Deciding where to start and stop your backsplash can be a tricky decision when remodeling your kitchen. The backsplash serves both form and function – protecting the walls from splashes and spills while also providing an opportunity to add visual interest to your kitchen design. When determining the boundaries of your backsplash, there are several factors to consider to achieve the right aesthetic and practical solution for your space.


The backsplash area typically covers the wall space between the countertops and upper cabinets. While a full backsplash that runs to the underside of the wall cabinets is common, you do have options when defining the vertical limits of your backsplash. Consider the style of cabinets, countertops, and overall kitchen decor when deciding where you want to start and stop your backsplash.

When it comes to horizontal coverage, backsplashes traditionally extend a few inches past the edges of the countertops on either side. However, creative designs can incorporate backsplashes on other kitchen walls or even run backsplashes from wall to wall.

Get the placement right and your backsplash becomes an integral part of a cohesive kitchen design that both looks beautiful and functions efficiently. Read on for tips on where to start and stop your backsplash based on common kitchen configurations.

Tips for Setting Vertical Backsplash Boundaries

Determining the vertical placement typically comes down to a choice between a full backsplash or a mini backsplash. Here are some guidelines for each approach:

Full Backsplash

A full backsplash runs from the countertop to the underside of the upper cabinets. This traditional treatment helps protect the wall from splashes and spills while cooking and offers the following benefits:

  • Provides the most splash protection for walls
  • Creates a classic, clean look
  • Visually enlarges smaller kitchens by making walls appear taller
  • Allows for more creative backsplash tile designs that incorporate pattern and color
  • Works well with any cabinetry or countertop material and style

Best for:

  • Vintage, cottage, or traditional kitchen styles
  • Smaller kitchens to create illusion of height
  • Home cooks who frequently cook saucy meals and need maximum splash protection


  • Can make kitchens with low ceilings feel more closed in
  • Top edge needs to be finished for a clean look if wall cabinets are installed after the backsplash

Mini Backsplash

The mini backsplash stops short of the wall cabinets, typically ending 4-6 inches above the countertop. Key benefits of this smaller backsplash include:

  • Visually opens up smaller kitchens
  • Allows more of wall color/wallpaper pattern to show
  • Pairs well with contemporary, modern or transitional kitchen styles
  • Provides sufficient splash protection for moderate cooking
  • Less installation cost than a full backsplash

Best for:

  • Contemporary, modern, or transitional kitchen styles
  • Kitchens with higher ceilings
  • Cost-conscious projects


  • Provides less splash protection
  • Walls require repainting if you later decide to extend backsplash to wall cabinets

Backsplash Height with Open Shelving

In kitchens with open shelving rather than upper cabinets, you have a choice of ending the backsplash at the top of the back wall counters or extending it up to meet the underside of the shelves.

Ending at the counter creates a clean line and highlights the shelves as “furniture” rather than built-ins. Extending up to the shelves provides more splash protection. This treatment is especially useful for dishes displayed on the shelves.

Determining Horizontal Backsplash Coverage

In addition to deciding vertical coverage, consideration must be given to how far horizontally your backsplash tiles should run along other walls. Here are some standard starting and stopping points:

Standard Width

The most common treatment is for the backsplash to span the entire length of the countertop area from one end to the other. This provides full splash coverage behind the prep and cooking area.

The backsplash then typically extends only a few inches (e.g. 4-6 inches) past the edge of the countertops on either end. This creates a tidy, framed look.

Extended Width

For a bolder look, you can extend the backsplash past the edges of the countertops to cover portions of other walls in the kitchen.

For example, carrying the backsplash tiles onto a side wall behind a freestanding range or around a window over the sink. This makes the backsplash a strong focal point.


Taking the extended width concept to the maximum, a backsplash can run along all walls in the kitchen in a wall-to-wall installation.

This completely integrates the backsplash into the overall kitchen design rather than treating it as an accent. It creates a colorful, eye-catching statement.

Island Considerations

Backsplashes typically do not extend along the walls behind kitchen islands unless counter seating is present. Since there is no prep work occurring in these areas, splash protection is not needed.

However, if you want to create a continuous backsplash effect around the room, tiles can be added to the island wall(s). An eye-catching mosaic design or border is often used in these areas instead of running the same backsplash tile from the main walls.

Start and Stop Considerations by Kitchen Layout

The typical backsplash height and width may need to be adjusted based on your specific kitchen layout and architecture. Here are some considerations for common kitchen configurations:

Galley Kitchen Layout

This narrow, corridor style kitchen presents some challenges for backsplash coverage.

Full-height backsplashes can make the space feel overly enclosed, so a mini backsplash is often recommended.

To create a sense of width, consider carrying the backsplash tile onto the side walls around windows and appliances. Sticking with just a short backsplash behind the counters makes the space feel very choppy.

L-Shaped Kitchen Layout

The intersecting counters and multiple work zones in an L-shaped kitchen provide flexibility in backsplash design.

You can do a full backsplash along one leg of the L and a mini backsplash along the other for visual interest. Or alternate materials – like mosaic tiles on one wall and stainless steel on another.

Look for ways to unify the design through strategic use of trim pieces or extending tiles around corners.

U-Shaped Kitchen Layout

With counters running along three walls, you typically want full backsplash coverage in a U-shaped kitchen.

This provides splash protection and allows the backsplash tile to tie together all work zones visually.

To keep the look cohesive, the same backsplash treatment should run along each section of counter space.

You can change up the tile pattern along different legs of the U if desired.

Kitchen with Island

Islands can either be integrated into the backsplash design or left as standalone elements per the guidance provided earlier.

For a cohesive look, using trim pieces to frame the edges of the backsplash behind the main counters and repeating that on the island back wall helps visibly tie the areas together.

Alternatively, leaving the island back wall tile free creates separation and treats it as a decorative focal point in the kitchen.

Kitchen with Peninsulas

Backsplashes behind a peninsula counter can either end at the edge or turn the corner to extend a few inches along the side of the peninsula that faces into the room.

If there are open shelves or cabinets on that sidewall, extending the backsplash is useful for protecting the contents from cooking splatter.

Backsplash Considerations with Angled Counters

Unique counter configurations, like angles or curves, provide an opportunity to use the backsplash in creative ways.

With angled counters, extending the backsplash at the same angle along the wall draws attention to the unique shape.

Using a contrasting tile color/pattern along the angled section can be eye-catching.

To soften the look, square off the backsplash so it runs straight along the back wall rather than following the counter angle.

Ideas for Finishing Exposed Wall Areas Above Backsplash

The area above your backsplash and below the wall cabinets needs special consideration as a transition zone. Leaving it bare with an unfinished wall looks uncoordinated. Several options exist for giving this area a clean, polished look:

  • Painted wall – Simply painting this section of wall the same color as the surrounding walls helps it blend in. Use a quality kitchen/bath paint.
  • Tile – Transferring the backsplash tile pattern up onto the wall fully integrates this space. Adjust placement to avoid awkward partial tiles.
  • Wallpaper – Apply wallpaper to this section of wall to coordinate with the backsplash tile or tie in other kitchen decor.
  • Wood paneling – Add a row of stained wood planks or shiplap boards to relate to cabinetry finishes.
  • Trim – Installing wood trim, like crown molding, along the top edge provides elegant definition.

Backsplash Design Tips

Beyond determining the boundaries, here are some additional tips for making the most of your kitchen backsplash:

  • Consider views – If the backsplash is visible from an adjoining room, extend the treatment to make it a decorative focal point.
  • Complement countertops – Choose backsplash materials and colors that coordinate with or accent your countertop selections.
  • Optimize lighting – Use glass or polished metal backsplashes to reflect light and make small kitchens feel more open.
  • Incorporate specialty tiles – Accent the backsplash with decorative listello, mosaic, or other unique accent tiles.
  • Create a focal point – Use the prime real estate behind the stove or sink for an artistic tile design.

The Final Decision: Where to Start and Stop

When deciding where to set your backsplash boundaries, here are some final considerations:

  • What is your kitchen layout and architecture? Find an approach that works with the existing footprint and features.
  • Do you prefer an understated or bold backsplash look? Tailor the coverage to the aesthetic you want to achieve.
  • What are your top backsplash goals? Is splash protection or aesthetics the main priority? Let your backsplash goals guide boundary decisions.
  • What style makes sense for your home? Make choices – traditional vs. contemporary, minimalist vs. eclectic – consistent with the overall decor.

At the end of the day, where you start and stop your backsplash comes down to a combination of practical and design considerations. Identify your goals, understand what will work best for your specific kitchen, and choose stylish materials that reflect your personal taste.

With the right backsplash boundaries, you can create a kitchen backdrop that protects your walls, coordinates with other finishes, and gives your cooking space visual appeal.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplash Start and Stop Points

Many homeowners have additional questions when determining the best backsplash size and coverage for their kitchen remodel. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How high should my backsplash be?

The most common backsplash height is a full backsplash that runs from countertop to the underside of wall cabinets. Mini backsplashes stop short, typically 4-6 inches above the counter. The height impacts the look, splash protection, and cost.

Can a backsplash only be behind the stove?

Backsplashes should run along all countertop areas against walls or appliances for a seamless look and splash protection. Just doing a backsplash behind the stove looks visually disjointed. Full coverage is best.

Should backsplash tile match countertops?

The backsplash does not have to exactly match but should coordinate with the countertops. Materials of the same color family or pattern look cohesive. Contrasting colors can also make the backsplash pop as an accent.

Where should backsplash tile stop on side walls?

Standard coverage runs backsplash tiles 2-6 inches past the outer edges of the countertops on either end. For a bolder look, extend further onto side walls around appliances, windows, or corners.

Can I do a full wall backsplash on one wall?

Definitely. A full wall backsplash treatment on one kitchen wall creates a dramatic accent. Carry the tile from countertop to ceiling. Pair with standard backsplash height on remaining walls.

Should I put a backsplash behind kitchen island?

Only add a backsplash behind a kitchen island if seating is present. Since no cooking happens at islands, a backsplash is not needed unless protecting seated diners from splatter.


Determining the starting and stopping points for your kitchen backsplash involves careful consideration of your overall design, functional needs, architecture, and style preferences. Take time to evaluate all the options – from mini to full backsplashes and standard to extended or wall-to-wall widths.

Pay special attention to finishing exposed wall areas above the backsplash installation. The end result should be a thoughtfully designed, beautifully executed backsplash that pulls together your entire kitchen design while providing the right amount of protection for your walls.

With strategic planning, your new kitchen backsplash can enhance both the form and function of this hardworking space. Let the tips provided guide you in making decisions that result in a cohesive look and optimized utility.

Soon you will have a stunning, splash-safe kitchen backdrop to enjoy for years to come. And you will have discovered the secret to backsplash success – knowing where to start and where to stop.