How to Install a Copper Sheet Backsplash

Copper sheet
Andrew Aitchison / Contributor

Copper sheeting is found in many commercial establishments, from restaurants and coffee shops to bars and brewpubs. Yet copper sheeting is not a common building material for residential remodeling. Homeowners might be reluctant to use copper sheeting for home projects, believing that it is too expensive to purchase and too difficult to work with.

Copper sheeting is more expensive than other types of rolled sheet metal such as steel or aluminum. But the price is competitive when compared to creating a tile backsplash, with its layers of tile and cement board, thinset, grout, and grout sealer. By contrast, a copper sheet backspash is little more than copper sheeting, a backing board, contact cement, and staples.

When used judiciously, copper sheeting can be a cost-effective way to add lustrous beauty to many surfaces throughout the home. Clear-coating the copper ensures that the original tone and patina will last for years. Or leave the copper unsealed and let it naturally develop its unique gray-green tone through oxidation.

Where to Install Copper Sheeting

  • Backsplashes: Kitchen or home bar backsplashes are ideal for copper sheeting. Since backsplashes are not a work surface, you can use thin copper sheeting such as 30 gauge or even 36 gauge.
  • Countertops: Because countertops are subject to impact, thicker copper sheeting such as 26 gauge or higher is required.
  • Stove Guards: Running a sheet of copper behind a stove that reaches the bottom of the wall cabinets is a great way to dress up the stove area and make it easier to clean up cooking splashes.

Copper Sheeting Thicknesses

Home remodeling projects often 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 for surfaces that will be impacted. Better yet, 26 or 24 gauge copper will provide a tougher surface that yields less to daily impact. 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 responds well to hammering and etching. Best of all, 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. Forming the sheeting is difficult without special tools, and it is more difficult to create a hammered texture.

Tools and Materials

  • 30 gauge true copper sheeting (not copper-toned aluminum sheeting)
  • 1/2-inch thick MDF board the size of the intended backsplash
  • Contact cement
  • 1/4-inch dowel rods
  • Spray lacquer
  • Staple gun
  • Small hammer
  • Rubber roller of the type used in laminate counter applications or a kitchen rolling pin wrapped in plastic

How to Make a Copper Sheet Backsplash

Instead of installing the copper backsplash directly on the wall, it is easier to install the copper on a solid board, such as 1/2-inch MDF. After installation on the MDF board, the board will then go in the intended place, such as behind the counter as a backsplash. This gives you more control over the installation, allowing you to wrap the copper around the sides and back of the board for a smoother look.

  1. Cut the copper sheet to size with scissors or tin snips so that it is the size of the MDF sheet, plus another 3 inches on all sides.
  2. Apply the contact cement to the MDF and to the copper sheeting and wait 2 minutes.
  3. Put the 1/4-inch dowels on the surface.
  4. Place the copper sheet on the dowel rods.
  5. Remove dowels, starting on one end and working toward the other end.
  6. As you remove dowels, smooth down the copper with the roller.
  7. Cut the copper diagonally (45 degrees) at the four corners.
  8. Fold the copper over the edges of the board.
  9. On the back, staple the copper onto the MDF board. Gently tap down the staples with the hammer to flatten them.
  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.