Adding a backsplash to your bathroom sink can completely transform the look and feel of your space. Not only does a backsplash provide an eye-catching focal point, but it also protects your walls from water damage and splashes. Installing a backsplash is a relatively easy DIY project that can be completed in a weekend. With some planning, the right materials, and basic tiling skills, you can create a stylish, custom backsplash that makes your bathroom sink area pop.
Selecting a Backsplash Material
The first step is choosing a material for your backsplash. The most popular options include:
Tile allows for endless design possibilities. Ceramic, porcelain, glass, stone, and mosaic tiles come in a huge range of styles, colors, textures, and patterns. Tile backsplashes are durable, easy to clean, and water-resistant. Go with neutral tiles like white, beige, or gray for a clean, classic look. Or make a bold statement with colorful patterned or metallic tiles. Keep in mind that small, mosaic tiles require more grout lines and take longer to install than larger tiles.
Natural stone like granite, marble, travertine, or slate create a high-end, luxurious look. Each stone slab has a unique pattern and veining. Stone is heat resistant, long-lasting, and waterproof. It does require sealing to prevent stains and scratches. And stone tends to be on the pricier side.
Glass tile or sheet glass make for a glossy, modern backsplash. Illuminated by natural or accent lighting, glass radiates brilliance. It comes in clear, frosted, bubbled, stained, and recycled glass styles. Glass is waterproof and non-porous. For safety, use tempered glass. Consider adding metal tile accents for extra sparkle.
For an industrial vibe, metal tiles like stainless steel, copper, and tin are durable, easy to clean options. Metal instantly livens up the look of a basic bathroom. It also serves as a reflective surface to brighten up the space. Just be aware that water drops and hard water stains can show on metal backsplashes.
Once you’ve chosen your backsplash material, it’s time to settle on a design. Consider the size of your bathroom and sink area, as well as your personal style. Here are some popular backsplash design ideas to inspire you:
- Full wall – Covering the entire wall behind the sink creates a bold backdrop. Try offsetting with light cabinets and countertops so it doesn’t overwhelm.
- Focal rectangle – Center and frame a rectangular backsplash tile design around the sink faucet area. Keep the rest of the wall painted.
- Framed mirror – Frame your bathroom mirror with a border of eye-catching tile. Coordinate with the countertop.
- Mosaic – Tiny mosaic tiles form pretty patterns like flowers, waves, or geometric shapes when installed in a full or partial sheet.
- Herringbone – The zigzag herringbone layout has visual interest and dimension.
- Subway – Classic rectangular subway tiles laid in a brick pattern suit both vintage and modern baths.
- Penny rounds – Circular penny tile adds retro appeal. Use blue, black, white or multicolored tiles.
- Strip – Stack horizontal strips of tile or alternate colors for a banded look.
- Geometric – Combine triangular, hexagonal or octagonal tile in artistic motifs.
- Listello – Listello borders and trim tiles complement larger tiles and create defined edges.
- Marble slab – For dramatic effect, install a slab of marble, granite or limestone behind the sink.
Once you’ve selected the material and design, measure the backsplash area and purchase enough tile to cover the space, allowing 10% extra for cuts and waste.
Prep the Backsplash Area
Prepping the backsplash area is crucial for getting a smooth, even installation. Follow these steps:
- Remove existing backsplash if there is one. Scrape off old caulk and adhesive with a putty knife.
- Fill any holes or uneven spots on the drywall with drywall compound. Let dry and sand smooth.
- Clean the walls thoroughly with soapy water to remove grease, dirt and grime. Rinse and let dry completely.
- Cover sections of the countertop, flooring and any walls not being tiled. Use painter’s tape and rosin paper to protect from splatters.
- Fill any gaps between the wall and countertops with caulk for a watertight seal. Let dry per manufacturer’s instructions.
- Mark a level line at the desired height for the top edge of the backsplash, like 1-2 inches above the counter. Use a level and pencil.
- Plan your tile layout. For evenly spaced tiles, measure and mark vertical reference lines on the wall spaced exactly the width of one tile apart.
The backsplash area is now prepped and ready for tile.
Tools and Materials Needed
Installing a tile backsplash is totally doable as a DIY home project. Gather these essential tools and materials:
- Tile cutter – For straight cuts
- Nippers – To clip small pieces and notches
- Wet saw – For detailed cuts (can rent)
- Tile spacers – Keep consistent grout lines
- Grout float – To apply grout
- Grout sealer – Seals and protects grout
- Sponges – For smoothing and cleaning grout
- Trowel – For spreading tile adhesive
- Level – To check tile for straightness
- Tape measure – For measuring
- Pencil – For marking cuts
- Safety gear – Gloves, goggles, mask
- Tile – Purchase extra 10% for cuts and waste
- Tile adhesive – Thinset mortar or mastic
- Grout – Sanded grout for joints wider than 1/8 inch
- Caulk – Color-matched silicone for gaps
- Grout sealer
- Backerboard – If needed to strengthen walls
- Concrete backerboard screws – If installing backerboard
Having all materials and tools on hand before starting will make the installation process go smoothly.
Install the Backerboard
If your bathroom walls are plaster or drywall, it’s recommended to install cement backerboard before tiling. Backerboard provides a water-resistant, stable base for tile adhesion. Here’s how:
- Cut boards to fit your backsplash area using a utility knife or circular saw.
- Apply thinset mortar to the back of the backerboard with a notched trowel. Press firmly against the wall.
- Screw backerboard to wall studs using backerboard screws, spaced 8 inches apart across boards.
- Tape seams between boards with fiberglass mesh tape. Apply thinset over tape with trowel.
- Let backerboard dry completely, about 24 hours.
Now you have a suitable surface for applying tile.
Install the Tile
It’s finally time for the fun part – installing the tile! Follow these step-by-step instructions for a flawless finished product:
- Apply adhesive: Spread a layer of thinset mortar adhesive on a section of the wall using a notched trowel. Apply only enough that can be tiled in 30 minutes before drying.
- Press tiles: Firmly press tiles into adhesive, using spacers to maintain even grout lines. Push tiles toward vertical reference lines.
- Check alignment: As you go, use a level on tiles to ensure they are straight. Adjust as needed while adhesive is still wet. Wipe away excess adhesive.
- Cut tiles to fit: Measure and mark tiles that need cut. Use a tile cutter for straight cuts and nippers for notches. Cut tile edges should face the wall.
- Fill edge gaps: Where backsplash meets countertop, caulk any gaps between tile edges and wall. Remove spacer sticks.
- Let tile set 24 hours without disturbing before grouting.
Take your time laying the tile and work in small sections for best results. Be sure the adhesive doesn’t dry before setting tiles.
Apply the Grout
Grout fills the joints between tiles with a waterproof coating and gives the backsplash a finished look. Here are tips for grouting:
- Apply grout sealer to the tiles first as a protective barrier, if desired. Let dry.
- Use a grout float to spread grout over the tile surface, pressing into joints. Hold float at a 45° angle like frosting a cake.
- Let grout sit briefly so it can start to harden in tile joints. Don’t let it dry completely.
- Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge. Rinse sponge frequently.
- Polish the tiles with a soft cloth once the grout has dried to a haze.
- Seal grout 2-3 days later so it’s waterproof and stain resistant.
Take precautions not to get grout onto the tile surface as it can be stubborn to remove fully once dried. Thoroughly cleaning the tiles as you go makes finishing easier.
Final Seal and Polish
The finishing touch is sealing and polishing your fab new backsplash:
- Caulk perimeter corners and edges with silicone caulk. Smooth with wet finger. Let dry completely.
- Polish and buff tiles with a soft cloth. Use mild soap if needed to remove residue or haze.
- Apply grout sealer according to manufacturer’s directions. Wait time indicated before using shower.
- Admire your handiwork and upgraded bathroom style!
With proper prep, materials, and technique, you can install a backsplash that looks professionally done. Enjoy the charm, protection and value a backsplash brings to your bathroom.
Frequently Asked Questions About Adding Backsplash to Bathroom Sink
Adding a stylish backsplash is one of the hottest trends in bathroom design. Here are answers to common questions about incorporating a backsplash behind your bathroom sink:
How much does it cost to add a backsplash to a bathroom sink?
The cost can range considerably based on the size of the project, materials chosen, and whether you DIY or hire a pro. Simple DIY tile backsplash projects can cost as little as $50. Stone or glass backsplashes professionally installed can cost $500 and up.
What are easier backsplash alternatives to tile?
Sheet materials like stainless steel, tin, acrylic, or vinyl are easier backsplash options requiring little cleanup and maintenance compared to tile. Peel-and-stick backsplash panels go up with adhesive and no grouting.
What height should a bathroom backsplash be?
Standard backsplash height is 4 inches above the counter or sink rim. Full height backsplashes extending from countertop to ceiling make a bolder statement. Backsplash only needs to go high enough to adequately protect the wall from water.
How do I cut tile around a bathroom sink faucet?
Measure and mark the hole needed for your faucet body and handles to fit through. Drill a hole to insert the blade of a jigsaw or rotary tool to cut the outline. Use nippers to snip corners and curved sections. File edges smooth.
Can you put a backsplash behind a pedestal sink?
Yes, tile can be installed behind and around a pedestal sink. Leave a gap between the tile and sink edges for caulk. The sink will need to be temporarily supported while the backsplash is installed.
Should bathroom backsplash tile match floor tile?
Matching tile can make a continuous design statement. Contrasting tile adds dimension. Keeping a similar color palette still allows the designs to complement each other.
What’s the best grout to use on a bathroom backsplash?
Unsanded grout is recommended for backsplashes with tile joints under 1/8 inch. For wider joints, use sanded grout. Epoxy grout is the most water resistant and durable option for bathrooms. Match grout color to tile color.
A well-designed backsplash transforms a basic bathroom sink into a focal point and provides stylish protection for the walls. With some DIY dedication, you can install a backsplash tailored to your personal taste and space.
Adding a backsplash is one of the most effective ways to update the look of a dated or boring bathroom sink area. With a myriad of colors, textures, materials and designs to choose from, you can create a backsplash that matches your unique style. Installing a backsplash is a DIY-friendly project that can be accomplished in a weekend with the right tools, preparation and techniques. Focus on proper planning, careful tile layout, meticulous grouting and finishing to get professional-looking results. Your new backsplash will not only enhance the visual appeal of your sink space, but will also protect your walls against water damage. With just a little time and effort, you can gain a stunning new accent that makes your bathroom beautiful and complete.