Adding a backsplash to your kitchen or bathroom can completely transform the look and feel of the space. Not only does a backsplash serve a practical purpose by protecting the walls from moisture and stains, but it also acts as an eye-catching focal point and design element. When planning for a new backsplash installation, one of the most important considerations is determining how much backsplash to add.
The amount of backsplash you need depends on the size and layout of the space, as well as your personal taste and interior design goals. In this detailed guide, we will discuss all the factors to take into account when determining how much backsplash to install. We will provide general guidelines and recommendations for typical kitchen and bathroom backsplash heights and lengths, as well as describe creative backsplash design ideas to maximize your new tile installation.
How High Up the Wall Should Backsplash Go?
One of the first decisions to make is how high up the wall you want your backsplash to extend. Here are some general guidelines:
Standard Backsplash Height
The standard height for a kitchen backsplash is 4 inches above the countertop. This protects the wall from splashes and stains without overpowering the space. The standard height for a bathroom backsplash is also typically 4 inches above the vanity counter.
Keep in mind that a standard 4 inch backsplash will not protect the wall behind a range or cooktop. For protection behind appliances, the backsplash should extend 18-24 inches from the countertop.
Full Height Backsplash
For a bolder look, you may opt for a full height backsplash installed from counter to ceiling. Full height backsplashes make a huge visual impact, especially when using eye-catching tile or solid surface materials. They also provide more protection for walls in cooking zones.
Full height backsplashes are recommended for:
- Behind ranges or cooktops
- In small galley style kitchens
- On accent walls
- In bathrooms and shower enclosures
The only downside is that full height backsplashes can sometimes make spaces appear smaller if the rest of the room finishes are dark.
Backsplash Height with Upper Cabinets
If you have upper cabinets, the standard recommendation is to end the backsplash right where the cabinets begin. This creates a clean transition line. The height will depend on how high your bottom cabinets are installed.
As a general guideline for a traditional backsplash height with upper cabinets:
- With 30 inch high bottom cabinets, the backsplash would be 34-36 inches high
- With 36 inch high bottom cabinets, the backsplash would be 40-42 inches
- For 42-48 inch high cabinets, take the backsplash to 46-52 inches high
Going above the standard height is also an option if you want to highlight the backsplash design. For example, taking a tile backsplash to the ceiling above the cabinets makes it a standout focal feature.
How Much Horizontal Space to Cover
In addition to choosing the vertical height, you also need to decide how much horizontal space you want the backsplash to cover.
Full Backsplash Length
For a continuous look, take the backsplash tile across the entire back wall from one end to the other. This is recommended for:
- Small spaces like galley kitchens
- When using the same backsplash tile on multiple walls
- If you have a statement backsplash material you want to maximize
Covering the entire back wall creates a unified finished look. The only disadvantage is that more tile equals a higher material cost.
Partial Backsplash Length
For larger kitchens, bathroom vanities, and kitchen islands, another option is doing a partial backsplash length:
- Only behind the cooking/prep areas
- Just around focal areas like an oven range or sink
- From counter to start of wall cabinets
- On one accent wall instead of all walls
This focused approach draws attention to specific areas without the higher cost of tiling multiple large expanses. A partial backsplash also allows you to use a more expensive accent tile in key areas.
Backsplash Return Length
If doing a partial backsplash, an important measurement is how far it should “return” or wrap around perpendicular side walls or islands.
- Take backsplash tile at least 4-6 inches past the edge of a counter
- For a kitchen corner, return the tile 6-12 inches on each adjacent wall
- For a kitchen island, take it 3-6 inches past the edge on each side
Properly wrapping backsplash around corners or ends gives it a finished custom look. It also protects those vulnerable side wall areas prone to grease splatters.
Creative Ways to Use Backsplash Tile
If you want your backsplash to make a design statement, consider using tile in creative layout patterns:
Frame the cooking zone with eye-catching mosaic tile, metal or glass strips. Floating the accent tiles above standard backsplash height draws the eye upwards.
Play with geometric shapes like chevrons, hexagons or running bond brick patterns as an alternative to basic subway tile layouts. Mixing patterns and textures makes the space more dynamic.
Use two different tile materials to differentiate cooking vs non-cooking zones. Or frame specialty appliances like a pro range with a contrasting tile.
Frame out a specialty niche area in the backsplash to highlight decorative objects. Niches add personalized character and spatial depth.
Backsplash with Inserts
Try embedding custom ceramic, metal or glass art tiles into the backsplash design as artistic focal points. This adds a pop of color and visual interest.
Mixing Tile Sizes
Varying the tile size, shape and layout pattern prevents boring uniformity. Combining different size tiles creates contrast and directs attention towards key areas.
Factoring in Other Design Elements
Your backsplash height and coverage should be determined in context of other kitchen or bath design elements:
Backsplash with Lighting
Accent lighting above cabinets often sits lower. Make sure your backsplash doesn’t block lighting or create dark shadows. Extending tile to the ceiling can cover recessed lights.
Backsplashes with Windows
Take window height and placement into account. You typically don’t want the backsplash tile invading window space. Leave negative space above for aesthetics.
Backsplash with Countertops
Make sure there is adequate countertop workspace next to appliances or sinks so a super tall backsplash doesn’t crowd the area.
Backsplash Behind Appliances
Consider the placement of heavy appliances like ranges when choosing backsplash height. Remove appliances before installing for easiest access.
Backsplashes with Cabinets
Look at cabinet size and configuration to determine optimal backsplash height. Consider taking tile to the ceiling for a dramatic statement.
Typical Backsplash Costs
Along with the size of your project, the backsplash material itself has a huge impact on the overall installation costs. Here are typical material costs:
- Ceramic tile: $5-$20 per sq. ft.
- Stone: $40-$100 per sq. ft.
- Glass: $20-$50 per sq. ft.
- Metal or Mosaic: $15-$50 per sq. ft.
- Stainless Steel: $40-$100 per sq. ft.
In addition to material costs, factor in labor expenses for installation, which vary based on project complexity. Finally, don’t forget the additional supplies like grout, adhesive, sealant and trim.
Key Planning Tips
Follow these tips when determining how much backsplash to install:
- Decide on standard 4 inch height vs full height to ceiling
- Cover total linear length or strategic sections only
- Include 4-6 inch backsplash returns around corners
- Use creative patterns and combinations for custom look
- Account for windows, cabinets, lighting and appliances
- Review costs since more tile equals higher budget
- Seek contractor quotes based on tile type and total square footage
- Check that outlet placement allows for planned backsplash height
- Use painter’s tape templates to map out patterns and spacing
Backsplash Height and Length Examples
To help visualize different backsplash dimensions, here are some example diagrams showing standard and full heights, partial vs full lengths, and creative accent patterns.
Standard 4 Inch Backsplash Height
A 4 inch backsplash is the most common standard height above countertops.
Full Height Kitchen Backsplash
A full height backsplash makes a dramatic design statement.
Partial Backsplash with Returns
This partial backsplash wraps around corners with 4-6 inch return lengths.
Full Backsplash with Accent Tiles
Creative accent strips and inserts provide visual interest.
How much does a backsplash cost per square foot?
Backsplash cost per square foot ranges from $5-$20 for ceramic tile, $15-$50 for glass or mosaic, $40-$100 for stone or stainless steel. Material, labor, pattern complexity and accessories impact overall project cost.
What is the standard height for a kitchen backsplash?
The typical kitchen backsplash height is 4 inches. For a full backsplash behind appliances the recommendation is 18-24 inches above countertops. Backsplashes above cabinets often go to 36-42 inches high.
How far should backsplash go on side walls?
Properly returning backsplashes on side walls or around islands requires going at least 4-6 inches past the counter edge. For kitchen corners, extend 6-12 inches onto adjacent walls.
Can backsplash go all the way to ceiling?
Backsplash can absolutely be installed full ceiling height for a dramatic look. This works well if using it as an accent wall or to highlight a specialty cooking zone. Just account for room height and conflicts with cabinets or lighting.
Should backsplash tile go around windows?
It’s recommended to leave negative space and not take backsplash tile across the entire wall if a window is present. Keep the window area clear for aesthetics, functionally and to simplify installation.
How long does it take to install a kitchen backsplash?
A typical kitchen backsplash takes 2-3 days from start to finish. Removing old backsplash, preparing the wall surface, measuring and cutting tiles, then grouting and sealing requires several work sessions.
Determining how much backsplash to install requires balancing functional protection, design aesthetics, and budget considerations. While standard backsplash height is 4 inches, going to the ceiling makes a dramatic statement. Covering the entire back wall provides a polished finish, but partial lengths can also be eye-catching. Creative patterns and accent tiles transform the backsplash into a true focal feature. Just be sure to account for the room layout, existing elements like lighting and windows, and the tile material cost based on total square footage. With proper planning of the backsplash height, length, and coverage, you can achieve both a stunning and highly functional installation.