Where Do You Start a Backsplash?

Backsplashes are a great way to add visual interest, color, and texture to any kitchen. But before you can enjoy the finished look, you need to know where to start the installation process. Here is a comprehensive guide on where to start a backsplash and how to ensure proper planning, prep work, and execution.

Selecting the Backsplash Location

The first step in any backsplash project is deciding where you want it to go. Here are some of the most common backsplash locations and factors to consider when choosing:

Behind the Sink

The area directly behind the kitchen sink is the most common spot for a backsplash. This high-traffic zone is prone to water splashes and needs protection. Tiling this section helps prevent moisture damage and makes for easy wipe-downs. Focus on tiling a sizeable area around the faucet, at minimum from countertop to underside of wall cabinet.

Along the Countertops

Running backsplash tile along the length of kitchen countertops is a popular treatment, providing a clean visual break between walls and counter surfaces. Decide how much counter area you want to cover – common heights range from 4 inches up to the bottom of wall cabinets. For a coordinated look, match the backsplash height to the height of the backsplashes behind appliances.

Around Appliances

Backsplashes are commonly installed around kitchen appliances like ranges, ovens, and refrigerators. Appliance backsplashes serve both form and function, protecting walls from grease splatters and tying the overall kitchen decor together. Consider tiling at least 4 inches around appliances, or up to 12 inches for a more substantial look.

Full Wall of Tile

For a high-impact option, tile an entire wall or walls from countertops to ceiling. Full backsplashes make a dramatic style statement and eliminate gaps that collect grease and grime. Be sure to select durable, cleanable tile for this application. Glass, metal, and stone tiles work well.

Backsplash Height

Standard backsplash height is 4 inches, but anywhere between 4 and 12 inches is common. Take into account your kitchen’s existing features when deciding. Go higher behind appliances or sinks to protect more wall space. For a cohesive look, maintain the same height along countertops and around appliances.

Preparing the Work Area

To ensure a smooth install, prep the backsplash area thoroughly before beginning. Here are some tips:

  • Clear countertops and remove anything on walls where backsplash will be installed.
  • Protect existing surfaces like countertops, floors, and appliances with rosin paper or plastic sheeting.
  • Have all tools (tile cutter, grout float, spacers), materials (tile, thinset, grout), and protective gear (gloves, goggles, knee pads) on hand before starting.
  • Turn off electricity and gas to appliances during install.

Thorough prep work leads to efficient installation and best finished results.

Selecting Backsplash Tile

One of the most exciting parts of a new backsplash is choosing the tile design and materials. Consider the following when picking:


Ceramic, porcelain, glass, and natural stone like marble or granite are popular backsplash tile materials. Each has different properties. Ceramic and porcelain provide an affordable, durable, easy-to-install option. Glass adds a sleek, modern look with lots of color choices. Natural stone offers elegance and visual depth.


Smaller tiles, like mosaics or 3×6 subway tile, yield a classic look. Larger tiles, 8 inches or bigger, have a more contemporary, seamless effect. Large-format tiles can make a small kitchen appear bigger. Mixing tile sizes can create interest.


From sophisticated subway patterns to artistic mosaics, backsplash tile styles range widely. Consider the overall kitchen decor when selecting. For example, concrete-style tile pairs well with industrial interiors, while mosaics complement old-world charm.


Use backsplash tile to introduce color or pattern not found elsewhere in the kitchen. Match or contrast the tile color to cabinetry, countertops, appliances, paint, or accent decor. Choose a glossy or matte finish based on aesthetic preference and appropriateness to the material.


Backsplash tile prices vary widely, from $2 per square foot for basic ceramic to $50 per square foot for high-end stone or glass. Measure the area needing tile and estimate costs before finalizing materials selection.

Installing the Backsplash Tile

Once you have prepped the work area and selected tiles, it’s time for the fun part – installation! Follow these steps:

Step 1: Plan Tile Layout

Dry lay the tile in the installation area before applying any adhesive to ensure you have enough and that the layout works. If needed, adjust placement or retile sections to avoid ending with small, uneven pieces at corners or edges.

Step 2: Prepare Tile Backer

For most surfaces, apply thinset adhesive using a notched trowel to adhere tiles. Thinset provides excellent bonding power. For problematic surfaces like vinyl or metal, specialized backer boards may need fastening to the wall first to support tiles.

Step 3: Apply Thinset

Use the notched edge of the trowel to spread a layer of thinset adhesive on the backsplash area. Apply in small sections that can be tiled before the thinset dries, about 2-4 square feet at a time.

Step 4: Set Tiles

Working in the section with fresh thinset, press tiles firmly into place, nudging into the adhesive notch pattern. Use plastic spacers between tiles to achieve even grout lines. Level and align tiles properly as you go for best results. Allow thinset to dry 24 hours before grouting.

Step 5: Grout Application

After the thinset has fully cured, mix grout per package directions and apply over tiles using a grout float. Push grout into gaps, wiping away excess. Allow grout to partially dry, then sponge and polish for a clean look. Allow 24 hours for grout to fully cure before using backsplash.

Step 6: Seal and Protect

Apply a penetrating sealant to porous natural stone, saltillo, or cement tile to protect from stains and damage. Reseal periodically. Use caulk in joints between tile and countertops/appliances.

With proper planning and carefully following installation steps, you can achieve a backsplash design that makes your kitchen shine.

Backsplash Maintenance Tips

Once your new backsplash is professionally installed, maintaining its beauty over time requires just a bit of regular care:

  • Wipe up spills, splatters, and water promptly to prevent stains, damage, and mildew growth.
  • Use gentle, pH-neutral cleaners to keep backsplash surfaces clean. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Reseal grout and porous tiles annually to limit staining and deterioration.
  • For heavy grime, use baking soda, white vinegar, or ammonia-based cleaners sparingly along with non-scratch scrub sponges. Rinse well.
  • Avoid abrasive scouring pads, strong acids/bleach, wire brushes, or other damaging cleaners on backsplash surfaces.
  • If re-grouting is needed, use proper colored caulk at change-of-plane joints instead of grout.

Regular maintenance protects your investment and keeps the backsplash looking like new.

Backsplash Design Ideas and Inspirations

If you’re still undecided on backsplash tile styles or materials, here are some eye-catching design ideas to spark your creativity:

Vintage Chic

Achieve a classically elegant look with white, beige, or black subway tiles arranged in zigzag or offset brick patterns. Trim with matching or contrasting grout. Add warmth with natural wood accents.

Modern Geometric

Make a contemporary statement by using large-format porcelain tiles or glass mosaics in graphic black and white or simple, bold colors. Pair with sleek cabinets and stainless steel.

Natural Elements

Bring the outdoors in with tiles mimicking natural materials like travertine, marble, or pebbled glass tiles. Layer in greenery via potted herbs or printed tiles. Rustic wood shelves continue the earthy vibe.

Artsy Eclectic

Multicolored, mismatched tiles in a range of interesting shapes and textures make for an artsy, eclectic backsplash. Handmade Italian or Spanish tiles offer artisanal appeal. Display collectibles against the tile collage.

Rustic Farmhouse

Classic white farmhouse sinks pop against backsplashes of reclaimed wood planks or handmade subway tile. Aged finishes, framed botanical prints, and antique accents complete the homespun look.

High-End Industrial

Combine the sleekness of metal mosaic tiles or porcelain wood-look planks with black stainless steel appliances and factory-style light fixtures for contemporary industrial edge. Exposed brick adds authenticity.

Intricate Moroccan

Transport your kitchen to the casbah with colorful hand-cut mosaic tiles in intricate Middle Eastern star and floral patterns. Use wall stencils and wood trim to enhance the exotic motif.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplashes

Many homeowners have additional questions about properly planning and executing their backsplash projects. Here are answers to some of the most commonly asked:

How difficult is it to install a backsplash yourself?

With proper planning and by carefully following tile installation steps, an experienced DIYer can absolutely take on a backsplash project. Basic tiling is relatively straightforward. Know your limits and enlist a pro if you lack tiling knowledge or feel unsure.

What tools do I need to install backsplash tile?

At minimum, you need a notched trowel and grout float for applying thinset and grout. Other essential tools include a tile cutter, spacers, mixing buckets, sponges, and safety gear like gloves and eye protection. For intricate tile work, specialized nippers, snippers, or a snap cutter come in handy.

How do I cut the backsplash tiles?

Ceramic and porcelain tiles can be cut using a manual tile cutter or wet saw. Keep a spray bottle handy while scoring and breaking tiles to keep dust down. For irregular cuts around electrical boxes, drain pipes, etc, use a multi-tool or angle grinder with a diamond blade. Use a rod saw or nippers for small, intricate tile cuts.

Should my backsplash go all the way to the ceiling?

While full backsplashes that reach the ceiling make a dramatic design statement in contemporary and cottage-style kitchens, they aren’t necessarily the best functional choice. Partial backsplashes with 4-6 inches of wall space showing allow room for dust and grease accumulation before it impacts the tile. This helps keep your backsplash looking clean.

Can you use laminate for backsplashes?

While laminate is an inexpensive option, it is not ideal for backsplashes which require moisture-resistance around sinks, stoves, and other wet areas. Laminate is prone to warping and damage from heat and water. Tile, metal, glass, or other non-porous materials make better functional and attractive backsplash choices. Use laminate selectively in protected dry areas only.


Installing a new backsplash is a satisfying project that can completely transform the look of your kitchen. Now that you know where to start the backsplash, proper planning and installation steps, design inspirations, and answers to frequently asked questions, you are equipped to tackle your project with confidence. Carefully following best practices for prep work, tile cutting, thinset application, and grouting will lead to a successful installation and a backsplash you will enjoy showing off.

Where Do You Start a Backsplash? Everything You Need to Know!

Excited to upgrade your kitchen with a chic new backsplash but not sure where to start? This comprehensive guide outlines the complete process – from prep work to design inspiration – to help you successfully plan and execute your next backsplash project.

Determining the Best Backsplash Location

The backsplash location dictates where you will need to focus your prep and installation efforts. Common backsplash placement includes:

Behind the Sink

Tiling around the sink is a practical way to protect the wall from water damage while adding style. Concentrate coverage in a sizeable area around the faucet controls.

Along the Countertops

A row of backsplash tile along the countertops forms a clean divider between the counters and wall. Popular height is 4 inches, but you can go up to 12 inches.

Around Appliances

Protect walls from splatter by tiling around ranges, ovens, and refrigerators. Allow for at least 4 inch coverage.

Full Backsplash

For high visual impact, install tile from countertop to ceiling on one or multiple walls. Use durable, moisture-resistant tile.

Backsplash Height Considerations

Standard height is 4 inches, but 4-12 inches is common. Here are factors to consider when deciding:

  • Go higher around appliances or sink to protect more wall space from splashes.
  • Maintain consistent height along countertops and around appliances for a streamlined look.
  • Height of nearby existing backsplashes like behind range or around refrigerator.

Pre-Installation Prep Work

To ensure the install process goes smoothly:

  • Clear countertops and remove items from backsplash walls. Protect surfaces like counters and floors.
  • Gather all materials – tile, thinset, grout, tools, safety gear. Have everything on hand before you begin.
  • Turn off electricity and gas to kitchen appliances before starting.

Thorough prep prevents headaches down the road!

Selecting Your Backsplash Tile

The design options are endless when picking backsplash tile. Consider the following:


Ceramic, porcelain, glass, and natural stone are go-to backsplash materials. Each has different properties suited for kitchens.


Smaller tiles like subway create a classic look. Go with larger formats for modern, seamless aesthetic.


From elegant marble to handmade mosaics, backsplash tile styles abound. Choose one that matches your kitchen’s decor.


Introduce color not found elsewhere in the kitchen backsplash. Or pull accent hues from existing palette.


Matte or glossy finish impacts the look. Make sure it is appropriate for the tile material.


Measure your space and estimate materials cost before finalizing. Prices range widely.

Step-By-Step Installation Guide

Once backsplash tile is selected and prep work complete, it’s time for the fun part – installing it!

Step 1: Plan Layout

Do a dry layout with loose tiles to ensure you have enough and the placement works before actually setting anything.

Step 2: Prepare Tile Backer

Most surfaces receive thinset adhesive. Special backer boards may be needed for problem areas.

Step 3: Apply Thinset

Use a notched trowel to spread thinset mortar where tiles will be set. Work in small sections.

Step 4: Set Tiles

Press tiles into thinset, using spacers for even grout lines. Allow thinset to fully cure before grouting.

Step 5: Grout

After curing, apply grout with float, wiping away excess. Allow to partially dry then polish off.

Step 6: Seal & Protect

Seal porous tile with penetrating sealant. Use caulk at transitions to countertops.

Design Inspiration

If still unsure about backsplash tile styles, here are some striking designs to consider:

  • Vintage Chic – Classic subway tile patterns in black, white, or beige
  • Modern Geometric – Bold, oversized tiles or glass mosaics in graphic patterns
  • Natural Elements – Tile mimicking stone, travertine, marble to bring nature indoors
  • Artsy Eclectic – Multicolored mismatched tiles and collectibles make an artistic statement
  • Rustic Farmhouse – Reclaimed wood plank tiles, vintage accents, white farmhouse sink
  • High-End Industrial – Sleek metal or wood-look tiles with stainless steel appliances
  • Intricate Moroccan – Colorful mosaics with exotic star and floral patterns

Backsplash Maintenance Tips

Keep your new backsplash looking fresh by:

  • Promptly wiping up spills, splatters, and water
  • Using only gentle, pH-neutral cleaners
  • Resealing grout and porous tiles annually
  • Scrubbing with baking soda, vinegar or ammonia for heavy buildup
  • Avoiding abrasive pads, wire brushes or harsh chemicals

Proper care preserves your backsplash’s beauty and function.


How hard is DIY backsplash install?

With good planning, an experienced DIYer can tackle basic backsplash tiling. Enlist a pro for tricky layouts or unfamiliar materials.

What tools do I need?

At minimum – notched trowel, grout float, tile cutter, spacers, buckets, sponges, gloves, eye protection.

How do I cut the tiles?

Use manual tile cutter, wet saw or angle grinder with diamond blade for most materials. Turn to rod saws or nippers for intricate cuts.

Should backsplash go to ceiling?

Full wall backsplash is dramatic but collects more grease and dust. Leaving a 4-6 inch gap above a partial backsplash keeps the tile cleaner.

Can you use laminate?

Laminate is prone to water damage and warping from heat. Use only in protected dry areas – tile, metal or glass are better choices.


Planning layout, prepping workspace, selecting materials, and following proper installation steps with care leads to backsplash success. Use this guide’s design ideas, maintenance tips, and FAQs to skillfully tackle your next backsplash project from start to finish!

Where Do You Start a Backsplash? A Full Guide for Planning and Installation

A stylish backsplash brings visual appeal to any kitchen. But before enjoying the finished result, it’s important to know where to start the process. This guide covers back