Do You Need Backsplash Behind Sink?

Adding a backsplash behind your kitchen sink is an important design consideration that can make a big impact on the look and functionality of your space. While a backsplash is not absolutely necessary, there are many benefits to having one installed behind the sink area that make it highly recommended for most kitchens. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore whether you need a backsplash behind your sink, the pros and cons, design considerations, popular materials, installation tips, and much more.

What is a Backsplash?

Before diving into the specifics around sinks, let’s review what exactly a backsplash is. A backsplash refers to a protective surface that is installed on the wall behind a sink, stove, or other area in danger of exposure to water, grease splatter, and other potential messes.

In the kitchen, backsplashes are most commonly installed behind sinks, ranges, and cooktops. The purpose is to protect the wall from moisture, grime, and stains. Backsplashes also enhance the visual appeal of the space by allowing for creative use of colorful, patterned materials.

Backsplashes typically extend 4-6 inches vertically from the countertop up the wall, and are made from materials like ceramic tile, glass tile, natural stone tile, metal, or high-quality water-resistant paints.

Key Benefits of Adding a Backsplash Behind the Sink

There are several important advantages to installing a backsplash behind your kitchen sink area:

Protection from Moisture and Stains

The sink area is especially susceptible to water splashes, drips, and potential leaks from the faucet or plumbing. Constant moisture exposure can lead to peeling paint, mold growth, warped or water-damaged cabinets and damage to the drywall behind the sink.

A properly installed backsplash creates a water-resistant barrier to protect the wall from liquid. The smooth, non-porous nature of materials like glass, metal or tile allow the surface to be easily wiped down.

Easier Cleaning

In addition to guarding against moisture damage, a backsplash also makes the wall behind the sink much simpler to clean. Food splatter, grease, soap scum and hard water deposits can accumulate quickly. The backsplash’s hard, wipeable surface is far easier to clean than porous drywall.

Regular cleaning is also important to inhibit the growth of mold and mildew. A backsplash allows you to easily wipe away grime before it has the chance to soak into the wall.

Visual Appeal

The sink area is a prime focal point in the kitchen. A stylish, eye-catching backsplash can add visual interest and tie the whole room together. Tiled backsplashes allow you to incorporate colors, patterns, shapes and textures that reflect your personal style.

The proper backsplash complements the sinks, faucets, cabinetry and counter materials for a cohesive look. For a dramatic statement, extend the backsplash throughout the entire kitchen.

Protect Walls from Damage

The activity around a kitchen sink can lead to nicks, abrasions and dents on the drywall. Dripping water, dangling hoses and cleaning tools knocking against the wall are common occurrences. Over time this can deteriorate the wall, requiring drywall repairs. The durable, scratch-resistant materials used for backsplashes prevent this type of damage.

Key Considerations for Adding a Backsplash Behind the Sink

While backsplashes provide numerous benefits, there are a few factors to consider as you evaluate installing one:


Basic backsplash materials like ceramic tile or stainless steel sheets start around $5 per square foot installed. More elaborate options with glass or stone tiles,specialty patterns, and decorative trims can cost $50-$100 per square foot or more. Consider your budget and determine how much you want to invest in the backsplash area.


The nature of the sink area means the backsplash demands regular cleaning. Tile grout lines in particular require scrubbing to removeresidues. Check that you are comfortable with the level of maintenance required to keep backsplash materials looking their best.

Existing Wall Condition

If your wall already has significant water damage, you’ll need to make repairs prior to installing the backsplash. Additionally, surfaces need to be smoothed and primed so tiles or panels adhere properly. Factor in any wall preparation when planning for a backsplash installation.


Pay attention to the size of the area behind the sink you want to cover. Make sure to measure so you purchase sufficient materials. Consider how backsplash sizing and placement will integrate with other design elements like windows or corner spaces.

Skill Level

For simple ceramic tile, a handy homeowner can generally handle the DIY install. But for more complex materials like natural stone or glass tile, you may wish to hire a professional to ensure proper setup and grouting. Factor in the installation labor costs as needed.

Popular Backsplash Materials for Behind the Sink

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s examine some of today’s most popular and effective backsplash options to use behind the kitchen sink:

Ceramic Tile

A ceramic tile backsplash is a classic choice that offers style and functionality at an affordable price point. Glazed ceramic tiles provide a glossy, water-resistant surface in a nearly endless range of colors, shapes, and patterns. The grout lines do require regular scrubbing to keep clean.

Ceramic tile backsplashes have a long lifespan and are easy to repair if a tile chips or cracks. DIY-friendly ceramic tile is likely the most budget-friendly backsplash option. Prices start around $5 per square foot.

White ceramic tile backsplash behind a stainless steel sink

Key Takeaway: Classic, affordable and easy to install, ceramic tile is a backsplash staple. Regular grout cleaning is the main maintenance requirement.

Glass Tile

For brilliance and depth, glass tile backsplashes are a top choice. Molten glass is pressed into shapes and cooled to produce tiny tiles in nearly any color. The glass surface wipes spotlessly clean. Light sparkles off the tiles’ reflective nature. Drawbacks are higher cost and extra care needed when cutting to avoid shattering.

Small mosaic glass tiles are especially popular for a flashy backsplash look. Prices range from $10-$50 per square foot based on tile size and quality. Hiring a pro is advised for proper glass tile cutting and installation.

Gray glass subway tile backsplash behind a modern sink

Key Takeaway: Small glass mosaic tiles create a shimmering, easy-clean backsplash. Professional installation is recommended given the fragile nature of glass.


For an ultra-modern, industrial vibe, metal backsplashes are sleek and stylish. Stainless steel, copper, brass and aluminum are shaped into tiles, sheets or custom designs. Metals like stainless steel are naturally water-resistant and easy to keep clean. Copper and brass will patina over time for more character.

Metal backsplashes pair well with undermount sinks and modern faucets. Costs vary based on metal type but expect to invest $30-$100 per square foot installed. Hiring a pro helps ensure proper cutting and mounting.

Stainless steel tile backsplash behind a modern sink

Key Takeaway: Metal backsplashes add contemporary style with industrial touches. Stainless steel is a top choice for its affordability, durability and easy maintenance.

Stone Tile

For beautiful veining and texture, natural stone tiles like marble, travertine, granite, and slate bring elegance as a backsplash. The high-end materials perfectly complement traditional kitchens. Drawbacks are higher costs, extra installation considerations, and sealing required.

Stone backsplashes start around $30 per square foot but can run $100+ for premium marble or granite tiles. Hire an experienced pro for proper tile cuts and safe mounting on the wall.

White marble subway tile backsplash behind a farmhouse sink

Key Takeaway: Elegant natural stone backsplashes add upscale appeal. Be prepared for higher costs and sealing maintenance to keep the porous stone tiles protected.


For budget-friendly simplicity, high-quality exterior latex paints create a backsplash that protects the wall and allows for color. Gloss or semi-gloss finishes are easiest to wipe clean. Just prep, prime, paint and touch up annually.

Painted backsplashes start under $3 per square foot. Cut in carefully near the countertop and caulk the seam for a polished look. Add decorative trim for extra style. Paint allows for easy color changes down the road.

Turquoise painted backsplash behind a white sink

Key Takeaway: Painted backsplashes offer affordability and custom color options. Use high-quality bathroom and kitchen paints for maximum stain resistance.

Design Considerations for Backsplashes Behind Kitchen Sinks

Now let’s explore some of the key design factors when planning your dream backsplash:

Selecting Materials and Colors

Take into account your home’s existing style, cabinetry, counters, flooring and other finishes when selecting materials and hues. Contrasting or coordinating with other elements in the kitchen creates a cohesive look. Neutral backsplash colors like white are ideal for versatile spaces.

Consider easy-clean options like ceramic, glass or metal tile given the demands of the sink area. Porous natural stone looks beautiful but requires diligent sealing.

Determining Backsplash Height

Standard backsplash height is 4 inches above the counter, but extending to 6 inches or higher behind the sink boosts protection from splashes. Full height backsplashes covering the wall from counter to cabinets make a bold statement.

Classic white subway tile backsplash extended behind sink

Key Tip: Extend the backsplash height behind the sink area to guard more of the wall from moisture.

Incorporating Accent Areas

Frame the backsplash area with trim strips or tiles in a contrasting color. This defines the space while adding extra style. Accent with decorative tiles or glass inserts at intervals. Introduce eye-catching patterns or designs just behind the sink.

White backsplash with delicate blue accent tile framing the sink

Key Tip: Frame the sink backsplash area with trim strips or accent tiles to make it pop.

Selecting Grout Color

For tile backsplashes, coordinate or contrast the grout color with the tiles themselves. Bright white grout provides definition between tiles. Matching grout blends for a seamless look. Dark grout outlines lighter tiles. Consider ease of cleaning when choosing grout color.

Incorporating Lighting

Installing lighting above backsplashes highlights the materials and adds ambiance. Small LED strips or discreet undercabinet lights work well. Ensure adequate lighting for food prep tasks while minimizing shadows on the backsplash.

Planning Sink and Faucet Pairings

Select sink and faucet styles that complement your backsplash design. Stainless, enamel, copper or stone sinks coordinate with matching backsplash materials. Wall-mount faucets allow backsplashes to span uninterrupted behind the sink.

Steps for Installing a Backsplash Behind the Kitchen Sink

Once you’ve selected the perfect backsplash materials and design, proper installation is key. Here is an overview of the process:

1. Gather Supplies

For tile backsplashes, purchase the tile, grout, mortar, sealant, spacers, grout float, and any specialty tools needed. Have painter’s tape, caulk, and trim pieces on hand for non-tiled installations.

2. Prepare the Surface

Clear the area behind the sink and clean thoroughly. Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle; sand smooth. Prime existing paint or bare drywall. Apply any wall treatments if needed.

3. Mark the Area

Map out the backsplash installation area with tape and mark the planned tile locations. For painted backsplashes, carefully tape off just above the countertop edge.

4. Cut Tile or Trim Pieces

Using a wet saw for ceramic or glass tile, cut any specialty pieces needed for corners, edges, and around outlets. For other materials, carefully measure and cut with snips.

5. Apply Mortar

For tile backsplashes, apply a thin, even layer of mortar as adhesive to the wall area. Use a notched trowel to comb ridges into the mortar.

6. Mount Backsplash Materials

For tile, press into place starting at the bottom. Use spacers between tiles. Screw metal panels directly into studs. For painted backsplashes, neatly cut in along the counter edge before rolling the main wall area.

7. Finish Tile Installation

Once tile adhesive has cured, mix grout and apply over tiles, pressing into seams. Wipe away excess. Seal tile if needed. For non-tile backsplashes, caulk perimeter seams for a polished look.

8. Seal, Caulk, and Clean

Seal porous natural stone tiles to protect from moisture and staining. Caulk along the counter seam and perimeter edges. Wipe down the entire surface well to remove any installation residues.

Installation process of tile backsplash behind a bathroom sink

Key Tip: Carefully follow each installation step, like thoroughly cleaning the area and using spacers between tiles, to ensure quality results.

FAQs About Backsplashes Behind Kitchen Sinks

Let’s examine some frequently asked questions on selecting and installing backsplashes:

Are backsplashes necessary behind a kitchen sink?

Backsplashes are highly recommended behind sinks since the area is prone to splashes, drips, leaks, and cleaning residues. The backsplash protects the wall and makes cleaning much easier compared to bare drywall.

How far should a backsplash extend behind a kitchen sink?

Plan for the backsplash to extend at least 4-6 inches above the counter behind the sink area. For extra protection, consider running the backsplash all the way from countertop to cabinet bottoms.

What’s the easiest backsplash to install behind a kitchen sink?

Self-adhesive tile panels provide a simple backsplash option, followed by painted backsplashes rolled directly onto the wall. Classic ceramic tile backsplashes are very DIY-friendly as well compared to more specialized materials.

Is it cheaper to do a backsplash yourself or hire a pro?

For simple tile or painted backsplash installations, DIY can save on labor costs. But for more complex materials like natural stone or intricate patterns, a pro ensures it’s done right the first time and can end up comparable cost-wise after factoring DIY mistakes.

Should a backsplash match or contrast with kitchen countertops?