Backsplash is an important design element in any kitchen. It serves both practical and aesthetic purposes. When designing your backsplash, one of the most important considerations is determining where it should begin and where it should end. Getting this right will ensure your backsplash complements your overall kitchen design.
A backsplash is a vertical surface, usually made of tile, stone, metal or glass, that is installed on the wall behind a countertop, stove, or sink. Its main functions are to protect the walls from splashes, stains, and moisture while also serving as an attractive focal point in the kitchen.
When determining where your backsplash should begin and end, there are several factors to take into account:
- Protecting walls from water damage and stains
- Allowing enough workspace around appliances
- Coordinating with countertops and other surfaces
- Creating visual harmony with cabinetry, counters, and other finishes
- Highlighting or anchoring particular areas
- Establishing neat transitions from one surface to another
Getting the layout right requires planning and forethought. Read on as we explore common backsplash layouts and best practices for determining where your backsplash should begin and end.
Where Should the Backsplash Begin?
The most common place for a backsplash to begin is directly above the countertop. This allows the backsplash to protect the wall from water, food, and other messes created when working at a countertop.
Above the Countertops
Installing the backsplash above the countertops creates a smooth, seamless transition from the countertop surface to the wall. Many homeowners prefer to start the backsplash 1-3 inches above the countertop. This creates a small space between the two surfaces while still overlapping enough to protect the wall.
Some considerations when starting the backsplash above the countertop:
- It should overlap the countertop edge by 1-2 inches to properly protect the wall.
- Allow 3-4 inches of bare wall between the countertop and backsplash if you plan to install decorative molding or accent tiles in that space.
- Make sure it aligns evenly with the top of the backsplash behind the stove or sink if they are at the same height.
Align with Bottom of Cabinets
Another option is to begin the backsplash at the same level as the bottom of the wall cabinets. This creates a seamless visual line across the top of the backsplash and the bottom of the cabinets.
If choosing this layout:
- Be sure there is adequate countertop workspace between the top of the backsplash and the bottom of the cabinets. Usually 30-36 inches is recommended.
- The top of the backsplash may not overlap the countertop as much unless the countertop is installed higher on the wall.
- Look for a backsplash material and edge treatment that complements the cabinetry details.
Above the Stove
For a range backsplash, starting the tiles 4-6 inches above the stove top is common. This leaves enough clearance for pots and pans but still protects the wall from grease splatters.
Some tips when determining where to begin the stove backsplash:
- Check the stove manufacturer’s recommended clearance between the top of the stove and bottom of the backsplash.
- Make sure it aligns evenly with the backsplash above the countertops.
- Extending it to the overhead vent hood provides further protection on the wall.
Where Should the Backsplash End?
Determining where to end the backsplash depends on the layout of your kitchen as well as visual appearance. Here are some common ending points to consider:
At the End of Countertops or Cabinets
Ending the backsplash when you reach the end of a run of countertops or cabinets is a clean, simple approach. It contains the backsplash to the main work areas.
Some tips for this ending point:
- Make sure the edge lines up evenly with the cabinet or countertop end.
- Choose an edge treatment like bullnose tiles or trim molding for a finished look.
- If floating the backsplash (detaching it from countertops), make sure the edges are neatly finished.
Below Wall Cabinets
Ending the backsplash below wall cabinets is another popular placement. It keeps the focus on the backsplash instead of competing with upper cabinets.
When using this ending point:
- Allow 3-4 inches of space between the top of the backsplash and the bottom of wall cabinets.
- Make sure the top edges align evenly if ending at multiple cabinets.
- Lighting can highlight this transition line.
Around Window or Door
Wrapping backsplash tile around surrounding architecture like windows, doors, or recesses can create a framed accent area.
If using this technique:
- Choose tile shapes and patterns that complement the lines and proportions of the space.
- Use trim or bullnose tiles to neatly finish outward edges.
- Make sure the top and bottom edges align cleanly with other surfaces.
Extending to Ceiling
For a dramatic look, some backsplashes extend all the way from the countertops up to the ceiling.
Points to consider:
- Make sure the design aligns with the room’s proportions. Extremely tall ceilings may dwarf a full backsplash.
- Look for mosaic, metro tile, or other small-scale patterns that suit the height.
- Include extra lighting focused on the backsplash to show off the full design.
Aligning with Hood or Shelf
Stopping the backsplash at the same level as an overhead range hood or a floating shelf results in very clean lines.
When using this technique:
- Make sure the edges align precisely on both sides for a seamless transition.
- A tile pattern that complements the lines of the hood or shelf helps unify the look.
- Use trim or matching materials if there is any visible edge.
Best Practices for Determining Backsplash Layout
Here are some top tips to keep in mind when planning where your backsplash begins and ends:
- Map out all surfaces and architectural features on the walls including windows, doors, cabinetry, and shelving. This will help you determine the best transition points.
- Decide which areas need protection from splashes or moisture. Make sure to cover these spaces adequately.
- Look at kitchen traffic flow. Avoid ending the backsplash in an area prone to collisions or spills.
- Hold samples or mockups of the backsplash material against the wall to visualize how the size, color, and texture interacts with the space.
- Take measurements precisely and double check the layout. Inaccurate measurements can throw everything off.
- Look at the room lighting. If there is a light source near a transition line, make sure the edges align perfectly.
- Choose grout colors and trim pieces that coordinate well with the backsplash tile color and pattern. Contrasting grout can make uneven joints more noticeable.
Where should backsplash end for a peninsula?
For a peninsula countertop, the backsplash should end in line with the end of the peninsula. Make sure edges are finished neatly with bullnose tiles or trim.
Where should backsplash tile stop in a small kitchen?
In a small kitchen, containing the backsplash to only cover the limited countertop and stove areas often works best. End below the wall cabinets to avoid making the space feel too crowded.
Should backsplash go around window?
Wrapping backsplash tile around a window over a sink is recommended to protect that wall area. Make sure to use appropriate trim and edge pieces for a clean finish. Extending to the ceiling can dwarf a window.
Does backsplash have to go all the way to ceiling?
Backsplash does not necessarily have to extend to the ceiling. Many homeowners opt to end around 15-18 inches above countertops as long as this protects the wall from splashes. Full ceiling height works well with very tall ceilings or as a distinct accent wall.
Should backsplash tile match countertops?
Backsplash does not have to directly match countertops, but they should coordinate. Think about colors in the overall palette that go well together, as well as complementary textures and patterns. Tie them together with finishing accents like grout or trim.
How high should backsplash be behind stove?
For adequate protection, backsplash behind a stove should extend 18-24 inches above the cooktop surface. Make sure to align with backsplash height above countertops and follow stove manufacturer clearance recommendations.
Determining the perfect beginning and ending points for your backsplash comes down to a combination of functional protection, visual appeal, and seamlessly tying together all the elements of your kitchen design. Careful planning and alignment of surfaces, lines, and lighting fixtures will ensure your backsplash layout fits beautifully. Think about traffic flow, cleanup, color schemes, and how the space is used when deciding what works best. With some forethought and attention to detail, your backsplash can be a stunning focal point that elegantly pulls the entire room together.