Painting your kitchen backsplash can be a quick and affordable way to update the look of your kitchen without undergoing a full remodel. With the right preparation and techniques, you can achieve a fresh new backsplash with a simple coat of paint. Here’s what you need to know about painting a kitchen backsplash.
Should I Paint or Replace My Kitchen Backsplash?
When considering updating your backsplash, you have two main options – paint or replace. Here are the key factors to weigh when deciding between painting vs replacing:
- Painting is significantly less expensive than replacement. A gallon of paint costs $25-$50 on average compared to $10-$25 per square foot for new tile or other materials. The painting supplies you’ll need – rollers, brushes, trays, drop cloths – will add minimal cost.
- Replacing requires purchasing the new materials and paying for professional installation. The total costs can range from $1000-4000+ depending on the size of your backsplash and type of materials.
Time and Convenience
- Painting can typically be completed over a weekend as a DIY project. Prepping and painting the backsplash in a standard sized kitchen may take 2-3 days.
- Replacing a backsplash requires demolishing the old one, installing the new materials, and grouting. This process can take 3-5 days with a professional.
- Paint may need to be touched up or redone every 2-5 years. The paint can chip or fade over time.
- New tile or other solid backsplash materials are very durable and can last 10-15 years or longer without needing replacement.
- Paint allows you to easily change color but will not alter the underlying surface or texture. Painting over tile or textured surfaces will still show some of that texture through the new paint.
- Replacing allows you to change to a new look – subway tile, marble, patterned designs, etc. The options for materials and visual styles are endless.
How to Prepare a Backsplash for Painting
Proper prep work is crucial for getting great results when painting a backsplash. Here are the key steps:
Clean the Surface
Give the backsplash a thorough cleaning to remove any grease, dirt, or grime. Use a degreasing cleaner and scrub with a stiff brush and rinse thoroughly. This allows the paint to properly adhere.
Sand Glossy Surfaces
If you have a glossy tile backsplash, scuff sand it with 220 grit sandpaper to rough up the surface and give the paint something to grip to. Be sure to sand off any gloss.
Fill Any Grout Lines
Use a silicone sealant or epoxy filler to fill any wide grout lines. This creates a smoother finish for painting. Allow the filler to fully cure per the manufacturer’s directions before painting.
Fix Chips or Cracks
Use spackling compound to fill any small holes, chips, or cracks in the backsplash. Let dry completely and sand smooth.
Remove Outlets and Light Fixtures
Take down any outlets, switch plates, or lighting fixtures on the backsplash. This allows you to paint behind them and provides a neater finish.
Tape Off Edges
Use painters tape to tape off the countertop edge, ceiling, cabinets, and any other areas you don’t want to get paint on. Remove tape as soon as you’re done painting before the paint dries.
Priming helps the paint better adhere to the slick surface. Use an interior latex primer meant for tile or other surfaces. Apply an even coat and let dry fully.
Once you’ve prepped the backsplash, it’s ready for painting!
Choosing the Right Paint for a Backsplash
Picking the right type of paint ensures it will hold up well on a backsplash. Here are the best options:
Epoxy paint is a two-part product that creates an incredibly hard, glossy finish when cured. It bonds tightly to surfaces and is very durable and scratch resistant once dry. Epoxy paint is ideal for creating a smooth, updated finish on old tile.
Acrylic Latex Paint
Latex paint in a satin, eggshell, or semi-gloss sheen works well for painting backsplashes. Look for interior paint specifically formulated for use in kitchens and bathrooms. The acrylic latex allows flexibility as the backsplash moves with temperature changes.
Paint with Built-In Primer
Using a paint that has a built-in bonding primer, like Behr Premium Plus Enamel, can save you a step. The primer allows great adhesion without needing a separate primer coat.
High Heat Spray Paint
For painting behind a cooktop or range where temps get extra hot, use a high heat spray paint. It is designed to resist peeling or burning off from the heat. Rust-Oleum High Heat is a great option.
Enamel Appliance Paint
For painting a backsplash around appliances, an enamel spray paint made for appliances can hold up well. It provides a smooth, glass-like finish. Rust-Olem Appliance Epoxy is ideal.
No matter what paint you choose, always read the manufacturer’s directions and only use paint that is approved for use in kitchens.
How to Paint a Kitchen Backsplash
Once your backsplash is prepped and you’ve chosen the right paint, follow these steps for a smooth application:
1. Lay Drop Cloths
Cover the countertops, stove, and floor around the backsplash with plastic drop cloths to protect from drips and splatters.
2. Apply First Coat
Use a small paint roller or brush to apply the first coat of paint in thin, even layers. Work in sections and maintain a wet edge to prevent lap marks. Let dry.
3. Sand Lightly Between Coats
Gently sand any drips or rough spots with fine sandpaper. This allows the second coat to go on smoothly. Wipe away dust.
4. Apply Second Coat
Roll on the second coat going in the opposite direction from the first. Allow to fully dry per the paint directions. Add a third coat if needed for full coverage.
5. Remove Tape and Reinstall Fixtures
Carefully remove all painters tape. Reinstall any light fixtures, outlets, or other items you removed before painting.
6. Seal with Polyurethane (Optional)
Applying 1-2 coats of water-based polyurethane seals the finish and provides extra protection from moisture and scratches.
7. Clean and Dry Brushes
Once finished painting, promptly clean paintbrushes and rollers in soap and water. Allow them to fully dry before storing for reuse.
With the right prep and painting method, you can easily paint a kitchen backsplash in a weekend or less. Be patient as the paint cures fully to achieve maximum durability.
Common Questions about Painting a Backsplash
Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about painting kitchen backsplashes:
What kind of paint is best for a kitchen backsplash?
Epoxy paint and interior latex paints formulated for kitchen use work well. Choose semi-gloss or gloss sheen for washability.
How long does it take for backsplash paint to dry?
Most backsplash paints dry to the touch in 1-2 hours. Allow painted backsplashes to cure for 3-5 days before cleaning or using the kitchen to achieve fully hardened finish.
Should I use spray paint or brushed paint?
For best results, use a small foam roller and angled brush to apply the paint. Spray paint can lead to uneven coverage and drips. Reserve spray paint for any hard to reach areas only.
How do I get paint off a backsplash (if I make a mistake)?
If any paint gets onto surfaces you don’t want it on, wipe it off immediately with a damp rag before it dries. Use paint thinner or stripper to remove dried paint from areas you don’t want it.
Can I paint over wallpaper on a backsplash?
No, wallpaper should be removed prior to painting. Paint will not properly adhere over wallpaper.
How do I clean a painted backsplash?
Use a soft sponge or cloth with mild dish soap and warm water. Avoid harsh cleaners or scrubbing for the first 2-3 weeks while paint fully cures.
Painting a backsplash can give your kitchen an affordable makeover! With proper prep and application, you can change the look of your backsplash in a weekend.
Advantages of Painting a Backsplash
Painting your outdated or damaged backsplash can offer many advantages over a full tile replacement:
The biggest advantage to painting rather than replacing a backsplash is the cost savings. Painting supplies cost just $30 to $60 on average compared to $600 or more to professionally install a new backsplash.
If you’re on a tight budget or wanting to save money for other areas of your kitchen renovation, painting is the clear choice.
Provides a Facelift
A fresh coat of paint in a modern color updates the look of old 80’s or 90’s era tiles. Painting offers an instant facelift for a fraction of the cost of new tile.
Even painting over existing white tiles with a gray, navy, or green color paint can make your backsplash look fresh and trendy again.
Good for Rental Homes
Painting is a smart choice for rental homes where you want an updated look but don’t want to invest in a full backsplash replacement.
Since it’s just paint, you can easily revert the backsplash to the original color before moving out. Paint is a reversible change.
Prepping and painting a backsplash can typically be completed in 2-3 days as a DIY project. With tile, you must factor in time for demo of old tile, proper installation of new materials, and wait time for grout and adhesive to fully cure.
Painting allows you to knock out a backsplash facelift over a weekend.
Painted backsplashes clean up just as easily as traditional tile. Simply use warm water, mild dish soap, and a soft sponge or cloth for regular cleaning.
Paint is also easy to touch up if it gets damaged or scratched over time versus having to replace broken tiles.
Increases Resale Value
Giving your backsplash a modern, updated look with paint can boost the value of your home when it comes time to sell. Buyers are looking for contemporary finishes and style.
Outdated backsplashes can make a kitchen look stuck in a past decade and turn off potential home buyers.
Paint offers an affordable way to update the look and get a return on your small investment.
Things to Consider Before Painting a Backsplash
While painting a backsplash can provide an easy kitchen update, there are a few things to keep in mind before proceeding:
Existing Surface Material
- What is your existing backsplash made of? Paint adheres best to ceramic tile, metals, laminates, and smooth surfaces. Porous natural stone and unfinished wood are not ideal candidates for painting.
- Glossy surfaces like glass tile must be thoroughly sanded to rough up the surface so paint can properly adhere. Dull, matte tiles provide better “tooth” for paint.
- Can you easily reach the entire backsplash? Areas behind fixed appliances or upper cabinets may be difficult to paint. Spray paint can help reach tight spots.
- Porous surfaces require priming first so the paint does not get absorbed unevenly. Glossy and newly filled areas also need priming for proper paint bonding.
- Some paints like epoxies and oils have very strong smells during application. Ensure proper ventilation or use low odor acrylic latex paints if odor sensitivity is an issue.
- Most backsplash paints take 1-2 weeks to fully cure and become scratch resistant. Avoid cleaning or putting dishes away until paint has hardened.
Doing a little prep work and planning before painting your backsplash will ensure you get the best possible results from your paint project.
How to Prepare Tile for Painting
Follow these steps to properly prepare an existing tile backsplash prior to painting:
Mix together warm water, a degreaser like Simple Green, and a few drops of dish soap in a bucket. Scrub tiles thoroughly using a stiff nylon brush, then rinse.
Vinegar, ammonia, or TSP cleaner can also help remove grease and soap scum.
Sand Glossy Tiles
For glossy tile, scuff sand the surface evenly with 220 grit sandpaper. This roughs up the surface for better paint adhesion.
Completely remove any glossy sheen. Be sure to sand grout lines as well.
Fill Grout Lines
Use epoxy filler, silicone sealant, or mortar to fill in any wide grout lines and create a smooth surface. Allow filler to fully cure per manufacturer’s directions before painting.
Fix Chips and Cracks
Fill any small holes, chips, or cracks in grout or tile with spackling paste. Allow to dry completely and sand smooth.
Use caulk to fill larger cracks or gaps between the backsplash and countertops.
Remove Outlets and Fixtures
Take down any outlets, sconces, or other fixtures attached to the backsplash. This allows you to paint behind them.
Tape Edges and Woodwork
Apply painter’s tape around the edges of countertops, cabinets, ceilings and any nearby woodwork. This prevents paint from getting on surrounding surfaces.
Use a tile primer to seal and prepare the porous tile for painting. An enamel bonding primer like KILZ also works well. Allow primer to dry fully before painting.
Once you’ve completed these prep steps, the tile is ready for your new paint!
How to Paint Tile – Step-By-Step
Follow this process for flawless results when painting kitchen backsplash tile:
1. Lay Down Drop Cloths
Cover counters, floors, and appliances with plastic drop cloths to protect from paint drips and splatters. Tape plastic sheeting along bottom edge of backsplash.
2. Apply Base Coat of Paint
Use a small foam roller and angled brush to apply the first coat of paint. Work in sections and maintain wet edges to prevent lap marks and brush strokes. Allow paint to dry fully.
3. Lightly Sand Base Coat
Gently sand the first coat with fine grit sandpaper to smooth any drips, uneven texture, or brush strokes. Remove all dust.
4. Apply Second Coat
Apply the second coat of paint, going in opposite direction from the first coat. Let dry fully before doing optional third coat for added durability.
5. Remove Tape and Reinstall Fixtures
Once paint is completely dry, carefully remove painters tape from edges. Reinstall any lighting, outlets, or accessories that were removed.
6. Seal with Polyurethane (Optional)
Applying 1-2 coats of water-based polyurethane seals the painted tile and provides extra protection from moisture and scratches.
7. Remove Drop Cloths
Once paint is fully cured in 1-2 weeks, remove and dispose of drop cloths and sheeting. Wash paint supplies promptly.
Tips for Painting Tile
- Thoroughly mix paint before and during application for color consistency.
- Work in small sections and maintain wet edges to prevent lap marks between areas.
- Load roller with paint and distribute evenly on a paint tray prior to applying to backsplash.
- Use angled trim brush to cut-in corners, edges, and grout lines first before rolling on main wall area.
- Apply paint in thin, even coats. Thick coats can drip or lead to brush stroke textures.
Take your time with the prep work and application for beautiful painted tile results!
Choosing Paint Sheen and Finish
An important step in planning your backsplash paint project is selecting the right sheen and finish. Here are some guidelines:
Gloss and Sheen Levels
- Flat or matte paints are not recommended for backsplashes since they hold dirt, require gentle cleaning, and scuff more easily.
- Eggshell or satin finishes provide enough shine to be wipeable but hide imperfections well.
- Semi-gloss has enhanced shine and is very scrubbable and stain resistant when cured.
- High gloss paints offer maximum shine, durability, and moisture resistance. Epoxy paints have an ultra-glossy finish.
Match Sheen to Use
- For backsplashes around cooking areas, choose semi-gloss or gloss to deal with grease, splatters, and frequent cleaning.
- In low traffic prep areas, eggshell or satin provide nice look with more hiding power.
- Gloss finishes make dark colors really pop but show more imperfections.
- Matte finishes hide flaws well but lack reflective qualities.
- Try to match new paint sheen to countertops and cabinets. Clashing sheens can look disjointed.
- Kitchens often mix a satin or semi-gloss backsplash with soft eggshell cabinets for nice balance.
Testing paint samples on the backsplash is wise to view how the sheen looks in your space before committing to the whole project.
Selecting Paint Colors
Choosing the right paint color transforms your backsplash from dull and dated to fresh and contemporary. Here are some popular backsplash color ideas:
White backsplashes feel clean, bright, and neutral. Opt for a soft white, warm antique white, or very light gray rather than stark white for a subtle update. Adding undertones like gray or beige keeps the palette soft.
Light gray is versatile and pairs well with white cabinets or stainless steel appliances. Cool grays read modern and fresh, while greige grays with tan undertones feel warmer. Soft blue-gra