I've been searching the Internet and all English-speaking web sites state that the backsplash should be tiled after installing the kitchen cabinets (both lower and upper) and countertops.

In some European countries, it is customary to install the backsplash first, extending a bit below lower cabinets and above upper cabinet bottom line, and then add the cabinets on that.

Why is that so? What reasons are to have either option? If the backsplash is added after the cabinets and countertops, in what vertical direction should the tiling proceed?

  • Tiling before will make it much more difficult to change the tile when you change your mind.
    – sborsher
    Jan 15, 2014 at 19:36

3 Answers 3


I spend a lot of time in France and in the midwest US.

Customary in France if you put up a backsplash is to extend it before putting up cabinets. There is no caulking usually between the backsplash and the cabinets.

Also the cabinets would be floating on the bottom most of the time. And the bottom cabinets are on legs - where in America they are almost always enclosed. Maybe this allows any leakage from backsplash to hit the floor easy.

It is just a different way of doing things because people are accustomed to taking their cabinets and everything with them when they move. I have seen this trend slowly change over the past 10-15 years though in that you will walk into some apartments or houses now with the kitchens already done but this is not the norm.

And obviously you do the backsplash last in the US because we like everything permanent looking. You use less tile and it is just easier to do that. Also - and just my opinion - but homes in the US are built... lets say faster. So you don't always have right angles, your floors are slanted a little, the walls wave a little... Meaning that it looks better to have shimmed cabinets. I have installed IKEA cabinets in kitchens in the US and people look at me like I need to fix their walls when the cabinets don't sit flush.

Personally I think it would be good to do a little of both. First it is kind of dumb to take your kitchen with you - which may not work in your next space and then you sell off pieces for a fraction of what you paid. But I am also a huge huge fan of keeping lowers on legs and having more mobility in your cabinets.

  • I will be installing IKEA cabinets for myself as well, and they do have legs. I don't see this kitchen working in another space. I don't quite understand your comment about legs and mobility. Could you explain what you meant by that? I almost always see cover strips for countertops around here and that means we always caulk between tiles and countertops, even if tile extends below countertop level.
    – ipavlic
    Jan 10, 2014 at 16:29
  • Legs - because I think it looks nicer than a kick plate and you can kind of push crumbs under and vacuum once a month... Mobility meaning that I can move the cabinets or arrange them different in the same kitchen. I see cover strips in some kitchens when I am in France but not the norm and they always get dirty.
    – DMoore
    Jan 10, 2014 at 16:44

I'd add the tile AFTER so you can anchor your cabinets and backsplash to the wall flush. I live in the US and have never seen it done differently. It's easy, looks good, why not?

I suppose you could do it either way, but you'd have to pay more careful attention to the joints where your tile meets the cabinet/backsplash - caulk it, etc. Grease or water could drip down behind the cabinet if not. You'd also have to shim out the cabinet opposite of the tile because it would stick out 1/4" or so, making the cabinet not level.


In some European countries, it is customary to install the backsplash first, extending a bit below lower cabinets and above upper cabinet bottom line, and then add the cabine

In some European countries (not UK), it is also customary for a tenant to provide their own kitchen units and to take them away when they move out.

Maybe the two customs are connected….

In the UK, kitchen cabinets are fitted before the tiles, but bathroom shower surrounds are fitted after the tiles. I expect it is mostly the way it has always been done in a given country; therefore the cabinets sold in a country are designed to be fitted in the way they are in that country.

I think in some country they tile the bathroom walls and floor before fitting the bath, so any leaks from the bath remain in the bathroom, in the UK the tiling is normally done after the bath is fitted.

  • We have the same for showers - bath first, tile after that.
    – ipavlic
    Jan 10, 2014 at 20:01

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