Backsplash Advice For Your Bathroom - Would you tile the side walls too?
in Bath, Designing, Remodeling
I recently had a reader contact me regarding some of her bathrooms where she is now adding tile backsplashes. I asked her if I could share her images and questions here because I thought many might be interested in all these variables and circumstances that are considered with clients on various projects.
You might just find YOUR particular situation described below.
Attention: This post has been republished from my archives, primarily because I keep getting this question. Also, because one of the homeowners that I answered here, uploaded her finished photos in the comments and I would love for you to see her end results after doing what I suggested. They look amazing!
“Carla, have you done a post on bathroom backslashes that I have missed? I'd love to hear your input on them. I have 2 bathrooms I need to backsplash the sink areas. One has 3 walls around the counter top and the other bathroom has a sidewall and back wall. I'm attaching pictures of examples so you know what I mean. Would you only backsplash the back wall on both?”
These are the two images below that she submitted as examples. These weren't her bathrooms.
Here was my first response:
Depends on several things.
Is the sink really close to the side wall?
Is it a master bath, guest / secondary bath or a powder bath?
What materials are you using on the walls in both cases?
Who will be using the bath and will it be used on a daily basis?
Kids splash water around a lot. If children are using any bath regularly, some protection is needed. I'm doing a beautiful hall bath now that a little 6 year old boy will be using. We're tiling the walls all the way around the bathroom up to 4'-6". :-) I did the same in my daughter’s bathroom upstairs.
If it's a powder bath or a bath that is used by guests, I would say they'll likely be more tidy and you don't have to worry as much about splash. If you're using wallpaper, that gives some protection on the wall and you can get away without doing a splash. I have no backsplash at all in my powder bath that has a pedestal sink with wallpaper on the walls. I’ve never had any water issues there and we use that bathroom a lot.
On the first image you submitted, the smaller bath, I might likely do a side splash if that bathroom will be getting used a lot, particularly by a child or teen.
In the other bathroom, likely a master bath, I probably wouldn't do one, but could, since it's surrounded on 3 sides. This now depends on what you're doing on the walls really and on the rest of the room. If it's just paint, I might be inclined to side splash it. If it has tile on the back wall as a feature, like in the photo, I likely wouldn't do it.
Reader question (Master Bath):
“Oh, how silly of me to think there was a cut and dry answer. :) I was able to get pictures of the actual spaces today, so I'll post them here and see what you think.
There is a master bath with two sinks and two side walls on the counter. A kids bathroom with one sink and two side walls. And a powder room with one side wall touching the counter. Everything is painted. There is no wallpaper planned for these spaces. On the master I was going to do a light grey 3x12 tile, vertical 1/3rd brickset, counter to ceiling. I was thinking of doing all 3 walls, but one of the side walls has a door frame with header on it and not sure how to deal with that, so thought maybe just do the back wall."
On the master, I would likely not do the side splash. The wall of tile you’re doing over the sink area will be a nice statement and has a more high end look. Tiling the side walls will sort of take away or diminish the impact of the back tiled wall. Besides, I always prefer to transition materials on an inside corner wherever possible and this is the perfect place to do so.
You could, however, do a small splash in the same material as the countertop and then tile on top of that, leaving a backsplash of the countertop material with no tile above on the sides. I wouldn’t go with 4” here then, that’s just tooooo typical. I’d go shorter, like 2” - 3”, just enough to cover the joint and protect the corners where water will possibly pool where countertop meets sheetrock.
Here’s a great example of that tip, below.
See how we did the short 2 1/2” high slab backsplash so it could wrap the side walls? The sinks were close there, and this gives some protection without taking away from the great visual impact of the tiled wall. Great for when water sort of pools on the countertop and might end up at the edge by the wall.
I would prefer the first recommendation I offered, as I’m not too fond of side backsplashes or slab backsplashes with tile above, particularly in kitchens, but if you feel you need protection there from the sink because of a user that wouldn’t be careful, then you could go the direction of the latter recommendation. In that case, the splash would sort of blend in visually with the countertop.
Reader Question (Kids Bath):
"On the kids bath I was going to do a 3x5 white subway, brickset, and do all 3 walls from counter to ceiling, and line up the edge of the tile with the end of the counter. (This is actually a jack and jill with two sink areas that are the same, except one has doorway on both side walls and one of them just has a doorway on the left sidewall.)"
I understand that with the kids’ bath, you want some protection on the sides. Just make sure you use a bullnose piece at the outer edge, lined up with the countertop. I prefer the bullnose piece to be this type, pictured below, with the bullnose on the short side (I assume you are laying it horizontal), as opposed to one of those longer 2 ½” bullnose trimpieces that sort of look like they border the tile.
Reader Response (Powder Bath):
"On the half bath, I was going to do a 12x24 wavy texture white tile, stacked (contempo mashup) and do the entire back wall, including behind the toilet area from floor to ceiling. I had also thought to do that side wall just where it touches the counter, from the counter to the ceiling, lined up with the counter and do a pencil white trim piece all the way up that side to hide the tile edge."
In this case, I think the side wall tile application will really take away from the impact the full back wall of tile will have. I would use a paint that can be somewhat washable, like a Sherwin Williams Emerald Matte finish. It’s washable, but not shiny.
I've done a few bathrooms where we tiled the back wall only and it highlights the tile nicely and makes a big impact.
You might want to think about a different mirror if you haven’t already. That one might look a little chunky on a wall of tile with its heavy frame. Something a little sleeker might be nice so that your impressive tiled wall will stand out.
Many of my posts contain my design preferences and guidelines that I use to design by. Design decisions, however, are always affected by the specific situations of the project. Situations like client preference, functionality, surrounding spaces, budget, etc. Design is not a one size fits all, but if you use some basic principles to guide you, the answers usually come to light.
I’ve got my handy Bathroom Design Guide to share here today. If you need some help planning your bathroom remodel, my project checklist can serve as your go-to source so you don’t leave anything out and can thoughtfully design the bathroom of your dreams!
Click Here >>>>Bathroom Design Guide
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Tags: backsplash, bathroom, bathroom remodel, bathroom backsplash, bath remodel, bath backsplash, master bathroom, tile, tile wall, tile backsplash, side wall, side wall backsplash, side splash, remodeling tips, reader mail, advice, reader advice, reader backsplash Q&A
How to Make an Easy and Cheap Backsplash for the Bathroom Sink
By Amy Wilde
Remodeling an outdated or boring bathroom can be very expensive. If you're looking to refresh the look of your bathroom without blowing a wad of money, install a colorful new backsplash above your bathroom sink. A backsplash can serve as a focal point for the room while it protects the wall above the sink from water damage.
Tile is a classic choice for a backsplash, but the material can be expensive and a hassle to install. Luckily, there's a wide variety of affordable self-adhesive tiles available for a quick, stress-free backsplash project. Self-adhesive faux ceramic tiles come in vivid colors and patterns for a fresh, bright look. If you want a more subtle, upscale feel, you can purchase linoleum sheets made to look like stone. Self-adhesive metal tiles are even a possibility, albeit a more expensive one.
Faux Tin Ceiling Tiles
These styrene tiles are specially treated to look like metal and come with a variety of patterns and finishes, but the material is more durable and much more affordable than metal. All you need are the tiles, scissors to trim them and the appropriate adhesive, and you'll have a classy, stylish accent for your bathroom.
Instead of installing a traditional backsplash, try painting above the sink. You can use traditional paint in a bold color, or try a faux-finish spray paint made to give a terracotta or sandstone finish. Iron oxide paint will provide increased durability. You can even use chalkboard paint in either the normal or magnetic variety for a whimsical touch. If you're using traditional paint, just be sure to use a semigloss or another easy-to-clean finish, or apply a protective varnish over the top.
A small area like a backsplash is the perfect place to use flashy or intricate designs that would be too much on an entire wall. If you've fallen in love with a wallpaper pattern that you're afraid to use on the wall, a backsplash might be just the place for it. You can even get vinyl-based temporary wallpaper that will peel right off when you feel like a change. Be sure to choose a wallpaper that's durable and water-resistant.
Amy Wilde has worked as a grant developer, copy editor, writing tutor and writer. Based in Portland, Ore., she covers topics related to society, religion and culture. Wilde holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and classical civilization from the University of Toronto.
Bathroom Vanity Backsplash Ideas
What is a Backsplash?
A backsplash is what you would find behind your bathroom vanity countertop that helps reduce damage to walls behind your sinks. They also provide a chance to add a personal touch to your bathroom or powder room. Materials range from stone to tile to glass. The possibilities are endless.
While some vanities come with countertops and backsplashes, buying one without them can actually be easier and offer more customization. You can get installation done locally. This provides a chance for you to look at slabs and samples before you choose one you love. In the case of natural stone, computer screens and online photos don’t show a true representation of the piece of stone you’ll actually get. You can also decide on a custom height and choose edge details if you visit a local showroom. If your vanity comes with a countertop but no backsplash, be sure to take pictures or a sample of your countertop when purchasing your backsplash so you can see them side-by-side.
Do I Need a Bathroom Vanity Backsplash or No?
Some may say that backsplashes are only aesthetic, but others will say they are a necessity. If you don’t want your walls to get damaged…mold, mildew etc, backsplashes are a must. Depending on the type of bathroom vanity you have, you might be able to get away without a backsplash if you are trying to save some cash. Say you have a pedestal sink vanity or a vanity that does not sit flush against the wall, in this case, a backsplash isn’t necessarily necessary. It would be more for looks and style in this case.
How To Find A Backsplash That Matches Your Bathroom Vanity
One of the most common questions we receive here at Unique Vanities, is how a client can find a backsplash that matches their vanity countertop. Since the majority of our vanities are sold without a backsplash attached (due to the extremely high occurrence of shipping damage) we knew this was something that we should address.
Since natural stone is just that - natural - it is physically impossible to find a piece of stone that matches exactly to another. Like a snowflake, the striations in a natural stone vary from section to section. Truly though, that’s the way we want it. If every stone looked the same, we’d never have a truly unique countertop. Natural stone is similar from piece to piece however, in color and pattern for the most part. So, when you are searching for a backsplash to match your vanity, you shouldn’t have too much trouble.
Home Depot and Lowes DO NOT carry remnants or "fall off" pieces of stone to use as backsplashes. They can however, give you a number of a local stone fabricator. We recommend getting the number of more than one stone fabricator so that you are able to compare costs and sample colors to match your single or double bathroom vanity countertop. Once you’ve located the stone fabricators in your area, you’ll want to get a sample from each to compare to your stone at home.
How to Choose a Backsplash?
When choosing a backsplash, think of them as artwork. Materials range from metallic tiles to frosted glass tiles, and there are more natural styles like river-rock tiles. Shapes of tiles include options like traditional subway tiles (3in x 6in), hexagonal and even circular. Another choice for backsplashes is to continue your countertop. Because of the variations in natural stone, this option is best executed if you order with your countertop, to ensure that it matches well. If your countertop is a material other than natural stone, you are probably safe to order a backsplash to use with your existing countertop.
What is the Standard Bathroom Backsplash Height?
The standard height for a backsplash is usually 3-4 inches, but going with a higher backsplash will add elegance and a custom appearance. Consider using wall mounted fixtures with an extra high backsplash. Continuing the backsplash up the entire wall will add dramatic effect while doubling as a focal point.
Bathroom Vanity Backsplash Ideas
We do not sell backsplashes as a stand alone item.
Have you noticed that all of our bathroom vanities are listed as no backsplash included, though some of the images of our vanities clearly shows a backsplash? We want to provide clarification and alternatives.
When we first started in 2005, many of the manufacturers were offering backsplashes; some were attached, some not. Though every attempt was made to properly package the backsplash for shipping, we (along with many retailers) were experiencing higher than average damage rates to them. When we would ship out a new backsplash, it was nearly impossible that it would arrive intact. And I promise you, we tried everything. A long, narrow piece of stone just doesn’t mix well with any of the freight carriers.
Because this inevitably ended in a poor experience for our clients, and us, the manufacturers themselves stopped offering backsplashes as an option. We currently offer a limited selection of vanities with a backsplash, but if it is damaged, we will not replace it as it’s nearly impossible to do so.
Here’s the good news: you’ve got options. Often times, opting for a vanity without a backsplash leads to a more individual, unique design. Simply speaking, your bathroom isn’t going to look like anyone else’s with the same vanity installed.
Here are a few ideas for creating a backsplash to fit with your bathroom project.
Glass Tile Backsplash Ideas
Stone Tile Backsplash Ideas
Subway Tile Backsplash Ideas
Ceramic Tile Backsplash Ideas
Kitchen and Bathroom Backsplashes Guide
Types of Backsplash Materials
Ceramic or Porcelain Tile
Ceramic tile and porcelain are common backsplash materials. Vitreous (slick surfaced) ceramic tile or porcelain offer good wipe-down ability, no small thing when dealing with behind-stove grease splatter.
Ceramic is also cost-efficient. While it's possible to purchase expensive artisan tile, you'll find just inexpensive or moderately priced ceramic tile.
Glass tile conveys a look of sleek urbanity. If a modern-style kitchen is what you have in mind, you may want to consider this material.
Glass is trickier to cut than ceramic or porcelain tile. Glass never goes out of style, but certain sizes and colors of glass do.
The default material offered by some countertop installers is the countertop material itself. If you have a solid surface countertop, installers may run a 4-inch high backsplash of the same material along the length of the counter. This helps to mask any gaps between the counter and the wall.
This is often considered an optional element, so speak to your installer ahead of time about whether a backsplash will be included.
Sheet Laminate or Glass
One of the newer, trendier materials is sheet glass. A great advantage of sheet glass backsplashes is that the backside of the glass can be painted—the side facing the wall. This paint layer is protected against wear and tear and is virtually impossible to scrape or scratch.
Backsplashes of this type are mainly found in kitchens and sometimes in bathrooms, directly behind sinks and usually stretching the entire length of the counter and up to the ceiling.
Backsplash bathroom sink
23 Bathroom Backsplashes That Know How to Make a Statement
Experiment With Asymmetry
Your backsplash doesn’t have to cover the wall behind your sink. In fact, if you’re willing to get creative with your tile placement, you can turn your backsplash into a veritable work of art. Stock up on tiles in a striking shade, and use them to craft a stripe that runs from ceiling to floor.
Instead of letting this stripe run behind the center of your mirror, set it off to the side just a touch. This asymmetry will make your colorful backsplash even more statement-making.
Get Creative With Your Grout
Believe it or not, your grout doesn’t have to be white. It can be black, gray, or even orange—meaning you have plenty of ways to make a statement, even if you’re working with classic white tiles.
If your floors are lined with some vibrant color, don’t worry about finding wall tiles that complement them. Instead, stick to something traditional and let your grout handle the color coordination.
Paint Your Wall
Tiles are a common choice for bathroom backsplashes, but they’re not the only way to get the job done. Feel free to keep things simple, and stick with a standard coat of paint, instead.
This choice works particularly well when you’re dealing with a freestanding sink, but it can look striking, no matter what sink set-up you’re dealing with.
Turn Your Tiles Sideways
Tiles tend to run in one direction—at least, rectangular tiles do. We lay them out horizontally, so the long side stretches from left to right, and the short side runs from top to bottom. This is a tried-and-true approach.
Since it’s so classic, inverting it is an easy way to make a statement, even if the tiles you’re working with are crisp, clean white.
Mix and Match Your Materials
Your backsplash is only one piece of the puzzle. You also have your countertops and your cabinets to consider, and you want all three of these pieces to work together in harmony. So, if you’ve already picked one of the three out, use that as a starting point—and let it inspire the choices you make in the rest of your space.
If you’ve settled on black marble countertops, look for a shiny backsplash tile that’ll complement it. Then, add a little texture with wooden cabinets.
A monochromatic bathroom is an instant statement-maker, and you can use your backsplash to bring your space together. If your shower is lined with vibrant pink tiles, let those tiles extend to your backsplash, or add a touch of contrast with a pink terrazzo backsplash, instead.
Play With Texture
When you’re working with bold countertops, you may feel the need to strip back your backsplash, keeping it as simple as possible. But, don’t be afraid to combine two striking textures. A striated marble countertop looks great next to classic subway tiles.
It might look even better if you pair those subway tiles with black grout. This combination will echo the striations in the marble, lending your space contrast and cohesion in equal measure.
Complement Your Hardware
A great way to bring your space together? Match your backsplash to your hardware, or vice versa. Since your backsplash will serve as a focal point in your space, it’s sure to demand attention.
Color-coordinating it with smaller details—like your drawer pulls, towel racks, and overhead lights—can make your space feel balanced and whole.
Stock Up on Paneling in Two Different Shades
Tiles and paint aren’t your only backsplash options. Wood paneling can add texture to your space, serving as a subtler alternative to vibrant tiles.
For a striking floor-to-ceiling look, line your walls with painted wood paneling. Then, line your bathroom cabinets with matching wood paneling in another shade. This two-tone approach should leave your space feeling varied, cohesive, and delightfully dynamic.
Pair Your Backsplash to Your Sink
Not sure what to do with your backsplash? Consider using your sink as a starting point. If you’ve scored a particularly statement-making sink, look for a backsplash that complements it. Pair a cement sink with a marble backsplash that’s lined with gray striations, or complement a metal sink with similarly shiny tiles.
Cover Your Wall in Tiles
Your backsplash doesn’t have to begin and end behind your sink. It can extend to cover an entire wall—in fact, it can extend to cover your entire bathroom. If you don’t mind the look of floor-to-ceiling tiles, consider letting your backsplash stretch across your space. This wall-to-wall approach is bound to make a statement, even if the tiles you pick come in a sleek neutral shade.
Let Wallpaper Be Your Backsplash
Wallpaper is a simple way to transform any bathroom, and it can easily serve as a built-in backsplash. If you’ve lined your walls with a pretty print, consider letting it stand on its own.
If you want to layer in other design elements—like bits of marble or vibrant tiles—you absolutely can, but since what you’ve got is already so striking, you don’t need to.
Put Down The Paint—These Are The Best Places to Buy Wallpaper
Keep It Classic
Subway tiles are tried-and-true for a reason: they look great, and they’re incredibly easy to decorate with. Don’t force yourself to stay away from them just because they’ve been done before. If you love them, line your backsplash with them.
Look for other places to add a little statement-making flair. Your faucet, your mirror, and your lighting fixtures are all excellent candidates.
Match Your Backsplash to Your Floors
Matching your backsplash to your floors may seem like a strange choice. But, if your floors are lined with statement-making tiles or rendered in a pretty color, why notuse them to inspire other design elements in your space?
If you’d prefer a higher-contrast approach, you can always pick a backsplash that complements your floors rather than matching them perfectly. But, if you don’t mind a little clear coordination, consider using the same tiles, material, or paint color in both places.
Make the Most of Your Space
Bathrooms tend to look pretty similar, but every now and then, you’ll end up with an unconventional space. Maybe your bathroom is incredibly small or strangely shaped. Or, maybe it boasts a sprawling bay window that makes a traditional backsplash hard to come by.
Instead of covering up these so-called “imperfections,” look for ways to make them work for you. Could you hang a couple of mirrors from your ceiling and let your window serve as your backsplash?
Line Your Walls With Wood Paneling
There are plenty of ways to add texture to your walls without relying on classic tiles. While unfinished wood paneling may sound a little rustic, it can look surprisingly sleek when paired with marble and shiny metal.
If you’ve lined your walls with wood paneling or some other striking material, consider skipping out on a traditional backsplash and let your walls serve as your backsplash, instead.
20 Rustic Bathrooms That Give Us Chic Log Cabin Vibes
Pick a Backsplash That Complements Your Mirror
If you’ve stumbled upon a truly statement-making mirror, consider building your backsplash and the rest of your space around it. Use dark grout to echo the lines in a geometric mirror, and use light tiles to mimic your mirror’s light reflection. If your mirror is filled with other shapes and colors, you can use tiles to nod to these, as well.
Extend Your Backsplash Into Your Shower
Backsplashes and showers are both hotspots for tiles, so why not blend them together by using the same tile in both? Line your shower walls with a set of pretty tiles. Then, let those tiles extend to cover the wall behind your sink, too.
If you don’t love the look of wall-to-wall color, you can always use the same tiles to form a more traditional backsplash behind your sink.
DIY a Two-Tone Wall
Your walls don’t have to be just one color or texture. With a handful of tiles and a quick coat of paint, you can DIY a two-tone wall that segments just above your sink, giving you a built-in backsplash that’s both striking and unique.
Spring for Floor-to-Ceiling Marble
Marble makes a classic addition to any bathroom, and if you’re hoping to craft a seriously stunning backsplash, the elegant material won’t disappoint.
If you have the budget for it, consider springing for a full-blown marble wall. The material will set the tone in your space, adding luxury and functionality in equal measure.
Merge Your Backsplash With Your Countertops
Backsplashes and countertops are often separate pieces, but they certainly don’t have to be. Many bathroom countertops come with backsplashes built-in. Typically, these backsplashes are crafted from the same material as the countertops, giving you one continuous line from the front of your counter to the top of your backsplash.
Keep It Simple
If there’s a lot going on in your bathroom, consider keeping your backsplash relatively simple. A classic white backsplash may skew a little traditional in an all-white bathroom, but if you put it next to a wood-lined wall—and above a strikingly tiled floor—it should add a welcome dose of contrast and simplicity to your space.
Pick a Sink With a Built-In Backsplash
Curating a bold backsplash can be a lot of fun, but if you don’t want to go through the trouble of tiling or painting your walls, remember that you can always spring for a sink with a built-in backsplash, instead. Some sinks really do come equipped with backsplashes, giving you a very low-maintenance way to outfit your space.
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Top 70 Best Bathroom Backsplash Ideas – Sink Wall Designs
A bathroom backsplash is more than just a standard contrivance of cleanliness, but a chance to upgrade your bathroom in a subtle fashion that is just as impossible to ignore.
Elegant and understated, but equally capable of drawing attention in an instant, perhaps it’s time to take a look at the space above your bathroom sink?
You may find yourself amazed at the style flourish begging to be made.
From subway tiling to multi-colored pieces, as well as rustic wooden planking and even inlaid pennies, there’s no limit to the backsplash materials at your disposal. Is your bathroom designed along a classic vintage motif, or do you prefer to blend your colors, textures, and inspirations? Are you looking to make a bold geometric impression or create a more fluid, elegant image?
A backsplash may not seem like the final say on such a grand scope, but time and again interior enthusiasts have proven that sentiment wrong. Whatever your budget or mode of taste, it’s never too late or too frivolous to leave one more signature for others to admire.
It’s easy to overlook the visual minutiae when designing our dream abodes–after all, we’re told to dream big, right? But big is often found in the very same details that the average soul frequently overlooks. The keen and cultured eye recognizes what the pedestrian can’t, and sheds new light on spaces that may otherwise go unnoticed. These top 70 best bathroom backsplash ideas are your chance to leave a mark as refined as you are, and just as original.