How Tall Should Backsplash Be?

Backsplash height is an important consideration when designing a kitchen. The right backsplash height can enhance the look and function of your kitchen. When determining how tall your backsplash should be, there are a few key factors to take into account.

What is a Backsplash?

A backsplash is a vertical surface, usually made of tile, installed on the wall behind a countertop, sink, or stove. Backsplashes serve both practical and decorative purposes in kitchens.

On a practical level, backsplashes protect the walls from water damage, grease splatters, and other types of messy spills. The water-resistant materials used for backsplashes make them easy to clean and maintain.

Aesthetically, backsplashes provide an opportunity to add visual interest, color, and texture to your kitchen décor. The design options for backsplashes today are vast, including materials like ceramic, glass, metal, and stone.

Backsplash Height Considerations

When deciding how tall to make your backsplash, keep the following factors in mind:


The main purpose of your backsplash will impact the ideal height. Full height backsplashes that extend all the way to the underside of wall cabinets provide maximum splash protection. Shorter backsplashes in the range of 4-6 inches are more decorative and visually separate countertops and walls.

Backsplash Materials

Lighter weight materials like ceramic tiles or glass tiles suit shorter backsplash applications. Heavier materials like natural stone work better for full height backsplashes, as they offer more protection and are supported by the countertop below.

Countertop Choice

The type of countertop you select will influence backsplash height as well. Low-profile countertops like laminate or butcher block suit taller backsplashes. Solid surface or stone countertops with thicker edges can dwarf a short backsplash.

Kitchen Style

Contemporary kitchens tend to feature full height backsplashes for a sleek, continuous surface. Traditional kitchens may incorporate a 4-6 inch backsplash as accent trim. But style preferences vary, so choose the look you like.


In general, more backsplash material means higher cost. Opt for a smaller backsplash area if budget is a concern. Labor costs also increase for difficult tile installations on tall backsplashes.


Shorter backsplashes are simpler to clean and maintain. Extremely tall stone or tile backsplashes can be challenging to keep clean on a regular basis. Make sure your backsplash height is reachable.

Standard Backsplash Heights

While you can customize your backsplash to any height, there are some typical size standards to consider:

4-6 Inches

The most common backsplash height is 4-6 inches. This size range provides a decorative accent that protects against minor spills and splatters. It works well with a wide range of kitchen styles.

6-12 Inches

For more protection, some homeowners opt for a 6-12 inch backsplash. This leaves a portion of the wall exposed so the backsplash doesn’t overwhelm. It offers more splatter guarding than a 4-6 inch size.

16-18 Inches

A 16-18 inch backsplash starts to provide more comprehensive coverage. This size is useful if you do a lot of cooking and need extra help containing messes. It works well behind a stovetop or sink.

Full Height

Full height backsplashes extend from countertop to ceiling, offering maximum splash protection. Contemporary designs favor this floor-to-ceiling look. But it requires expert tile installation and thorough cleaning.

To Wall Cabinets

For a traditional backsplash approach, instal backsplash tile from countertops up to bottom of wall cabinets. This can be 4-6 inches or taller, depending on cabinet placement. It prevents gaps that allow spills and grease to pile up.

Varied Heights

You don’t have to stick to one backsplash height throughout the kitchen. Consider taller backsplash sections behind appliances or sink, with shorter accents elsewhere. Mix it up based on your functional and design needs.

Recommended Backsplash Heights by Area

Take advantage of the flexibility backsplash heights provide by customizing to suit different zones within your kitchen:

Behind Stovetop

Since cooking tends to generate a lot of splatter, the wall area behind the stovetop benefits from a taller backsplash. Aim for a minimum of 16-18 inches in height, or extend the backsplash all the way to the underside of wall cabinets if possible.

Behind Sink

The sink zone also warrants splash protection. Go for a backsplash height of at least 16 inches. For single bowl sinks, you may want to raise the backsplash even higher on one side where the faucet and soap dispenser reside.

Countertop Perimeter

Frame countertops with a 4-6 inch backsplash trim. Shorter heights work well along the tops of counter sections that don’t see as much cooking action. This perimeter accent helps tie the whole kitchen together.

Bar Counters

Backsplashes along bar/island counters have more flexibility, since these areas don’t interface with appliances. Keep bar backsplashes low profile, around 4 inches tall, especially if bar stools are involved.

Non-functional Areas

Any sections of backsplash that serve purely decorative purposes can be on the shorter side. Use heights ranging from 4-12 inches in passages, desk spaces, or other transitional areas.

Factors that Determine Proper Backsplash Height

Now that we’ve covered the standard backsplash size options, let’s discuss a few other factors that should inform your decision making:

Ceiling Height

In rooms with soaring ceiling heights, extremely tall backsplashes can suit the grand proportions. Just be sure there is sufficient illumination so you can see to clean the upper sections. Rooms with low ceilings call for shorter backsplashes to avoid looking cramped.

Cabinet Design

The height, style, and placement of wall cabinets impacts backsplash size suitability. Standard cabinets sit 18 inches above countertops. But taller cabinets allow you to carry backsplashes up further while still leaving a workable gap.

Window Placement

Tall backsplashes that meet under-cabinet windows can provide an extra blocking layer to protect your walls from potential window leaks. Just be cautious that glass cleaners don’t drip behind the backsplash.

Wall Condition

If your walls feature imperfections, damage, or questionable hygiene, a full height backsplash is an effective way to mask issues and prevent further degradation. Be sure to address any moisture concerns first.

Lighting Plans

Think about the interplay between backsplash heights and lighting fixtures. Wall sconces or pendents may nestle nicely against an upper backsplash edge. Electrical codes prevent fixtures from being covered by tile.

Cleaning Needs

Home cooks who fry foods regularly or have messy young children should consider maxing out backsplash coverage for easy cleaning. Minimize grout lines and opt for glossy materials that wipe down easily.

Design Ideas for Different Backsplash Heights

Now let’s explore some inspiring backsplash design ideas at various heights:

4-6 Inch Accent Backsplash

  • Use an eye-catching mosaic tile or funky Moroccan fish scale tile as a 4-6 inch backsplash to infuse color and interest.
  • Opt for white or neutral tiles in a standard square, subway, or penny shape as a simple framing detail.
  • Choose bezels, tiles with decorative trim edges, or listello pattern tiles to create horizontal framing lines at a 4-6 inch height.
  • Pair decorative tiles featuring organization motifs (like utensils, spices, or produce) as a 4-6 inch prep space accent.

16-18 Inch Stovetop Backsplash

  • Use white, beige, or gray rectangular ceramic tiles in a stack pattern as a neutral stovetop surround 16-18 inches high.
  • Create a textural look by cladding the stovetop wall with horizontal wood plank tiles in a reclaimed or whitewashed finish.
  • Make a statement with boldly colored or patterned handmade ceramic tiles extending 16-18 inches behind the range.
  • Install metal tiles in aged copper, tin, or stainless steel up to 16-18 inches to tie in professional chef’s range.

Full Height Modern Backsplash

  • For contemporary appeal, cover full kitchen walls in glossy, oversized porcelain slabs. This makes a bold, minimalist style statement.
  • Use glossy glass or marble tiles from counter to ceiling to create a luxurious, reflective surface that brightens the room.
  • Alternate stacked bands of different solid colored tiles from counter to ceiling as a contemporary composition.
  • Install wood-look porcelain planks vertically from counter tops all the way up for a cozy, natural look.

Traditional To-Cabinet Backsplash

  • Run classic white subway tiles from countertops to bottoms of upper cabinets for timeless appeal.
  • Use beadboard panels trimmed in wood from counter to cabinet for a cottage kitchen aesthetic.
  • Line the wall with rectangular ceramic tiles in a traditional blue and white European pattern behind sinks and stoves.
  • Cover walls in dimensional tiles with raised diamond, floral, or fruit reliefs for vintage charm.

Installation Tips for Different Backsplash Heights

Proper installation is key to getting your desired backsplash height right. Here are some top tips:

4-6 Inch Backsplash

  • Use mastic adhesive suitable for wet areas rather than mortar when applying 4-6 inch backsplash tiles.
  • Opt for wipe-on grout instead of sanded grout for less cleanup on grout lines so close to countertops.
  • Wrap tiles just an inch or two around corners and edges for stability. Avoid framing entire room perimeter.

16-18 Inch Stovetop Backsplash

  • Mark a level line on the wall at desired height to guide tile placement for consistent coverage.
  • Use spacer clips during installation to account for appliances overlapping the backsplash slightly.
  • Grout and seal tiles well to withstand cooking splatter, grease, and temperature changes from stove.

Full Height Backsplash

  • Since full height backsplashes see so much wear, use high quality modified mortar and grout for increased bonding and durability.
  • For heavy stone tiles, install cement backerboard first for added moisture protection and stability.
  • Use leveling clips and be extremely diligent about verifying plumb vertical lines for clean finish.

To Wall Cabinets Backsplash

  • Measure gap between counter and cabinets precisely to cut tiles for an exact fit.
  • Use trim pieces like schluter strips to bridge any slight gaps at the ceiling and cabinet edges.
  • Seal around edges thoroughly with caulking to prevent moisture infiltration behind tiles.

FAQs About Backsplash Height

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

How high should a backsplash be behind a range?

Behind a stove or range, the backsplash should extend 16-18 inches above the cooktop at minimum for safety and cleanability. Ideally, bring the backsplash all the way up to the undersides of upper wall cabinets for maximum protection.

What is the standard backsplash height?

The most common standard backsplash height is 4-6 inches. This strikes a balance between protecting the wall from minor spills while allowing some wall surface to show. Standard backsplash tiles are sized to align with this height.

Should a backsplash go to the ceiling?

Backsplashes that go all the way to the ceiling (8 feet or higher) provide a contemporary, streamlined look and prevent any gaps where splatters can accumulate. But they require expert installation and vigilant cleaning.

Is a 4 inch backsplash too short?

A 4 inch backsplash can look too diminutive in some instances, especially paired with thicker countertops materials like granite or quartz. Extend to at least 6 inches for proper proportion and increased protection.

What height should backsplash be behind sink?

Prioritize backsplash height behind kitchen sinks. Spills are common here. Install at least a 16 inch backsplash behind sinks. For single basin sinks, angle a taller backsplash towards the faucet side if possible.

Can backsplash be 12 inches?

Yes, 12 inches is an appropriate backsplash height. It offers ample splatter protection while still leaving some wall visible. The 12 inch size also aligns with standard tile sizes. Just be sure to seal the top edge thoroughly.

How tall should backsplash be with no cabinets?

In open concept or island kitchens without overhead cabinets, the backsplash can extend taller behind appliances. A 24-36 inch tall backsplash helps contain messes and adds interesting architectural detail.


Determining the ideal backsplash height involves both practical and aesthetic considerations. Take into account your cooking and cleaning habits, kitchen layout, style preferences, and tile characteristics. Customize backsplash size based on specific zones within the kitchen space. From 4 inch accents to full ceiling coverage, backsplash height provides yet another way to personalize your kitchen design, functionality and décor. Leverage the vertical spacing wisely to enhance the room’s visual appeal while guarding walls from inevitable splatters of food prep and cooking. With some thoughtful planning upfront, you can install a backsplash at the perfect height tailored to your space.