Should You Paint Before Installing Backsplash?

Home renovations and remodeling projects often involve multiple steps that must be completed in the proper order to achieve the desired end results. One common question that comes up is whether you should paint the wall before or after installing a new backsplash in the kitchen or bathroom. There are pros and cons to both approaches, so it is important to consider all factors before deciding on the best sequence for your particular project.

Overview of the Paint Then Backsplash Approach

Many homeowners opt to paint the wall before installing backsplash tile or panels. Here are some potential benefits of this approach:

Allows Painting Without Obstruction

Painting the wall before installing the backsplash gives you full access to the entire wall surface without tiles or panels getting in the way. This makes it easier to coat all areas thoroughly with less masking and cutting in required.

Provides a Blank Canvas for Designing

With a fresh coat of paint on the bare wall, you have a blank background on which to visualize the full backsplash design. The color and clean surface allow the backsplash tile or panels to really stand out.

Prevents Mess From Accumulating Under Backsplash

When you paint first, you avoid paint dripping down behind the backsplash and creating a mess. This keeps the wall cleaner underneath once the backsplash is installed.

May Allow Some Paint Touch-ups Afterward

Depending on the type and size of backsplash materials, you may still be able to do minor paint touch-ups around the edges after installation. Larger tiles or panels will cover more.

Gets Painting Step Fully Out of the Way

Completing all wall painting beforehand means you won’t have to wait for paint to dry later. The installation can proceed on its own timeline without working around paint drying.

Pros of Installing Backsplash Before Painting

On the other hand, there are also some advantages to putting up the backsplash first and painting afterward:

Backsplash Can Be aligned Perfectly

Without pre-painted walls, you can align the backsplash materials exactly where you want them without working around existing paint lines.

No Risk of Painting Over Backsplash

When painting after backsplash installation, there is no chance of accidentally getting paint onto the backsplash materials and having to scrub it off.

Paint Can Overlap Backsplash Slightly

The paint can seal right up to the edges of the backsplash materials or even slightly overlap them to neatly finish off the transitions.

Covers Any Wall Damage From Installation

During backsplash installation, some minor wall damage can occur around the edges. Painting afterward covers up any chips, scrapes or nail holes in the drywall.

Allows Touching Up Grout Lines Later If Needed

After grouting, some hazing or discoloration can develop on grout lines. Painting after provides an option to freshen them up.

Prevents Backsplash From Limiting Paint Colors

With the backsplash up first, you can select a wall paint color that perfectly coordinates with the backsplash rather than having to match or work around a pre-selected paint color.

Key Factors to Consider

When deciding whether to paint or install the backsplash first, keep the following factors in mind:

  • Type of materials being used – Tile, panels, or other
  • Size of tiles or panels – Smaller pieces mean more grout lines
  • Layout of the design – Will grout lines align across walls?
  • Type of paint being used – Semi-gloss easier to clean overlapping
  • Skill level of installer – Are walls likely to get damaged during install?

Tips for Painting Before Backsplash

If you opt to paint first, here are some tips:

  • Use painter’s tape for clean edges along ceiling, trim, and cabinets.
  • Cut in cleanly around corners and edges before rolling the main wall.
  • Use a small roller or brush to coat the area to be covered by backsplash.
  • Allow overnight drying before beginning backsplash installation.
  • Have extra paint on hand for minor touch-ups after backsplash is done.

Tips for Painting After Backsplash

If painting after, follow these guidelines:

  • Use caulk to fill any gaps between backsplash and existing trim, walls, etc.
  • Carefully cut in around the edges with a brush. Tape off if needed.
  • Roll paint up to edge of backsplash but avoid getting it on the tile/panels.
  • Use a small trim brush to paint vertical grout lines if desired.
  • Choose a satin, semi-gloss, or gloss paint to allow easy cleaning.
  • Touch up any paint that gets on the backsplash materials right away.

Answering Common Questions

Below are some commonly asked questions about painting and backsplash order:

Should you paint before installing backsplash?

It depends on the specifics of the project, but often painting first is preferred to avoid getting paint on the backsplash materials. It provides a cleaner surface to adhere to as well.

Can you paint after installing backsplash?

Yes, you can successfully paint after backsplash installation. Extra care is needed to avoid getting paint on the backsplash. Taping off, cutting in carefully, and using glossier paint minimizes this risk.

Do you caulk before or after painting?

In general, it is better to caulk gaps and joints after painting. This allows paint to coat right up to the edges before caulking creates a seal. Pre-caulking can cause bleeding under the paint.

How long do you wait to paint after backsplash?

Allow tile mortar and grout to fully cure first, which usually takes 24-48 hours. Follow any specific drying time instructions from the product manufacturers as well.

Should grout be sealed before or after painting?

Sealing grout is recommended before painting. This prevents the paint from staining or adhering to the grout lines. After sealing, use a small trim brush to paint over grout lines for best results.


Preparing walls and installing new backsplash tile or panels require careful planning and sequencing. Although there are good reasons to paint or install backsplash materials first, most homeowners prefer to paint prior to backsplash installation whenever possible. This provides a blank canvas for the backsplash design, avoids mess underneath, prevents overlapping paint, and allows painting to be checked off the list early. With careful prep and execution, either approach can result in a beautifully coordinated and professionally finished kitchen or bath. Considering the factors outlined above will help determine the best process for your individual backsplash project.