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 may be more expensive than other types of rolled sheet metal, such as steel or aluminum. But its 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 backsplash requires 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 Gauge
Home remodeling projects often require copper sheets in thick gauges. Anything else may 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. Thinner sheets may be more susceptible to damage. When looking at copper gauges, remember that lower numbers mean thicker copper.
- 30 Gauge: At 10 mils thick, 30 gauge copper sheeting is the absolute thinnest you can use for counters and backsplashes. The 30 gauge copper 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.
Equipment / Tools
- 1/4-inch dowel rods
- Staple gun
- Small hammer
- Rubber roller of the type used in laminate counter applications or a kitchen rolling pin wrapped in plastic
- 30 gauge true copper sheeting (not copper-toned aluminum sheeting)
- 1/2-inch thick MDF board the size of the intended backsplash
- Contact cement
- Spray lacquer
- Construction adhesive or silicone caulk
- Self-leveling clear epoxy (if needed)
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.
Cut the Copper Sheeting
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.
Apply the Contact Cement
Apply the contact cement to the MDF and the back of the copper sheeting. Wait a few minutes, or as long as the manufacturer recommends.
Put the Pieces Together
Lay the 1/4-inch dowels on the surface of the MDF. Place the copper sheet on the dowels. Line it up carefully with the MDF to ensure it will fit properly, covering all of it, with the 3-inch clearance on each side for further work.
Remove the dowels one at a time, starting on one end and working toward the other end. As you remove them, smooth down the copper with the roller.
Complete the Edges and Sides
Cut the copper diagonally (45 degrees) at the four corners. Carefully fold the copper over the edges of the board.
On the back, staple the copper onto the MDF board. Gently tap down the staples with the hammer to flatten them.
Finish the Surface
Spray lacquer on the surface of the copper. If this is will be for creating a counter, pour self-leveling clear epoxy on after spraying the lacquer.
Finish the Installation
Mount the completed panels to the backsplash wall using construction adhesive or silicone caulk.