2020 has been the year of DIY: We’re all cooped up in our homes, looking around and thinking, “Hell with it, I’ll just do that myself.” One of the hardest (and most expensive) home projects can be renovating a kitchen. Trying to make a kitchen useful and beautiful on a budget is a battle, especially if you’re not super handy and don’t have a contractor cousin to give you the friends and family discount. But you can quickly and easily update your backsplash, transforming the look of your kitchen without installing all new cabinets.
Backsplashes are often thought of as purely decorative, but in fact they’re quite practical: They prevent grease buildup, and are much easier to clean than bare walls. “If the walls are left bare, the foods and liquids will unfortunately stain the walls and in some cases, even start eating away at the surface of the wall itself, leaving the area prone to mold and mildew build-up,” says home stager Alex Thatcher on Homes.com.
Don’t be afraid of “peel and stick”
Although sticky tile can seem like a tacky option, the modern styles and designs have come a long way, with varieties like faux subway tile and real stone. When upgrading my kitchen, I found the peel and stick stainless steel tile incredibly versatile and easy to apply. Because each tile was 3” x 6,” it was easy to measure, and I was able to come up with innovative designs to cover the length of my kitchen wall. You can pattern the tiles in herringbone, subway style, or parquet. See Construction2style.com for an easy guide on a number of patterns and layouts.
This option gives DIYers an array of patterns and designs to choose from. You can go rustic with paper that looks like wood, or pick a bold color to brighten up the room. If you are like me and have never installed wallpaper before, be sure to buy yourself an installation kit. They’re small and inexpensive, and you can pick them up at your local hardware store or on Amazon. The kit comes with smoothing tools to get out bubbles and wrinkles, a tape measure, and a craft knife for precision cuts.
Because a backsplash receives a lot of splash, the site K!tchn recommends vinyl, Novamura, and washable wallpapers, stating, “These type of wallpapers are hard, washable and they don’t fade when exposed to sunlight.”
Make sure you’re prepped before jumping in and sticking on your wallpaper or tile. Roommatesdecor.com has an easy-to-follow checklist and video for prepping before installing your new backsplash. They suggest using “pencil and ruler to lightly mark on the wall where each tile will be applied.” I found that having a place with good lighting to draw up the plans, and cut when the time comes, made all the difference. They also recommend using a box cutter and ruler to make sure you maintain a straight edge. This is where the wallpaper installation kit comes in handy. The stick-on material is temporary, but continuously removing and reapply can be a pain.
Before application, DIY Network suggests, “Use a towel, rag or scrub brush with a chemical cleaning solution like a glass cleaner or multipurpose cleaner to remove oils, grease and any type of marks that will keep the back of the mosaic from sticking to the surface.” Make sure your surface is clean and free of any dust or particles.
Get to work
This can be done alone in a day or two, but if you can, it’s great to have someone else assist. They can serve as a second eye for accuracy, as well as a helping (and steadying) hand. Plus you’ll have someone to drink rosé with you in your fancy new kitchen when it’s completed.