Where to Start Backsplash in Kitchen


Installing a backsplash in your kitchen can dramatically transform the look and feel of the space. However, deciding where to start the backsplash can be a tricky question for many homeowners. The location where you start the backsplash will set the tone for the whole project.

In this comprehensive guide, we will discuss all the factors to consider when determining where to start backsplash in the kitchen. We will provide design tips, height recommendations, and layout suggestions to help you make the best decision for your kitchen aesthetic and functionality. Whether you are doing a full wall backsplash or just behind the stove, proper planning of the starting point is essential.

Where Should You Start a Full Wall Backsplash?

For a full wall backsplash that covers the entire wall from counter to ceiling, the standard recommendation is to start it directly above the countertops. This creates a clean transition between the countertop and backsplash materials.

Factors to Consider

  • Countertop height – Standard counter height is 36 inches. For taller or shorter countertops, adjust the backsplash starting point accordingly.
  • Cabinet design – If the wall cabinets go all the way to the ceiling, you may need to start the backsplash just below the bottom of the cabinets.
  • Backsplash materials – Heavy materials like stone tiles may require additional support at the bottom. Leave a few inches above the countertop before starting the backsplash.
  • Upper cabinets – If not installing backsplash behind the upper cabinets, start it right below them.
  • Appliances – Accommodate appliances like range hoods when determining the starting point.
  • Outlets and switches – Make sure they remain accessible and not covered by the backsplash.
  • Window placement – Start below any rear facing windows and adjust accordingly.

Design Recommendations

Here are some best practices for starting a full wall backsplash:

  • For standard 36 inch countertops with no obstructing cabinets or windows, start the backsplash 4 inches above the counter.
  • Leave a 3-4 inch gap between the upper cabinets and backsplash to allow a decorative accent stripe if desired.
  • If backsplashing around a window over the sink, start by centering the main field tiles on the window.
  • Make sure at least 4 inches of wall space shows between the counter and backsplash. More than 6 inches can look awkward.
  • If the countertop is flush with the cabinets, start the backsplash tiles 1/2 inch above the counter.

Determining the Starting Point for a Backsplash Behind the Stove

For a partial backsplash installation focused just behind the stove or cooktop area, the starting point requires some special considerations.

Height Guidelines

  • The standard minimum height for a stove backsplash is 4 inches above the cooktop. This protects against splatters and grease.
  • For additional protection, extending the backsplash 6-8 inches above the cooktop is recommended.
  • For a full wall look, continue the backsplash to 15-18 inches above the countertop.
  • Commercial style kitchens often use a high backsplash of 20-24 inches above the counter.

Layout Factors

  • If you have a range hood, start the backsplash just under it to allow 2-3 inches of clearance.
  • Make sure any outlets or switches above the stove remain accessible.
  • If tiling around a window behind the stove, center the main tiles on the window opening.
  • For a harmony of lines, align the top of the backsplash with cabinetry rails or any other horizontal details.

Design Tips

  • Anchor the stove backsplash design by centering it on the focal point – like a vent hood.
  • Use trim pieces on the sides for a finished look if the backsplash only spans part of the wall.
  • Add an accent row of mosaic tiles at the very top to finish it off elegantly.
  • For a seamless transition, use the same countertop material or coordinating tiles.

Factors to Consider for Backsplash Layouts Around Windows

Strategically planning the backsplash layout around kitchen windows requires careful consideration of the window size, placement, and existing features.

Window Placement

  • For a single window over the sink, center the backsplash design on the window. Start at the counter and tile up to the window trim.
  • With two equal windows spaced apart, balance the backsplash design between them equally.
  • If the windows are different sizes, align the backsplash layout based on the larger window.
  • For a bay window, create a symmetrical backsplash design emanating from the center window.
  • If the window is off-center behind the sink, align the central tile pattern on the window frame as a focal point.

Window Size

  • For a small window, do full height backsplash and treat window like a niche.
  • With a medium-sized window, do countertop to ceiling backsplash around it. Add decorative accents at top.
  • For a large window, start backsplash at the counter and go to window trim. Frame the window instead of the wall space.

Existing Features

  • Integrate backsplash layout with the countertops, cabinets, and sink placement.
  • If there is a decorative window frame or trim, highlight it with the backsplash design.
  • Make sure the backsplash tiles don’t overlap onto the window frame or glass.

Backsplash Starting Point for Different Kitchen Layouts

The kitchen layout and configuration will impact the ideal starting point for the backsplash installation.

Galley Kitchen Backsplash

For galley style kitchens:

  • Run the backsplashes on both sides continuously from counter to ceiling.
  • Start each side backsplash above the counters at the same height for symmetry.
  • If the cabinets run to the ceiling, install narrow trim above them to continue backsplash.

Backsplash in an L-Shaped Kitchen

For L-shaped kitchens:

  • Treat each leg of the L as a separate wall and start the backsplash ends at the corner.
  • Measure 4 inches up from counter on each side to establish starting points.
  • Use trim or special corner pieces if needed for a seamless transition.

U-Shaped Kitchen Backsplashes

For U-shaped kitchens:

  • Start each side at standard height based on counter measurements.
  • To create a visual line, start backsplash on the lower counter section, then raise up to standard height on other side.
  • Mark starting points on each wall section accurately to ensure proper seam alignment.
  • Consider small decorative niches or gaps on inside corners to avoid a cluttered look.

Island Kitchen Backsplashes

For kitchens with an island:

  • Standard treatment is to start the backsplash on the perimeter counters 4 inches up from counter.
  • For a decorative accent, add a short backsplash section on the eating side of a kitchen island as well.
  • Take the island design, lighting, and sightlines into account so backsplashes don’t conflict or overwhelm the space.

Best Practices for Planning Backsplash Starting Point

Planning where to start the backsplash is an important first step before installation begins. Here are some best practices to get it right:

  • Always measure up from the countertop instead of down from the ceiling. This allows you to account for uneven walls or floors.
  • Mark the starting line on the wall with painter’s tape at the desired height. This will be your guide.
  • Think about sightlines created by cabinetry, windows, and appliances. Use the backsplash to highlight or frame key features.
  • Order about 10% extra tile. This allows you to fine-tune starting position and compensate for uneven walls.
  • For a clean look, center full tiles on windows, range hoods or other focal points instead of cutting tiles.
  • Have lighting fixtures moved up or down to avoid conflicts with the planned backsplash location.
  • Look at backsplash templates for common kitchen layouts to visualize how the starting point impacts the overall design.
  • For glass tiles, make sure outlets and switches are recessed enough to accommodate thickness.

Things to Avoid

  • Don’t start at a random spot without considering overall kitchen design.
  • Starting too low can allow spills behind the backsplash. Too high looks awkward and disjointed.
  • Avoid starting within 4 inches of upper cabinets. Looks crowded and prevents adding decorative accents.
  • Don’t assume countertops or cabinets are perfectly level. Always measure from multiple points.
  • Prevent having to make lots of pesky tile cuts by planning full tile layouts around focal points.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where should backsplash start in relation to countertops?

The standard recommendation is to start the backsplash about 4 inches up from the countertop. This allows for a clean transition between materials.

If I have a tall stove, how high should the backsplash be?

For a tall professional style stove, plan for a backsplash height of 20-24 inches. For standard stoves, often 6-8 inches above the cooktop is sufficient.

How do I integrate my backsplash with existing feature like windows?

Take advantage of architectural elements like windows. Center the backsplash design around them and highlight with complementary tile shapes and accent borders.

Can I start the backsplash at different heights on different walls?

It is recommended to maintain the same starting height for a cohesive look. Exceptions can be made for tall accent walls or glass tile niches to add interest.

How much space should I leave between upper cabinets and backsplash?

A 3-4 inch gap between upper cabinets and backsplash is recommended. This prevents a crowded look and allows for subtle decorative accents.


Determining the ideal starting point is an important strategic first step in planning any kitchen backsplash project. Carefully consider the overall kitchen layout, window placement, appliances, cabinets, and countertop details when deciding on best placement. With proper planning and precise installation, you can create a backsplash design that seamlessly integrates into your kitchen aesthetic. Use this guide to assess your unique kitchen layout and tile plan to select the optimal position to start your backsplash and achieve design success.