When to Install Backsplash

A backsplash is an important design element in any kitchen. Not only does it serve a functional purpose by protecting the walls from splashes and spills, it also provides visual interest and ties the whole kitchen together aesthetically. When renovating or building a new kitchen, one of the key decisions is determining the right time in the process to install the backsplash. Careful planning and timing of the backsplash installation can help ensure it goes smoothly.


Installing a backsplash is one of the final steps when designing a kitchen. The process requires careful coordination with the cabinet installation, countertop fabrication, appliance delivery, and flooring choices. Proper planning and timing of the backsplash installation helps avoid potential setbacks or re-work.

When determining when to install backsplash tile or other backsplash materials, there are several factors to consider:

  • Coordinating with other trades
  • Allowing for proper cure times for substrates
  • The complexity of the backsplash design
  • Types of materials being used
  • Personal preferences

Getting the timing right provides the necessary conditions for proper backsplash installation and allows the project to move forward on schedule. Rushing the installation can lead to problems down the road.

By understanding what needs to happen before, during, and after backsplash installation, homeowners can decide the optimal time to schedule their backsplash work. Examining the key steps and dependencies helps create a smooth and seamless kitchen renovation.

Plan Around Other Kitchen Projects

The backsplash timing is heavily dependent on other kitchen projects and improvements. Before determining when to install the backsplash, it is important to look at the full scope of the kitchen renovation plan.

Some of the key items to consider are:

Cabinet Installation

The cabinet installation is a prerequisite to a successful backsplash installation. Tiling up to ceilings, windows, or walls is impossible without the cabinets in place. There needs to be an endpoint to finish the edges of the backsplash.

Also, committing to cabinet layout and design ensures accurate backsplash measurements. Trying to measure for backsplashes with temporary cabinets or no cabinets at all can lead to miscalculations.

Finally, the height of the cabinets must be determined prior to backsplash work. Standard cabinet height is 34-1/2 inches. If cabinet height is altered, it impacts the measurements and cutting of the backsplash.

Countertop Fabrication

Knowing countertop material choices and having all countertops fabricated is important prior to backsplash work. The backsplash ends need to be finished off against the edges of the countertops.

Whether choosing granite, quartz, laminate, wood, or other countertop materials, their installation must precede the backsplash installation. Having the finished counter height and shape allows for precise backsplash measurements.

Appliance Delivery

Part of the backsplash planning includes proper coordination around appliances. For example, a backsplash will need to be cut to fit around the edges of a built-in refrigerator or other appliances against the wall.

Being aware of the intended appliance installation schedule prevents having to make modifications to the backsplash after the fact. It avoids unnecessary cuts, holes, or other changes.

Flooring Choices

The type of flooring selected for the kitchen should be determined before backsplash installation. The bottom edge of the backsplash must align with the top point of the flooring.

Whether tile, wood, vinyl, or other flooring materials, the finished height along the wall impacts the backsplash dimensions. Knowing the flooring installation schedule prevents miscalculations.

Confirm Substrates & Conditions

In addition to coordinating with other trades, the backsplash installation depends on proper site conditions. The substrates must be prepared correctly prior to backsplash work beginning.

Drywall Installation & Finishing

Backsplashes require a smooth, dry substrate for proper application. The drywall finishing should be completed prior to backsplash installation.

This includes having the final coats of drywall compound applied and sanded smooth. The drywall should also be primed and painted with its final color if possible.

Skipping proper drywall finishing can cause adhesion issues later. Grout and tile can catch on uneven drywall surfaces.

Allow Proper Dry Times

In addition to finished drywall, the substrate needs to be fully cured and dried out. This prevents moisture issues under the backsplash materials leading to failure.

New drywall compounds and paint should dry for at least 24 hours before backsplash installation. Allow even more time in humid environments or for latex paints.

Rushing into backsplash installation without fully dried substrates risks the tiles or panels failing. Taking the time upfront to confirm proper cure times prevents problems.

Clean Surfaces

Thoroughly cleaning the substrate prior to backsplash installation is a must. Dust, oil, grease, or any dirt can cause bonding issues.

Cleaning can be done by simply washing the walls down with water and a degreaser. For glossy painted walls, they may require a light sanding for proper adhesion.

Starting with contaminated surfaces jeopardizes the integrity of the thinset, mortar, or adhesive during backsplash installation.

Material Choice & Complexity

The specific backsplash materials and overall design also impact installation timing. More intricate tile patterns or special order materials require advanced planning.

Type of Backsplash Materials

Standard ceramic, porcelain, or glass backsplash tiles are readily available and installed in a similar fashion. More exotic materials like metal or special stone could require custom ordering.

Knowing this lead time allows proper scheduling of the backsplash installation after other project dependencies are met.

Materials like subway tile can be purchased and installed in the same timeframe other kitchen work is being completed. More complex materials need their delivery coordinated.

Design Complexity

A conventional running bond brick pattern backsplash is easier to plan compared to a detailed mosaic or medallion backsplash. Intricate backsplashes require precise measurements and custom cutting.

Factoring in these special steps impacts the installation timing. The amount of precision cutting and additions like decorative borders, trims, and accents add to the project duration.

Simple layouts involve less upfront coordination compared to elaborate backsplash designs. The material choice and complexity have a direct impact on determining installation timelines.

Grouting Schedule

When designing tile backsplashes, the grouting and sealing process is an important consideration. Grout cleanup is simplified when adjoining countertops or appliances are not yet installed.

Working grout application and finishing into the schedule prior to final trim, caulk, or sealing allows easier cleanup access. Leaving grouting until the end risks stain issues with other finishes surfaces.

Hiring Backsplash Installers

Homeowners also need to determine whether to install the backsplash themselves or hire professional tile contractors. Making this decision is important when planning timelines.

DIY Backsplash

For DIYers taking on their own backsplash, the project scheduling can be more flexible. Materials can be purchased as needed once cabinetry and counters are installed.

However, the installation duration can take longer without professional experience. Planning for extra time is prudent when doing a DIY backsplash project after other dependent trades.

Professional Installers

Contracting professional tile installers requires more upfront planning and coordination. Their schedule will determine when they are available to start.

Discussing the installation dependencies mentioned above allows creating an efficient schedule for the tile contractors. When hiring out the backsplash work, build in lead time for contractor availability.

No matter whether a DIY or hired project, the common key is confirming all underlying work is completed first before installing the backsplash.

Optimal Backsplash Installation Timeline

When pulling together all the steps, substrates, materials, and labor, the recommended best practice is to install backsplashes towards the end but before final finishes.

After Cabinetry & Countertops

The most prudent time for backsplash installation is after all cabinetry and countertops are installed. This provides the necessary framework to measure and install against.

With the cabinets, counter materials, heights, and depths confirmed, precise backsplash dimensions can be derived.

Before Appliances & Floors

It is best to install backsplashes prior to appliance delivery and installation. Tile can be cleanly finished to cabinets without having to cut around appliances.

Likewise, executing backsplash installation before final flooring allows covering the floor completely for neater tiling. Grout and adhesive can stain or adhere to finished flooring.

Before Final Trim & Sealing

Grouting tile and sealing the installation is optimal prior to concluding trim details. Leaving grout cleanup until the end risks contaminating adjoining finished surfaces.

By focusing on backsplash installation and grouting prior to appliances, trim, caulk, and sealing, the cleanup is simpler. Hungry grout lines are avoided.

permit Cure Time

Finally, even after installation, allow proper cure time before exposure to water or heavy usage. Give tile thinset mortar and grout sealers ample time to fully dry and set according to manufacturer guidelines.

Rushing this final step risks weakening grout joints or bonding. Have patience at the tail end before enjoying the finished backsplash.

Summary of Backsplash Timing Best Practices

The optimum time to install a backsplash is after cabinets, countertops, drywall, and paint but before appliances, flooring, and final trim. Key tips include:

  • Complete cabinetry and countertop installation first
  • Confirm substrate conditions are properly prepared
  • Factor in lead times for special order materials
  • Schedule professional tile contractors in advance
  • Leave grouting, cuts, and holes before appliances
  • Allow thinset mortar and grout to fully cure

Careful attention to kitchen renovation dependencies and schedules sets up backsplash projects for success. Knowing the right time to install prevents setbacks or rework.

With some planning and understanding of project sequences, determining when to install backsplash can be straightforward. A beautifully executed backsplash pulls the entire kitchen together.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplash Installation Timing

When is the right time to install a backsplash? Here are answers to homeowners’ common questions.

Can backsplashes be installed before countertops?

It is not recommended to install backsplashes before countertops are fabricated and installed. The finished counter provides the necessary stopping point to end the backsplash against.

Should appliances be installed before backsplashes?

For easiest installation and cleanest finished edges, backsplashes should be installed prior to appliances like refrigerators, stoves, and sinks. This prevents having to cut tile around the appliances later.

How long should new drywall cure before backsplash installation?

Allow new drywall compounds, paint, and primers to cure at least 24 hours before installing backsplashes. Provide even more cure time in humid climates.

Can backsplashes be tiled before flooring is selected?

Knowing what type of flooring will be installed is important prior to backsplash installation. The backsplash edge must align with the top of the finished floor.

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

The proper order is cabinets first, then countertops, followed by the backsplash. The cabinets provide fixed endpoints and heights to finish the backsplash against.

What is the optimal tile curing time after backsplash installation?

Follow manufacturer guidelines, but generally allow tile thinset to cure for 24 hours before grouting. After grouting, allow 72 hours before routine exposure to moisture.


The finishing touch that brings a kitchen remodel together is the backsplash installation. By understanding the key steps involved in the process, homeowners can identify the optimal timing for when to install backsplash tile or other backsplash materials.

Careful coordination with cabinets, countertops, appliances, paint, and flooring helps prevent setbacks. Allowing for material lead times and tile cure times guarantees a seamless installation. A well-executed backsplash ties the whole kitchen design together visually and protects the walls functionally.

With some advance planning and awareness of the order of operations, determining the perfect moment to install backsplash can be straightforward. Taking the time to get the timing right leads to a stunning backsplash homeowners can enjoy for years to come.