Kitchen backsplashes behind countertops and appliances serve a dual function. They protect the back wall from food and water spills. They also can serve a primary design function in the kitchen. Backsplashes can be dramatic and beautiful, and it's possible to spend a lot of money on them—especially if you choose artisan or another type of premium tiles. Backsplashes too can be complicated and frustrating to install. Is there such a thing as an easy backsplash?
Yes, there is. Many easy backsplash treatments are attractive and relatively long-lasting. Plus, a number of these backsplashes won't break your budget.
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Faux-Metal PVC Backsplash Rolls
Tin or aluminum backsplash tiles aren't particularly hard to install, but you can make it even easier by using faux metal tiles sold in a big, continuous roll. These rolls are 25 inches high, the perfect size to reach from the counter to the bottom of the cabinets.
Rolls range from 15 to 30 feet long. Even though they are made of PVC plastic, this product has a metallic finish and is available in look-alike copper, aluminum, tin, brass, and other metal-style finishes. Because this is not real metal, you can easily cut it to size with a pair of scissors. It is applied to the wall with adhesive.
Rolls 25 feet long cost between $115 and $150, though shorter rolls are available. This price does not include the cost of the adhesive.
Since this is continuous-roll plastic, it's one of the easier backsplashes you can install. Also, because there are fewer seams, there is less of a chance of water leaking through the backsplash to the wall.
When applying any kind of thin large-format roll material, it can be difficult to eliminate warps and bulges. The trick is to plan ahead, making sure that the material is precisely cut before you place it on the wall. Then, use a paint roller with a dry cover to press the material flat as you unroll it.
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Real Metal Ceiling Tiles
Several manufacturers make real metal ceiling tiles, and these can be easily used for backsplashes. Manufacturers of the plastic, faux-metal tiles do state that their products are Class 1-fire rated and safe for use behind a stove. But only real metal tiles will give you a feeling of security against fires.
With the gap between the countertop and the bottom of wall cabinets usually about 18 inches in most kitchens, the best choice for backsplashes is probably to choose 24-inch square metal ceiling tiles and cut them down to size with tin snips. Behind the stove, full-size tiles might work just fine.
Ceiling tiles can be attached to walls in a variety of ways. The most secure method of installing metal tiles is to glue the tiles with an epoxy adhesive. Reinforce the tiles with nails driven every 6 inches or so with a nail gun.
Expect to pay about $65 to $100 for a 10-foot backsplash of steel tiles. This is an easy backsplash to install because the 24-inch tiles so conveniently fit the counter-to-cabinets space.
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Peel-and-Stick Ceramic Tiles
The peel-and-stick ceramic tile backsplash is an idea steadily growing in acceptance. Early products were too heavy for the peel-and-stick adhesives to keep their grip on the wall. But recent innovations are beginning to solve this problem.
These products are mosaic sheets, usually 12-inch by 12-inch, and they can be cut to fit. The backing is then peeled off and the sheets applied to the wall. Once the installation is complete, the mosaic tiles are grouted the same way that you would grout any other wall tile.
Acceptance of this product was initially slow, but dozens of these self-adhesive backsplash products are now available from many manufacturers. If you're at all averse to dealing with wet thinset and mortar, as well as the potential for tile-sag on vertical surfaces, you may want to explore peel-and-stick tiles.
Peel-and-stick tiles cost between $75 to $125 for 10 linear feet of backsplash.
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Painted Wall Backsplash
Don't forget that a painted wall can act as a backsplash, too. This solution is both cheap and easy, and if you're about to discount this as a low-grade option, think again. Good-quality paint (oil-based or latex) makes a perfectly durable and waterproof backsplash surface. And it is far easier to clean a continuous, seam-free painted surface than a surface with ceramic tile grout lines or metal or faux-metal tiles.
So, if moisture protection is your goal, paint can provide this to a high degree, but not as effectively as with ceramic tile or PVC. The real advantage of a painted backsplash is cost. One-gallon of paint will easily cover 10 linear feet of backsplash. A single gallon of high-quality paint costs $50 to $75, though you can easily find less expensive paints, too.
While paint does make for an easy backsplash, surface preparation often isn't so simple. Due to grease and food stains, your kitchen walls may not be in paint-ready condition. For this, you'll need to scrub the walls gently with a nylon brush. Use TSP dissolved in warm water to make an effective cleaning solution.