Don’t Tile That Backsplash! (Yet)

If you’re in the midst of a kitchen remodel, it could be tempting to have everything done at the last delivery date, but today we’ll make a compelling case as to why you should save your kitchen backsplash tile installation for last.


There are a great many things to consider when doing your kitchen renovation; the exact number of which depend on whether you’re going for a freshened-up look or a “let’s knock out a wall and…” style of renovation. Whichever camp you’re in, it could be enticing to install your tile backsplash as soon as your cabinets are set, but don’t – yet.


If you’re not at the end of your renovation yet (maybe you haven’t even started), then you likely have no idea what we’re talking about or why this distinction matters. To shed some light on this, we’ll give you the pretty standard timeline for your renovation and explain why those house flipping shows always seem to feature a 7 to 9 week timeline for project completion. Here are the major things that constitute “the timeline” of your renovation:


First and foremost, if you’re ordering new cabinets, then you are at the mercy of your cabinet creator and installers. This is a complicated affair in itself, as it includes the entire selection process, design from the cabinet creator (if you’re going with custom), creation of the cabinets, delivery, fixing any errors or damages, and, finally, “setting” the cabinets, which is an industry term meaning “installing the cabinets, making sure they’re level, securing them, and adding all necessary trim and finishes.” Cabinet companies can easily give you a lead time (time to receive your cabinets after ordering them) of 4 to 6 weeks, which can easily take longer if you have an issue with the delivery, installation, or any delays whatsoever. If you’re doing custom cabinets, then prepare your timeline to, quite literally, hinge upon your cabinets.


Let’s be clear here: No countertop company even halfway worth their salt will create your countertops to be ready when your cabinets are delivered or installed; if any company ever offers to meet this insane timeline request, run – immediately. Your countertops, if you care at all for how they look, should only be measured and ordered after your cabinets are fully set. Your countertop cutter/installer should send out a representative to take very precise measurements and notes regarding the surface of your cabinets that will become your countertop; failure to account for any inconsistencies will, almost certainly, mean your countertops are going to fail to meet your expectations. As far as lead time goes, you can easily expect a minimum of a week (if they already have the material) or the average lead time, which is about 2 to 3 weeks.


If you’ve been keeping track, in terms of cabinets and countertops alone, we’re looking at 6 to 9 weeks, which is assuming you have plenty of delays. But most of the work needs to be done before the cabinets arrive, or you won’t be able to install them – meaning an even longer wait to even measure for the countertops. Therefore, all other work, permits, inspections, and installations must be completed before the cabinets even arrive, meaning your real timeline for the “work” is just shy of 4 to 6 weeks, plus some change for idly waiting around for a surface to plop down on your cabinets. Let’s not forget, though, that most of those home improvement shows feature delays from unexpected problems, failed inspections, or homeowner changes that take place during the general labor stage, further pushing out cabinet delivery, countertop measurement, and you having a kitchen in this lifetime – oops, we meant timeline!



Ah, here we can finally come to the true point; amidst all of this waiting around, the general delays, and plenty of time to get a little trigger happy, you get the brilliant, never-before-thought-of idea to install your tile backsplash in anticipation of your countertops or setting of your cabinets – huge mistake. If you install your tile backsplash before your cabinets, you’re just asking for a host of problems, including, but not limited to, discovering that your floors aren’t level to the window (or whatever “landmark” you used to start the applying the kitchen tile), attempting to cut tile while it’s on the wall, or removing brand-new tile, only to try reapplying it weeks later.

Worse still, your countertop company likely has some choice words to be found in the fine print of your agreement about their liability to line up your backsplash and countertop. That is to say, they almost never guarantee it at all and would recommend you never install a backsplash before the counters go in; unfortunately, they rarely tell you this or point it out, meaning you could easily stumble into a tight spot by scheduling your kitchen tile backsplash installation for just after your countertop measurement. Now, this may not sound so bad at first, but consider this: If your counter doesn’t fit under the backsplash tile, the company installing the counters aren’t inclined to wait around for a couple of hours while you scramble to figure it out, but will likely instead take your counters back to the shop and send you a bill for the wasted labor; now you have a backsplash that needs to be fixed, counters that need to be rescheduled (at least once), and no idea what you’re going to do about any of it. Always do your backsplash after the countertops are 100% installed, sealed, and secured.


Despite our warning, that doesn’t mean that you can’t, or shouldn’t, have your kitchen tiles picked out long before your countertops arrive; after all, these decisions should be made to complement one another and your backsplash is a necessary component of your kitchen. Stop in to Transworld Tile to view the best selection of kitchen backsplash tile in the Thousand Oaks area and be sure to have your tile on-hand and ready to go as soon as your countertops are installed; at the end, you’ll be glad you waited a couple of days for the peace of mind and security involved in a kitchen done right the first time. Instead of installing your tile during the lapse between your kitchen cabinets and countertops, instead you should take a chance to put your feet up and pat yourself on the back for a job well done and renovation (mostly) survived.

Don’t Tile That Backsplash! (Yet)