Which Come First? Countertop Vs Backsplash (Explained)

Which should you prioritize, your kitchen countertops or your backsplash? 

Your kitchen counters are a natural focal point, but if you choose a bold alternative, your backsplash could be as well. 

Countertop Vs Backsplash

Here is If Backsplash Should Be Installed Before Countertop:

Ideally, you should install the countertop first, followed by the backsplash. Installing the countertops is usually easier because a countertop must be precisely positioned, whereas a backsplash has more leeway.

What Should Be Installed First Countertop Or Backsplash?

Because the countertop has a larger surface area than the backsplash, it appears a logical place to start. As such, before the backsplash is placed, install the kitchen countertop first.

Choose your countertop first because it will be the most used surface in your kitchen.  

The durability of your countertop material is more crucial than the durability of your backsplash, so prioritize the counters, and you will be able to select a backsplash to match.

Option 1: Choosing the countertop to go first.

The kitchen is the heart of the home, and the countertops are its workhorse. The first step in addressing your kitchen renovation is to choose your countertop.

Once you’ve chosen a kitchen countertop, you’ve effectively cut down your backsplash options.

Why is this the case? Because there are just a few color possibilities that will go with a specific countertop. You’ll be able to choose a complementary or contrasting hue. You could also utilize the same material that your countertop is made of.

The movement of the design of your countertop will dictate how busy or simple the backsplash should be. If you’re utilizing a complex granite, marble, or quartzite, a subtle, neutral option will keep the area from being too cluttered.

Option 2: Installing the backsplash first

If you have your heart set on a backsplash, starting with it isn’t a bad idea. This, like the prior choice, will limit your countertop options. If you choose a strong backsplash, look for a quiet and discreet granite or marble counter alternative.

Although it is usually preferable to install the countertops first, in this case, it may be preferable to install the backsplash first, especially if all of the work is being done by an expert. If the Backsplash serves as the visual lead, you might have the backsplash installed first:

You can begin with the backsplash if you like a more visually complicated backsplash paired with a basic countertop. To ensure that everything lines up visually, many contractors may install a stone backsplash before the countertops.

Why Should You Install Countertops First?

Countertops Require Exact Positioning

Your countertops must be put precisely against the walls and on top of counters to ensure that their weight is evenly distributed and that they all look even. This is crucial that if a countertop’s proportions are slightly incorrect, it must be corrected to avoid future difficulties.

If you put the backsplash first, you’ll have to guess where the countertops should go, which is difficult, frustrating, and needless. If you simply have the countertops installed initially, you won’t have to worry about predicting anything.

Countertops shield the cabinets

Not only does placing the countertops first reduce the need to predict where they are meant to go, but it also eliminates the risk of grout or other liquids pouring down into the cabinets while the backsplash is being installed.

It’s just physics, but the countertops will function as a buffer while you work on installing the backsplash. Because the splashback is applied to a vertical surface, some leaking is unavoidable.

The horizontal plane of the countertop prevents the drippage from spreading and causing a bigger mess.

Countertops Have a Greater Visual Impact

The majority of homeowners prefer to build a countertop that is more visually appealing than the backsplash.

If both had detailed designs, they would clash and be difficult to understand. The kitchen would appear too disorganized.

Because the countertop must be precisely set and take up more surface area, many people prefer to install it first and make it the more aesthetically complicated focal point.

After installing patterned marble, for example, you could choose a backsplash with a simpler design and a neutral color.

Does Backsplash Sit On Countertop?

There’s no problem placing a backsplash over a countertop since kitchen backsplash tile installation necessitates the use of strong support beneath the bottom row.

The tile backsplash frequently stretches from the countertop to exactly beneath the cabinets, although others may only be 4 inches high and sit on top of a 4-inch granite backsplash.

Ensuring that the two sections meet correctly is critical when putting a tile backsplash above a granite counter. This will help to avoid future issues such as cracking grout or moving tiles.

Seal the granite to the wall with caulk.

Most of the time, you will be using grout to place the countertop and backsplash, and it may be tempting to seal the gap between them with more grout, but it is recommended to seal this seam with caulk.

Caulk is less prone to crack due to tension in this region, but you should try to choose silicone or water-based caulk that matches the color of your grout.

If the granite was installed without a 4-inch backsplash, it was most likely pushed up against the wall itself. There may be a tiny gap between the wall and the granite depending on how to level the wall is.

To avoid slipping, the backsplash tile must have a completely level and smooth landing area. Begin by caulking the gap between the granite and the wall to prepare it for the backsplash.

This will create a solid surface where the backsplash mortar cannot go and a stable seat for the granite against the wall.

Leave a Gap

The backsplash tiles should not come into contact with the granite. Instead, place them about 1/8 inch above the granite. This little space is referred to as an expansion joint.

Because houses settle or move somewhat over time, the expansion joint is critical. Any bend in the kitchen cabinets or countertop might stress the backsplash tiles, causing them to break loose from the wall if the tiles and granite came into contact.

A space between the granite and the tiles allows for flex and mobility while preventing tile damage.

Caulking  the Gap

When grouting the backsplash tiles, leave a space between the granite and the tiles. If grout gets into this area, clean it up as quickly as possible to prevent it from drying in place.

Grout is rigid and will crack if pressure from the counter is applied to it. Instead of grout, use a latex caulk that matches the color of the grout to fill the expansion joint between the tiles and the countertop. Sanded and unsanded latex caulks are available.

If you’re installing a handmade ceramic tile or tumbled stone tile with a wide grout joint owing to edge irregularities, widen the expansion joint and use a sanded caulk that matches the sanded grout.

Installation Tips

Seal the granite at the edge where the counter meets the wall after caulking it against the wall. This will make cleanup easier if caulk or grout gets on the granite during installation.

If the tile backsplash is coming down to meet a 4-inch granite backsplash, handle it the same way you would the granite counter: caulk it to the wall, seal it, and leave a tiny space between the two places. Because they are on the same plane, this gap can be closed with grout.

Contrasting vs. Matching

One of the most common questions people have when selecting a backsplash is whether it should match their countertops.

When it comes to this subject, there are two schools of thinking. Some people choose to coordinate, using a color palette that offers a serene, unified appearance across their kitchen. 

This is usually achieved by selecting simple, neutral colors for both your countertops and backsplash. This may be observed in the current all-white kitchens, which feature a white countertop, backsplash, and cabinetry.

Others opt to use a backsplash to draw attention to their countertops or as their visual showpiece in the kitchen.

If you’ve chosen a countertop with a distinct color or a lot of movement, consider a neutral tile for the backsplash. By contrast with a neutral tone, you can highlight your beautiful countertops.

Bottom Line

Although you could put the backsplash before the countertops, having the countertops installed first makes more sense unless your backsplash is significantly bolder than the countertops you intend to install.

Even if your backsplash is more aesthetically sophisticated, you should probably have it installed by a trained contractor first.

Otherwise, placing the countertops first will be a lot easier because you won’t have to worry about guessing where they need to go.

Installing the countertops before the backsplash also makes it easy to protect the interior of your cabinets and other surfaces from drippage while working on the backsplash.