Overview

overview to build a solid-surface backsplash
Illustration: Gregory Nemec
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Solid surfacing is a nonporous synthetic material, made to look like stone, that is commonly used for shower and tub surrounds and for countertops. It's a natural fit for a backsplash because it's easy to clean. For such an application, however, it's important to use 1/4-inch-thick material, which is comparable to the thickness of tile. Anything thicker would be hard to cut and would look too bulky once installed. The panel style you choose should complement the design of your kitchen: beadboard for a country kitchen or a pebbled pattern for a rustic look, for example. Avoid options with deep crevices where grease and dirt can settle or a pattern that is difficult to match up at the seam. Cutting the material is slow going; fit your jigsaw with a metal-cutting blade and your circular saw with a diamond blade for the best results.

The best way to make an accurately fitted panel—one that accounts for any changes in height or cuts around a window or outlet—is to make a plywood template of the area first, then trace around it onto the solid surface. You don't need to use a single piece of plywood for this; strips glued together to indicate the outline of the various parts works well and is easy to put together. To create the illusion of a seamless solid surface, minimize joints by installing the backsplash in one piece, if possible. A backsplash should be at least 4 inches high, but it can also fill the entire space between countertop and upper cabinets. Keep in mind, however, that varying the height of the backsplash can be distracting, so if the walls above your counters transition from cabinets to open space, you'll want to just continue the backsplash beyond the cabinets at the same height, then finish the raw edge with some trim detail. The one exception to the consistent-height rule is the area behind a range, between the countertop and a vent hood, when you would want the backsplash to fill the entire area.
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    Tools List

    • hot glue gun
      Hot Glue Gun

    • four-foot level
      4-Foot Level

    • circular saw
      Circlar Saw

    • jigsaw
      Jigsaw fitted with metal cutting blade

    • drill
      Drill/Driver fitted with with 3/8-inch masonry drill bit

    • utility knife
      Utility Knife

    • caulk gun
      Caulk Gun

    • hammer with nailset
      Hammer and Nail Set

    Shopping List

    1. Solid-Surface Wall Paneling. Look for 1/4-inch-thick material, available in large sheets at home centers or through distributors. Get the widest sheets you can find to minimize joints.

    2. All Purpose Kitchen Cleaner, such as Formula 409 or Fantastik, to clean grease off the wall and prepare it for adhesive.

    3. 1/4-Inch Plywood, aka luaun, to make the template.

    4. Painter's Tape

    5. Construction Adhesive to adhere the backsplash to the wall.

    6. Tack Cloth

    7. Heavy-Duty Double-Stick Tape to hold the panel in place while the adhesive sets.

    8. All-Purpose Caulk to seal seams between panels and against cabinets. Get a color to match the solid-surface material, or else use clear.

    9. 1x3 Pine Lumber to cap any exposed edges.

    10. 1 1/2-Inch Finish Nails

    11. Paint to coat any molding detail to match the backsplash material.