Where To Put Backsplash In Kitchen

A kitchen backsplash serves both form and function. Visually, it can add interest, color, and personality to your kitchen design. Practically, it protects the wall from splashes, smears, and drips while cooking or cleaning. When thoughtfully incorporated, a backsplash ties together your countertops, cabinets, and other elements into a cohesive style.

But exactly where should you install a backsplash in the kitchen? What areas need coverage and what can be left exposed? We’ll explore the ins and outs of optimal backsplash placement so you can make informed decisions for your next kitchen project.

Backsplash Behind The Sink

The sink area endures some of the toughest kitchen activity. Constant dishwashing, food prep, and general messes put this zone at high risk for water damage, staining, and more. A backsplash behind the sink is absolutely essential.

Where should the backsplash start?

Technically, the backsplash should start right at the edge where the countertop meets the sink. But for ease of installation and a seamless look, many homeowners prefer beginning the backsplash 1-2 inches behind the sink basin. This lets the countertop slightly overlap the backsplash instead of ending in a hard seam.

How high should the backsplash extend?

Behind the sink, you’ll want the backsplash to reach a minimum of 4-6 inches above the counter. The standard height is to the bottom cabinets – usually 18-24 inches above the countertop. This protects a good portion of the wall from routine splashing.

For even better coverage, consider extending the backsplash all the way to the underside of the upper cabinets. This fully armors the sink area from errant water. It also lets you carry your backsplash tile or other material up the wall for a more custom, built-in look.

How much width is needed?

Ideally, the backsplash should span the entire width of the sink basin plus a few extra inches on either side. At minimum, you want at least 8-12 inches of backsplash coverage beyond the sink perimeter. This keeps splashes from escaping off the edges and onto unprotected drywall or paint.

If your sink is centered on the counter, the backsplash should symmetrically run several inches beyond the basin left and right. For an off-center sink placement, extend the backsplash further on the side with more countertop showing.

Backsplash Behind The Stove

Similar to behind the sink, the stove area experiences its fair share of splatters, drips, steam, and heat. Protecting this kitchen zone is key not only for aesthetics but also to prevent damage from cooking activities.

What’s the ideal backsplash height behind a stove?

For adequate protection, the backsplash should extend from the rear countertop edge up to at least 18-24 inches high. Covering the lower half of the wall behind a standard 30-36 inch range is sufficient to guard against most typical cooktop mess.

As with the sink, for the most comprehensive backsplash coverage you can bring the tile, metal, glass, or other material all the way up to the underside of the overhead cabinets. This makes for a built-in, custom look while fully shielding the stove wall from top to bottom.

How much width should the backsplash cover?

A good rule of thumb is to span the entire width of the stove or cooktop plus 4-6 inches beyond the outer edges. This keeps contained most spatters and drips generated during meal prep.

Make sure to account for stove knobs and handles that protrude slightly from the front edge. You want the backsplash to completely engulf the stove footprint.

Backsplash Spanning The Entire Kitchen Counter

Rather than just shield specific zones like the sink and stove, you may opt to run backsplash along the entire kitchen counter length. This provides an uninterrupted backdrop that visually expands the space. It also offers the most stain and water protection across the kitchen.

There are a few factors to keep in mind when pursuing full counter coverage:

  • Match the backsplash height in the sink and stove sections. Carry the backsplash up to at least 4-6 inches over counter height around appliances. And up to the bottom of upper cabinets everywhere else.
  • Make inside corners neat. When joining two sections of backsplash, use trim or carefully grout for clean results. Outside corners can end unfinished as they’ll be covered by cabinets or other features.
  • Account for unavoidable gaps. Allow small gaps around fixtures like faucets, soap dispensers, and outlets that penetrate the backsplash. Caulk or grout these spaces for water resistance.
  • Coordinate with open shelving. If floating shelves substitute for upper cabinets, align their position and proportions with your planned backsplash height.

Backsplash In An Island Kitchen

Kitchen islands can complicate backsplash placement since there’s no defined “wall space”. But fret not. With smart prep and planning, you can still incorporate a useful backsplash design.

Focus backsplash tile or panels behind the sink and any island-based appliances like a cooktop. Extend several inches beyond these features on every exposed side to contain splashes and drips.

You can further accentuate the island by wrapping backsplash fully around the perimeter. Run horizontal strips along counter overhangs or vertical sections down side supports. This let’s backsplash enhance the island aesthetic while providing partial protection.

Use creative termination points like post corners, decorative trim, or textural changes between backsplash and bare wall. This keeps the transition clean yet subtle. The open concept remains intact.

Backsplash To The Ceiling?

Backsplashes reaching all the way to the ceiling provide a wonderfully unified, built-in look. But is this necessary or wise for mess protection? Generally the answer is no.

Besides looking slightly lavish in most kitchens, a full ceiling backsplash offers minimal extra shielding while requiring significantly more tile and labor. The essential coverage zone concentrates within the first 18-24 inches above counters and appliances.

However, if your kitchen layout permits, a full-height backsplash can make sense:

  • On a tall, empty wall without overhead cabinets. This takes advantage of the unused vertical space.
  • Behind an exposed sink or stove to shelter the entire area.
  • In a contained backsplash alcove or specialty accent wall.

Factors That Impact Backsplash Placement

While the guidelines above cover typical backsplash layouts, your specific kitchen may require unique planning due to:

Odd wall shapes – Angle the backsplash to follow slanted or irregular walls. Use trim to adapt to corners and transitions.

Windows – Carry backsplash under windowsills but avoid covering actual glass. Alter height to align with window borders.

Lighting or vents – Adjust backsplash around fixtures and HVAC openings. Maintain recommended height on either side.

Open shelving – Coordinate backsplash termination with planned locations of floating shelves or ledges.

Cabinetry – Ensure backsplash seamlessly meets both upper and lower cabinets for an integrated look.

Existing materials – If any old backsplash remains, determine whether to remove, extend from, or cover over during new installation.

Planning Your Kitchen Backsplash Installation

With a good grasp on optimal backsplash placement, now it’s time for execution. Keep these tips in mind for a smooth installation:

Choose an appropriate backsplash material – Select one that fits your budget, matches your decor, and works within your skill level. Ceramic tile is a popular choice for broad appeal.

Gather essential tools and supplies – These include adhesive, grout and caulk, hole saw, tile cutter, level, tape, spacers, sealer, and any specialty tools needed per the material.

Prep the surface – Clean and dry the wall area thoroughly. Remove any old backsplash components or residue. Fill dents, holes, or imperfections for a smooth backdrop.

Plan the layout – Map placement in relation to counters, cabinets, appliances, and other features. Determine tile positioning and make necessary cuts before adhesive application.

Carefully install the backsplash – Apply adhesive, align tiles, spacers, and rows by level. Let cure fully before grouting. Polish off with perimeter caulk and sealant.

Proper planning for smart backsplash placement allows you to gain function and style precisely where needed most in your kitchen. With strategic coverage in high use areas, you’ll keep surfaces protected and looking their best for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplash Placement

Many homeowners have additional questions when mapping out their ideal backsplash layout. Here are answers to some of the most common:

Do I need a backsplash if I have solid surface counters?

Yes, a backsplash is still highly recommended. Solid surface counters are waterproof which helps protect the countertop front edge. But they don’t shield the wall above from splashes, steam, grease, and drips. Proper backsplash coverage will preserve your wall paint or finish.

Should the backsplash match the countertop?

Matching provides a streamlined, uniform look many homeowners prefer. But it’s not a must. Feel free to mix materials, colors, and textures to make the backsplash a focal point. Just ensure your countertop and backsplash coordinate nicely within the overall kitchen aesthetic.

How do I incorporate backsplash around a corner?

Use trim strips to frame inside and outside corners between backsplash sections. Take care aligning patterns and textures as the design wraps the bend. Or end one section cleanly before the corner and start fresh on the adjacent wall.

Can I put backsplash tile on drywall or does it need cement board?

Cement board provides the most durable base for tile, especially around heavy use zones. But you can apply tile directly to drywall if properly prepared and sealed. Use fiberglass mesh tape at seams and waterproofing sealant everywhere.

How do I finish the top edge of a backsplash?

The top edge can end in a trim strip, bullnose tile, or simple caulked seam. Match the finish to the surrounding cabinets and style. For floating shelves, align the backsplash termination to their underside or bottom edge.

Should I protect my backsplash?

Yes, apply a quality sealer once installation is complete. This shields from moisture and stains. Re-seal as needed over time based on usage and cleaning habits. Also use cutting boards rather than directly slicing on backsplash surfaces.

Key Takeaways For Backsplash Placement

  • Focus backsplash first behind the kitchen sink and stove where messes concentrate.
  • Extend backsplash 4-6 inches above counter height as a minimum. For full protection go from counter to ceiling.
  • Span the entire width of sinks, stoves, and other applicances plus extra on both sides.
  • Full counter coverage offers benefits if desired, but target zones by appliances are essential.
  • Carefully transition to open areas with trim strips or by ending in cabinet corners.
  • Adapt layout to accomodate windows, lighting, shelving, and odd wall shapes.

With an understanding of backsplash placement best practices, you can now design and install a backsplash tailored to your unique kitchen needs and style. Use the guidelines and tips provided above to fully leverage backsplash function while enhancing your kitchen decor.


Strategic backsplash placement is a critical factor when designing your dream kitchen. Thoughtfully incorporating backsplashes where needed not only prevents water and cooking mess damage, but also allows you to inject personal style. Focus on covering high use zones like sinks and stoves while allowing breathing room to maintain an open aesthetic if desired. Adapting to the nuances of your layout takes planning and precision. But the payoff is a kitchen backsplash that looks stunning while protecting surfaces for years of cooking and entertaining to come.