Do You Need Backsplash in Bathroom?


Backsplashes play an important functional and decorative role in bathrooms. Serving as a protective barrier behind sinks, tubs, and showers, backsplashes prevent water damage to walls and add visual interest to your bath design. When planning a bathroom remodel or new construction, one of the key considerations is whether you need to install a backsplash. There are several factors to take into account when making this decision.

What is a Backsplash?

A backsplash is a vertical surface made of tile, metal, glass, or other water-resistant material installed on the wall behind a sink, bathtub, shower, or other plumbing fixture. Backsplashes serve both practical and aesthetic purposes in bathrooms.

On a functional level, backsplashes protect the drywall or plaster behind sinks, tubs, and showers from water damage. They shield walls from moisture, condensation, and leaks that can cause mold, mildew, and other problems if allowed to soak into drywall or plaster. Water-resistant backsplash materials prevent this damage.

In terms of aesthetics, backsplashes bring color, texture, and pattern to bathrooms. They serve as focal points and help set the tone for the room’s decor. Creative backsplash designs and materials can elevate the look of a bathroom.

Key Benefits of Backsplashes

There are several important benefits that backsplashes provide in bathrooms:

Protection from Water Damage

Backsplashes create a water barrier, preventing liquid from soaking into walls behind sinks, tubs, and showers. This moisture protection keeps drywall and plaster intact and prevents the growth of mold and mildew.

Easy Cleaning

Smooth backsplash surfaces allow for quick wipe-downs. Compared to scrubbing tile grout or cleaning inside crevices, keeping backsplashes looking neat and fresh is relatively simple.

Design Impact

Backsplashes make a major decorative statement in bathrooms. They offer the opportunity to add pops of color, intricate patterns, natural stone textures, glass mosaics, and other design elements.

Reflect Light

Polished metal and glass backsplashes reflect light, helping bathrooms feel brighter and more spacious. This can make small bathrooms seem larger.

Provide Visual Separation

Backsplashes visually separate and define different functional zones within an open bathroom. For example, a backsplash provides a clear distinction between the tub and sink areas.


Backsplashes allow for creative customization. You can choose materials and designs to coordinate with your preferred bath decor.

Where are Backsplashes Used in Bathrooms?

Backsplashes are installed behind and around:

  • Sinks
  • Bathtubs
  • Showers
  • Toilets
  • Bathroom vanities/cabinets

Essentially, any place in a bathroom where water and moisture will regularly contact walls is a candidate for a backsplash. They help contain splashes and condensation to protect surrounding surfaces.

Many bathroom designs incorporate backsplashes in multiple locations for comprehensive protection and aesthetic appeal. It is common to see coordinating backsplashes behind sinks, tubs, and showers for a cohesive look.

Are Backsplashes Necessary in Bathrooms?

While backsplashes are not an absolute necessity in bathrooms, they are highly recommended in most cases for both practical and design reasons. However, there are some exceptions where you may be able to omit a backsplash, depending on your bathroom layout and quality of construction.

Backsplashes become more essential behind the following types of bathroom features:

Vessel or Pedestal Sinks

These sinks sit directly against the wall with exposed plumbing. The lack of a vanity or sink basin means water can easily splash onto walls. A backsplash is vital here.

Drop-In Sinks

Without a backsplash, the gaps between a drop-in sink and the wall would allow water to seep behind. Backsplashes seal these spaces.

Clawfoot Tubs

Freestanding clawfoot tubs placed near walls need backsplash protection. The shapely tub exteriors tend to scatter flowing water.

Corner Showers

Angled walls meeting in a corner create potential for water escaping beyond the shower. A continuous backsplash along both walls helps significantly.

Sliding Shower Doors

With no shower curtain to contain moisture, backsplashes become necessary to prevent soaking of side walls.

Bathrooms with Plumbing on Shared Walls

Any bathroom plumbing sharing a wall with another living space should have a backsplash to protect that common wall. This includes shared walls with bedrooms, closets, and hallways.

When Can You Omit a Backsplash in a Bathroom?

There are some circumstances where you may be able to exclude a backsplash, such as:

Bathrooms with Tile Surrounding All Fixtures

If tile extends from tub/shower enclosures to vanities and walls, this tile can serve as a continuous backsplash.

Small Half Baths with No Shower or Tub

For a basic powder room with only a pedestal/vanity sink and toilet, backsplashes may not be essential if quality caulking is used.

Tubs/Showers with Full Surround Glass Doors/Walls

Floor to ceiling glass containment systems eliminate the need for backsplashes.

Top Quality Waterproof Walls

In new construction, advanced waterproof wall systems can sometimes substitute for backsplashes.

Careful Caulking Around All Fixtures

With meticulous caulking, experienced installers can seal sinks/tubs to minimize need for backsplashes.

If these exceptions apply to your bathroom, consult your contractor about omitting backsplashes. Also consider your long-term plans. If you may remodel again in the future, includings backsplashes now provides protection.

Which Materials Work Best for Bathroom Backsplashes?

There are numerous options when selecting materials for bathroom backsplashes. Considerations include water resistance, ease of cleaning, cost, and aesthetics.

Here are some of the most popular backsplash materials:


Glazed ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tile are go-to backsplash materials. Their hard, non-porous surfaces resist water well. Tile backsplashes provide countless design options. Glass tile delivers brilliant color and shine. Mosaics create visual interest.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel backsplashes give a sleek, modern look. Stainless is impervious to water and easily cleaned. It offers a reflective surface to enhance light. Stainless can also mimic other materials like copper or stone.


Glass tile, sheet glass panels, and glass mosaics make eye-catching backsplashes. Heavy tempered glass withstands heat and water. Illuminated glass backsplashes can even provide lighting. Textured glass hides hard water spots.

Natural Stone

Granite, marble, and other natural stones create elegant backsplashes. While moisture-resistant, natural stone requires sealing to prevent stains and damage.


Brass, copper, and other metals bring warmth and polish to backsplashes. Durable powder-coated metal finishes are also available. Like stainless, metal backsplashes have a reflective quality.

Painted Drywall

For DIY’ers on a budget, enameled drywall boards create easy, affordable backsplashes. Use moisture-resistant drywall and paints formulated for bathrooms.


While not waterproof, richly stained wood backsplashes provide a classic, rustic look. Use well-sealed hardwoods like teak in low-moisture areas.

No matter your design tastes, there is a backsplash material perfect for your bathroom. Consult with backsplash installation experts to select the right option.

How are Backsplashes Installed?

Professional backsplash installation is recommended to ensure a waterproof, seamless application. Here are the basic steps:

Select Backsplash Material and Layout Design

Choose your preferred material and overall pattern. Measure the installation areas and use those dimensions to plan the layout.

Prepare the Wall Surface

Walls must be smooth, clean, and dry. Repair any damage and remove old backsplashes or wall coverings if needed.

Cut Backsplash Tiles

Tile backsplashes require sizing pieces to fit your pattern. Use a wet saw for accuracy.

Apply Thin-set Mortar

Cover the wall with a thin layer of mortar adhesive using a notched trowel.

Set and Apply Backsplash Pieces

Press backsplash tiles or sheets into the mortar, aligning with your planned design.

Grout the Joints

For tile, grout the joints between pieces to seal. Smooth with a foam tool. Clean grout residue.

Seal and Finish

Seal natural stone. Apply trim pieces and caulk edges. Clean and polish materials.

Backsplash installation often progresses as other bathroom systems come online. Consult your contractor about timing.

Cost Factors for Bathroom Backsplash Installation

The cost of installing a backsplash depends on several key factors:

  • Backsplash material selected – Tile, metal, and stone cost more than painted drywall or laminate panels.
  • Custom vs. standard designs – Made-to-order mosaics or medallions increase cost.
  • Backsplash layout – The amount of surface area covered drives cost. Larger backsplashes cost more in materials and labor.
  • Special cutting or fitting – Intricate patterns, irregular angles, and niches raise cost.
  • Accessibility – Ease of working behind sinks, tubs, and toilets impacts labor fees.
  • Professional installation – Hiring experienced contractors costs more but is recommended. DIY is risky.

Budget $3-5 per square foot for simpler tile backsplash installation, $5-10 per square foot for more complex projects with glass or natural stone. Stainless steel backsplashes cost around $6-8 per square foot installed.

FAQs About Backsplashes in Bathrooms

Do you need waterproof backsplash materials in bathrooms?

Waterproof, non-porous backsplash materials like tile, glass, and metal are highly recommended for bathrooms. Water-resistant drywall or laminates may work in some cases but provide less protection.

Where should backsplashes start and end in a bathroom?

Backsplashes should begin about 1/4 inch above any countertop surface. They should extend to at least 4 inches above the faucet height or fixture location. Full wall height backsplashes provide maximum protection.

Can backsplashes get wet or be immersed in water?

Yes, backsplashes are designed to get wet. However, you should squeegee water off glass backsplashes after showers to reduce hard water spots. Avoid direct immersion of wood backsplashes.

Do backsplashes need special cleaning or maintenance?

Check your backsplash material manufacturer’s care guidelines. Generally, frequent cleaning with mild soap/detergent and water is best. Avoid abrasive cleaners. Re-seal natural stone and grout periodically.

Should backsplashes match across multiple bathroom zones?

Coordinating colors and materials makes bathrooms feel cohesive, but not required. Feel free to mix backsplash designs to define different functional areas.

Can I install a backsplash myself?

While possible, extensive tiling or natural stone installation is best left to backsplash professionals to ensure proper moisture protection. Carefully consider DIY risks.


Installing backsplashes in your bathroom remodel or new construction brings important water protection plus ornamental appeal. Take time to explore the many beautiful backsplash materials available and create a design aligned with your bathroom’s decor. While backsplashes may not be essential in every circumstance, they are worth considering to safeguard your bath and its walls. With the right backsplash tiles or panels and professional installation, you can feel confident your bathroom’s surfaces will stay undamaged for years to come.