Where to Stop Backsplash in Kitchen


The kitchen backsplash is an integral design element that serves both form and function. Not only does it protect the walls from splashes and stains, but it also adds visual interest and personality to the space. When designing a kitchen backsplash, one of the most important decisions is determining where to end it. There are several factors to consider when deciding where to stop the backsplash. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the key considerations for backsplash termination and provide tips for choosing the right stopping point in your kitchen.

General Guidelines on Where to Stop Backsplash

When deciding where to end the backsplash, the general recommendation is to carry it all the way up to the bottom of the upper cabinets. This creates a clean transition from the backsplash to the wall paint or wallpaper above the cabinets. Ending the backsplash at the cabinet bottom also protects the largest expanse of wall space prone to splatters and stains.

However, this standard guideline leaves room for variation based on personal preference and other design factors. For example, it is also common to end the backsplash near the countertop level, 4-6 inches above the counter. This can give the illusion of taller cabinets and creates a visual break between the counter and backsplash materials.

Some other general guidelines on backsplash stopping points include:

  • Over stove – Extend the backsplash material all the way to the ceiling above the stove to protect the wall from grease splatters.
  • Around windows – Wrap the backsplash around windows located over counters or appliances. Take it to the underside of the window trim or sill.
  • Near open shelving – If you have open shelving instead of upper cabinets, finish the backsplash in line with the bottom shelf.
  • With floating shelves – Take the backsplash up to the underside of floating shelves over the counter or appliances.
  • Tile above sink – Use tile to cover the wall space directly above and around the sink faucets, even if you have a different backsplash material elsewhere.

Factors to Consider

There are a few key factors to take into account when deciding the optimum backsplash stopping point:


As mentioned, aligning the top of the backsplash with cabinet bottom is the most common approach. This works well for both wall and base cabinets mounted at typical heights. However, if your cabinets sit higher or lower than average, adjust the backsplash height accordingly. Also consider whether you have any floating cabinets that don’t extend fully to the ceiling. You may want to end the backsplash just under these cabinets.

Windows and Doors

The location of windows, doors, and other architectural features is important. Wrap backsplash tile around windows and take it up to the door trim for a seamless finish. Consider how the color and pattern will look as it extends around these openings.

Sink and Appliances

Ensure adequate coverage around sinks, stovetops, and other appliances prone to spills and splashes. End the backsplash approximately 4-6 inches above the faucet spout and stove range to allow clearance.

Counter Height

Standard counter height is 36 inches. But for taller or shorter counters, or in cases of mixed heights like islands, adjust the backsplash position appropriately. More coverage above a taller counter can balance the proportions.

Backsplash Materials

Lighter, brighter backsplash materials like glass or mosaic tile lend themselves to extending all the way up to the cabinets. Darker, busier patterns may look better ending slightly above the counter. Natural stone backsplashes should align with countertops made from the same material.

Wall Finish

If the wall finish above the backsplash is a dramatic, bold wallpaper or bright paint color, you may want to end the backsplash early to allow it to stand out. For plain drywall or neutral paint, extend the backsplash up for more interest.

Backsplash Purpose

A purely decorative backsplash can end closer to the counter’s level, while a functional backsplash for a busy cook should extend fully to protect the walls.

Stopping Points for Different Backsplash Scenarios

Now that we’ve covered the key factors to keep in mind, let’s look at backsplash termination points for some common kitchen design scenarios:

Standard Backsplash Behind Sink and Stove

For a typical backsplash running horizontally behind the kitchen sink and stove, the most seamless look is to carry it all the way up to meet the underside of the wall cabinets. This provides an unbroken background that directs focus to the gorgeous countertops and appliances. It also maximizes splatter protection behind areas prone to spills.

[Example image of backsplash extending to bottom of wall cabinets behind sink and stove]

Full Height Backsplashes

Taking the backsplash all the way up to the ceiling has a very dramatic, eye-catching effect. It works best with more minimalist kitchens that don’t have busy upper cabinets competing for attention. Use Milestone to run full height behind a thin strip of decorative open shelving or floating cabinets with plenty of negative space.

[Example image of backsplash tiled to ceiling behind open shelves]

Backsplash Around Window Over Sink

For windows located directly above the sink or other wet working areas, wrap the backsplash tile around the window trim or sill. This helps protect the vulnerable window framing from moisture damage. Take the tile just shy of the window opening or extend it a few inches into the frame to tie the space together.

[Example image of backsplash wrapping around edges of window over sink]

Split Level Islands with Mixed Backsplashes

For kitchen islands with a split counter height, tailor the backsplash to each level. For instance, run the backsplash to the bottom of the upper cabinets at the standard counter section. Then extend the tile to align with the taller counter height on the bar/dining side.

[Example image of an island with backsplash stopping at different heights for the varied counter sections]

Backsplashes with Open Shelving

In kitchens with open shelving instead of wall cabinets, there are a couple options for where to end the backsplash. You can stop it in line with the bottom shelf for a seamless look. Or end in between shelves if you want the accent tile to stand out more.

[Example image of backsplash ending aligned with bottom shelf and lower than middle shelf]

Backsplashes with Floating Shelves

For kitchens with modern floating shelves on the wall rather than cabinets, align the top edge of the backsplash with the underside of the lowest shelf. Carrying it up just shy of the shelf adds dimensionality.

[Example image backsplash ending below a set of wall-mounted floating shelves]

Mini Backsplash Behind Stovetop

A popular approach is a small backsplash tile section focused just behind the stovetop. The mini-backsplash runs from approximately counter height to 1-2 feet above the stove. Mixing materials in this focused backsplash zone adds interest.

[Example image of a short mosaic tile backsplash centered on the wall behind the stove]

Choosing What Works for Your Kitchen

When planning where to stop your kitchen backsplash, consider how it fits into your overall design vision. Think about traffic patterns, family habits, architectural details, counter heights, and cabinetry when deciding what stopping point works best. While the bottom of upper cabinets is standard, don’t be afraid to creatively terminate your backsplash to match your kitchen’s style and functions. Use these guidelines to determine the ideal stopping point for your backsplash installation.

FAQs about Where to Stop Backsplash in Kitchen

What is the standard height for a kitchen backsplash?

The standard height for most kitchen backsplashes is to extend from the countertop up to the bottom of the wall cabinets. Typically 4-6 inches above the counter aligns with 18 inches below the underside of wall cabinets.

Should you put backsplash behind open shelves?

It is recommended to install backsplash behind open shelving in kitchens. Take the backsplash from the counter level up to the underside of the lowest shelf. This protects the wall from splatters and also provides a polished look.

What’s the best way to finish a backsplash edge?

The best way to finish a backsplash edge depends on the material. For tile, install bullnose edge tiles or metal trim strips. For glass sheets, polish the cut edges. For stainless steel, fold back edges under to create a clean finish.

Can you mix backsplash materials in the same kitchen?

Yes, mixing backsplash materials in the same kitchen can elevate the design. Transition from one material to another at change in counter height. Or do a full backsplash in one material with a focal point backsplash over stove in another.

Should backsplash tile be above or below kitchen cabinets?

The most common placement is for backsplash tile to extend from the counter to below the bottom edge of wall cabinets. Installing above the cabinets creates visual clutter. The only exception is taking tile to the ceiling above a stove for maximum splatter protection.

How high should a backsplash be for a tall person?

For very tall cooks, extending the backsplash height a few inches above the standard backsplash can provide more protection from splashes. Take the tile to around 20-22 inches above the counter instead of the typical 15-18.

Can you end a kitchen backsplash in the middle of a wall?

It is possible but not ideal to end a backsplash arbitrarily mid-wall. This creates an uneven look. It is better to terminate the backsplash at inside corners, junctions between countertops, or align with architectural details.

What height should backsplash be for bar countertop?

Standard bar counter height is 42 inches. For a backsplash behind a bar counter, install the tile from the counter to 18-24 inches above it. This aligns the top of the backsplash with a typical 60-66 inch bar stool seat height.

Can backsplash tile touch the countertop?

It is recommended to leave a small 1/8 inch gap between the backsplash tile and the countertop instead of having surfaces touch. This allows room for expansion and caulking between the two materials.

What backsplash goes with quartz countertops?

Many backsplash materials complement white/light quartz countertops. Choose glass, mosaic, metal, porcelain, or marble tile. Or use coordinating materials like stacked stone, stainless steel, or wood. Avoid very dark or busy backsplashes that may clash.


Determining where to stop a kitchen backsplash requires balancing aesthetics, functionality, and practical factors. While the standard is ending at the cabinet bottom, creativity in backsplash termination can enhance your overall design. Consider cabinet height, windows and doors, countertop materials, and backsplash patterns when planning an eye-catching, seamless installation. Use these backsplash stopping point tips to craft a stunning, splash-proof kitchen backdrop.