Where Does Backsplash Go? A Complete Guide

Backsplash is an important design element that serves both form and function in any kitchen. Understanding where backsplash should be installed is key to maximizing its benefits. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about backsplash placement.

What is Backsplash?

Backsplash refers to the material installed on the wall behind a countertop, stove, or sink. It serves to protect the walls from water, grease, food splatter, and other types of damage. Backsplash also acts as an decorative accent, allowing you to add visual interest, color, and texture to your kitchen design.

Backsplash can be constructed from a wide variety of materials including ceramic or porcelain tile, natural stone, glass, metal, and engineered materials. The most popular options are tile and stone due to their affordability, durability, and design flexibility. Backsplash height, typically extending 4-6 inches above the countertop, can also vary according to personal preference.

Where Should Backsplash be Installed?

Backsplash should be installed wherever there is risk of splashing or spills in the kitchen. This includes behind:


Backsplash should be applied to the wall above all countertops in the kitchen. Whether the countertop material is laminate, solid surface, natural stone, or tile, a backsplash will protect the walls above from damage.

Countertop backsplash should extend upwards from the counter surface at least 4-6 inches. Standard backsplash height is 18 inches measured from the countertop. However, you can also opt for a full height backsplash running all the way up to the underside of wall cabinets for a more seamless and integrated look.

For peninsulas, islands, and other standalone countertop areas surrounded by open floor space, a backsplash should be installed on all sides exposed to potential splashing or spills.


The sink area is prone to a high volume of water exposure and splashing. A properly installed backsplash is critical to prevent moisture damage and mold growth on surrounding walls.

Backsplash should encompass all walls surrounding the sink. For single basin sinks, this will include the wall areas behind and on both sides. For double basin sinks, the backsplash should extend around all three exposed sides.

Sink backsplash height should be around 4-6 inches above the countertop surface. Make sure it overlaps any countertop backsplash by at least an inch or two for proper moisture protection. For added protection, consider extending the backsplash to the underside of wall cabinets.


The wall area around stoves and ranges is susceptible to grease buildup and food splatter. A backsplash here will make cleanup much easier. It also prevents staining and damage to the wall over time.

For freestanding ranges, the backsplash should encompass the wall area behind and to both sides of the range. For integrated cooktops and wall ovens, backsplash should surround the appliance area on all exposed sides.

Backsplash height behind ranges and cooktops should extend 20-24 inches above the cooking surface for optimal protection. This shields the majority of the wall from cooking byproducts. For extra coverage, bring the backsplash all the way up to the bottom of overhead range hoods.

Transition Areas

Any area where backsplash tile meets another surface requires extra care and precision during installation. Where the backsplash edges meet countertops, cabinets, ceilings, and other walls, take steps to create clean, tight seams that prevent moisture intrusion. This might involve additional trim pieces, caulking, or grout.

Make sure to wrap backsplash tile around corners and wall edges so it overlaps any adjoining areas by at least 1-2 inches. This provides full protection along transition boundaries. Pay close attention to proper waterproofing procedures.

Backsplash Design Considerations

While backsplash serves an important functional purpose, it also offers the chance to make a design statement. Use these tips to maximize both the form and function of your new backsplash:

Material Choice

Consider the pros and cons of potential backsplash materials in terms of your functional needs and design goals. Ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile and natural stone offer durability and easy cleaning. Metal backsplashes boast modern appeal but require more maintenance.

Think about qualities like color, pattern, texture, and finish to find a material aligned with your overall kitchen aesthetic. Mixing materials can also create visual interest.

Style Cohesion

Choose a backsplash design that complements your cabinetry, countertops, appliances, and other kitchen elements. It should work cohesively with the overall room instead of appearing randomly tacked on.

Look at backsplash samples alongside other materials and finishes to envision total harmony. Tie together colors, patterns, textures, and styles for a pulled-together look.

Tile Layout

Proper tile layout preserves backsplash functionality while enhancing visual appeal. Staggered tile patterns prevent straight grout lines that can channel spilled liquid right to the wall behind.

Opt for small, mosaic-style tile or mini-brick patterns to make grout lines less noticeable. Keep grout lines thin (1/16 inch or less) for easier cleaning. Use trim pieces like bullnose tiles or metal edging to finish outer edges.

Focal Points

Use backsplash as an opportunity to create a focal point within your kitchen’s overall design. Try a bold tile pattern, vivid glass mosaic, or eye-catching medallion.

Backsplash areas around stoves, sinks, and behind faucets naturally draw attention. Emphasize these spots with an accent design that adds flair and personality to your kitchen.

Backsplash Installation Tips

Proper installation is essential for backsplash that performs well and lasts. Follow these tips for fail-safe application:

Select Quality Materials

Invest in top grade backsplash materials from reputable manufacturers. Low quality tiles and mastic can lead to damage or premature failure.

Prepare the Surface

The wall area must be smooth, clean, and free of any old adhesive residues for proper backsplash adhesion. Remove any existing backsplash and scrape/sand the wall as needed.

Apply Waterproof Backerboard

Cement backerboard provides a waterproof base for backsplash installation. Cut boards to fit the area and firmly attach to wall studs with backerboard screws.

Lay Out Your Design

Dry lay tiles on the countertop to ensure you have the right amount and achieve the desired layout. Make adjustments before actual installation.

Apply Thinset Mortar

Use a small V-notched trowel to spread a thin, even layer of thinset adhesive mortar on the backerboard where tiles will be placed.

Set Tiles and Grout

Firmly press tiles into the thinset one by one. Allow the recommended time for the mortar to cure before applying grout between tile joints.

Seal and Finish

Once grout has cured, apply a penetrating sealer to the tiles and grout joints. Add trim pieces and caulk edges for a polished finish.

Proper prep work, careful tile layout, using quality setting materials, and sealing/finishing steps leads to professional-looking, long-lasting backsplash installation. Consider hiring an experienced contractor if you lack tiling expertise.

Backsplash Maintenance Tips

Keep your backsplash looking like new with regular care and maintenance:

  • Seal tiles and grout annually to prevent staining and damage
  • Use non-abrasive cleaners and soft sponges to gently clean
  • Rinse well after cleaning to remove residue buildup
  • Re-caulk as needed around edges and seams to prevent moisture intrusion
  • Monitor and repair grout cracks to keep backsplash waterproof
  • Use trivets and hot pads near stove backsplash to prevent heat damage

With proper installation and regular upkeep, quality kitchen backsplash will retain both its aesthetic appeal and functional performance for years before replacement is needed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplash Placement

Many homeowners have additional questions about the finer points of proper backsplash installation. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

How high should backsplash be installed behind a stove?

Backsplash behind stoves and cooktops should extend 20-24 inches above the cooking surface. This protects the majority of the wall from grease splatter and food stains.

Should backsplash go all the way to the ceiling?

Backsplash does not necessarily need to extend to the ceiling. Standard height is 4-6 inches above countertops and 18-24 inches behind stoves. However, full height backsplash can provide a more seamless, built-in look.

What about the space between upper and lower cabinets?

The wall area between upper and lower cabinets is prone to grease and food splatter. Continuing backsplash tile into this space or opting for full height tile provides enhanced protection.

How do I incorporate electrical outlets into backsplash?

Carefully measure and mark outlet locations on backerboard before tiling. Use a tile saw to neatly cut tile around outlets. Or utilize outlet covers that sit over untiled areas.

Can backsplash tile return to side walls or corners?

Wrapping backsplash tile around corners and side walls enhances protection and achieves a more finished look. Take care to properly waterproof these transition areas.

Should backsplash end at cabinet or extend behind?

Backsplash should overlap the edges of base cabinets by at least an inch or two for proper protection. You can either run it behind or trim for a clean edge if backsplash ends at cabinet side.

What about gaps between staggered tiles?

Staggered tile layouts should not leave wide grout lines or gaps where moisture can intrude. Keep grout lines thin (1/16 inch or less) for easier cleaning. Use small mosaic tiles to minimize grout line appearance.


Understanding backsplash placement principles is the first step to maximizing its benefits within your kitchen. When installed using proper techniques and materials around all splash-prone areas, backsplash performs its protective function while also providing design appeal. Employ the guidance in this article for backsplash that effectively averts wall damage while looking fantastic.