How to Measure Area for Backsplash

Backsplashes are an important design element in any kitchen. Not only do they protect your walls from splashes and stains while cooking, but they can also add visual interest and tie together your overall kitchen décor. When planning a new backsplash, the very first step is accurately measuring the surface area you need to cover. Knowing the precise square footage will ensure you purchase enough tile and materials without overbuying.

Measuring for backsplash may seem tricky, but it’s actually quite simple with some careful planning and math. Here is a step-by-step guide to measuring backsplash area for your kitchen walls.

Determine the Scope of Your Backsplash

Before taking any measurements, you need to decide how much wall space you want the backsplash to cover. There are several options:

Full Backsplash

A full backsplash covers the entire wall surface between your countertops and kitchen cabinets. This gives your backsplash maximum visual impact. Full backsplashes are commonly used with tile or stone materials.

Partial Backsplash

A partial backsplash only covers a portion of the wall behind the stove and sink. This is a great option if you want to highlight specific areas without the time and expense of tiling an entire wall. Partial backsplashes often use more decorative materials like glass or metal tiles.

Accent Backsplash

An accent backsplash features a small tiled space, usually above the stove or behind the sink. Accent backsplashes add a pop of color or texture while still being budget-friendly. This is ideal for small kitchens.

Once you determine the coverage area for your backsplash, you can start measuring the surface.

Measure Width

The first measurements to take are the various widths of the backsplash area.

Countertop to Cabinets

Stand at one end of your backsplash area and measure across from the countertop to the bottom of the upper cabinets. For accurate measurements:

  • Use a steel tape measure. Cloth tape measures can stretch and give incorrect readings.
  • Make sure to deduct any gap between the countertop and cabinets. You only want to measure the actual wall space.
  • For uneven walls, take several width measurements along the entire area and average them.
  • Round measurements up to the nearest 1⁄8 inch. It’s better to have a little excess tile than to end up short.
  • Make sure to write down all width measurements for later reference.

Once you have the width of the backsplash area, move on to measuring height.

Measure Height

Measuring height is important for calculating the total square footage.

Countertop to Ceiling

Start by measuring from the top of the countertops up to the ceiling. This gives you the maximum height dimension.

However, most backsplashes do not extend all the way to the ceiling. The height is usually determined by:

Countertop to Bottom of Cabinets

For a full backsplash, measure from the countertop up to the underside of the wall cabinets. Deduct any gap between the countertop and cabinets.

Countertop to Desired Height

For a partial backsplash, measure from the countertop up to wherever you want the tile to stop. Common heights are 4 inches above the countertop for a single row, or 15-18 inches for a decorative border.

Once you have the width and height measurements, you can calculate the square footage.

Calculate Square Footage

To determine the square footage:

  1. Multiply the width x height for each backsplash section. For example, if one section is 25 inches wide by 15 inches tall, the square footage would be 25 x 15 = 375 square inches.
  2. Convert to square feet by dividing by 144. So 375 square inches equals 2.6 square feet.
  3. Add together square feet for each backsplash section to get the total coverage area.

Make sure to round up any partial square feet. It’s better to purchase a little extra tile than to run short.

You now have the precise square footage amount needed for your backsplash installation.

Knowing the overall size will tell you how much tile to purchase. Next, break the area down into individual sections for planning purposes.

Break Into Sections

Dividing your backsplash into different sections makes the installation process easier.

Measure and calculate square footage for each section separately. Common backsplash sections include:

  • Behind stove
  • Between stove and sink
  • Behind sink
  • Left of sink
  • Right of sink
  • Left side of range
  • Right side of range
  • Upper cabinets between countertops
  • Entire continuous area

Breaking into sections serves several purposes:

  • You can purchase tile per section based on exact needs.
  • It allows you to create a specific tile layout and pattern for each area.
  • Installation is simpler when working in small, manageable sections.
  • Any uneven areas or tricky angles can be handled individually.
  • Grout lines and tile cuts are planned per section.

Once you know the precise size of each backsplash section, you can map out tile patterns and quantities.

Account for Irregular Areas

Tile backsplashes often contain irregular spaces that require special treatment:

Inside Corners

For inside corners where two sections of counter meet, measure both wall segments separately. Do not include the corner angle itself. This will be filled in last with special corner trim tiles.

Odd Angles

Wrap a piece of paper around any unusual angles in the backsplash area and mark the shape. Then lay the paper flat and measure to determine square inches.

Appliance Cut-Outs

Measure around any gaps for appliances like electrical outlets, switches or soap dispensers. This space needs to be deducted from the total area.

Niches and Decorative Accents

For any niches or decorative inset areas, measure and calculate the space precisely, then deduct it from your main measurements.

With all the prep work done, you have the information needed to determine tile requirements. Now the fun part begins – selecting your perfect backsplash design!

Tile Purchasing Guidelines

Use your square footage measurements to figure out tile needs. Some tips:

  • Purchase 10-15% extra for cuts, waste and defects.
  • Note the exact dimensions and square footage for specialty pieces like borders or mosaics.
  • Look at tile size and coverage recommendations on packaging or manufacturer websites.
  • Smaller tiles need more grout joint space calculated in.
  • Plan an even number of full tiles per row to minimize cuts.

Create a Layout Map

Once tile amounts are determined, map out the exact tile layout. A layout plan should show:

  • All measurements for each section of the backsplash.
  • Exact count of full tiles needed, plus planned cut tiles.
  • Desired tile pattern – brick, herringbone, pinwheel, etc.
  • Location of any borders, accent tiles or mosaics.
  • Grout line spacing between tiles.
  • Any tricky areas requiring tile trims or special cuts.

This layout map will be invaluable during the installation process to keep tile courses straight and cuts precise.

With some careful upfront planning and measurement, installing a backsplash is very manageable. Just take it one section at a time for foolproof results. The end result will be a stunning, professional-looking backsplash that pulls your whole kitchen together.

Frequently Asked Questions About Measuring Backsplash Area

Many homeowners have additional questions when calculating the right amount of backsplash tile. Here are answers to some of the most common concerns.

How do I know how much tile to buy?

Use the square footage amount you calculated to determine tile needs. Allow for 10-15% extra for cuts and defects. Check manufacturer guidelines for tile coverage rates.

Should I include the wall area behind appliances?

Only include the area around appliances, not directly behind them. This space will be wasted since it’s not visible.

What about tricky corners and edges?

Make paper templates for any irregular areas to get accurate measurements. These sections may need special trim or border tiles.

Can I measure in inches instead of feet?

Yes, you can work with inches or centimeters instead of converting to feet. Just be sure your tile requirements match the same units.

How do I account for uneven walls?

Take several measurements along uneven spans and average the width. Allow a little extra tile to be safe. Use trim pieces to compensate for wider gaps if needed.

How do I calculate for a mosaic sheet?

Check the mosaic mesh sheet size which is often expressed in square feet. Then divide the total backsplash area by the sheet size to get the number required.

Should I leave room for grout lines?

Yes, allow 1/8 to 1/4 inches for grout lines when calculating tile square footage, more for very small tiles. The grout width can affect how many full tiles fit.

What tools do I need for measuring?

A steel tape measure, pencil, and graph paper are essential. A laser level can also be handy for marking level lines on uneven walls.


Installing a beautiful, functional backsplash is a satisfying DIY project for any homeowner. Attention to detail is vital when measuring and calculating the backsplash area in your kitchen. Follow these tips for getting highly accurate measurements:

  • Determine the coverage area – full, partial or accent backsplash.
  • Carefully measure width from countertop to cabinets or desired height.
  • Measure height from countertop to ceiling or cabinets.
  • Break the space into individual sections.
  • Account for any odd angles, gaps or niches.
  • Convert measurements into total square footage.
  • Allow 10-15% extra tile for cuts and defects.
  • Map out a detailed tile layout plan.

With proper planning and measurement, you can create the perfect backsplash design featuring tiles, mosaics, borders and accents. The end result will be a professional, seamless installation that makes a stunning statement in your kitchen.