Using Copper Sheets In Home Remodeling

Consider This All-Purpose Material For Kitchens, Bathrooms

Copper sheet
Andrew Aitchison / Contributor

It seems like copper sheets are popping up everywhere. The first place I noticed them was at a commercial site--Barking Frog Restaurant in Woodinville, WA--where sheets of smooth, unhammered copper lined a wall leading from the restaurant to the kitchen.

It's a common-enough thing now to see metal ceiling tiles used in places other than the ceiling. Kitchen backsplashes lend themselves well to metal ceiling tiles. But I have been curious about using plain, simple metal sheets to walls and backsplashes: suppliers, prices, gauges, installation techniques, and the like.

Copper: Raw Material Itself Is Expensive

But recently, copper prices have soared. So, that's your starting price point whenever you're looking at copper sheeting--raw material costs.

Retail Costs

One common thickness, 26 gauge, is currently selling for between $23 and $30 per square foot (May 2011).

Think Gauges

Most home remodeling projects will require copper sheets in thick gauges. Anything else will tear and will not withstand the rigors of everyday life. At the very least, purchase 30 gauge copper sheeting. Better yet, 26 or 24 gauge copper will provide a better surface.

When looking at copper gauges, remember that lower numbers mean thicker copper.

  • 30 Gauge: At 10 mil thick, 30 gauge copper sheeting is the absolute thinnest you can use for counters and backsplashes. This 30 gauge copper also yields well to hammering and etching. You can cut this thickness of copper with ordinary kitchen scissors.
  • 26 Gauge: At 16 mil thick, this copper sheeting can be formed to a 90 degree angle bend and must be cut with tin snips (not scissors). This thickness of copper can even be used outside for flashing.
  • 24 Gauge: At 22 mil thick, or roughly the thickness of a credit card, this is the thickest and heaviest copper sheet commonly available in the retail market. It must be cut with tin snips, and it can be used for any type of home remodeling project, indoors or outdoors.

Where Can You Install Them?

  • Countertops: Countertops get battered. Because of this, you will need to use 26 gauge or higher copper sheets.
  • Backsplash: Since backsplashes are not a work surface, you can use thinner copper sheeting such as 30 or even 36 gauge.

Installation

  1. Prepare surface so that it is perfectly smooth; or,
  2. Obtain a solid board, such as 1/4" MDF, on which the copper sheeting will be installed. After installation on the MDF board, the board would then go in the intended place, such as on the backsplash.
  3. Cut copper sheet to size with scissors or tin snips.
  4. Apply contact cement to the surface; wait 2 minutes.
  5. Put seperator sticks (1/4" dowels) on the surface.
  6. Place copper sheet on seperator sticks.
  7. Remove dowels, starting on one end and working toward the other end.
  8. As you remove dowels, smooth down the copper with a rubber roller of the type used in laminate counter application.
  9. Fold copper over edges of board.
  10. Spray lacquer on the surface of the copper. If this is will be a counter, pour self-leveling clear epoxy on after spraying the lacquer.

Suppliers

Links to suppliers are below. Amazon.com provides copper, but mainly for the hobbyist market. ColorCopper.com provides a good selection of 24 and 36 gauge copper sheeting, as well as kits for backsplashes and range hoods. BasicCopper.com has a wealth of information about copper sheeting, as well as copper sheets and bargain copper.