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The Function of Bathroom Backsplashes
In kitchens, a backsplash behind the countertop, stove, and sink is a pretty standard feature, and it mostly serves a very practical function—to protect the wall surface from food and moisture splashes that occur on the countertop during food preparation and cleanup. In a bathroom, though, design considerations are little different. Here, the function of a backsplash may be partly practical, but the choice is usually based on aesthetic preferences. There are a variety of different ways to treat the space above the vanity sink or bathtub.
As a practical matter, a bathroom vanity sink and countertop need little more than a simple 4-inch row of tile as a backsplash, but it can be fun to experiment by extending higher up the wall or even over the entire surface. And you can employ more attractive materials, such as tempered glass, ceramic mosaic, glass mosaic, and natural stone.
- Ceramic tile border. Tile has long been used as a material for bathroom backsplashes or backsplash walls. At a minimum, you can use a standard 4-inch tile installed with cut-side down. When the seam between the cut side and the countertop is caulked, it will not be noticeable. You can add 2-inch tiles with a bullnose edge as a border to the top if you wish.
- Full-wall backsplash. It is common to see an entire wall behind the vanity sink or bathtub become a full ceramic tile accent wall. In effect, the wall is the backsplash. This offers a practical advantage since a tile wall is easier to clean than painted drywall.
- Matching materials from the countertop. Laminate, solid-surface, quartz materials, or natural stone are also used as backsplashes. Chances are good that the company installing or manufacturing your vanity countertop can also provide a backsplash of the same materials.
Before you jump in with that mosaic bathroom backsplash, consider the overall size of the backsplash and plan its boundaries.
Horizontally, the adjoining side walls make a good natural stopping point, although in a bathroom with a very small vanity or in a room where a pedestal sink is used, the backsplash area can be an accent section applied directly behind the sink.
Vertically, you can go as high as you want, but unless you are covering the entire wall, it's typical to edge the top of the backsplash with a material specifically designed as a stopping point. With tile, for example, the top of the backsplash can be made from a row of bullnose tiles, an accent border, or a listello.
When planning your backsplash layout, look at photos of completed bathrooms for inspiration, including the following examples.Continue to 2 of 12 below.
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Warm and Inviting Tumbled Stone
One danger of tile bathroom backsplashes: they can be sterile and stark. No such problem when you use natural stone, especially tumbled stone. As the name implies, tumbled stone machine-tumbled until the sharp edges and corners are smoothed down. The process gives a timeless look that is classically elegant but filled with character.
Continue to 3 of 12 below.
- American Olean Asteca Series
- 4 -by-4-inch field tile
- 2-by-12-inch chair rail
- 1-by-1-inch mosaic
- Azteca/Mocha 1 1/4-by-12 1/4-inch cane accent
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Here is a bathroom backsplash with authentic pizazz. Why go level and boring when you can ramp up the excitement by turning your design 45 degrees with these exciting diagonals?
You're looking at three layers here. The diagonals are a cohesive 4-by-12-inch strip, sandwiched between two rows of 2-by-2-inch tiles called Tiger's Eye Dots.
Continue to 4 of 12 below.
- American Olean Azeteca Series
- Azteca Designer Elegance Opalscence Accent
- Opalescence Tiger's Eye dots
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Mosaic tile works well for bathroom backsplashes. Consisting of sheets of tiny tiles attached to a mesh backing, mosaics are malleable, easy to cut, and attractive. Mosaics can use traditional ceramic tiles, porcelain tiles, glass tiles, or even natural stone. In this example, the "backsplash" is essentially a full mosaic tile wall that happens to have an adjacent countertop.
Continue to 5 of 12 below.
- Marazzi tile
- Marazzi glass mosaic tiles
- Opalie Marfil and Beige
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Pedestal Sink Border Backsplash
If you've got a pedestal sink, do you need a backsplash? It's entirely optional.
All pedestal sinks have some type of dam designed to prevent water from spilling over the back. Some pedestal sinks, like the one pictured here, have a quite substantial backer that obviates the practical need for a wall backsplash.
So, is this 30by-6-inch white subway tile with a border at the top truly a bathroom backsplash? Or is it just a wainscot wall? Only you can decide.
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- American Olean
- Ice White 3-by-6-inch tile
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Porcelain Tile Extension
Florim USA's Bengali Verde forms the majority of this bathroom's surfaces: counter, wall, floor, and of course, backsplash. It's another prime example of wall-as-backsplash, where the two are indistinguishable.
This is an all-purpose collection that includes a range of sizes, from 2-by-2-inch mosaic up to large 18-inch squares. Even the border around the mirror is from the same collection. This type of border can be used both on the wall or floor.
Florim USA is a budget-friendly tile brand, and Bengali Verde itself is perfect for homeowners looking for less expensive offerings.
Continue to 7 of 12 below.
- Bengali Verde tile from Florim USA
- 2-by-2-inch mosaic
- 18-inch squares
- 1-by-2 1/4-inch border tiles
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Porcelain Backsplash With the Look of Tumbled Stone
If you like the look of natural stone but don't fancy the ongoing duties of sealing and maintaining stone, check out the many through-body porcelain tiles that look like stone but aren't.
This example is called Timbers, from Florim USA's Cumberland Plateau series. You're looking at 3-by-3-inch squares with faux chipped edges that complete that stone appearance. For ease of installation, these squares come mounted 16 to the sheet with a mesh backer. Lay one sheet and you've instantly laid 16 squares. This type of mosaic is a great time saver with vertical applications because the tiles are kept separate by the backing—fewer plastic spacers are needed.
Continue to 8 of 12 below.
- Cumberland Plateau Series from Florim USA
- 3-by-3-inch Timbers tile
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Easygoing Mosaic With Surprise Elements
From a distance, Florim USA's Glitz Metal Leaf Pewter Tile mounted as a wall/backsplash in this bathroom looks like many of the myriad earth-toned mosaics out there. But upon closer examination, you'll see that every third tessera is glinty, glitzy, and shimmering with gold.
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- Glitz Metal Leaf Pewter tile from Florim USA
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Large Format Stone?
Stone or not? Even standing right at the sink, this backsplash looks miraculously like stone. But you're actually looking at sheets of porcelain tile. The hi-definition graphics possible in higher-end porcelains make them look just like natural stone.
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- 11.54-by-23.19-inch Petrolio Jewel Tile from Florim USA
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Glass Tile With Prairie-Style Influences
Even though the manufacturer does not label it as such, it's not hard to see Prairie Style influences on this bathroom backsplash, both with the long horizontals and the blend of earth-tone browns and tans.
You're looking at sheets of individual glass tiles bound with mesh backing.
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- Gems collection from Florim USA
- 11.81-by-12.68-inch Gems Tiger's Eyes tile
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Brilliant Gold Glass Tile
You're sure to capture the attention of guests and residents alike when you install this glass tile as your bathroom backsplash, with its bold horizontal slashes of gold, hints of green, and shadows of icy-rock. Glass tiles provide one of the easiest-to-clean tile surfaces, and the translucent surfaces positively glow with reflected light.
Continue to 12 of 12 below.
- California Gold Blend series from Florim USA
- 12-by-12-inch mesh-backed sheets
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No complicated installation for this bathroom backsplash tile: It's already laid out for you in mesh-bound sheets. The pattern is called pinwheel. It provides both complex visual interest and a soothing blend of background color in shades of green and muted gold.
- Glitz Pinwheel Tortoise from Florim USA
- 12-by-12-inch mosaic sheets