How to End a Backsplash


A backsplash is an essential part of any kitchen design. Not only does it protect your walls from water damage and stains, it also adds visual interest and ties together the look of your kitchen. When installing a backsplash, deciding how to end it is an important design consideration. There are a few different techniques for ending a backsplash creatively and professionally. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through the pros and cons of each approach, as well as provide tips and tricks for executing them properly. With the right information, you can confidently end your backsplash and achieve the custom look you desire.

Where to End a Backsplash

The first decision to make when ending a backsplash is choosing where to stop it. Here are some of the most common options:

End at Countertop

One of the simplest ways to finish a backsplash is to end it right at the countertop. This creates a clean, streamlined look. However, it leaves the wall between the counter and cabinets unprotected. Ending the backsplash at the countertop works best for solid surface countertops like quartz or granite that have water-resistant edges.

End at Bottom of Wall Cabinets

Many homeowners choose to end the backsplash at the bottom of their wall cabinets. This protects the wall from cabinet to counter while still leaving a small portion of wall exposed. It also enables you to use a decorative wall paint or wallpaper between the cabinets and counter.

End at Top of Wall Cabinets

For a full wall of tile, extend the backsplash all the way to the underside of the wall cabinets. This provides maximum protection from splashes and stains. However, it requires precise tile cuts around outlets and potentially results in high installation costs.

Do a Full Height Backsplash

Take the backsplash to new heights by tiling from counter to ceiling. This creates a bold, dynamic look. But it can make the space feel heavy if the ceiling is low. It also leads to tricky transitions from tile to drywall which we’ll cover later.

How to End Square Tile Backsplashes

Square tiles are one of the most popular backsplash styles. Their modular shape makes them relatively easy to work with. Here are some options for ending square tile backsplashes:

Straight Line

The most straightforward approach is cutting a square tile to fit and ending in a straight horizontal line. This works well for clean, modern designs. Use a wet tile saw fitted with a diamond blade to make precise cuts.

Staggered Heights

Adding interest to a straight backsplash end is easy with staggered tile heights. Simply cut some rows shorter than others. You can do this randomly or in a regular pattern. Combine it with staggered tile layouts for more design appeal.

Framed Look

For a subtle framed effect, cut a tile in half vertically and place the two pieces along the edges. Then fill in the middle with full tiles. You can also frame with wood trim or metal strips.

Inset Border

An inset border adds nice detailing to a backsplash end. Cut square tile to fit inside the last few rows, forming a border. Use a tile that contrasts in color, finish, or material for accent.

Decorative End Cap

Installing a decorative end cap is an easy way to finish square tile creatively. Options include ceiling trim, wall-mounted shelves, reclaimed wood beams, or metal strips. Choose an end cap material that coordinates with the backsplash tile.

How to End Subway Tile Backsplashes

Subway tile is another extremely popular backsplash choice. The rectangular shape dictates some unique options for ending subway tile:

Staggered Layout

Staggering subway tiles creates visual interest and avoids straight ends. Offset tiles by 1/3 to 1/2 their length from row to row. Use angled cuts on edge tiles for a clean finish.

Herringbone Pattern

For a fun herringbone effect, rotate every other row 180 degrees. Pointed ends of the tiles create a V-shaped design. Cut partial edge tiles to complete the pattern.

Horizontal Band

Add a horizontal band or “chair rail” trim piece to make a definite end point. Run it just below the lowest tile row. This also enables a color change below the band.

Vertical Trim

Use vertical trim strips on the edges to hide cut edges of subway tiles. Plywood, metal, or tile edging can all work well. Make sure edging is the proper thickness to match tile.

Extend Behind Range

If ending a backsplash near a range, extend tile behind it to protect the wall. Cut edge tiles to fit appliance contours. Finish outer sides with trim to match.

How to End Mosaic Tile Backsplashes

Mini mosaic tiles require special consideration when determining how to end them. Here are some tips:

Trim with Border

A mosaic tile border along the bottom makes for a clean finish. Use tiles that relate to the mosaic pattern but bigger in scale. Cut to fit precisely.

Mirror Image

For fun, make the last row a mirror image of the first. Arrange the tile so the pattern flips across an invisible central line. This creates nice symmetry.

Straight or Stepped

Keep mosaic end simple with a straight horizontal cut across rows. Or add interest by stepping tile across multiple heights. Use nippers for angled edge cuts.

Framed Look

Frame out the mosaic tile area with wood, metal strips, or tiles running along bottom and sides. Anchor strips firmly before tiling.

Creative Materials

Introduce an unexpected material like rope, beads, or cement for an artistic end. Consider the weight and thickness when pairing with tile.

How to Transition Backsplashes to Drywall

Creative transitions are important when deciding where to end backsplashes, especially if going full height. Here are some ways to transition from tile to drywall:

Bullnose Tile

Bullnose tile has a rounded finished edge that covers the rough tile cut. Installing a row of bullnose at the top provides a built-in trim. It seamlessly transitions from tile to wall.

Tile-to-Ceiling Transition Trim

These preformed plastic trim pieces bridge the gap between top course of tile and ceiling. caulk the joint for clean results with no specialized cuts needed.

Wood or Metal Trim

For a lightweight transition, use wood strips or metal trim. Anchor tightly to give rigid support. Use caulk that matches the trim color for barely visible seams.

Decorative Shelf

Installing floating shelves along a backsplash provides a discreet transition from tile to wall. Anchor securely and caulk underneath to hide raw tile edges.

Painted Line

A painted line in a coordinating color is an ultra-simple tile-to-wall transition. Use painter’s tape for sharp edges. For added dimension, paint two parallel lines.

How to End Backsplashes with Inside Corners

Inside corners where backsplashes meet require strategic ending solutions. Here are some tips:

Bullnose Tile on Outside Corners

Bullnose tiles placed on the outward edges of the corner provide a finished look. Arrange the direction of bullnose grooves carefully for the corner.

Decorative Tile Design

Use a decorative tile like an inset medallion or mosaic circle on the corner. This disguises the transition while adding visual interest.

Contrasting Border Tile

Border the inside corner with a tile that contrasts the rest of the backsplash. This highlights the corner design.

Trim Strip Corner Guards

Trim strips specifically designed for corner guards give a tidy finish. Use caulk to fill any gaps for a seamless look.

Wood Corner Shelf

Wood floating corner shelves provide an integrated end cap as well as offering display space and visual appeal.

How to End Backsplashes with Outside Corners

Outside corners also need special treatment when finishing backsplash tile:

Bullnose Edge Tile

Wrapping bullnose edge tile around the corner provides a smooth transition. Miter inside edges at a 45 degree angle for precise fitting.

Decorative End Cap

Use a corner shelf, trim piece or other decorative accent as an end cap on the outside corner. Size and secure tightly.

Specialty Transition Tiles

Transition tiles made specifically for outside corners have interlocking raised and recessed edges. When installed they form a clean corner.

Contrasting Vertical Trim

Place vertical trim strips on both walls forming the corner. Using a contrasting color highlights the unique shape.

Mixed Material Transition

Transition to a different surface like wood, marble, or metal around the outside corner. This adds visual intrigue through mixed materials.

How to End Backsplashes Against Side Returns

The junction where countertops have side returns can lead to tricky backsplash endings. Here are some solutions:

Mitered Tile Joints

Making precise 45 degree mitered cuts allows tile to wrap seamlessly around a side return. Use a wet saw with a diamond blade.

Coordinating Metal End Cap

For clean results, install metal end caps sized to fit the side return transition. Anchor securely and seal joints with caulk.

Decorative Brackets

Ornamental brackets mounted around the side return provide an elegant finish. Select brackets that match the style of your kitchen decor.

Contrasting Vertical Trim

Place vertical trim strips perpendicular to the backsplash tile. This helps hide uneven tile cuts on the side return.

Extended Tile Wrap

Doing a full tile wrap around the side return avoids backsplash ending dilemmas. Use thin tile and miter for proper fit.

How to End Backsplashes Against Odd Angles

Ending backsplashes around anything other than 90 degree angles poses challenges:

Careful Mitering

Precisely mitering tiles to match the angle allows for a tight fit. Some wet saws even have gauges to set specific miter angles.

Fill Uneven Gaps with Caulk

For small gaps at odd angles, use caulk in a matching color. Tool the caulk with a finger to smooth it uniformly.

Add a Decorative Accent Piece

Place a decorative tile, metal medallion or trim piece designed to fit your unique angle. This disguises uneven tile edges.

Extend Trim Past Angle

Run base trim vertically to meet the horizontal backsplash end. Carry it a few inches past the angle to avoid gaps.

Change Materials

Introduce a new material like wood, glass mosaic or metal around irregular angles. This transitions attention away from uneven tile cuts.

How to End Backsplashes Against Windows

Integrating backsplashes with windows above counters requires careful planning:

Bullnose Transition Edge

Use bullnose tile edges along the sides and lower edge of a window for smooth transitions up to the window frame.

Decorative Sill Tile

Install a special tile across the bottom of the window designed to work as a sill. Look for sloped, drip edge tiles.

Coordinating Window Frame Trim

For windows with matching trim color, finish tile ends precisely against trim sides for an integrated look. Caulk edges.

Frame Out Window

Build a tile frame around the window perimeter to make it a focal point. Contrast tile colors within the frame for added pop.

Change Tile Below Window

Transition to a different tile color, texture or size underneath the window. This segment draws attention from uneven end cuts.

Backsplash End Ideas to Avoid

While the possibilities for ending backsplashes creatively are endless, there are a few things to avoid:

  • Making uneven ragged cuts that don’t finish cleanly.
  • Leaving gaps wider than 1/8” between tiles, trim, walls, counters, etc.
  • Allowing raw tile edges to show without bullnose, trim, accessories, etc.
  • Failing to account for outlets and switches when planning backsplash ends.
  • Ending specialty tiles like mosaics, subway, penny tiles, etc. without regard to pattern.
  • Using caulk colors or grout lines that don’t match the tile.
  • Terminating multiple tiles randomly part way through their length.
  • Ending tiles horizontally when they should run vertically according to pattern.
  • Forgetting to miter or make proper angle cuts on tile wrapping corners.
  • Neglecting transitions and failing to integrate backsplash ends into overall design.

Tips for Installing Backsplashes

Executing your backsplash end design properly requires careful installation:

  • Plan backsplash endings first before tiling to get sizing and layout correct.
  • Mark your back wall with guide lines for desired ending height and center.
  • Use level and spacer guides to keep tiles even and vertices square.
  • Make precise mitered cuts for angled edges and corners with a wet saw.
  • Use nippers on mosaic tiles to trim to fit without cracking tile.
  • Adjust patterns and tile direction near endings to keep them symmetrical.
  • Anchor trim strips and accessories firmly into wall studs if possible.
  • Always seal edges and transitions thoroughly with matching caulk.
  • Take time fitting and cutting edge tiles and accents for clean results.
  • Follow manufacturer instructions for specialized tile installation like subway, herringbone patterns, etc.
  • Work slowly and carefully once you reach the backsplash end phase.

Creative Backsplash End Ideas

If you’re seeking inspiration for ending your backsplash fashionably, here are some eye-catching ideas to consider:

Mix Geometric Tiles

Combine hexagons, chevrons, herringbone and other geometric tiles. Cut varying angles for an artsy arrangement against the wall.

Contrasting Border

Making the last backsplash rows a different color or finish than the rest of the backsplash adds flair. Try glossy subway tile edged with matte pencil tile.

Bold Large Tile Transition

Changing to an oversized tile like 12”x24” subway at the end provides major visual impact. Pair with standard smaller scale tile.

Display Shelves

Install floating shelves across the bottom backsplash course to ad display items. Go open or with doors for finishing functional flair.

Bump Out For Range

Let the backsplash bump out around range in matching tile. Add side and lower trim panels on the bump out box.

Mix Materials

Transition from tile to another material like stained wood, marble brick, or hammered metal at the end for an eclectic vibe.

Frame with Rope

For coastal charm, frame the backsplash perimeter with nautical rope trim attached to reclaimed wood strips.

Wallpaper Transition

Use removable wallpaper below the backsplash to introduce funky patterns. Consider peel-and-stick tiles for easier installation.

FAQs About Ending Backsplashes

How do you finish off a backsplash?

Some popular ways to finish a backsplash include using bullnose edge tile, running trim strips along the bottom or sides, installing floating shelves or other decorative end caps, transitioning to a new wall material or wallpaper, or simply cutting the tile to match the height of your cabinets or countertops.

Should you end backsplash at cabinet or countertop?

This depends on your style preferences. Ending at the countertop provides a streamlined look. Ending at the bottom of wall cabinets protects more wall space. Extending to the ceiling makes a bold statement. There are pros and cons to each approach.

How do you end subway tile backsplash?

Staggering subway tile rows, creating a herringbone pattern, adding trim strips, or framing with an alternate material are great ways to end subway tile backsplashes fashionably. Make sure to plan the layout ahead of time.

How do you finish tile around a window?

Carefully measure and cut bullnose edging tile pieces to surround the window frame cleanly. You can also frame out the window with a decorative accent tile or trim. Install a sloped window sill tile. Caulk edges for a seamless look.

How do you finish an edge on a backsplash?

For clean edges, install a row of bullnose tile along the bottom or sides. You can also end in a trim strip made of wood, metal, or tile to cover uneven edges. Caulking in a matching color is another option for small gaps at tile ends or transitions.


Designing and installing the perfect backsplash end can elevate your entire kitchen’s style. With so many creative choices for finishing tile with bullnose edges, trim, shelving, specialty tiles, and inside and outside corner treatments, you can certainly achieve a high-end customized look. Taking the time to carefully plan out backsplash endings that align with your overall vision will ensure a cohesive and stunning outcome. Use these tips and techniques to thoughtfully complete your backsplash project. With the right edge finish, you can enjoy a professional-quality backsplash that both protects your kitchen and provides the perfect decorative accent.