How to Determine Square Feet for Backsplash


Installing a backsplash in your kitchen can dramatically transform the look and feel of the space. However, before you start shopping for tiles or materials, it’s important to accurately measure the surface area you plan to cover so you can purchase the right amount. Determining the square footage for a backsplash project ensures you don’t buy too little and run out before the job is done, or overbuy and end up wasting material.

Calculating square feet for a backsplash is a simple process of multiplying measurements, but careful attention to detail is required. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the complete steps for measuring linear, L-shaped, U-shaped, and full wall backsplashes. We’ll also provide tips on buying the right amount, recommended materials, popular backsplash designs, and key factors to consider when installing. Follow along as we break it down.

How to Measure a Linear Backsplash

The most straightforward backsplash shape to calculate is a linear installation along a single wall. Here are the steps for determining square feet:

1. Measure Wall Length

  • Use a tape measure to find the linear length of the wall where you’ll install the backsplash. Measure in inches from one end to the other, excluding any windows, appliances, or discontinuities.
  • For example, if you have a stretch of wall 36 inches long, write this number down. You’ll need it for the next step.

2. Measure Backsplash Height

  • Determine how high up the wall you want the backsplash to extend. Most linear backsplashes are installed to a height of 4-6 inches above the countertop.
  • Using a tape measure, measure from the counter to your desired height in inches. For our example, let’s say you want a 4 inch backsplash.

3. Multiply Length x Height

  • Once you have the vertical height and the linear length, multiply these numbers together to calculate the square inches of coverage area.
  • For our sample 36 inch width x 4 inch height backsplash, we would do: 36 inches x 4 inches = 144 square inches

4. Convert to Square Feet

  • Finally, convert the total square inches to square feet by dividing by 144. 144 square inches / 144 = 1 square foot

So for a 36 inch wide x 4 inch high linear backsplash, you would need approximately 1 square foot of tile or material to cover the wall properly.

Measuring an L-Shaped Backsplash

L-shaped backsplashes need a slightly more complex measurement process since they have two adjoining sections. Here are the steps:

1. Measure First Wall Section

  • Using a tape measure, measure the length and height just as you would for a linear backsplash. Record these numbers.

2. Measure Second Wall Section

  • Measure the length of the adjoining backsplash section. Be sure to only measure the portion that extends beyond the corner.
  • Measure the height. For most L-shaped backsplashes, the height remains consistent on both sections.

3. Calculate Square Inches for Each Section

  • Multiply the first section’s length x height to get the square inch coverage.
  • Do the same for the second section using its distinct length and uniform height.

4. Add the Section Totals

  • Add the total square inches from the first section to the total square inches from the second section.
  • This gives you the combined square inches for the entire L-shaped backsplash.

5. Convert to Square Feet

  • As before, divide the total square inches by 144 to obtain the estimated square footage.

Follow these steps carefully, and you’ll be able to accurately calculate the right amount of material needed for an L-shaped backsplash install.

Determining Square Footage for a U-Shaped Backsplash

A U-shaped backsplash extends along three adjoining walls, for example, spanning the sink wall and wrapping around to cover small portions of the side walls. Here’s how to take the measurements:

1. Measure First Wall Section

  • Record the length and height of the main backsplash wall just as you would for a linear installation.

2. Measure Side Sections

  • For each side wall, measure only the length that will be covered beyond the corner. The height usually remains consistent.

3. Calculate Square Inches per Section

  • For each measured section, multiply length x height to calculate individual square inch amounts.

4. Total the Areas

  • Add together the square inches from the first wall section, second wall section, and third wall section.

5. Convert to Square Feet

  • As before, divide the final total square inch measurement by 144 to obtain the estimated square footage for the entire U-shaped backsplash.

This process allows you to accurately account for the additional coverage areas when turning corners in a U-shape. Carefully measuring and adding the sections ensures you calculate the right square footage.

Measuring a Full Wall Backsplash

For a full wall backsplash that covers the entire area between countertops and cabinets, the measurement process is simplified. Follow these steps:

1. Measure Wall Length

  • Record the linear length along the bottom of the wall, from one end to the other. Include the entire distance, including any spaces over appliances, windows, etc.

2. Measure Backsplash Height

  • Determine the desired height, from counter to top edge. Many full wall backsplashes are installed to the underside of wall cabinets.

3. Multiply Length x Height

  • Multiply the total linear length by the backsplash height. This gives you the total square inch coverage needed.

4. Convert Square Inches to Square Feet

  • As before, divide by 144 to obtain the estimated square footage amount.

Measuring a full wall is simplified since you can take overall linear measurements without worrying about sections. Just be sure your tape measure is level and height is accurate.

Buying the Right Amount of Material

Once you’ve calculated the square footage of your backsplash project, you can determine how much tile, metal sheets, glass mosaic, or other material to purchase. Here are some tips:

  • Add 10-15% more to your total to account for unusable pieces or mistakes.
  • Consider the size of your tiles. Smaller tiles require purchasing more to cover the same space.
  • Factor in accent tiles if using mixes of patterns or materials. This may increase amount needed.
  • For metal or glass sheets, determine how many full sheets your square footage requires.

Overestimating is better than running out! With an accurate area and a little buffer, you can buy the right backsplash materials for a seamless installation.

Popular Backsplash Materials and Patterns

Now that you know how to measure, it’s time to choose the perfect backsplash style for your space. Here are some top options:

Subway Tile

  • Classic rectangular 3×6 inch glossy tiles arranged in a brick pattern
  • Timeless, clean look coordinates well with many styles
  • White is very popular, but color options are available

Stone Tile

  • Durable natural materials like granite, marble or travertine
  • Provides texture and earthy elegance
  • Works great for rustic or craftsman kitchens

Glass Tile

  • Small glass mosaic pieces reflect light beautifully
  • Available in endless colors from bold to translucent
  • Adds a touch of luxury shine and depth

Metal Backsplash

  • Stainless steel, copper, or tin sheets create a gleaming, modern look
  • Very sleek and pair nicely with industrial or contemporary designs
  • Easy to clean and extremely water resistant

Cement Tile

  • Eclectic handmade tiles with bold patterns and colors
  • Great for Spanish, Mediterranean or Farmhouse styles
  • Usually arranged in decorative layouts vs. brick pattern

There are so many options for backsplash materials, colors, textures, and arrangements. Calculating your square footage is the first step to bringing your ideal design to life!

Key Installation Considerations

Once you’ve purchased your backsplash materials, use these tips for proper installation:

  • Make sure the wall surface is smooth and clean before applying adhesive.
  • Use a level to ensure even coverage and prevent tilting.
  • For heavy stone or glass tile, make sure underlying surface or adhesive can support the weight.
  • Grout lines should be uniform. Use spacers between tiles.
  • Planaccent tiles or trim before setting other tiles. Know spacing needed.
  • For metal backsplashes, measure precisely and cut sheets to fit your layout.

Taking careful surface area measurements allows you to install your backsplash efficiently, creatively, and with gorgeous results!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I measure for backsplash around electrical outlets?

When calculating square footage, measure the wall lengths between outlets and other breaks. Then multiply by the backsplash height as usual. The outlets themselves won’t be covered by the backsplash tile.

What about tricky angles or uneven surfaces when measuring?

For walls that aren’t perfectly straight, measure in several spots and average the lengths. Use a smaller ruler for tight angles. Add a bit extra to your final area.

Do I need to account for grout lines when calculating materials?

No, your measurements just need to cover the surface area. Grout lines will take up a fraction of an inch so won’t significantly change calculations.

Can I install a backsplash myself or do I need to hire a pro?

With careful planning and some DIY skills, you can absolutely install a backsplash yourself. Pre-cut mosaic sheets also make it easier for beginners. But for specialty materials or intricate patterns, hiring a professional installer may be worth the cost.

What tools do I need to measure and install a backsplash?

For measuring, a standard metal tape measure is essential. For installation, you’ll also need a level, tile cutter, adhesive, grout float, spacers, and grout sealer as the basics. A wet saw is also very handy for cutting tile.


Installing a kitchen backsplash can take your cooking space from boring to beautiful. With a well-calculated square footage and installation plan, you’ll end up with a stunning, pulled-together look. Accurately measuring linear, L-shaped, U-shaped and full wall backsplashes is easier than it seems.

Just follow our step-by-step instructions for calculating your specific backsplash area. Leave an extra margin for error, choose your materials, and properly prepare the surface. Then apply our tips to install your tile, metal, glass or stone backsplash with ease. Before you know it, you’ll have an eye-catching focal point that makes your kitchen pop.