How High Does a Backsplash Need to Be?

A backsplash is an important design element in any kitchen. Not only does it protect your walls from splashes and stains while cooking, it also adds visual interest and ties your whole kitchen decor together. When installing a backsplash, one of the most common questions is how high it should extend up the wall. Here is a guide to determining the ideal backsplash height for your kitchen.

What is the Purpose of a Backsplash?

Before getting into the specifics of height, it’s helpful to understand the functionality of a backsplash. Here are some of the main reasons for installing one:

  • Protects walls from splatters – Backsplashes safeguard your painted walls from grease, food splatters, and water that can stain and damage the surface. Tiles, metal, glass and other backsplash materials are easy to wipe clean.
  • Adds decorative flair – Backsplashes come in a wide range of materials, colors, shapes and textures. They are a great way to introduce your own style into the kitchen.
  • Ties the decor together – A backsplash acts as an anchor, connecting your countertops to the upper cabinets for a unified, finished look. It also complements your overall kitchen decor.
  • Increases resale value – An attractive, updated backsplash can help boost your home’s resale potential and give buyers a good impression. It shows you’ve invested in finishing the space.

Standard Backsplash Height

The standard height for most backsplash installations is 4 to 6 inches above the counter or countertop. This height range allows the backsplash to adequately protect the wall from most cooking splatters. If you have a standard 36-inch high countertop, that means your backsplash will extend from the counter to 40-42 inches up the wall.

This is considered the minimum splash zone for most kitchens. The standard backsplash height recommendation is based on the installation of backsplashes behind ranges, sinks and cooktops where cooking and washing dishes occurs.

Factors That Affect Backsplash Height

While 4-6 inches is typical, you may want to go taller depending on factors like:

  • Range or stove – If you have an exceptionally wide range or stove, consider a 6-8 inch backsplash behind it. The greater width means more potential for splattering as you move pots and pans across the cooktop surface.
  • Deep sinks – Similarly, an extra deep sink basin will result in more water splashing. Increase backsplash height to 6 inches or more to account for a deeper sink.
  • Seated diners – Backsplashes should protect walls from seated diners at islands and peninsulas. Extend to at least 18 inches high or install a full height backsplash.
  • Tall cooks – If anyone cooking is well over 6 feet tall or has a tendency to cook energetically, opt for a 8-10 inch backsplash height.
  • Existing backsplash – If you are adding a new backsplash behind existing countertops, match the height of any existing backsplash as closely as possible for a seamless look.
  • Upper cabinetry – Don’t forget to account for the bottom edge of any wall cabinets above the backsplash area. Leave a gap between the backsplash and cabinet.

Full Height Backsplashes

While uncommon in most kitchens, you may also choose to extend your backsplash material in a full wall application from countertop to ceiling. Reasons for a full backsplash include:

  • Minimalist contemporary kitchens with a sleek, linear look
  • Glass, stone, metal or other backsplash materials you want to feature
  • Areas prone to a heavy splatter, like behind a fish fryer
  • Tying in accent walls or tiles that extend to the ceiling

Full backsplashes can make it appear like your backsplash and wall are a single unified surface. This makes for a very bold, dramatic statement. Full backsplashes also provide maximum protection from splashes and stains. Just note that cleaning may be a bit tougher!

Backsplash Height by Kitchen Location

Here are some backsplash height recommendations based on common kitchen layouts:

Behind the kitchen sink – 4 to 6 inches high.

Behind the stove – Minimum 6 inches. Increase to 8-10 inches for extra wide ranges.

Kitchen island – Minimum 18 inches for seating. Optional full height backsplash.

Bar/prep area – 6 to 8 inches high, depending on bar activities.

Sections without plumbing – Optional short 4 inch backsplash or none.

Achieving the Right Backsplash Height

Here are some tips for getting your backsplash height just right:

  • Measure from countertop to wall cabinets before installing. Account for any gaps needed.
  • Read backsplash manufacturer instructions. Some materials have minimum height requirements.
  • Use painters tape or a ledger board when tiling to clearly mark desired height.
  • For a lower backsplash, cut tiles to smaller sizes or use edge pieces, rather than having cut edges at the top.
  • Use extra sealing and waterproofing for sinks and cooktop areas prone to heavy moisture.

The Bottom Line

When trying to determine the best backsplash height for your kitchen, take into account the main splatter zones, traffic areas and seating heights. While the standard recommendation is 4-6 inches, opt for a taller backsplash in any areas prone to extra cooking mess or wetness. And don’t be afraid to break the mold by extending your backsplash to the ceiling for a contemporary linear look. Considering both form and function will ensure you select the perfect backsplash height.

Frequently Asked Questions

How high should a backsplash be behind a range?

Behind a range or cooktop, a 6 to 8 inch high backsplash is recommended. This protects the wall from grease splatters and reflects heat away. For very wide ranges, extending the backsplash to 10-12 inches high provides even more protection.

Can a backsplash be too high?

Backsplash heights over 10 inches may start to look disproportionate and encroach on upper cabinet space. Exceptionally tall backsplashes extending to 16 inches or higher can also be cumbersome for cleaning and maintenance.

What height should I make my full wall backsplash?

For a dramatic floor-to-ceiling backsplash, install your backsplash material so it extends all the way from the countertops up the wall to meet the underside of the upper cabinets. This creates a full wall application.

Should backsplash match the height of existing backsplash?

When replacing a section of backsplash or tying into existing, it is usually best to match heights as closely as possible. This provides a tailored, cohesive look. An extreme difference in heights can look disjointed.

How much of a gap should I leave between backsplash and cabinets?

Leave a gap of at least 1/4 inch between the top of the backsplash and the bottom of wall cabinets. A gap allows room for cleaning and prevents damage from cabinet doors and drawer pulls bumping the backsplash edge.


Determining the ideal backsplash height involves balancing function and aesthetics. While the standard recommendation is 4-6 inches, tailor the height to the activities, cooks and styles in your own kitchen. Use taller backsplashes where protection from heavy splashing is needed, and consider extending to the ceiling for a bold look. Keeping your backsplash height in the 6-10 inch range will suit most kitchens. Properly installed, your backsplash will beautifully finish your kitchen decor for years to come.