Knowing how to accurately measure the square footage needed for a backsplash is an important step in planning your kitchen remodel. With the right measurements in hand, you can purchase the correct amount of backsplash materials and budget accurately for installation costs. Follow this comprehensive guide to learn techniques for measuring linear, L-shaped, U-shaped, and full backsplash installations.
Backsplashes serve both practical and aesthetic purposes in kitchen design. Not only do they protect the walls from moisture, grease, and stains, they provide an opportunity to infuse color, texture, and visual interest above the countertops.
From traditional tile to glass, metal, and stone, backsplash materials come in an endless array of styles. However, extravagant backsplashes stretch beyond budgets when too much material is purchased. Measurements and a bit of math are needed to buy just what you need.
With simple methods and tools, accurately measuring your backsplash area is easier than it seems. Carefully measure wall lengths, heights, inside and outside corners, allowances for outlets and appliances, and make notes. Use these linear measurements to calculate the total square footage.
This ensures you purchase the right amount of backsplash tile, metal sheets, glass mosaic, or other material without overbuying. Use these techniques for any backsplash layout – whether a single strip over the stove, an L-shaped run, a full wall of tile, or any custom design.
What You’ll Need for Measuring
Before starting to measure, gather a few supplies:
- Measuring tape – A metal retractable tape makes reaching corners and crevices easier. Ensure it is sturdy and not stretched out or damaged.
- Pencil and paper – Note measurements as you go to keep numbers clear and organized.
- Ladder or step stool – Use a ladder for high walls and ceiling. A step stool lets you measure upper cabinets and tops of backsplashes easily.
- Laser distance measurer (optional) – For larger kitchens, a laser tool can quickly and accurately measure longer distances.
- Calculator or smartphone app – To determine the square footage from your linear measurements.
Measure Wall Lengths
The first step is measuring the length of each wall section needing backsplash. For single, straightforward installations like a strip over a cooktop, this is a simple process. But for multiple sections around islands, peninsulas, or full backsplashes, break the perimeter into smaller, manageable pieces.
Follow each backsplash section, measuring horizontally from end to end. Use an inside corner where sections meet as the endpoint for one, and the starting point for the next. Make note of each measurement.
Pay attention to where appliances, outlets, switches, and other features interrupt the backsplash. Measure the smaller sections around them separately, and make notes indicating the break in your run.
- Work in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction around the room to stay organized.
- Stand as close the walls as possible for the most accurate readings.
- Stretch the tape tight without sagging for straight runs. Use a support like a stool for long distances.
- At inside corners, measure just to the very corner, not overlapping around it.
- At outside corners, wrap the tape around the edge for proper measurement.
- Double check numbers for accuracy and write down measurements right away.
Measure Window and Door Areas
Any windows, doors, and large openings in the backsplash space also need to be measured so they can be deducted from the square footage later.
Use the same linear method, measuring height from top to bottom, and width from one side to the other. Take these window and door measurements separately from the backsplash sections.
Measure as accurately as possible, even if the backsplash ends slightly short of the frame edges. Precise numbers ensure you purchase sufficient material to cover the wall up to windows and doors without falling short.
Measure Backsplash Height
Once the lengths of each backsplash section are noted, turn your attention upwards. Measure from the countertop or any other base point to the top of the planned backsplash installation.
This backsplash height measurement may vary depending on your design:
- 4 to 6 inches above a counter is typical for a basic backsplash.
- Full-height backsplashes rise from counter to ceiling.
- Measure from tub lip level for a tub backsplash.
- Make note if height varies in different areas.
Use a step stool to easily reach the top point of measurement. Be sure not to confuse this vertical height with the horizontal lengths already measured.
Calculate Total Square Footage
With all the necessary measurements taken – the horizontal lengths of each backsplash section, windows and doors, as well as the backsplash installation height – it’s time for math.
For each backsplash section:
- Multiply the length by the height to find the square footage of that section.
- Repeat this for each section measured around the kitchen perimeter.
- Add together the square footage of all sections to find the total sum.
- Subtract the area of any windows, doors or openings measured separately.
The final figure after completing these calculations is the estimated total square footage needed for the backsplash installation.
Sample Square Footage Calculation
As an example, for a simple L-shaped backsplash:
- Section 1 length: 8 feet
- Section 1 height: 4 feet
- Section 1 area: 8 x 4 = 32 square feet
- Section 2 length: 5 feet
- Section 2 height: 4 feet
- Section 2 area: 5 x 4 = 20 square feet
- Total of section 1 and section 2: 32 + 20 = 52 square feet
- Window in section 1: 2 feet x 3 feet = 6 square feet
- Total square footage needed: 52 square feet – 6 square feet = 46 square feet
Having this total square footage number is instrumental for purchasing your backsplash materials correctly.
Purchase Materials According to Square Footage
Many backsplash materials are sold by the square foot. With the number of square feet needed, you can determine how much of your selected material to purchase.
Some tips when ordering:
- Tile – Order 10-15% extra to account for uneven walls, cutting waste, and breakage.
- Metal – Add an extra 10% as backup for cuts and mistakes.
- Glass mosaics – Get 15% extra to compensate for trim waste and replacement pieces.
- Stone slabs – Have slabs cut larger and allow 10-15% waste factor for adjustments.
- Wallpaper – Buy a few additional rolls above the square footage to accommodate edges and patterns.
- Reclaimed materials – Be sure to purchase extra to make up for irregular sizes and shapes.
Knowing the accurate overall square footage and ordering with the recommended waste factor provides peace of mind that you will have just the right amount of backsplash material for a flawless installation.
Measure for Professional Installation
If hiring a contractor for installation, your careful measurements make their job easier too. Provide your backsplash measurements to the installer so they know:
- Exact run lengths of each section
- Door, window, and specialty areas
- Required height to be covered
- Total square footage calculated
Any irregularities, corner angles, or special patterns should also be communicated.
With details on the expected scope of work, professionals can accurately assess the job, estimate costs, order materials, and schedule the work efficiently.
Clear measurements help avoid surprises or materials shortages once installation day arrives. Be sure your contractor confirms that your provided measurements match what they encounter during the actual work.
Tips for Measuring Tricky Backsplash Areas
Many kitchen backsplashes have extra turns, corners, niches, and interruptions that require a little extra care when measuring:
- For inside corners: Don???t overlap measurements. Keep each wall section distinct.
- For outside corners: Wrap tape measure fully around the corner edge.
- Around cabinets: Include space under and behind cabinets in measurements.
- Bumping out for outlets/switches: Measure the wall sections between each obstacle.
- Peninsulas: Measure wall sides and face separately.
- Islands: Measure each side needing backsplash individually.
- Angled corners: Use the true wall lengths, not corner-to-corner span.
- Niches and special areas: Take measurements separately from main runs.
- Backsplashes ending shy of ceilings or cabinets: Measure precisely how high installation will extend.
- Varying height: Note where height changes and measure each section separately.
With extra attention at corners, edges, interruptions, and unusual angles, you can tackle even the most complex backsplash plans with accurate results.
Measure Multiple Times for Accuracy
It’s always smart to double-check measurements, especially the first time calculating a backsplash installation. Catching any mistakes or discrepancies on paper is much easier than after materials are ordered and paid for.
Re-measure any sections that are unclear, and verify calculations with a calculator. Having a second set of eyes check over measurements is wise too.
Take your time, recheck numbers, and ensure all needed areas are included in the measurements. Precision leads to a perfect backsplash.
Tools to Make Measuring Easier
Upgrading to certain tools can make a tedious measuring task quicker and more accurate:
- Laser distance measurer – Quickly measure long straight lengths with pinpoint accuracy.
- Digital measuring tape – Eliminates reading errors for precise measurements.
- Measuring wheels – Roll along walls for fast linear footage totals.
- Smartphone apps – Use measuring apps and calculators to tally and convert.
- Graph paper – Sketch a layout and map measurements accurately.
While not required, the right measuring tools provide convenience, speed, and precision.
Hire a Professional
For DIYers uncomfortable with measuring a complex backsplash layout, consider hiring a professional installer or kitchen designer to take measurements for you.
Their expertise measuring many kitchens ensures accuracy. Some services to consider for assistance include:
- Kitchen designers – Designers can measure and create technical drawings of the space.
- Tile contractors – Tile professionals are specialists in measuring tricky tile backsplashes.
- General contractors – Contractors offer full measurements as part of a kitchen remodel.
- Handyman services – Handymen can measure basic backsplash installations.
While hiring out adds cost, for intricate or intimidating backsplash plans, it eliminates the measuring guesswork.
Review Your Measurements
Once all measurements are taken and double checked, review that you have:
- The length, height, and area in square feet of each backsplash section.
- Deductions noted for windows, doors, and openings.
- The height marked for full coverage from counters to ceilings or anywhere between.
- Measurements for any special angles, niches, bump-outs or border extensions.
- The total estimated square footage needed.
Keep your well-documented measurements handy for purchasing materials, communicating with installers, and finalizing your kitchen backsplash plans.
Common Questions about Measuring Backsplash Square Footage
Despite meticulous measurements and calculations, uncertainties often arise on the road to a beautiful new backsplash. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
How do I calculate the square footage for a mosaic backsplash?
Mosaic tiles involve some special considerations, but the process is the same:
- Measure the length and height of each wall section as usual.
- Determine the square footage of each section.
- Adjust for mosaic sheet size – if sheets cover 1 square foot, a 4 ft. x 4 ft. section is 16 square feet.
- Add all sections and make deductions.
Order 10-15% extra to allow for irregular edges and cuts.
What spacing should I use between tiles when planning square footage?
- For simple installation with minimal grout lines, do measurements and layout based on tiles butted tight together.
- To allow wider grout lines of 1/8″ or more between tiles, reduce your square footage estimate by 2-5% depending on grout size.
The finished project with grouted tiles will cover a slightly smaller surface area than the measurements.
Should I include the floor space for my backsplash math?
Floor space should not be factored into the backsplash measurements. Only measure from the countertop to the ceiling, or counter to the upper endpoint of your planned backsplash height.
The key is measuring the vertical space the backsplash tiles or sheets will cover, not total floor area.
How do I calculate for an outlet, soap dispenser, or light switch?
Make a separate small measurement for each interruption in your backsplash:
- Measure height and width of the outlet, switch, or obstruction.
- Calculate the square inch or square footage.
- Subtract the total from your overall backsplash area.
This ensures you purchase enough to cover around these obstacles.
Do I need to visit the physical kitchen to measure?
Visiting the actual kitchen space is best to capture accurate measurements. If unable to access the space, rely on complete dimensions provided from kitchen plans, contractors, or designers.
Make sure to communicate all backsplash sections, windows, openings, heights, and features needing coverage so sufficient materials can be ordered.
How do I calculate if backsplash height varies?
Take separate measurements for each section with a different top endpoint or height:
- Section 1: 8 ft. x 4 ft. = 32 sq. ft.
- Section 2: 10 ft. x 6 ft. = 60 sq. ft.
Add the square footage of the varying height sections together for the total. Purchase materials according to tallest height needed.
What if I make a measuring mistake?
Recheck all measurements if your materials purchase seems excessive or falls short. Overbuying is preferred to running out mid-project. Retain extra materials for future repairs or installations.
Tips for DIY Backsplash Installation
Once backsplash materials are purchased, proper installation is key to a flawless finished product. Follow these tips for DIY success:
- Tile adhesive, grout, backerboard, etc. Choose products suitable for the kitchen environment.
Prepare the Surface
- Clean walls thoroughly and seal if needed before installing backsplash.
Create a Layout
- Dry lay materials to map out the most efficient placement and aesthetic pattern.
- Use sharp tile cutters and snips for clean, accurate cuts around edges and openings.
Apply Adhesive Correctly
- Spread thin, even layers of adhesive according to manufacturer directions for strong bond.
Set Tiles Firmly
- Carefully set tiles into adhesive. Use spacers for consistent grout line width.
- Push grout fully into joints. Wipe diagonally across tiles for smooth finished appearance.
Seal and Finish
- Seal grout and stone as needed. caulk perimeter edges for clean finish.
Clean Up Promptly
- Remove adhesive and grout from surfaces before drying. Sponge up excess for easy cleanup.
With the right preparations, materials, and techniques, you can install an eye-catching, quality backsplash yourself and save on labor costs.
Decorative Backsplash Ideas and Design Inspiration
Beyond practical protection, backsplashes introduce eye-catching style to kitchens. Explore these stunning backsplash ideas to find inspiration:
Nature-Inspired Organic Style
Warm up kitchens with natural stone, wood plank, and plant-based tile motifs. Soothing hues and handmade imperfections exude organic charm.
Subway tiles, salvaged tin panels, and 1940???s Era glass mosaics revive retro flair. Layer colors and textures for timeworn appeal.
Sophisticated Metal and Glass
Sleek metallics like stainless steel, copper, and brushed nickel paired with glossy glass create refined contemporary class.
Crisp geometric designs in glossy colors make modern statements. Try herringbone, chevron, or brick-like patterns.
Coordinated Color Scheme
Choose one vibrant hue like aqua or tomato red for cabinetry, walls, and backsplash in a bold, immersive palette.
Eclectic Mix and Match
For the adventurous, combine an assortment of eras, textures, shapes, and colors for an undeniably custom collage effect.
Black and White Contrast
A contrasting black and whitescheme lends timeless drama and elegance. Add pops of color for extra flair.
The backsplash presents a chance to imprint your unique personality and style on the kitchen. Let creativity lead the way to your dream design.
With the measurements, calculations, tools, and techniques provided in this guide, you can determine and obtain just the right square footage of backsplash materials needed for your kitchen vision. Careful planning ensures you avoid purchasing excess quantities or underestimating what’s required.
Follow these best practices for measuring and calculating square footage for backsplashes of all shapes, sizes and configurations. With the numbers accurately in hand, bring your ideal backsplash design to life.