The standard backsplash in the kitchen -- the area on the wall above the countertops but beneath the cabinets -- generally runs between 15 and 18 inches tall for people of average heights, but more often than not, the backsplash is an afterthought and often is much shorter because of this. Bottom line: No set rules exist as to how high to place the backsplash. In the end, make the backsplash as tall as necessary to fit your budget, the height of those who use the kitchen and your personal aesthetic.
Full or Half Height
If you have a space of 18 inches between the countertop height and the bottom of the cabinets, a half-height backsplash may or may not appeal to you, as it breaks up the space between cabinets and countertop. The backsplash serves as its name implies; it's an area that takes the hit for splashes and spills that occur in the kitchen from preparing food and cooking it. Backsplashes protect the drywall behind it. If you want the backsplash to be there but disappear, match it to the materials used in the countertop for a cohesive look.
When budget's a concern, opt for a short, 4-inch-high backsplash that wraps the material from the countertop up the wall a few short inches, and add tile the rest of the way or paint the wall beneath the cabinets with a semigloss paint for easy cleanup. When choosing the height of the backsplash, take into consideration the size of the kitchen as well as the heights of those who use it; a small kitchen with a countertop-to-cabinet backsplash might close in the space more than you desire. Backsplashes can be 4 inches tall, 8 inches tall, cover the entire distance from the countertops to the cabinets, or be half the height of the space.
Behind the Stove
One place where a full-height backsplash works to your advantage is behind the stove with an under-mount microwave above the stove and beneath the cabinets. The height of the backsplash in this area might exceed standard heights, requiring a taller section of backsplash. Because cooking can be messy, the area behind the stove benefits from the easy-to-clean surface a backsplash provides. Even if you install a half-height backsplash in the rest of the kitchen, add a full-height one here.
Backsplash materials can be the same as those on the countertop, such as tile, solid-surface granite, an engineered solid-surface product or a completely different material, depending on the look you want. Homeowners have also installed copper, pressed tin, pebbles, wood, colored glass and even real bricks -- but at a much reduced width. The material for the backsplash is a personal aesthetic, chosen for its durability and overall appearance.