their backsplash at a specific height like 4 feet. This suits the space without overcrowding.
Techniques for Ending a Backsplash
Once you decide where to end the backsplash, the next step is choosing a technique for a polished finish.
Use an Edge or Bullnose Tile
Bullnose tiles have a rounded finished edge. This provides a nice clean end rather than a raw tile edge. Bullnose tiles come in many materials like ceramic, stone, or glass.
Cut the bullnose tiles to fit along the ending edge. Make sure the rounded edge faces outward for a smooth finish. This is an easy option for a built-in finished look.
Install a Matching Backsplash Strip
Another option is using a coordinating tile strip in a matching or contrasting color. Cut the strip to fit along the top edge where you want to end the backsplash.
This gives your backsplash a custom finished look, similar to trim. Make sure the thickness matches the backsplash tile to keep the lines straight.
For certain materials like glass tile, you may not find a matching bullnose tile. In this case, caulking can provide a clean finish.
Apply caulk along the raw tile edge in a matching grout color. Tool the caulk to create a smooth finishing bead. Let it dry fully before cleaning up excess.
Include an Accent Border
Adding a border is a decorative way to end a backsplash. Use tile strips or mosaic sheets to create a border that fits the space.
Place the border tiles where you want the backsplash to end for a pretty, finished look. This also avoids exposed tile edges.
Backsplash End Options by Material
Certain backsplash materials lend themselves better to specific ending techniques.
Ceramic or porcelain tile backsplashes can use bullnose tiles or tile strips well. Stone tiles also pair nicely with bullnose pieces.
Make sure the bullnose or trim you choose matches the thickness and style. Mosaic sheets make great accent borders for tiny tile backsplashes.
Glass tile backsplashes tend to require caulking for a smooth edge since bullnose glass is rare. Make sure to use caulk that matches the grout color.
You can also end with a strip of matching mosaic tiles. This adds beautiful shine while hiding rough edges.
Metal backsplash tile comes in aluminum, copper, stainless steel and more. Using coordinating metal strips to end metal backsplashes provides nice definition.
Caulking also works but may stand out on reflective metal tile. Take care to smooth the caulk beads evenly for the best look.
Stone backsplashes like marble, travertine or granite can also end nicely with bullnose pieces made from the same material. This continues the high-end look with a custom finish.
Cutting Tiles and Pieces to Size
Cutting the ending tiles or strips to size takes precision. Here are some tips:
- Use a wet saw with a diamond blade for best results
- Measure carefully to cut pieces to fit the ending space
- Cut bullnose and edge pieces slightly longer, then sand or grind for exact fit
- Keep edge tiles consistent in size for the cleanest lines
- Take time to make cuts accurately to avoid gaps or uneven edges
Install any accent borders or strips first if included in your design. Then measure and cut bullnose or other edge pieces to finish.
Installing End Pieces
Installing the tiles or strips to end your backsplash takes care to keep a polished look:
- Thoroughly clean the ending wall area to remove dirt, oil and debris
- Apply thinset mortar evenly where edge pieces will be placed
- Press tiles or strips into place, wiggling slightly to ensure adhesion
- Use plastic spacers to keep even consistent grout lines and gaps
- Let set fully before grouting according to tile manufacturer instructions
- Grout carefully using a grout float, wiping away excess
- Remove spacers once grout has dried
- Use caulk if needed to seal any joints or gaps for a smooth finish
Take your time during installation to keep lines straight and make a seamless transition.
Achieving a Built-In Look
For the most seamless, custom finish:
- Select edge pieces in a matching size and texture
- Miter cut bullnose edges at 45 degree angles for sharp corners
- Keep grout lines perfectly matched up between tiles and edge pieces
- Tool caulk neatly to avoid uneven thickness or texture
- Use sanded grout for wider grout lines to avoid cracking or chipping
Proper prep and precise installation will give your backsplash ending a beautifully built-in look.
Decorating the Backsplash Ending Area
The ending point of your backsplash offers fun opportunities to accessorize:
Add Floating Shelves
Hang floating shelves in the area above the backsplash to display cherished kitchen items. Stagger them at different levels for extra dimension.
Install Mini Pendant Lights
Mini pendant lights add charming illumination right above the backsplash ending. Opt for glass globes or metal finishes that tie into your overall kitchen decor.
Set a trailing plant like ivy or philodendrons on the backsplash edge. Greenery makes a lively accent and can conceal any imperfect edges.
Mount a Mini Gallery Wall
Use the empty space to mount a mini art gallery wall. Mix frames, prints, photos or a mirror mosaic to inject your personality.
Display Open Shelving
Open shelving makes a great transition from the backsplash to empty wall. Style the shelves minimally with pretty dishes, vases or coffee table books.
Backsplash End Ideas by Style
The end of your backsplash is a great spot to highlight your personal style:
For farmhouse style, end with a reclaimed wood shelf holding ceramics. Fixtures like an exposed Edison bulb or brass pendant light also enhance the homey vibe.
Modern designs might end the backsplash with a floating chrome shelf or sleek wall sconces. Continue the clean look with a metal strip or glass mosaic border.
Rustic kitchens can end backsplashes with a handsome wood corbel or floating barn board shelf. Mini pendant lights with an antique black finish also suit the raw vibe well.
For traditional kitchens, decorate the backsplash ending with a wall-mounted plate rack to display fine china ornately. Picture lights also make graceful accents above an elegant bullnose edge.
Coastal kitchen backsplashes can transition to empty wall with natural elements like sea grass baskets, driftwood shelving or a net holding shells. Whitewashed wood strips or tiles continue the beachy look.
Avoiding Pitfalls When Ending a Backsplash
Finessing the perfect ending for your backsplash may take a bit of trial and error. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid:
- Choosing edge pieces that are the wrong thickness or texture
- Failing to precisely miter cut bullnose pieces for sharp corners
- Not thoroughly cleaning the ending surface before installation
- Rushing through cutting tiles causing uneven sizing or gaps
- Not using proper spacers leading to uneven grout line thickness
- Mismatching caulk colors to the grout resulting in an obvious transition
- Forgetting to remove plastic tile spacers after grouting
- Caulking messily or unevenly leaving unsightly globs or stripes
- Selecting accent borders or strips that clash with the backsplash design
FAQs About Ending a Backsplash
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about finishing backsplash installation:
Q: Is bullnose tile best to end a backsplash?
A: Bullnose tile is a popular choice for its built-in finished look. But accent strips, caulking or special cut edge tiles can also give great results depending on your material and design.
Q: Should I end my backsplash at the same height all around?
A: For the most seamless look, keeping the backsplash ending at the same height usually works best. But it’s fine to end at different spots if it suits your space better.
Q: How do I cut the ending tiles or strips neatly?
A: Use a wet saw with a diamond blade designed for your material to get clean, accurate cuts. Always measure carefully and cut strips slightly long, then grind or sand to a precise fit.
Q: Can I end a tile backsplash without bullnose pieces?
A: Yes, you can end with caulking for a simple finish if bullnose tiles are unavailable. Just make sure the caulk color matches the grout. Accent strips are another option.
Q: Should I seal the transition area after ending my backsplash?
A: Sealing the ending with caulk or silicone is a great way to prevent moisture damage, gaps, and crumbs. Tool it evenly for a smooth look.
Ending a Backsplash Beautifully
Ending your backsplash design artfully brings your whole kitchen together! Use these techniques to give your backsplash a polished, built-in look:
- Choose an ending point that suits your space
- Select coordinated edge tiles or strips to finish raw edges
- Cut pieces with precision to achieve straight lines
- Install edge tiles neatly, using spacers and ensuring adhesion
- Apply caulk seamlessly for smooth transitions if needed
- Grout and seal thoroughly to prevent damage over time
- Decorate the ending area to highlight your personal taste
With careful planning and execution, you can achieve the perfect backsplash ending that delights for years to come. Get creative with trim, lighting, shelving and style to make this space uniquely you. Your beautiful, protected backsplash will be a kitchen focal point you’ll enjoy showing off.
There are many options for ending a kitchen backsplash beautifully from bullnose tile to decorative shelving. Carefully choosing an ending spot, technique, and trim style that suits your space and taste yields the best results. With precise cutting and installation of edge pieces, you can achieve a polished, built-in look. Add personalized touches to make the transition uniquely your own. A thoughtfully designed backsplash ending brings the whole kitchen together in style while protecting your walls.