Where to Put Backsplash – The Complete Guide

Backsplashes are an important design element in any kitchen. Not only do they provide protection for the walls from water, oil, and food splatter, they can also add visual interest and tie your kitchen design together. However, deciding exactly where to install a backsplash can be confusing. This complete guide will walk you through everything you need to know about where to put backsplash in your kitchen.

What is a Backsplash?

A backsplash is a protective coating that is installed on the wall behind sinks, stoves, ranges, and other kitchen work areas that are prone to messes and splatters. Backsplashes are typically made from tile, metal, glass, stone, or other water-resistant materials.

The main purposes of a backsplash are:

  • To protect the walls from water damage, stains, and marks. This helps preserve the condition of the wall underneath.
  • To make clean-up easier. Backsplashes prevent food, oil, and grease from soaking into the wall where it can be difficult to clean.
  • To add visual appeal. Backsplashes come in a wide array of colors, textures, materials and designs. This allows you to accessorize and personalize the look of your kitchen.

Where Should Backsplashes be Installed?

Backsplashes should be installed wherever there is a risk of splashing, splattering or soiling on the kitchen walls. This includes:

Behind the Kitchen Sink

The wall area directly behind the kitchen sink bears the brunt of water splashes and needs a backsplash. A sink backsplash should extend from the counter to at least 4-6 inches above the faucet height. For a farmhouse sink, the backsplash should go all the way to the bottom of the upper cabinets.

Make sure the backsplash spans the entire length of the sink area from one end to the other. This protects the side walls from errant water as well.

Behind the Stove/Range

The wall behind stoves and ranges endures a lot of oil splatters and food spatters. Installing a backsplash here prevents stains and deposits from marring the walls. The backsplash should stretch all the way from the range top to the bottom of the overhead cabinets or vent hood.

For standalone ranges, the backsplash should encompass the entire area behind and around the sides too.

Behind Baking/Cooking Surfaces

Any surface where you do a lot of food preparation should be flanked by a backsplash. This includes countertop baking centers, islands, bars and prep tables. The backsplash should extend around 6 inches above the counter.

Behind the Fridge

Fridges are prone to condensation build up which can damage walls over time. Putting in a small backsplash behind your fridge will also make clean up easier.

On Side Walls

Consider adding sections of backsplash on side walls adjacent to appliances. This prevents stray splatters from accumulating on the sides.

On Short Walls

Short partition walls between cabinets should also get backsplash coverage to fully protect the wall area.

How High Should a Backsplash be Installed?

The recommended height for most backsplashes is 4 to 6 inches above the countertop. However, you can adjust the height based on your cabinet configuration:

  • For a backsplash behind a standard depth countertop with 30 to 36 inch high cabinets above, go 4 to 6 inches above the counter.
  • For a backsplash behind a deep countertop with standard height cabinets, extending the backsplash 6 to 9 inches high provides more wall protection.
  • If there is a large gap between the countertop and cabinets, consider tiling the entire expanse for a full backsplash look.
  • For backsplashes behind ranges and sinks, go all the way from counter to ceiling or bottom of vent hood.
  • Behind refrigerators and dish washers, a small 6 inch high backsplash strip is sufficient.

Factors that Determine Backsplash Height

Some additional factors to keep in mind when figuring out backsplash height include:

  • The height of the faucet and other fixtures protruding from the walls. The backsplash should cover beyond them.
  • The style of backsplash – full height backsplashes work well with certain materials like subway tiles, while a short backsplash suits metal and glass.
  • The color scheme in the kitchen – if the backsplash is meant to be an accent, a shorter height highlights it better.
  • The presence of any existing backsplash that needs to be matched or covered.
  • Budget constraints – full height backsplashes require more tile and labor.
  • Whether there is a decorative hood, windows or molding on the wall that would look better without a backsplash.

Where NOT to Install a Backsplash

While backsplashes are very useful in most kitchen areas, there are a few places where a backsplash may not be necessary or can be avoided:

  • On wall areas not directly adjacent to sinks, stoves or counters. For example, putting a backsplash on the dining room side of a breakfast bar that is not used for cooking.
  • On walls that already have protection such as glass tile or acrylic sheets. However, these may need replacing over time.
  • On walls covered with wallpaper or delicate surfaces that could be damaged by tile adhesives and grout.
  • In corners where two countertops meet perpendicular to each other. The small corner area does not need tiling.
  • On vertical counter ends against the wall. Only the horizontal counter surface needs a backsplash, not the narrow vertical edge.
  • Above wall cabinets or other higher surfaces too far from the main work areas.
  • Behind wall mounted ovens since they do not pose splash hazards.

So in summary, focus the backsplash on areas surrounding the actual cooking, cleaning and prep zones and avoid overdoing it. Concentrating it where it is most useful prevents wasting tiles and time.

Backsplash Styles Based on Kitchen Layout

Now that we’ve covered the basic guidelines on backsplash placement, let’s look at how backsplash height and coverage varies based on your kitchen layout:

Backsplash for Galley Kitchens

In a galley kitchen with counters on both sides, the backsplashes need to go:

  • Behind both sinks and stove areas.
  • Up the full wall length from counters to ceiling.
  • On the upper cabinets to protect the side walls.

Backsplash for Island Kitchens

For a kitchen with a center island or peninsula, the backsplash should be installed:

  • On the perimeter countertops except small filler areas.
  • Behind the range on the cooker wall.
  • Completely around the island work surface if it has cooktops or sinks.
  • Only on the counter side of islands used for dining or storage.

Backsplash for L-Shaped Kitchens

In an L-shaped kitchen, the typical backsplash placements are:

  • On the long counter behind sinks and cooktops.
  • On the short side counter with appliances.
  • Inside corners get only a small backsplash trim.
  • Outside corners and exposed sides need full splash coverage.

Choosing the Right Backsplash Height

Here are some best practices to keep in mind when selecting backsplash height:

  • For a clean cohesive look, keep the backsplash height consistent on all walls.
  • Backsplashes that merge into the wall seamlessly work best for small kitchens.
  • Extending backsplashes to the ceiling makes the space feel more expansive.
  • Shorter backsplashes help break up taller backsplashes on large walls.
  • Varying backsplash heights add visual interest to plain walls.
  • Keep backsplashes in proportion to other kitchen elements like cabinets.
  • Consider easy access to outlets when choosing full height backsplashes.
  • Taller backsplashes provide more protection from vigorous cooking activities.

Combining Backsplash Heights and Styles

You can use a combination of different backsplash heights and materials to enhance the kitchen aesthetic:

  • Do a full height stone or metal backsplash as an accent behind the range.
  • Use glass tiles for a 6 inch backsplash on the counters.
  • Pair a short stone backsplash on the bar with a tall metal backsplash by the sink.
  • Add a decorative tile border along the top of 4 inch backsplashes.
  • Contrast subway tiles behind the stove with penny tiles on the counters.
  • Frame functional stainless steel backsplashes with ornamental glass tile bands.

Backsplashes for Specific Kitchen Layouts

Now let’s go over some kitchen-specific backsplash dos and don’ts:

U-Shaped Kitchen Backsplashes

For U-shaped kitchens:

Do install full-height backsplashes behind the range, sink and either side.

Do backsplash the entire perimeter of the U including the inside corner.

Don’t overwhelm the small inner corner with too much tile.

Peninsula Kitchen Backsplashes

For peninsula kitchens:

Do put backsplashes on the perimeter counters behind appliances.

Do backsplash the open sides of the peninsula countertop.

Don’t put backsplashes on knee-wall ends not used for cooking prep.

Island Kitchen Backsplashes

For kitchen islands:

Do install full backsplashes if the island has a sink or cooktop.

Do backsplash just the counter surface, not the sides or legs.

Don’t backsplash unused eat-in sections of the island.

One-Wall Kitchen Backsplashes

For one-wall kitchens:

Do backsplash the entire length including appliance areas.

Do go from counter to ceiling for uninterrupted protection.

Don’t overwhelm the room visually with overly ornate full-height tiles.

Backsplash Design Styles

Backsplash design can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. Keep these tips in mind:

For Contemporary Kitchens

  • Use sleek subway tiles, metal sheets or stone slab backsplashes.
  • Install narrow bands of rectangular glass mosaics.
  • Choose contrasting bold colors like black, white or pop hues.

For Rustic Kitchens

  • Select textured stone slabs or handmade subway tiles.
  • Use stacked stone panels for a natural vibe.
  • Incorporate reclaimed wood boards for rustic charm.

For Traditional Kitchens

  • Opt for classic ceramic tiles like subway, brick, or penny styles.
  • Use marble or stone mosaic tiles to create patterns.
  • Add metal trim for an architectural vibe.

For Farmhouse Kitchens

  • Try white shaker-style or beveled subway tiles.
  • Use unfinished wooden boards for a reclaimed look.
  • Display vintage-inspired metal signs as focal points.

Avoid Common Backsplash Mistakes

When installing backsplashes, here are some mistakes to avoid:

  • Selecting materials that are porous or prone to staining. Go for low maintenance options.
  • Choosing brightly colored tiles that clash with your overall kitchen palette. Stick to complementary hues.
  • Putting in fussy intricate patterns that appear chaotic visually. Simple designs fare better.
  • Carrying the backsplash tile across junctions in piecemeal ways. Complete whole sections seamlessly.
  • Overdoing special effects like mosaics. Use them sparingly as accents.
  • Not sealing natural stone properly making it prone to damage. Seal tiles before and after installation.

Backsplash Maintenance Tips

To keep your backsplash looking pristine:

  • Seal grout and tiles annually to prevent stains and mildew buildup.
  • Use gentle cleaners and avoid abrasive scrubs on delicate materials.
  • Re-caulk sections near the countertop to maintain water resilience.
  • Rinse surfaces after cleaning to minimize chemical residue buildup.
  • Deal with stains quickly before they set and become stubborn.
  • Check for cracked, broken or loose tiles. Repair immediately to prevent moisture damage.

Cost of Installing Backsplashes

The cost of installing a backsplash depends on:

  • The size of the area being covered. Larger kitchens cost more.
  • Material chosen – natural stone, metal or glass cost more than ceramic tiles.
  • Speciality tiles like handmade, antique styles add to labor and expenses.
  • Complexity of the design – intricate patterns, special cuts and fancy borders increase costs.
  • Accessibility – extensive prep work needed for difficult layouts also ups the pricing.

On average, expect to spend $800 to $1200 for a professionally installed backsplash covering 25 to 30 square feet of kitchen space.

FAQs about Backsplash Placement

Here are some commonly asked questions about backsplash positioning:

Where does backsplash go in a small kitchen?

For small kitchens, limit the backsplash to the most used areas behind appliances. On other walls, go for 4 inch high backsplashes to minimize busyness.

How high should backsplash go behind stove?

The backsplash behind stoves and ranges should extend from the counter to the ceiling or bottom of wall cabinets. This fully protects the wall from grease.

Can you put backsplash only by stove?

Yes, it is fine to only install backsplash behind or around cooking appliances. This shields the areas most prone to splatters.

Should backsplash match countertops?

It is not mandatory for backsplashes to match countertops. Contrasting materials and colors can make the backsplash pop. Just ensure they coordinate aesthetically.

Can backsplash be different than countertops?

Backsplashes can definitely be created from different materials than the countertops. Many designs use stone counters with ceramic tile backsplashes. Just make sure the combination complements your kitchen style.


Determining where exactly to install backsplashes involves considering cabinet height, kitchen layout, appliance placement and the overall decorative scheme. Focus on covering areas around the major work zones. Splurge on full height statement backsplashes around cooking hobs and sinks while standard 4-6 inch high backsplashes suffice for other prep areas. Vary materials and styles creatively but ensure everything ties together visually. With these tips, you can design a functional, aesthetically pleasing backsplash layout that showcases your personal style and protects the kitchen beautifully.