What to Use Between Backsplash and Countertop

Selecting the right material to use between your backsplash and countertop is an important design decision that can dramatically impact the look and feel of your kitchen. With so many options to choose from, it can be tricky to know which route to take. Here is an in-depth look at the most popular materials used between backsplashes and countertops, along with tips for choosing what will work best for your space.


The area between your backsplash and countertop, known as the backsplash return, plays an integral role in tying your kitchen design together. This transitional strip brings cohesion to the materials used on your backsplash, countertop, and cabinetry. Selecting a material that complements both the backsplash and countertop is key for creating a streamlined look.

When choosing a backsplash return material, there are several factors to consider:

  • Aesthetics – Pick a material that complements your backsplash and countertop in style, color, and texture
  • Functionality – Consider ease of cleaning and durability
  • Budget – Backsplash return materials range widely in price to fit different budgets
  • DIY Skill Level – Some materials, like tile, require more intensive installation

Taking the time to carefully evaluate your options will ensure you end up with a backsplash return that meets both form and function.

Matching Materials

One simple option is to use the same material for both the backsplash and backsplash return. Matching these elements creates a uniform, seamless look. Here are some of the most common backsplash materials that can also be used between the backsplash and countertop:


Tile offers endless options for colors, textures, shapes, and patterns. Choosing the same tile for your backsplash and backsplash return is a straightforward way to make these areas flow together. Opt for a grout color that matches or complements the tile.


Natural stone like marble, travertine, or granite, provides a high-end, luxe look in the kitchen. Using stone slabs on the backsplash and backsplash return establishes visual continuity. Be sure the stone has the durability to withstand moisture and stains.


Glass backsplashes impart a sleek, modern vibe. Glass can extend from the backsplash onto the backsplash return to create a unified shine. Glass options include clear, colored, frosted, or patterned.


Metallic backsplashes and backsplash returns can really make a stylish statement. You could do stainless steel, copper, brass, or aluminum. Make sure to use a durable metal that can stand up to kitchen conditions.


Wood brings natural warmth to kitchens. Using the same wood panels or planks for the backsplash and backsplash return results in a rustic yet refined look. Moisture-resistant wood is ideal to prevent warping.

Complementary Materials

If you want your backsplash return to serve as a transition between different backsplash and countertop materials, explore complementary combinations. Consider ways to bridge the two materials together through color, texture, or finish.

Tile + Granite Countertop

Granite countertops are highly popular, providing natural beauty and durability. Introducing granite into the backsplash return can create harmony with a tile backsplash. Arrange the tile in a stacked, staggered pattern for continuity.

Marble Backsplash + Quartz Countertop

With a marble backsplash and quartz countertop, use polished marble or quartz on the backsplash return to marry the elegance of marble with the modern vibe of quartz. The sheen of polished stone helps blend these materials.

Stainless Steel Backsplash + Butcher Block Countertop

The industrial edge of a stainless steel backsplash balanced against the rustic warmth of a butcher block countertop is an appealing kitchen aesthetic. Using stainless steel as the return keeps it cohesive.

Wood Backsplash + Concrete Countertop

The raw, organic texture of wood and concrete make an on-trend pairing. A thin concrete return complements without overpowering the wood backsplash. Gray concrete tones down wood grain.

Subway Tile + Soapstone Countertop

Classic white subway tile combined with the subtle mottling in soapstone is timeless. For the transition, small-scale soapstone mosaic tiles can beautifully bridge these materials.

What to Avoid

Some material combinations should be avoided for the backsplash return. Steer clear of these mismatched pairings:

  • Metal backsplash with porous stone countertop – can lead to staining
  • Glass backsplash with rough concrete countertop – risks chipping the glass
  • Large format tiles with tiny mosaic backsplash – looks disjointed
  • Too many competing colors and patterns – causes visual chaos

Keep the backsplash return simple and neutral to let your backsplash and countertop finishes properly shine.

DIY Installation Tips

If doing a DIY backsplash return installation, follow these tips for success:

  • Carefully measure and account for any uneven areas.
  • Cut materials with a wet saw for clean, precise edges.
  • Apply thinset mortar evenly.
  • Use spacers between tiles for consistent grout lines.
  • Seal natural stone materials before installation.
  • Allow proper drying time according to product instructions.

Hiring a professional installer is recommended if you lack experience with the material.


Choosing what to use between your backsplash and countertop is both an aesthetic and functional decision. Keep the look cohesive by matching or complementing your backsplash and countertop materials in the transitional backsplash return area. Avoid jarring mismatches for optimal appeal. With some thoughtful planning, you can achieve a backsplash return design that flawlessly bridges these two key kitchen elements.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most popular materials to use for a backsplash return?

The most popular backsplash return materials are tile, stone, glass, metal, and wood since they coordinate well with common backsplash and countertop options.

Should my backsplash return material match my backsplash or countertop?

It can match either one, depending on your design preference. Matching the backsplash creates a more seamless look, while matching the countertop transitions it in nicely.

What’s an affordable material option for backsplash returns?

Tile is a very budget-friendly option. Simple ceramic or porcelain tiles offer plenty of styles and looks at low cost.

Can I use a contrasting material to make the backsplash return a design statement?

Absolutely, contrasting materials can create an eye-catching detail. Just be sure the two finishes don’t clash with each other.

What mistakes should I avoid when installing a backsplash return?

Avoid sloppy measurements, uneven tile spacing, incorrect sealing, and not allowing enough drying time. Rushing the job can lead to problems down the road.