A kitchen renovation is a big deal! After all, there are so many decisions to make, from the layout and cabinetry style to the appliances and paint colors. Once you’ve finally gotten around to remodeling your kitchen and everything is installed, it’s time to make one last decorating choice: the backsplash.
It’s tempting to simply choose a backsplash made of the same material as your counter, especially if you have splurged on marble or granite. While it does provide a seamless look, this is an expensive option, since stone countertops typically cost over $100 per square foot. If you’re not willing to essentially double the cost of your countertops to include the backsplash, don’t worry. There are plenty of other options that are more affordable — and more interesting.
From creating a mosaic out of old plates to using your favorite wine corks, here are some gorgeous DIY kitchen backsplash ideas.
Preparing Your Wall
Before you install any type of backsplash, you’ll need to make sure the surface of your walls is perfectly smooth and clean. To do this, remove any outlet covers or switch plates and take down your old backsplash. You may need to sand the surface if there are remnants of old adhesive. Use spackle or joint compound and a putty knife to patch any holes. Once your patch job is dry, wipe down the walls to remove any debris; then prime them. This will give you a suitable surface to start with as you move on with your project.
How to Install a Mosaic Backsplash
Mosaics are an ancient form of tile work in which the artist pieces together tiny bits of tile, ceramic, stone or other hard material to create a big picture. Installing a mosaic is just like installing a standard tile backsplash, but it’s generally easier for a novice because you don’t have to worry about spacing the tiles evenly — in fact, part of the charm of a mosaic is its irregular, handmade look.
To install a mosaic, you’ll need the following materials:
- Notched trowel/float
- Tile adhesive
- The tiling materials of your choice
- Grout sealer
- Silicone caulk
To install your mosaic, use the notched trowel to spread a thin layer of mortar onto a section of your wall. If you’re planning a design that will radiate out from the center, start in the middle. Otherwise, most people find it easiest to start on one end and move across the wall systematically.
After you’ve created ridges in the mortar with the trowel, press your mosaic pieces into the mortar, arranging them in any pattern you like. Ideally, you only want to leave about 1/4-inch of space or less between each mosaic piece for grout, though you have some flexibility. If you’re planning a complex pattern, you may wish to lay it out on the floor first so you can see how it looks.
Continue to apply mortar and mosaic pieces until the wall is complete, then prepare your grout according to the directions on the package. Use your float to drag grout across the tiles and press it into the gaps between your mosaic pieces. When finished, wipe away excess grout from tiles with a damp sponge. When the grout is completely dry, seal it to protect it from staining and add a bead of silicon caulk to the joint where the backsplash meets the counter.
Great Ideas for Unique Mosaics
There’s practically no limit to the materials you can use for a mosaic backsplash, and many of these choices can be picked up for free or at a very low cost.
- Tile: Ceramic tile comes in a rainbow of colors, and classic 4-inch squares are quite inexpensive. You can use a tile cutter or a hammer to break them into pieces to create any look you want in your mosaic backsplash.
- River Stone: Pebbles and smooth river rocks are popular choices, and these can already be purchased in mosaic “sheets” that take the work out of installing each stone by hand.
- Pennies: If you have an old collection of pennies, you can enjoy the gorgeous look of copper in your kitchen.
- CDs: If you don’t use your CDs anymore, keep them out of the landfill by creating a shimmering wall of hologram rainbows. You can cut your old CDs into pieces and glue them onto your backsplash for a modern look.
- Old Dishes: Interesting plates and old-fashioned china patterns make for a one-of-a-kind backsplash. You can also integrate these with solid colored tiles in complementary colors.
- Bottle Caps: Colorful bottle caps from your favorite beers make a great conversation piece when you turn them into a kitchen backsplash.
Other Backsplash Ideas
(Image via Home Designing)
If you’re not excited about learning to use mortar and grout for a mosaic, there are plenty of other DIY backsplashes you can make that are even easier.
Weathered lumber from an old barn or even a construction pallet can be upcycled into a rustic backsplash. Use pliers to remove any nails, and give the wood a good scrub with a wire brush. You can nail them in place or use a strong adhesive to set them. It’s a good idea to seal the boards to prevent them from staining, especially behind the range.
If you love a good vintage, a backsplash made from your cork collection is a fun idea. You’ll need to cut lauan plywood to fit the area you want to cover with corks — including cut-outs for any outlets. Next, cut your corks in half lengthwise and glue them onto the lauan. Use a spray sealer to protect the corks. Finally, nail the cork-covered panels in place on the wall.
A tin ceiling is a farmhouse favorite, but this inexpensive covering makes a great backsplash, too. The square sheets of metal are easy to cut to size and glue in place with construction adhesive. If you like the silvery look but want a sleeker finish, try plain stainless steel sheets instead. If you love the texture but not the metallic look, you can prime and paint the pressed tin after installation.
Of course, the easiest backsplash of all doesn’t require any nails or special tools other than a paint roller. Chalkboard paint provides a surface that you can decorate any way you like, from keeping a grocery shopping list to doodling your favorite designs. Best of all, you can wipe it clean and start over any time you want for a fresh look.
With a little imagination — and a willingness to roll up your sleeves — you can make your kitchen a real standout with a backsplash you design and make yourself. Take a walk around a thrift store, antique mall or your nearest home improvement center to get inspired, and you’ll put the perfect finishing touch on your kitchen renovation project.