How to Finish Backsplash Under Cabinets

Installing a beautiful backsplash is one of the best ways to upgrade your kitchen. Not only does it add visual interest and personality, but it also protects your walls from splashes and stains. However, finishing the backsplash area under the cabinets can be tricky. Here are some tips on how to get it done right.

Selecting the Right Materials

Most common backsplash materials like tile, metal, glass, and stone can work under cabinets. Just make sure to pick ones that are easy to cut and install in small spaces. Mosaic sheets or small format tiles are great options. Also consider moisture-resistant materials like natural stone or metal if the area will get wet frequently.


Ceramic, porcelain or glass tile are popular choices. Use tiles with a polished finish to make grout clean-up easier. Stay away from hand-painted or textured tiles that can gather dirt.


Stainless steel, copper, brass or aluminum make a modern, sleek statement. Go for solid sheets or small perforated tiles. Painted metal can chip over time, so stick with metals in their natural finish.


Glass tile or mixed media mosaic sheets add shine and texture. Opt for small squares no larger than 1-inch. Glass can be prone to cracking, so handle with care.


Granite, marble or slate are luxurious and durable. Make sure backsplash pieces are cut thin enough to allow for any uneven areas under the cabinets. Honed or tumbled finishes hide scratches.

Preparing the Surface

Take time to properly prepare the surface under the cabinets for the backsplash. This will help it last longer and look seamless.

  • Clean the area well and fill any holes or cracks with caulk or spackle. Let dry completely.
  • Apply painter’s tape along the top edge under the cabinets to define the backsplash area.
  • Paint the surface below the tape with latex primer to improve adhesion. Allow to dry fully before installing the backsplash.

Planning the Layout

Carefully mapping out the backsplash layout is key for a streamlined look.

  • Measure the area including any outlets, pipes or obstacles. Mark the measurements on the tiles/sheets you’ll be installing.
  • Cut border or edge tiles to fit around these areas. Dry fit the tiles first before applying any adhesive.
  • Mix tiles/sheets from several boxes when installing to vary color/patterns. Plan the layout accordingly.
  • For open wall ends, use bullnose tiles or special edge molding.

Installing the Materials

Now it’s time for the fun part – installing the materials! Follow these tips for best results:

Thin-Set Adhesive

  • Spread a thin layer of thin-set mortar adhesive on the surface using a notched trowel. Apply only 1-2 feet area at a time to prevent drying.
  • Press tiles into the thin-set firmly in your planned pattern and layout.
  • Use spacers between tiles for consistent grout lines. Level any uneven tiles.


  • Let the thin-set cure fully per package directions before applying grout between tiles (usually 24 hours).
  • Push the grout firmly into lines with a rubber grout float. Buff off excess grout with a damp sponge.
  • Allow grout to dry completely before sealing or using the area (up to 72 hours).


  • Apply a penetrating sealer to natural stone, grout and porous tiles. This will resist staining and damage from moisture. Re-seal yearly.

Achieving a Finished Look

The final details complete your sleek new backsplash under the cabinets:

  • Remove any painter’s tape and adhesive residue after tiles are set.
  • Caulk along all joints, edges and corners with a matching colored caulk. Allow to dry fully.
  • Consider adding trim like bullnose tiles, metal edging or decorative molding to transition areas.
  • Seal any new penetration points, outlets or gaps with waterproof silicone.

With some careful planning and patience, you can achieve a seamless and stylish backsplash under your cabinets. Just take it step-by-step for gorgeous results! Maintaining it properly will also keep it looking like new.

FAQs About Backsplashes Under Cabinets

What is the standard height for a backsplash under cabinets?

The typical backsplash height under upper cabinets is 4 inches. This allows enough space to protect the wall without overwhelming the eye.

How do I cut backsplash tile around electrical outlets?

Use a wet saw or manual tile cutter to carefully score and snap tiles to fit around outlets. Turn off power at the breaker before removing any outlet covers.

Can I install a stone backsplash under cabinets myself?

Yes, natural stone can be installed as a DIY project if you have the right tools. Be sure to use a wet saw to cut stone neatly. Take extra care with heavy stone sheets.

How long does thinset mortar take to cure under backsplash tiles?

Standard thinset adhesive needs 24 hours to fully cure before grouting. Be sure to follow drying times on the product packaging. Cooler temperatures may require longer cure times.

What’s the easiest backsplash to install under cabinets?

Mosaic tile sheets are the easiest option for small backsplash areas under cabinets. Peel-and-stick mosaic sheets require no messy mortar or grout.

Should I caulk between the countertop and backsplash?

Yes, use caulk that matches your grout color to fill the gap between the backsplash and countertops. This prevents water, grime and pests from getting behind.


Installing a backsplash under kitchen cabinets gives this often-neglected area a finished, built-in look. With smart planning and the right materials like tile, metal or stone, you can create a backsplash that perfectly matches your overall kitchen design. Taking the time to properly prepare the surface, layout materials, and install the backsplash with care will lead to stunning results. Don’t be intimidated to tackle this project yourself – just be sure to seal the finished backsplash properly. In no time, you’ll have a kitchen backsplash you can’t wait to show off!