What Do You Install First – Countertop or Backsplash

Countertops Provide a Stable Surface for Installing the Backsplash

The countertop provides a fixed, level, and sturdy surface onto which you can install the backsplash. With the countertop in place, you can rest tools or materials on it while working on the backsplash. The countertop also serves as a guide to ensure the backsplash is cut to the right height and fits snugly against the counter’s edge. Trying to install the backsplash on the wall before putting in the countertop means working without a stable surface below.

Countertop Installation Can Damage a Pre-Installed Backsplash

Installing countertops often requires some force. You may need to secure sections together tightly, drill holes for the sink, or press pieces firmly into place with adhesive. Applying such pressure against a finished backsplash could crack tiles, scratch the surface, or even pop entire pieces off the wall. By putting in the countertop first, the backsplash is protected during the countertop installation process.

Eliminates Issues with Fitting and Alignment

Installing the countertop first means you can use it as a guide when cutting and fitting the backsplash. The countertop’s edge gives you an exact measurement of what size the backsplash tiles or panels need to be. It also allows you to align the top edge of the backsplash perfectly with the counter’s surface. Doing the backsplash first makes it harder to achieve a seamless transition between the two surfaces.

Provides a Visual Border for the Backsplash Design

The countertop forms a visual frame along the bottom of the backsplash. This border can enhance the overall look of the backsplash design. It helps ground the eye, so the backsplash tiles don’t appear to just float off of the counter. The countertop edge also serves as a straight line to work up from when installing the backsplash pieces.

Avoid Damage to Countertops During Backsplash Installation

Installing the backsplash involves drilling into the wall, applying adhesives or mortar, and pressing tiles firmly into place. Doing this after the countertop is in means you avoid accidentally making holes, scratching, or staining the countertop surface during the backsplash installation process.

Enables Accurate Measurements for Cutouts

If any sections of the backsplash need to be cut out – such as behind a kitchen range or around electrical outlets – it is easier to take these measurements after the countertop is installed. The countertop provides reference points to ensure cutouts are made in the right spots. Trying to measure for backsplash cutouts before the countertop is in increases the chance of error.

In summary, installing countertops before the backsplash is recommended in most kitchen remodeling situations. The countertop provides a sturdy work surface, protects both surfaces during installation, and allows for a more seamless overall look. The order can be changed in some cases, such as when using heavy stone backsplashes, but for most standard kitchen projects, the countertop should be first.

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing Countertops and Backsplashes

Should I install the backsplash before or after the countertop?

In most cases, it is recommended to install the countertop first, before installing the backsplash. The countertop provides a sturdy surface to work on and prevents damage to the backsplash during countertop installation.

What is the proper order to install kitchen counters and backsplash?

The proper order is to install the countertop first, followed by the backsplash. The countertop provides a level surface and finished edge to align the backsplash against for a seamless look.

Can you put up backsplash before countertops?

It is not recommended to install backsplash before countertops. The countertop installation process can damage the backsplash if it is already in place. The countertop also provides a guide for fitting and cutting the backsplash.

Should backsplash overlap countertop?

Yes, the backsplash should overlap the countertop slightly, resting on top of the countertop edge. This covers any gaps and provides a continuous visual line between the two surfaces.

What comes first when renovating a kitchen – cabinets, countertops or backsplash?

The typical order when renovating a kitchen is:

  1. Cabinets
  2. Countertops
  3. Backsplash

Installing cabinets first provides mounting points for countertops and backsplash. The countertop then provides a work surface and edge guide for the backsplash.

Should you caulk backsplash to countertop?

Yes, caulking the seam between the backsplash and countertop helps fill any gaps and provides a waterproof seal. Use a flexible, mold-resistant caulk designed for kitchen and bath areas.


When undertaking a kitchen remodel involving new countertops and backsplash, completing the countertop installation first is the recommended best practice in most situations. The countertop creates an ideal surface for installing the backsplash, eliminates alignment issues, protects both surfaces from damage, and results in a beautifully streamlined look. By understanding the ideal order – countertops followed by backsplash – you can tackle your kitchen project with confidence.