Countertop as backsplash

Mayo510October 27, 2012

These are such common terms that I didn't get anything specific on search. My question is: As far as I can remember, the kitchens I've lived with have always had a little bit of the countertop going up the wall, 3" or so of countertop turning up the wall. But I don't see this so much any more. It seems more common to just butt a countertop up against the wall, and then have a tile backsplash, or even just the wall.

Is there a reason for the difference? Just fashion? An issue of materials (e.g., what made sense with formica doesn't make sense with granite)? Or is there some functional difference?

I'm hoping for Soapstone in our new kitchen, but cost may prohibit it (so much of our budget is having to go to structural, plumbing, and electrical). Is soapstone a material that could be used as that little backsplash bit?

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You can do what your tastes and budget dictates. There really is no right or wrong...just personal preference. I became so enamored with the beautiful tiles I found while researching my kitchen that I knew I had to have a tile backsplash. Plus... I wanted straight up to the ceiling behind my range hood so tile made sense for me. And of course you can do a strip of SS as your backsplash. It's all about what you can afford and what makes you happy.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 4:00PM
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It's just fashion. The short backsplash is no longer the trend, but it'll probably come back. I think I have seen photos of modern European kitchens with a short backsplash and no tile; it's just a different look.

The short countertop-material backsplash is also used to cover gaps between the countertop and a wall that is not completely straight. Side note: walls are almost never completely straight. Many (most?) stone fabricators nowadays use some laser template thing so the stone will be cut to match the contours of the wall. If that is the case with yours, then the type of backsplash (if any) is completely up to you. If the countertop can't be easily scribed to the wall, or if it's a prefab one, then a thicker backsplash could be very useful.

I've got both in my house: short granite backsplash in a bathroom, and tile going all the way down to a wood countertop in the kitchen. I like them both, honestly. There is no right or wrong.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 4:45PM
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When counters were routinely formica, that little bit up the back was also routine and built into the laminate - meaning the counter surface took a turn up the wall without a seam. Our 1971 house had that arrangement until 2011. Between the upturn and the cabinets we had paint. Sometimes people used a washable wallpaper. Today tile backsplashes are more fashionable. Most people don't prefer a tile backsplash above the short back piece, they prefer to just take the tile to the counter level. It really is just a matter of fashion and preference.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 4:54PM
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I respectfully disagree with Northcarolina; I do not think the 4" backsplash trend is coming back. Its purpose from the 1950's through 1970's was to cover up gaps between a countertop (especially formica) and the wall. With modern countertop scribing and fabrication techniques, this gap-cover is no longer needed. People do opt for the 4" backsplash cause either (a) they like the look, particularly if they are going for a vintage-y mid-century kitchen, or (b) they will be having no other backsplash other than the 4" strip.

If the OP loves the look, then she should absolutely get it. Since she wants soapstone, she may be going for that vintage-y look, and the 4" backsplash may go well with that. But I will list the reasons why I am not a fan:

- if you will spend a lot of effort designing a beautiful tile backsplash, why cut it short by 4".

- the additional horizontal line of the 4" strip will visually make the space between your counter and upper cabinets look smaller and more cramped.

- the 4" backsplash creates a small "ledge" which collects dust. Yet one more thing to clean.

- you will be charged for the material and installation for the 4" backsplash; money that you may have preferred to spend elsewhere.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2012 at 5:58PM
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Interesting! Thanks so much for the explanations. I'd be shocked if the walls in my 100-year old house were straight; interesting to hear there are technologies that can address this now. All in all, I don't think I do feel strongly about it, so . . . another decision deferred! I guess we'll look at both.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 2:54AM
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