How to End Kitchen Tile Backsplash

Installing a beautiful tile backsplash in your kitchen can add visual interest, protect your walls from splatters and spills, and give your space a high-end custom look. But deciding how to finish or “end” the backsplash tiles can be a challenge. A properly finished edge will complete the backsplash installation and properly protect the transition area between your counter and wall.

There are several effective options for ending a kitchen tile backsplash. Each finish has its own advantages and the best look depends on your tile type, layout, and overall kitchen aesthetic. Carefully weigh your choices to select the perfect end point for your new backsplash.

Planning the Backsplash End Point

Before selecting an end detail, first determine how high your new backsplash will extend up the wall. Typical backsplash height is to install the tiles 6 inches to 4 feet from the countertop. For a full wall look, tiles can be carried all the way up to the underside of wall cabinets.

Measure the wall area to tile and mark your desired end height on the wall. This outline will guide your final trim choice.

Some aspects to consider for the backsplash end point include:

  • Accentuating design features – Frame a focal point window or continue a specific tile pattern.
  • Appliance clearance – Allow room for outlets or range hoods.
  • Cabinet style – Complement traditional, modern or custom cabinets.
  • Cleanability – Ease of wiping down and avoiding dust traps.
  • Countertop material – Match or contrast granite, quartz, laminate.
  • Tile dimensions – Highlight various sizes or symmetrical layout.

Once you determine the best endpoint for your backsplash installation, keep the height and cabinetry in mind when reviewing edge finish options.

Backsplash End Options

There are many potential ways to finish off the top edge of a kitchen backsplash. Consider the pros and cons of each to decide which option suits your tile style and kitchen design best.

Bullnose Tile End

Bullnose tiles have one rounded finished edge which provides a clean end point for a backsplash installation. The curved shape eliminates sharp corners and gives the appearance of thicker tile.


  • Complements variety of tile designs
  • Easy to wipe down rounded edge
  • bullnose edges readily available for most types of tile


  • Can only end at 90 degree angle, no flexibility for focal point endings
  • Limited colors may be available to match field tiles
  • Grout line still visible at countertop transition

Bullnose tiles are an excellent choice if using subway, glass, or mosaic tiles in traditional horizontal layouts. Matching bullnose can frame the backsplash in a clean, subtle way.

Pencil Liner Trim

Pencil liners are narrow, generally 1/4-inch, trim tiles designed to finish backsplash edges and create decorative detail. The small size allows for bullnose-like endings along angled edges, open shelves, or staggered heights.


  • Acents tile patterns and creates straight finished edges
  • Flexible for finishing focal points and inside corners
  • Available in metal, glass, ceramic and stone
  • Matching colors produced for most types of tile


  • Grout lines still visible at countertop and along top edge
  • Can look busy with highly patterned tile
  • Limited edge protection compared to larger trim

Pencil liners pair well with detailed mosaic backsplashes. The thin trim profile highlights and contains the mosaic texture without competing with it.

Listello Strip End

Listello accent strips offer another linear trim finish option. Listellos are generally 3/4-inch wide decorative tiles which can be laid horizontally along the top backsplash edge.


  • Contain a highly-patterned backsplash
  • Frame focal point endings
  • Provide more surface area for caulk adhesion
  • Available in wide range of materials


  • Still leaves visible grout line
  • Needs coordinated caulk color match
  • Can overwhelm some tile designs

Listello trim strips add tailored detail to backsplash with Moroccan fishscale tile, crackled glaze ceramic, or multicolored glass mosaic sheets.

Metal End Trim

Metal trim offers a sleek finished edge for contemporary kitchen backsplashes. Stainless steel, anodized aluminum, or colored metal trim installs easily with adhesive backing.


  • Modern, minimalist look
  • Conceals top grout line completely
  • Protects tile edge from damage
  • Color options for metal finish


  • Lacks curved ending capabilities
  • Appearance too bold for some styles
  • Strong material transition from tile to metal

Pair metal trim with large format porcelain, marble, or glass tiles. The simple clean edge matches the trending industrial look.

Granite, Quartz, or Laminate End

Using your countertop surface material provides another way to end a backsplash. Countertop can be extended from the splash up the wall to meet your tile.


  • Completely eliminates visible grout lines
  • Allows for curved, mitered edge if using laminate
  • Provides sturdy material transition option


  • Alters overall look by matching countertop to walls
  • Limits backsplash height based on countertop depth
  • Joining two solid surfaces takes skill

Matching the backsplash finish to the countertop offers a tailored, polished look. The continuous surface appears upscale and can expand color from counters to walls.

Wood Molding Edge

Wood trim offers classic style to finish a backsplash edge. Craftsman style crown molding or a simple square edge can be cut to hold tiles


  • Matches wood cabinetry and warm kitchen aesthetics
  • Provides a decorative accent
  • Flexible for edge shaping and finishing


  • Grout lines still visible next to trim
  • Potential moisture damage over time if improperly sealed
  • Limited durability compared to tile or glass trim

Wood molding frames a backsplash nicely in traditional cottage or Craftsman-inspired kitchen designs.

End Point Installation Tips

Proper installation technique ensures a quality finish for your selected backsplash edge treatment. Follow best practices to help the edges last long term.

  • Cut precision lines – Use a wet saw fitted with a tile cutting blade to cut smooth edges on bullnose or trim pieces. Hand cut edges may chip.
  • Pre-seal wood – Thoroughly seal any wood trim pieces prior to installation according to manufacturer directions.
  • Dry fit trim – Set bullnose tiles, metal trim strips, or other edging first without adhesive to test proper fit.
  • Apply caulk – Run a thin, continuous bead of silicone caulk along the seam where trim meets countertop. Smooth carefully. Match caulk color to your grout or trim. White caulk offers the most versatility.
  • Remove excess grout – Avoid leaving grout residue along the top trim edge or countertop surface during tile setting. Immediately clean up any hazing.
  • Use non-sanded grout – Choose unsanded grout for the tile joints near end trim pieces. It will fill joints smoothly and avoid scratching trim surfaces.

Choosing Grout Colors

Grout selection deserves careful consideration for backsplashes ended with trim pieces. Grout fills in the joints between tiles and any trim accessories. Contrasting or coordinating your grout color with the tile and edging material impacts the overall look.

  • Matching grout blends in for an all-over monolithic appearance when using listello strips or other trim.
  • Contrasting grout highlights the individual tiles but can look busy depending on tile size and pattern.
  • White grout simplifies coordination with most tile colors and provides light reflection behind glass tile.
  • Dark grout framed by light bullnose tile or metal gives a pop art -like defined edge.
  • Specialty colored grout can make a decorative accent next to colored pencil liner.

Test grout colors on a tile sample board before final grouting. Grout selection mistakes are difficult to remedy once dried in the joints.

Edge Finish Ideas by Tile Types

Certain ending trim and detail options pair especially well with specific backsplash tile materials. Consider these tailored combinations when planning your kitchen project.

Subway Tile – Matching bullnose tiles provide the perfect finishing cap on classic rectangular white or colored subway tile installations. Grout in contrasting dark gray or bright white for bold definition.

Marble Tile – Elegant marble backsplashes look beautiful edged with a beveled subway bullnose strip or mitered laminate countertop cut-out. Maintain the stone vein flow with pencil liner accents.

Glass Mosaic – Tiny glass mosaics need thin metal strips or 1/4-inch pencil liners to provide just enough framing without overwhelming the tile. Translucent glass pairs well with stainless steel endings.

Patterned Moroccan Fishscale – Contain elaborate patterned tiles with soft beige grout and coordinate pencil liner or listello strip borders. Repeat an accent color.

Large Porcelain – Sleek modern spaces deserve matching minimalist trim. Try miter-cut laminate or a thin stainless steel end piece with bold large format porcelain.

Multicolored Mismatched – Make a random mix of ceramic, glass or porcelain tiles feel collected and intentional by edging with wood molding. Soft colored caulk accents.

Natural Stone – Showcase the natural veining and texture of slate and travertine tiles with simple metal trim. Stacked stone layouts need pencil liners for staggered edges.

Accentuate Focal Points

Many kitchens have special design features that warrant extending the backsplash tile into accent areas for maximum visual impact.

Inside and outside corner pencil liners gloss over grout lines while allowing tile patterns to fluidly wrap around corners. Frame a cooktop vent hood, window or display shelving.

Floating shelves placed above the backsplash offer another area for creativity. Trim the shelves and open sides attractively with bullnose edging or specialty accented listello pieces.

Draw the eye up to high ceilings by continuing tile or complementary medallions around ceiling light fixtures, pot racks, or track lighting.

Use trim, mosaic sheets, or medallions to create geometric tile designs as focal points. Finish the unique shapes with matching grout and mitered pencil edging.

Backsplash Edge Maintenance

Proper care preserves the beauty of your new backsplash and keeps the edges looking sharp long-term. Establish good cleaning habits right away.

  • Use a microfiber cloth or sponge with mild detergent to gently clean tile and grout. Avoid harsh cleaners which can degrade grout or etch surfaces over time.
  • Rinse thoroughly with clear water and immediately squeegee or wipe dry to prevent mineral deposits.
  • Re-caulk any areas along the countertop edge or trim seams as needed. Match the original caulk color.
  • Limit direct exposure to grease splatters around cooktop edges. Use range hood vents.
  • Do not allow cleaning solutions or moisture to penetrate behind trim pieces into the wall area.
  • Seal grout annually and re-seal natural stone as recommended.

Regular maintenance preserves your backsplash so it continues to serve as an eye-catching focal point in your kitchen. Proper edge treatment gives the installation a quality finish.

FAQs About Ending a Tile Backsplash

What height should I end my kitchen backsplash?

Standard backsplash height is 4 inches above the countertop up to 18-24 inches high. Full height can extend up to the underside of wall cabinets. Choose based on your style, tile dimensions, and ease of installation.

How do I finish an outside corner?

Use liner trim or mitered countertop material to wrap around and finish an outside corner neatly. Precision angled cuts and caulking create a seamless transition.

Can I end backsplash tile against a window?

Yes, adjust your tile layout to complement windows and other features. Use pencil liners or bullnose tiles to cleanly edge cut tiles at varying heights around obstructions.

What about ending a backsplash with no cabinets?

In open designs without overhanging cabinets, cap the backsplash edge with wood molding, a listello strip, or metal end trim. Coordinate with countertops.

How do I end backsplash tile on either side of a range hood?

Cut tiles to fit precisely around the hood. Use an angled pencil liner to join the two sides and frame the hood in a coordinated accent color.

Should I end granite backsplash with caulk or grout?

Use color-matched silicone caulk rather than grout along the seam between granite backsplash/countertops. Caulk allows flexibility to prevent cracking.

What is the best way to finish around a focal point?

Use mitered pencil liners to continue patterns around a focal window or display. Frame accent niches with matching listello strips or glass mosaic tiles.


Creating a dramatic focal point with tile does not need to end at the counter. Finish your kitchen backsplash installation like the professionals by expertly ending the design.

Carefully choose from bullnose caps, trim pieces, or solid surface materials to complement your tile style. Measure precisely, dry fit for accuracy, caulk generously, and neatly grout. The finishing touch allows your backsplash tile to become a seamless storybook component of your dream kitchen’s style.

How to End Kitchen Tile Backsplash

Kitchen tile backsplashes make a huge impact in kitchen design. Not only do they protect the wall from splattered sauces and splashes, they provide an opportunity to embellish your kitchen with texture, color, shape, and pattern. With so many types of tiles to work with, from ceramic and porcelain to glass and natural stone, the design options are virtually endless.

But deciding how to finish or “end” your tile backsplash can be a tricky question. You want the ending to complete the look, not detract or distract.

Here are some recommended techniques for providing a professional finish:

Countertop Bullnose

One option is using bullnose countertop on either side of your backsplash. Bullnose is a countertop that has a rounded finished front edge. When installed behind your backsplash, it eliminates a sharp 90 degree angle for a clean, streamlined look.

The benefits of a bullnose countertop end include:

  • Provides a built-in finish – no capping required
  • Creates consistent flow from countertop to backsplash
  • More durable than tile trim pieces
  • Works with any backsplash height

The challenge is you generally need access to the bottom cabinet area to install bullnose countertop behind the backsplash. But in an open concept or island design, choosing complementary countertop and backsplash materials can give you a custom finished edge.

Bullnose Tile Strips

Bullnose tile trim provides another integrated finish option. Bullnose has one rounded finished edge, usually on ceramic, porcelain, stone, or glass tiles. The curved shape helps hide grout lines for a clean look.

Benefits of bullnose tile ends:

  • Integrates well with traditional backsplash materials
  • Bullnose stock readily available; often matching colors
  • More affordable than custom countertop bullnose
  • Can be cut to fit non-90 degree angles

On the downside, tile bullnose edges do leave the grout line visible and are less durable long term than solid surface ends. Use care when cleaning to avoid chipping the edges over time.

Metal End Caps

Metal trim offers a sleek finish option for contemporary style backsplashes. Metal end caps install on top of the tile and come in stainless steel, brass, copper, and chrome to match appliances and fixtures.

Benefits of metal end caps:

  • Provides very clean, linear finish
  • Conceals grout lines entirely
  • Thin profile suits modern tile materials
  • Adaptable for outside corners and uneven cuts

The main drawback of metal is it only works for 90 degree corners, so the top ending must be perpendicular. Metal can suit some tile materials more than others based on thickness and texture.

Wood Molding

For certain aesthetic styles, a wood trim piece can provide the perfect hand-crafted finishing touch. Wood molding includes crown molding, base shoe trim, or simple squared pieces.

The benefits of ending with wood molding include:

  • Warm, classic, tailored style
  • Fits cottage, farmhouse, or craftsman kitchens
  • Can be cut to custom sizes and shapes
  • Provides decorative accent

Wood endings have some functionality limits. The material is less durable than tile or metal and requires careful sealing. Grout lines will also still be visible next to the wood.

Pencil Liners

Pencil liner tile trim involves using a narrow 1/4 inch decorative strip to edge backsplash installations. Pencil liners come in metal, glass, stone, and ceramic materials.

Benefits of pencil liners:

  • Suits highly patterned tile backsplashes
  • Thin profile contains tiles without competing
  • Flexible for finishing inside and outside corners
  • Colors available to match most tile types

The pencil liner look can appear busy alongside some tile patterns or styles. The thin trim provides less protection compared to larger bullnose or end caps.

Trim Color Considerations

Whichever trim technique you select, also consider the color and coordinate trim choices carefully with the tiles, grout, counters, and cabinets.

Matching trim to tiles or to the grout helps unify the look. Contrasting trim colors can accentuate specific backsplash features but may also look disjointed if the values clash with the overall kitchen colors and finishes.

Backsplash Height

Most backsplashes extend 4-6 inches above the counter, but can go all the way up to the underside of the wall cabinets for a full wall look. When planning, make sure to leave room for electrical outlets, stove hood vents or other obstructions.

Measure carefully and mark your