Does a Bathroom Vanity Need a Backsplash?


My bathroom vanity came with a 4-inch backsplash that matches the granite countertop. I wondered if I even need that backsplash or if it would be okay to get rid of it since it’s not too thrilling to look at.

 

Unless you have a pedestal sink that doesn’t rest against the wall, you do need a backsplash for your bathroom vanity. The reason is practical: a bathroom backsplash protects the wall behind the sink from rot, mold and mildew. Beyond that, a backsplash can provide a lot of design appeal.

Let’s start with the practical reasons for a vanity backsplash and then look at how it can be used to enhance your bathroom aesthetic.

 

Bathroom Vanity Without a Backsplash

 

A contractor measures the dampness in the walls with a moisture meter
After ripping out the bathroom vanity, a contractor uses a moisture meter to check for water damage.

 

Think of your bathroom vanity without a backsplash as a person outside in a rainstorm without an umbrella. After all, the wall behind your sink most likely is splattered again and again. There’s face washing, tooth brushing, and handwashing among other wet bathroom activities. 

 

Warp and Rot

 

If your vanity has no backsplash to protect it, the drywall will collect moisture. That may sound harmless, but it’s not. In fact, you probably won’t realize until it’s too late that the drywall has warped or rotted.

 

Mold and Mildew

 

Worse, the drywall can develop a hidden mold or mildew issue. In this case, the mold will grow undetected and can spread without your knowledge to other areas of the home. Not only is bathroom mold a health hazard, but it also can cause significant financial damage when you need to remediate the problem. 

 

Your Vanity Backsplash: An Ounce of Prevention

 

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. For much more about how to prevent bathroom mold and get rid of it if you already have a problem, read Bathroom Mold: A Battle Plan to Destroy It. A bathroom vanity backsplash is part of this important plan.

 

Bathroom Vanity Backsplash Height

 

A bathroom vanity backsplash should extend a minimum of 4 inches from the countertop along the width of the vanity. This will protect the most vulnerable areas of the wall behind your bathroom sink or sinks. However, the height of your faucets can make a higher backsplash necessary.

 

4-Inch Backsplashes are Standard

 

 

The 4-inch backsplash comes with many vanities. And many showrooms will assume this is what you want to be included with your vanity purchase. That said, you may want to specify if you have other plans. 

For example, you may plan to use another backsplash material than one that matches your countertop, or you might purchase a faucet that’s higher than 4 inches. In these cases, let your showroom know that you don’t need the vanity backsplash that comes with the vanity. (See if you can use that to negotiate down the price a bit.)

 

8-inch Backsplashes Look Custom

 

8-inch backsplash on double sink vanity

 

If your faucet spout is higher than 4 inches, then you’ll need a backsplash to match the faucet height. Roman and Waterfall faucets, for example, can add a regal and spa-like design element to any bathroom. (Find the ideal type of bathtub faucet for your bathroom here.)

These faucet types, though, are higher than 4 inches, and may extend 8 inches from the vanity countertop. So for these kind of faucets, you would want an 8-inch high vanity backsplash at a minimum.

However, even if you are using a standard-height bathroom faucet and a 4-inch tall backsplash could work, you still might not want that. 

Why? Because extending the backsplash even just a few inches beyond the standard backsplash height can give a higher-end, more customized feel to your bathroom design.

 

Countertop-to-Ceiling Bathroom Backsplash

 

Consider extending the backsplash from the countertop all the way to the ceiling. Though you’re quite unlikely to need such a high backsplash behind a bathroom sink for practical purposes, the extension can not only add elegance to your space, but also it can create a rich layered feeling to the bathroom.

 

Floor-to-Ceiling Bathroom Backsplash

 

 

Many bathroom designers consider a floor-to-ceiling backsplash or wrap-around tiling the ultimate for creating a sleek, spa-like bathroom vibe. Bathroom designer Kathleen Finley says, “It’s always my preference to tile floor to ceiling if possible, as it conveys the ultimate in luxury.” 

Save Big on Your Bathroom Vanity

 

If you’re looking for ways to save big money on your bathroom vanity, as well as other money-saving hacks for your bathroom remodel, get the Bathtubber’s easy cheat sheet. These genius designer tips have the potential to save you thousands of dollars on your remodel. Simply fill out the form below and you’ll have it in seconds:

 

 

9 Bathroom Vanity Backsplash Materials

 

There are a wide variety of materials available for a bathroom vanity backsplash. You’ll want to use a material that is waterproof and easy to clean. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular options.

 

1. Ceramic

 

 

Ceramic tile is not only beautiful it’s also relatively inexpensive. Designer Kathleen Finley explains how to create a “Wow!” factor with ceramic. She says, “Use a neutral color throughout the bathroom and then use an accent tile for the vanity backsplash.”

 

2. Glass Mosaic Tile

 

 

You can find some gorgeous, vibrant glass mosaic tiles for a backsplash. The shimmery effect of the glass naturally lends itself to creating a sparkling accent atop the bathroom vanity. Even a 4-inch glass backsplash can provide enough pizzazz to dazzle.

 

3. Marble

 

marble slab vanity backsplash

 

Marble adds a healthy dose of grandeur to any space. Consider using a marble slab countertop and matching backsplash on the wall. If you visit the showroom, you’ll be able to pick out a slab of marble that’s gorgeous and can extend up your wall the height that you desire. Often, when it comes to marble, the more the better! Marble is a natural stone. You’ll need to seal it, and because it’s prone to cracks, it can require more maintenance than other options. It also tends to be more expensive.

 

4. Granite

 

 

Granite is the most common bathroom vanity material. And your standard granite vanity comes with a 4-inch matching granite backsplash. For this reason, it can appear ho-hum. But granite is also beautiful and easy-to-clean. To go for a more customized look, pick out a slab from the showroom for your countertop and consider a higher than average backsplash to match. Or, think about building a backsplash that combines granite and another textured tile like glass mosaic to add another layer of intrigue.

 

5. Wainscot

 

 

We’re used to seeing wainscot in libraries and living rooms. This decorative paneling reached the height of popularity in the 18th Century. Giving it a showcase in your bathroom can be a wise idea—as long as you use a moisture-resistant version. You can find wainscoting made from PVC plastic or ceramic, both of which will work to add a stately flair to your bathroom and provide wall protection at the same time. 

 

6. Metallic Tile

 

 

Metallic tiles are trending in luxury bathrooms. These include copper, titanim, iron and stainless steel tiles, to name a few. Though metallic tile can look absolutely gorgeous upon installation, it may require sealing as well as ongoing maintenance to preserve the original finish.

 

7. Waterproof Wallpaper

 

 

Even waterproof wallpaper can perform the function of a backsplash, plus give you the floor-to-ceiling extension you may want at a more affordable price than using tile. Consider using a textured wallpaper in a neutral tone to create a spa-like effect.

 

8. Mirror Backsplash

 

large mirror is backsplash for double sink vanity

 

So long as you’re willing to wipe down your mirror more frequently, a mirror that rests flush to the vanity can serve as a perfectly beautiful backlash. You can run a 4-inch high strip of mirror, or you can go all the way to the ceiling. User’s choice. 

 

9. Window or Tempered Glass

 

 

If you’re lucky enough to have a bathroom window—or several—you might choose to use the window as a vanity backsplash. A window is easy enough to wipe down and can provide a great view. It’s also possible to use tempered glass or glass brick, especially if you have young children and are worried about someone taking a tumble in the wrong direction. For much more information about using glass in the bathroom, read Should a Bath Be Under a Window?

 

Mixing Materials

 

 

There is no rule against creating a layered backsplash effect, by using two or more materials for your vanity countertop and backsplash. The contrast can provide an eye-catching, rich experience that is far from the cookie-cutter vanity backsplash that comes with your average vanity.

 

Matching the Backsplash to the Vanity Countertop

 

If you aim to match a backsplash to an existing vanity countertop, you may have your work cut out for you, especially if the vanity counter is made of granite or natural stone. The reason is that no two slabs are exactly alike, and so you may do best to visit a variety of stone fabricators in person.

You can take a photo of your current vanity with you, but you’re likely going to need to bring home a number of samples to find the best match. Don’t just look at color and hue, but also look at striation in the natural stone to try to find the closest match.

You may save yourself considerable time (and a few headaches) by opting for a complimentary glass or ceramic tile for your backsplash instead. But if you’ve got your heart set on matching to your existing vanity, be prepared to do the requisite detective work.

Best Vanity Backsplash Ideas for Small Bathrooms

 

 

There are lots of ways a vanity backsplash can help your small bathroom feel more spacious. 

 

Add a Window to a Small Bathroom

 

First of all, if this is a remodel, consider putting a window in as your backsplash. That is, if the window will look out onto a nice view and won’t compromise privacy. That’s a tall order for most bathrooms, of course, so let’s consider other options.

 

Use Large Mirrors

 

Next, and almost as great, is using a large mirror either as your backsplash, or just above a 4-8 inch backsplash. Like a window, a mirror also creates the illusion of more space.

 

Decorate Small Bathrooms in White

 

You’ve probably heard that light colors–especially whites–can make a space look larger. This is true. But all white doesn’t have to be boring! Even though your backsplash may be the same winter white as your walls, consider adding the glimmer of glass mosaic or a textured white waterproof wallpaper.

 

Choose Larger Tiles

 

Finally, larger tile on the vanity can help elongate a small bathroom, as can floor-to-ceiling tile. So consider a subway tile that stretches floor-to-ceiling on all walls, save for a large mirror above the vanity.

 

Grout for Your Bathroom Vanity Backsplash

 

 

People often spend months picking the perfect backsplash tile and only seconds choosing the grout. This can be a big mistake. 

 

Grout Color

 

Grout can change the entire appearance of the tile. If you’re aiming to make a bathtub look larger with white tile, you may also want to use white grout. However, if you’ve got a spacious bathroom and are working toward an art-deco vibe, black grout between your white tile might create a perfectly cool effect. 

 

Grout Width

 

Similarly, the width of the grout that you place between tile can have a huge effect on the appearance of the tile. You may want to experiment a bit by placing colored paper (the same as your grout color) behind your tiles. Then adjust the tiles to various widths. Do you like a wide margin or a more narrow one?

 

Grout Sealant

 

You’ll need to seal your grout to prevent moisture from penetrating it. Over time, if you notice cracks in the grout (or on any caulking around the vanity), be sure to address the problem immediately.  

 

Check for Moisture Before You Add a New Backsplash

 

If you have had a vanity with no backsplash and are now thinking of adding one, it’s the perfect time to be sure the drywall is actually dry. The last thing you want to do is install a new backsplash on top of a rotting or mildewed wall. 

Of course, you could feel the wall with your hands to make sure it’s dry, but that will only give you superficial comfort. To really be sure there’s no damage, consider getting a moisture meter like The MMD4E Digital Moisture Meter and Water Leak Detector.

This simple-to-use device allows you to immediately detect moisture in walls, floors or studs. You just point it and you’ll get a reading that will tell you if there’s a problem. See the Digital Moisture Meter and Water Leak Detector here on Amazon.

 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Your Bathroom Tile Project

 

 

Whether your bathroom tile project includes just the vanity backsplash, or whether you plan to tile floor-to-celing around the entire room, you’ll want to follow a process to get the look you want within your budget.

To help you, designer Kathleen Finley wrote 10 Tips to Choosing Bathroom Tile That’s Perfect for You. She’ll walk you through the process of a bathroom tile project so that you don’t get overwhelmed.

You might also like to download The Bathtubber’s Official Tile Calculator can help tremendously in figuring out exactly how much of which material you’ll need and what the cost will be. Simply enter your email on the form at the bottom of this post and we’ll email you this tool at no cost.

Yes, You Need a Bathroom Vanity Backsplash

 

You’ll almost always need a bathroom vanity backsplash to protect your wall from mildew and rot. That said, your backsplash  doesn’t always need to be made of 4-inch high granite. 

Once you’ve got your backsplash vanity set, you’ll want to light it up to maximize its beauty. Be sure you know the Secrets to Achieve the Best Bathroom Lighting.

Shana

Shana Burg is a bath enthusiast, content strategist, and award-winning writer. She is the founder of bathtubber.com.

Recent Posts