Backsplashes function to protect the wall.

How to Attach a Backsplash

by Wade Shaddy

No countertop is complete without a backsplash. It's the finishing touch that draws your eye from anywhere in the room. This feature is usually added during installation, but because it's separate from the countertop, it can also be changed if desired. So give your countertops a new lease on life by attaching a new backsplash.

1. Splashes of Fashion

A backsplash forms the vertical border around kitchen or vanity cabinets where the countertop meets the wall. It protects the wall or drywall from water damage. Contemporary backspashes go beyond functionality and into the realm of fashion and style, with materials that include hardwood, stone, textured laminates or composites. The backsplash type hinges on the decor and materials in your kitchen or bathroom. For example, if the countertop is made with laminate, the backspash is typically laminate -- though that's not always the case. Hardwood, for example, is one of the choices routinely paired with laminate counters.

2. Sticking Together

Laminated backsplashes are somewhat retro but remain a staple in the building industry. They are the most affordable and will provide you with years of service. Typically 4 to 6 inches tall, these backsplashes are attached with metal trim and glue. Start by cutting the laminate backsplash to size on a table saw. Then cut metal trim specifically designed to fit around the perimeter of the laminate; just cut it with tin snips and snap it over the edges. The next step involves a small piece of metal cove trim. Cut it to length and tap it behind the countertop laminate where it meets the wall. There's a small lip on the bottom designed to hold it in place. Next, add construction adhesive to the backsplash and stick it in place on the wall. For a more substantial laminated backsplash, glue the laminate to 3/4-inch plywood before placing it on the wall. Wider metal trim is available for this purpose.

3. Wood is Good

Nothing can beat the natural beauty of a hardwood backsplash. It can go hand in hand with hardwood fascia, which is the outside perimeter of the countertop. Start by selecting straight lumber. It should have no dips, high spots or twists. Rip it to the desired width -- typically 4 to 6 inches -- and it's ready to sand and finish. For extra flair, route bullnose molding on the top edge, or choose any other profile that you like. After finishing, nail it directly to the wall using wall studs as anchors. Another option is to predrill and use screws to secure the hardwood backsplash to the wall. Use decorative washers, such as antique brass, or countersink the holes and use furniture buttons or wooden plugs that fit flush into the screw holes. When the installation is complete, run a bead of silicone caulking around the perimeter.

4. Set in Stone

Stone or composite backsplashes are the most exclusive. Purchase them in almost any width from 3/4 inch to about 1 1/2 inches. This backsplash comes ready to install, but ordering is necessary so that the supplier can cut it to length for you. It's fine to use silicone glue to install the backsplash. Silicone works well because of slight irregularities that may be in the wall. The silicone fills them while still maintaining its rubbery grip on the backsplash, and it rarely -- if ever -- hardens and chips like other adhesives. Run three or four heavy beads of silicone on the back and stick the stone backsplash directly on the wall. Press it in place with your hands, and run a perimeter of silicone around the outside edges. Another option is to build a backsplash in place by gluing individual square tiles to the wall the same way using silicone glue.

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