Easy Backsplash Installations for Beginners

Learn how to install your own backsplash in no time with these helpful DIY home improvement tips.

Kitchens, as most home or property owners learn, are the places where you can yield one of the highest returns on any investment or upgrade. Dedicate a chunk of your budget to a kitchen renovation and you'll see a tremendous amount of that back in your hands when or if you sell the home.

However, it is not always the ROI of an upgrade that makes us want to update the kitchen. After all, this is one of the busiest rooms in the home and is where many of us do most of our living, socializing with family, and even dining and relaxing. It just makes good sense to make the kitchen as user-friendly and likable as possible because we spend so much time in that space.


Modern kitchen interior design in black and white style


The Renovation Versus the Update

However, your kitchen may not be in need of a total overhaul, and even if it is, your budget may not be able to accommodate new cabinets, countertops, flooring, and appliances. Fortunately, there are many ways you can upgrade without overwhelming yourself or your wallet.

Today, the brave DIY enthusiast can enter a home improvement warehouse or hardware store, peruse the aisles and find many ways that they can tackle some of the costlier kitchen projects for pennies on the dollar.

As an example, you can easily and affordably reface cabinets using laminate sheets (for the more experienced in the crowd) or paint kits that include everything needed to change the look of an entire array of upper and lower cabinetry. Once refaced, adding new hardware can finish the update, and you may have tackled the project at a very affordable price.

Laminated sheet
Laminated sheet


That is a good illustration of an update versus a renovation. So, what other kitchen projects are out there and waiting for the less experienced DIY folks?

The average countertop can also be refaced using laminate sheets (though, again, this is a more advanced approach) or special countertop painting kits. These are best done by those willing to put in the time to practice the sponging or special application methods, but can easily turn a rather ugly old laminate into something that emulates granite, marble and other counter finishes.

Flooring is not for the faint of heart, but if you have the time and determination, the easy to use self-adhesive vinyl tiles come in a dizzying array of styles and are as easy to use as "peel, lineup and stick". There are also snap together flooring options that are installed with tools as simple as a standard box cutter and straight edge.

Vinyl flooring
Vinyl tiles


Of course, paint is every homeowner's friend because a new color in a kitchen can often change the entire tone or atmosphere. Going from a drab, 1970s olive color on the cabinets or walls and replacing it with a sunny and warm yellow can radically update the space.

Thus, the average DIY enthusiast can update their cabinetry, walls, floors and even their countertops with simple techniques, and a minimal financial investment.


The Backsplash

However, one often overlooked area for improvement in almost any kitchen is the backsplash. This is a spot that helps to give almost any kitchen a much more "finished" appearance. It is meant to also provide a cleaner look and more function. Backsplashes are often done with materials that are easy to keep clean and which withstand the rigors of the average kitchen.


Stove and backsplash detail


Consider that your backsplash will be around the sink and stovetop, catching flying grease or oil, and being the frequent recipient of scrubbing and cleansers. Because of that, it has to be made of super durable materials…right?

For a long time, most experts would have said yes, but today, there are two ways that you can update the backsplash without investing in costly supplies and learning complex techniques.

In the past, the most common material for a backsplash was tile. While many countertops have a short rise built into them and called a backsplash, it is more a guard against spills. The backsplash is usually much higher or taller, going past even the most likely of splash or spray areas on the walls.


Installation of new tile backsplash in a kitchen


Tiling this area, then, would be time consuming, require knowledge and special prep, grouting, and regular re-grouting or cleaning. It may have even demanded that the sheet rock or plaster be replaced with an option ideal for receiving heavier tile. Over time, many "peel and stick" options entered the market, and so it has become easier to do, yet not something for the novice or even average DIYer.

Fortunately, there are two tried and true "tricks" that even the most hardware and power tool challenged among us can handle.


The Trickier Way to a Backsplash

The two sneak techniques for installing a fast and durable backsplash are:



  • Faux painting
  • Faux wainscoting with wallpaper

Take five minutes to Google faux painted backsplashes and you see just how popular this method has become. Using a base coat meant to emulate the grout, and then using painter's tape to simulate grout lines, homeowners create very convincing "tile" backsplashes using only paint, tape and molding.

The way it works is simple: Paint a basecoat in the color of the "grout". Wait for it to dry, then using pin striping tape (used by car detailing painters), map out the tile. A popular style is the "subway tile" size that is done in a standard brickwork design. Then simply roll at least two, preferably three or four, coats of high gloss paint in white or the color of your choice. When you peel off the tape, you will have what appears to be a subway or decorative tile wall. It can be safely scrubbed because of the glossy finish and will provide the same look as an actual tiled backsplash.

Many homeowners are also creating faux wainscoting using paintable wallpaper that is designed to emulate classic bead board. Installing it like standard wallpaper, and finishing it with chair rail molding, the DIY enthusiast applies a few coats of gloss white paint to ensure that the paper is fully protected and sealed. This allows the paper to be scrubbed as needed without any risk to it.

Whether you opt for the faux tile or the faux wainscoting, the key is to finish it with the most durable coating possible. Consider using molding to secure top and bottom edges, and even consider a clear top coat if you know it will have to face a lot of splashing.

In almost all cases, this is a project that can be done in a weekend and cost less than $250 to complete. It will give your kitchen a remarkable facelift and finish, and provide you with years of function and tidiness!

DISCLAIMER: Readers proceed at their own risk if they attempt to replicate any activities described here themselves without the help of a professional. 

Teaser: Kitchen makeovers are costly and time consuming, but well worth the effort. Not only do they make the room more visually appealing and efficient, but they have other, lesser recognized values. For instance, they make you happier to spend time in the kitchen! With one of the best returns on the investment, a kitchen renovation can boost the resale value of any home. What if you don't want to sell, but just improve the look and function of a kitchen? In this article, we consider some fast and affordable ways to update, even if you are not the world's greatest weekend warrior. In particular, we'll look at one area where many homeowners fail to improve the situation - the backsplash - and consider two quite sneaky and effective ways to work around the challenges, difficulties and expense of this improvement.

Images used with permission, courtesy of www.bigstock.com and www.dreamstime.com

Next: The Pros & Cons of Painting Your Floor