Everything You Need to Know About Laminate Backsplash

Luxury Kitchen with Large Marble Laminate Backsplash

Steven Miric/Getty Images

The newest look in kitchen and bathroom design is the laminate sheet backsplash. It is the logical end result in backsplash evolution. Sleek, smooth, and often a solid color, it is better than any other backsplash material at protecting walls and facilitating clean up. Increasingly found in designer kitchens, it is practically a staple of ultra-modern Euro-style kitchens.

What Is a Sheet Backsplash?

Kitchens and bathrooms are high impact areas. The wall behind the sink and countertops is prone to moisture, while the area behind the stove is subject to heat and food splatter.

Tile these areas with mosaic glass or porcelain tile, cover it with metal ceiling panels, or simply coat it with glossy paint–almost any water-resistant material or treatment can act as a backsplash.

Sheet backsplash is the catch-all term for any large, continuous material that is used for a backsplash, usually behind a kitchen or bathroom counter. 

Also called a slab or panel backsplash, the purest version stretches horizontally for the entire length of the countertop and vertically from countertop to the bottom of the wall cabinets. 

Few or No Seams Aid in Kitchen Clean-Up

The beauty of the sheet backsplash is that it provides protection with zero, or minimal, seams. Seams make kitchen clean-up difficult and are one reason why tiled countertops are not more widely installed.

Sheet backsplashes are in sharp contrast from those that are constructed of hundreds of smaller individual units such as tiles, which in turn create grouted seams. Seams collect dirt, need maintenance in the form of sealing, and can eventually fail.

Key Features of Sheet Backsplash

  • Height: Height is at least 18", as that is the minimum distance between countertops and the bottom edge of wall cabinets. Sheet backsplashes never have horizontal seams.
  • Length: Length is determined by the type of material you use, as some sheets have maximum production lengths. Granite slabs tend to be no longer than 105", solid surface (i.e. Corian) materials no more than 140" long, and retail-level sheet laminates max out at 144".
  • Usually One Sheet, but Not Always: While one large piece is typically used as a sheet backsplash, some are formed from several large bonded panels. As long as these panels are imperceptibly seamed, they too qualify as sheet backsplashes. Solid surface and quartz are examples of two counter materials that can be bonded with nearly invisible seams.
  • Costs: Kitchen and bath designer Nicolette Patton says that the installed cost for sheet glass backsplashes is about $40 to $60 per square foot. Quartz, stone, and solid surface backsplashes cost the same per square foot as countertop materials. A do-it-yourself laminate sheet backsplash can be installed for less than $5 per square foot.
  • Typically Solid Color/Texture: Solid color sheet backsplashes remain the most popular–a function of back-coated glass being the most popular material. 
  • Other Graphics Available: Large sheets of veined, striated marble are found in many kitchens. Laminate offers the widest range of non-solid visuals. One design blogger notes that she used a linen-look Formica for her sheet backsplash–Jonathan Adler Collection Crème Lacquered Linen pattern.

Advantages of Sheet Backsplash

  • Easy to Clean: Continuous sheets mean no seams or cracks. Seams and cracks harbor food particles and other debris that hinder wipe downs.
  • No Seam Sealing: Because tile grout is porous, it needs to be sealed right after installation and then again on a regular basis. 
  • Up-to-Date Looks: Sheet backsplashes are found in many high-end kitchens. If you want to impart a premium look on an ordinary kitchen, a continuous backsplash is one way to do this.
  • Finish Coat Cannot Scratch Off: In the case of glass sheet backsplashes, the paint coat is applied to the back side of the glass and cannot scratch off from daily use.

Disadvantages of Sheet Backsplash

  • Professional Installation: Due to the large size of the material, sheet backsplash installation is usually best left in the hands of professional technicians.  
  • Crack Transference: One advantage of using individual units like tile is that cracks are contained within each unit. Rarely will cracks from one tile extend across a grout seam and onto other tiles. Because sheet materials have no containment methods, cracks that develop in one area can continue through the entire sheet.

Sheet Backsplash Materials

  • Glass: Glass is a popular type of sheet backsplash material because of the back-coating process and because it is non-porous. 
  • Countertop Material: Any kind of homogeneous material used for countertops–solid surface, quartz, and natural stone–can also be used as a sheet backsplash. Countertop thickness material can be prohibitively expensive, though. Solid surface is one countertop material that is available in a thinner, 1/4" version (countertop thickness solid surface is 1/2" thick).
  • Countertop Laminate: Laminate materials are the most cost-effective way to create a sheet backsplash. Solid color laminate sheets can be purchased for as little as $1.00 to $2.00 per square foot at local home improvement stores and bonded to inexpensive medium-density fiberboard.
  • Stainless Steel: Long used in restaurant kitchens for sinks, counters, and heat guards, stainless steel is a remarkably durable material that lends itself well to backsplashes.

Can You Install Sheet Backsplash Yourself?

Even though sheet backsplashes are most often installed by professional technicians, a number of DIYers have managed to create their own with laminate and glass.

Laminate

Homeowner Richard Kinch created his own Formica brand laminate backsplash by picking up 10' sheets at his local distributor. While home improvement stores do have laminate sheets, they tend to keep in stock only 8' long sheets.

Formica cautions that, for vertical applications, the material must be bonded to #45 density particleboard, at least 3/8” thick. Attach the MDF to the wall with adhesive or screw onto studs with small-headed screws.

Glass

Some DIYers have successfully pulled off back-coated glass backsplashes. Kristi at Addicted 2 Decorating ordered a solid piece of clear 10' tempered glass, 18" high–with the edges sanded smooth–for less than $200. She used Design Master brand spray paint to coat the back of the glass, mixing several paints and streaking them down for effect.

One avid home design hacker fashioned her own sheet backsplash out of three IKEA Effektiv glass shelves. She coated the backs of the panels with glass-friendly paint–Delta PermEnamel–purchased at her local craft store.