How High is a Backsplash?

A backsplash is an important design element that serves both form and function in a kitchen. Its height is an important consideration when planning and installing a backsplash. In this comprehensive guide, we will examine the recommended height, factors that determine height, height variations, and tips for selecting the ideal backsplash height for your kitchen.

What is a Backsplash?

A backsplash is a protective surface installed on the wall behind a countertop, stove, or sink. Backsplashes are typically made of tile, metal, glass, or other water-resistant materials.

The main purposes of a backsplash are to:

  • Protect the wall from water damage, grease splatter, and stains
  • Provide an accent area to coordinate with the countertop and cabinetry
  • Enhance the visual appeal and style of the kitchen

Backsplashes most commonly run along the wall behind the kitchen counters and range. They can range from 4-6 inches for a basic application up to the bottom of wall cabinets for a full backsplash.

Recommended Standard Backsplash Height

The standard height for a basic backsplash is 4 inches (10cm) from the countertop. This is the minimum height recommended to protect the wall behind a counter or sink.

A 4 inch backsplash is ideal for:

  • Protecting the wall behind the counter
  • Providing some accent without overpowering
  • Coordinating with standard tile sizes like 4×4 inch tiles
  • Keeping costs down with smaller application area

A standard 4 inch backsplash can be used with any countertop material and requires less tile than a full backsplash. It offers basic back wall protection without the cost of tiling the entire wall space.

Full Height Backsplashes

While 4 inches is standard, many kitchens today feature a backsplash that extends all the way up to meet the bottom of wall cabinets.

The average height of wall cabinets is 18-24 inches above the countertop. This allows for a full backsplash of 18-24 inches in height.

There are several benefits to a full height backsplash:

  • Provides protection for the entire back wall area
  • Offers more flexibility and design impact with tile patterns
  • Helps bridge the gap visually between countertops and wall cabinets
  • Can make a small kitchen appear larger

A full backsplash requires more tile work and thus has a higher material and labor cost. The added impact may be worth the investment for many homeowners.

Factors That Determine Backsplash Height

Several factors come into play when determining the ideal backsplash height:

Height of Wall Cabinets

As mentioned, a full height backsplash extends from countertop to cabinet. The height of your wall cabinets will determine the maximum height of your full backsplash.

Standard cabinet height is 18-24 inches from countertop to bottom of cabinet. Cabinet height can increase up to 26-30 inches for a more custom, roomy appearance.

Measuring cabinet height is important to figure how high you want to take the backsplash. It may not make sense to go full height if your cabinets hang very high on the wall.

Countertop Choice

The type of countertop plays a role in backsplash height as well. A standard height counter of 36 inches would require less backsplash than a taller counter height around 42 inches.

Matching the backsplash to complement the countertop material is also important. You may want a small 4 inch backsplash with busy granite but prefer full height with understated quartz.

Tile Style and Patterns

If using tile, make sure to pick the right size and pattern for the backsplash height. Large tile sizes may not look proportional on a short 4 inch backsplash. Small mosaic tiles can become overwhelming on a full height application.

Some tile patterns are designed to be displayed on a larger scale. Take tile design and scale into account based on backsplash height.

Planned Use of Backsplash Area

Think about how you use your back wall space when deciding on backsplash height. If you often stand directly in front of the area while cooking, a full height backsplash will provide more protection.

If you tend to place small appliances like a coffee maker along the counter, a short backsplash might fit your usage better.

Backsplash Height Variations

While standard or full height are the most common, you can customize backsplash height in other ways:

Partial Height

A partial height backsplash ranges somewhere in between standard and full height. For example, tiling half way up the wall to about 12-15 inches can provide more protection than 4 inch alone.

This can be a good compromise if you want more backsplash but not the cost or pattern commitment of taking it all the way up.

Inverted Heights

Creative backsplash designs may vary the height in different areas. For example, taking the backsplash full height behind the range where more splatter protection is needed.

Alternating between short and tall across separate back wall sections is an interesting technique to delineate different work zones.

Stepped or Tiered Backsplash

Tiering a backsplash creates horizontal sections of different heights across one wall.

For example, using 4 inch behind the sink, 12 inch sections flanking that, and full height outside of those. This can create a more customized look.

Backsplashes on Multiple Walls

While the back wall is standard, backsplashes can wrap around to side walls in peninsulas or island spaces. The height can transition from standard to taller and back down as you move across connected walls.

Continuing backsplash tile onto side walls or islands provides greater integration and flow.

Tips for Selecting Backsplash Height

Here are a few tips when planning your kitchen backsplash height:

  • Take careful measurements of existing cabinets, countertops, and walls
  • Use masking or painter’s tape to block out different height options
  • Gather tile samples and arrange mock layouts based on backsplash heights
  • Look at backsplash examples in kitchens with similar cabinet and counter styles
  • Talk to an experienced tile installer about the best height for your specific kitchen
  • Plan an appropriate height to work with the scale of your selected tiles and patterns
  • Consider how you use your back wall space and needs for protection and splatter coverage
  • Make sure to coordinate backsplash height with range hood placement if applicable

The right backsplash height comes down to a combination of practical needs and aesthetic concerns. Take time to evaluate both form and function when planning this important kitchen design decision.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplash Height

Many homeowners have additional questions about backsplash height. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How high should a backsplash be behind a range?

Behind a stove range, it is recommended to install a full height backsplash that extends from countertop to bottom of wall cabinets. This could be 18-24 inches or more. The extra height provides greater protection when cooking and splattering on the wall.

What if I have very high wall cabinets – how high can the backsplash go?

If your wall cabinets are installed higher than normal with the bottom at 30 inches or above, consider limiting the backsplash height. Taking it all the way up may look disproportionate. An alternative is tiering or staggering the height in sections so it does not reach all the way up.

Do I have to install a backsplash if I have granite or quartz countertops?

It is not required but still recommended to install a backsplash even with granite, quartz or other countertops. The backsplash protects the wall from moisture, oils and food. Not having a backsplash requires vigilant cleaning of the wall.

Can a backsplash be curved or use other creative shapes?

Absolutely! While straight, flat applications are most common, a backsplash can incorporate curved or angled edges. Mixing standard height with a curved upper edge can give your backsplash a more fluid, customized look.

What is the minimum height required for a backsplash?

The absolute minimum backsplash height should be 2 inches. This allows at least a small portion of wall to be covered and protected. However, the standard minimum recommended height is still 4 inches for a proper application.

How can I decorate the wall space above a shorter backsplash?

Options to decorate the open wall space above a backsplash include:

  • Hanging framed art, floating shelves or pendant lighting
  • Installing shiplap, beadboard or another accent wall treatment
  • Painting a coordinating wall color that contrasts with backsplash tile
  • Adding removable wallpaper for pattern and texture

Proper planning for how to complement the area above a backsplash is key.


Determining the ideal backsplash height is an important kitchen design decision. The standard height is 4 inches, however full height backsplashes extending to the cabinets have become quite popular.

Consider cabinet height, countertop choice, tile patterns, and how you use the space when planning backsplash elevation. Varying or tiering heights in creative ways can provide visual interest. Be sure to measure carefully and evaluate both practical and aesthetic factors.

With the right backsplash height selected, this eye-catching element can provide the perfect finishing touch for your kitchen design.