Is a back splash required behind a vanity in California/San Francisco bathrooms?

Asked by Heather Fernandez, San Francisco, CA Sat Jul 10, 2010

I heard this is part of the code, but I couldn't find anything when searching the california building code site. Any insight? And, what is the specific requirement? Thanks!

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Jed Lane, Agent, Petaluma, CA
Sat Jul 10, 2010
I've never heard of that. Tthere are sinks that are stand alone and don't have back splashes. My advice would be to make a phone call to the building department or go there and ask. You will probably be in and out in 15 minutes. You know DBI is, Heather? It's at 1660 Mission right off Division.

I didn't see any code when I searched either.
2 votes
Quest Inspec…, , Redlands, CA
Sat Jul 10, 2010
That does not make sense to me Heather! What about a pedestal sink that contacts the wall? What about the mirrors behind most counters? They have a non draining channel metal for the mirror! There are so many sinks and different counter tops, it could not be required. There is no building code that I know of. Could SF be more restrictive? I guess, but, I don't know on what basis.
1 vote
Renaissance…, , San Francisco, CA
Thu May 17, 2012
No, not a code requirement! More so a matter of design.
As a highly rated contractor I've built several kitchens and bathrooms in the Bay Area
with and without a back splash.
0 votes
Derald Norton, , San Francisco, CA
Thu May 17, 2012
Not aware of any requirement for a back splash. Typically, they are for aesthetic reasons and to prevent
water damage to drywall behind the sink.
0 votes
Sbi, , California
Wed Apr 11, 2012
Kitchen counter tops and bath vanity counter tops do not require a water proof area (back-splash). Whereas a tub or shower pan do have water-proof height requirements above the surface the vanity counter does not.

steve (ICC-certified commercial / residential building inspector)
0 votes
Eileen Bermi…, Agent, San Francisco, CA
Thu Jul 15, 2010
Heather--It's my understanding that something like a backsplash is a design issue, not a code issue. I renovated my kitchen and bathroom several years ago and a backsplash was not something that was mentioned when it came to code.

You can call the Dept of Building Inspections with basic questions. Keep in mind that answers can vary, depending on whom you talk to.
Web Reference:
0 votes
Joe Nernberg, , Calabasas, CA
Sun Jul 11, 2010
Good answers. Don't sweat the small stuff. Finding the building code on the internet will affect IAPMO revenue, etc.

Other frustrating information.

New showerheads must be 2.5 gpm, but there is no limit to how many showerheads you install in one shower. Think carwash!

Duct testing is exempt for newer central air systems if the existing ducts are made of asbestos.
0 votes
Quest Inspec…, , Redlands, CA
Sun Jul 11, 2010
HERE are the California codes (see web reference) you can always pm me if you ever need this kind of help; I LOVE this sort of thing!

Separately, here is the Journal of Light Construction Site. It would be a different source, not entirely code specific as you can guess.
0 votes
Quest Inspec…, , Redlands, CA
Sun Jul 11, 2010
This is the code site! bear in mind any jurisdiction can be MORE restrictive than the state recognized code.
0 votes
Heather Fern…, Home Owner, San Francisco, CA
Sun Jul 11, 2010
Thanks Jed and Quest. You are validating what I was thinking, but I will be sure to double check. Very helpful. Do either of you know if there is a good, searchable website that I can look at for these types of issues? I've looked without success.

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