Wondering where to end your backsplash? Never even thought about it? It can be a surprisingly complex question. These tips will help you find the right place to stop your backsplash to get a crisp look in any kitchen.
From a designer perspective, the best time to stop a backsplash is … never! After all, when you’ve chosen a beautiful material, why wouldn’t you want more of it? Taking a backsplash wall to wall and counter to ceiling makes for continuity of line and definitely a dramatic effect.
Of course, in reality it isn’t always an option to cover every inch of wall in a coveted stone. Someone has to decide: Where should the finish end on the range wall? Above the range hood? Below it? In your project, the decisions can be simple or quite complicated, depending on multiple factors.
General Rule No. 1:
Tile the Cabinet Walls
Opinions differ on this, but for a polished look tile just the main walls of the kitchen, those that back the cabinets, ending at the corners rather than wrapping around to finish the sides, if there are any. In the case of an odd corner, consider the whole corner part of the “back.”
In some cases, a “sidesplash” on a noncabinet wall can be functional and beautiful, but skipping it is the simplest way to avoid situations where elements don’t line up neatly. Typically, the counter, upper cabinets and wall all end at different places on the sides, leaving no definitive stopping point.
Fully covering the wall usually is your best bet in a small kitchen or in a larger kitchen that has just a small area for the backsplash.
A layout, with just a single backsplash area between the fridge cabinet and the side wall, is common in galley kitchens in apartments and condominiums. Tiling the entire area in one material makes for the tidiest finish, which can help make the kitchen look its biggest.
In the case of a very large kitchen, or one with dramatically tall ceilings, taking tile to full height can bust the budget or completely overload the look. In a case like this, ending the tile vertically at the same line as the upper cabinets gives a better finish.
If you use a darker color for the tiles than the remaining upper wall, it can visually help bring down the apparent ceiling line and make the room feel a little more intimate.
In spaces with taller ceilings, a bulkhead often is used to fill in the void above the uppers. This also gives the tile a natural place to finish, so everything looks pleasingly framed in and there’s no empty space left to collect knickknacks and dust.
General Rule No. 2:
Align Cabinets and Backsplash Edges
Knowing where to stop the tile horizontally is easy if your kitchen runs wall to wall, but what if it ends partway along a longer wall? In a case like this, where the kitchen cabinetry ends midroom, the best option is to end the upper cabinets, lower cabinets and backsplash all in one crisp line.
Of course, this requires the upper and lower cabinets to align crisply, which can take careful planning when laying out the kitchen. Using filler panels and adjusting the spacing around a window can help make cabinets end at the same place on the top and bottom, even if the widths of each cabinet don’t match perfectly above and below.
Other Tiling Considerations
What about times when the upper and lower cabinets don’t align? A common place for this to occur is in U- or L-shaped kitchens where the uppers end over a peninsula. In this case, Experts suggest ending the backsplash in line with the uppers, so you still get a crisp vertical line.
Sometimes there will be very small areas of wall between windows and a counter or cabinet. It may be tempting to leave these areas empty and often easier on the tile installer, but the overall effect will be subtly tidier if you imagine the window does not exist when planning where to end the tile.
Modern Slab Backsplashes
In a kitchen with modern styling and a cool slab backsplash, it’s extra important for the elements to align pleasingly, or the look can become sloppy. The cabinets and counter should be sized to line up perfectly. When installing a peninsula with an overhang, you can also add or subtract an inch or two of counter to make the math work out just right.
Traditional Slab Backsplashes
Going for a more traditional or farmhouse-inspired look? A charming slab backsplash benefits from having some negative space left around it and doesn’t really need to line up with anything — in fact, it can be almost better if it doesn’t.
If you have an interesting tile shape, such as a hexagon, you can consider ending the tile with a messy edge to give a more relaxed appeal. This can apply to the horizontal ends and the verticals.
In L- or U-shaped kitchens that have large areas — or entire walls — with no upper cabinets, you can tile the empty wall full height or simply continue the upper line of the backsplash around the entire room.
Ending the backsplash with a shelf, even a shallow one, can give it a nice cap on walls where there are no other particular ending points such as a window or cabinet.
In a kitchen with many items at different heights, use the bottom of the cabinets as a main stopping point, with possibly a little exception at the range for a taller backsplash up to the hood.
In more traditional kitchens, sometimes the tile will run even a little above the bottom of the cabinets, which gives a pleasing overlap that feels more relaxed and reduces the need to cut tiles into tiny slivers.
Another way to solve any backsplash height conundrums is to use an elegant short backsplash, just a few inches tall. This way, you can run it around the entire counter at one unbroken height and leave the rest of the wall a uniform color.
You can also pair a short backsplash with a second backsplash material, so you have one style, usually the more high-end material, such as a stone slab, run continuously and then a second material in pieces where needed to fill in.
One Last Cost-Saving Idea
Keep in mind, a full-height backsplash may not be as budget-busting or as visually overwhelming as you would think. A classic porcelain tile, with an optional contrast grout, can give a sophisticated, classic look for just a few dollars per square foot, meaning it can actually be a more luxe-looking option than a higher-end material used in a conservative dose.