Creating a ceramic tile backsplash behind a kitchen or bathroom sink once involved troweling a mortar base layer over metal lathe, then carefully embedding the tile in the wet mortar. This was no easy feat in a vertical application, which was why such tiling work was generally left to skilled pros. All that changed with the advent of cement-board underlayment and thin-set adhesives, which put most tiling jobs within the range of skilled DIYers. Thin-set adhesive, a premixed cementitious bonding material, is fairly easy to work with and is remarkably effective at bonding tiles to vertical surfaces. This method quickly became the standard for both pros and DIYers for installing ceramic tile on floors and walls—including backsplash areas.
But for DIYers seeking an even easier method for installing tile backsplashes, several manufacturers now offer peel-and-stick tiles. With these products, creating a tiled backsplash is an easy weekend job that almost anyone can easily accomplish.
How Peel-and-Stick Tiles Work
As the name implies, peel-and-stick tiles have a preapplied adhesive covered with a protective backing paper that is removed just prior to application. These products are usually not traditional ceramic tiles, which can be too heavy to be supported by the pre-applied adhesive, but are instead made from a lighter synthetic material, such as vinyl foam, plastic polymers, or metal-surfaced plastic. They can consist either of individual tiles or mosaic sheets. All have a paper backing that peels away to expose a sticky adhesive, somewhat like the adhesive found on self-stick floor tiles.
Some DIYers find that spreading a supplemental mastic on the walls before placing the tiles helps reinforce the bond and prevent them from falling off. And there are a few products that are designed to be installed with double-sided tape or squeeze-tube adhesives.
Here are five examples of peel-and-stick backsplash tiles.
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WallPops: Fun, Cheerful, and Easy to Install
The WallPops company offers a variety of peel-and-stick products for home decor, including wallpapers, floor tiles, and backsplash tiles. The backsplash tiles are not ceramic or porcelain but are instead made from a waterproof foam vinyl that has good resistance to heat and humidity, making them perfectly suitable for use behind a kitchen stove.
Similar to removable wallpaper, WallPops backsplash tiles need a very clean and flat surface to stick to. The adhesive is similar to that used for Post-It notes; the tiles can be easily removed and repositioned if necessary.
WallPops backsplash tiles come in nearly 40 different patterns and colors that convincingly resemble natural stone, traditional ceramic, glass, or metal tiles.
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Aspect: Real Metal, Glass, Stone, or Wood
Aspect tiles feature surfaces that are genuine metal, glass, stone, or wood, depending on the product you choose. With a polymer (plastic) core, Aspect tiles are surfaced on both sides with a microns-thin surface of genuine material. Depending on the material, the tiles can be cut with shears or traditional tile-cutting tools.
When first introduced, Aspect tiles were installed with either double-sided tape or construction adhesive, but the current product lines use a peel-and-stick installation method.
Aspect tiles are available in glass (seven options), metal (20 options), stone (10 options), or wood (two options).
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Mineral Tiles: Real Ceramic and Glass
The products from Mineral Tiles are true to the name. A rarity in the peel-and-stick world, these backsplash products are solid ceramic, stone, or glass. This is as close you will get to a genuine backsplash in peel-and-stick form.
Mineral Tiles' peel-and-stick products go on the wall with the self-stick adhesive that is exposed when you peel away the backing, but require the application of traditional grout afterward. This gives the backsplash a realism that is unmatched by other peel-and-stick tiles.
In Mineral Tiles "DIY Peel & Stick" product line, there are 17 different color and pattern options. Full installation kits are available, including tiles, tools, and grout. The Mineral Tiles company also offers a wide variety of traditional ceramic and glass tiles designed for application with traditional thin-set adhesives.
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Fasade: Large Format Faux Metal Panels
Fasade panels are made 18 1/2 x 24 1/4-inch panels, requiring fewer pieces to complete a backsplash. The downside of this (and of any large format tile) is that cutouts for outlets and switches can be tricky, since you may need to cut out openings in the center of a panel.
Fasade panels are not peel-and-stick products; they are installed with double-sided tape or tube adhesives. Although made from high-quality thermoplastics, Fasade panels look remarkably like the metals they try to imitate—bronze, tin, or stainless steel. If you purchase a highly textured panel, you need to apply a strip of J-trim along the edges to cover up the gap between the panel and the wall.
Fasade backsplash products are available in 16 designs, each available in 18 different colors.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
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Collections, Etc.: Glass-Look Mosaics
Collections, Etc. offers six inexpensive different color/design options. The tiles are made of heat-resistant vinyl that do a good job of replicating the ever-popular glass mosaic tiles. Sheets are 10 x 10 inches, and can easily be cut down to size to fit backsplash areas.
With this and any of the vinyl tiles listed here, you will need to wait a couple of hours after installing the tile before you turn on high heat near the tile. This prevents loosening of the tiles.
The Bottom Line
Peel-and-stick backsplash tiles are generally made from a synthetic material that is thin and lightweight enough to be supported by a thin layer of adhesive pre-applied to the back of the tiles. When the backing paper is removed and the tiles are pressed against the wall, the tiles generally have sufficient holding power to serve as a functional backsplash. Many products require no mortar grout or additional adhesives, making them a good choice for beginning DIYers.