Using wallpaper as a backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can completely transform the look and feel of the space. Wallpaper backsplashes provide an easy and affordable way to incorporate color, pattern, and texture into your design aesthetic. However, before embarking on a wallpaper backsplash project, it’s important to understand what types of wallpaper work best, how to properly prepare your wall surface, and tips for installation and maintenance. This definitive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about successfully using wallpaper as a stylish and functional backsplash in your home.
What to Know Before Choosing Wallpaper for a Backsplash
When selecting wallpaper for a backsplash installation, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind:
- Vinyl – Vinyl wallpaper is water-resistant and a great choice for kitchens and bathrooms. Look for commercial-grade vinyl that can stand up to moisture and grease.
- Paper – While not waterproof, many high-quality paper wallpapers feature extra coatings and treatments to repel moisture. Opt for washable paper wallpapers.
- Peel-and-stick – Modern peel-and-stick wallpapers make for easy installation. Ensure the adhesive is strong enough to last in a damp environment.
- Murals – Pre-pasted wallpaper murals can create a dramatic backsplash. Select a high-quality mural wallpaper intended for kitchen and bath use.
- Matte – Matte wallpaper finishes help disguise grease splatters in kitchen backsplashes. They also hide flaws in walls.
- Glossy – Glossy wallpapers add shine and drama but will also highlight any imperfections. Use over flawless surfaces only.
- Textured – Subtle texture hides wall flaws and offers added dimension. Look for vinyl papers with textured finishes.
- Patterns – For a bold look, choose a colorful or metallic patterned wallpaper for the backsplash. Geometric, floral, or abstract designs work well.
- Solids – Solid colored wallpaper in a matte finish creates a smooth, seamless look. Good for small spaces.
- Nature prints – Organic patterns like grasscloth, cork, or wood can create a serene, spa-like environment.
- Murals – Scenic or graphical murals make a dramatic style statement. Use removable wallpaper to easily change it up.
Backsplash Size and Scope
- Full backsplashes protect more of the wall from moisture and spills. Wallpaper works for standard partial backsplashes or when taken all the way to the ceiling.
- Coordinate with countertops and cabinets for a cohesive look. Use wallpaper only on the backsplash or extend it to side walls and beyond.
Preparing Walls for Wallpaper Backsplash Installation
Preparing your wall surface properly prior to installing a wallpaper backsplash will help ensure it sticks securely and looks flawless. Here are some tips for prep:
Clean the Surface Thoroughly
Eliminate all grease, soap residue, dust and debris. Wash cooktop walls with a degreaser and fill any holes or cracks. Sand glossy paint to help the adhesive adhere. Wipe away all cleaning product residue with a microfiber cloth.
Prime and Paint
Apply primer to bare wallboard or drywall to prevent moisture damage. For vinyl wallpaper, apply acrylic wallcovering primer. For paper wallpaper, use sizing. Paint walls with mildew-resistant bathroom or kitchen paint.
Check for Moisture
Test kitchen and bathroom walls for trapped condensation or moisture damage which can impact wallpaper adhesion. Consider applying an elastomeric waterproof coating designed for backsplashes.
Fill Any Imperfections
Spot prime over repairs. Use spackle or drywall compound to fill any dents, chips, or uneven areas on the wall for a smooth surface. Sand smooth when dry.
Plan Your Wallpaper Seams
Observe where the natural seams and edges of the wallpaper will fall. Plan to overlap seams with cabinets, windows, or inside corners when possible so seams are less visible.
Tips for Installing Wallpaper Backsplash
When ready to install your new wallpaper backsplash, follow these tips and tricks for getting it on the wall and avoiding issues:
Gather Your Materials
- Wallpaper adhesive
- Wallpaper smoother/squeegee
- Utility knife and blades
- Wallpaper seam roller
- Sponge and clean rags
- Tape measure and level
- Primer and caulk
- Drop cloths
Follow the Manufacturer’s Instructions
Read and follow the specific installation instructions that come with your wallpaper. Different adhesives and wallpapers may have varied requirements.
Set Up Your Workspace
Cover the countertops, floors, and appliances with drop cloths. Have a water source nearby to moisten the wallpaper. Clear the area of clutter and workspace to move freely.
Prepare the Paper
Unroll the wallpaper and allow it to relax according to package directions so it doesn’t shrink or expand on the wall. Be aware of the pattern repeat. Cut strips to the height of your backsplash from the roll.
Apply the Adhesive Properly
Use a wallpaper brush or roller to apply an even coat of adhesive to the back of the wallpaper, covering all edges. Don’t get adhesive on the wallpaper surface.
Hang the Wallpaper Smoothly
Use a wallpaper smoother tool to affix the wallpaper evenly to the wall, removing bubbles and wrinkles. Press from the center outwards. Use a level to keep the lines straight.
Take Your Time with Seams
When trimming seams, use a sharp new blade and metal ruler for clean cuts. Butt edges together without overlapping. Roll the entire surface to maximize adhesion.
Seal Edges With Caulk
Apply clear silicone caulk along top and side edges as well as around electrical boxes and fixtures to prevent moisture from getting behind the wallpaper.
Maintenance Tips for Wallpaper Backsplash
To get the longest lasting durability from your new wallpaper backsplash, follow these maintenance and care instructions:
Keep it Dry
Minimize moisture exposure on the backsplash from sinks, appliances, or cleaning tools. Promptly wipe up spills and splashes to keep the wallpaper from being saturated.
Use a damp microfiber cloth to spot clean. Avoid abrasive scrubbing. Do not use harsh cleaners or chemicals that could ruin the wallpaper or seep behind it.
Avoid Harsh Chemicals
Do not use bleach, ammonia, or solvents directly on the wallpaper. Check cleaner labels for potentially damaging ingredients. Use mild dish soap if needed.
Touch Up Caulk
Reapply fresh caulk if needed around edges and seams to prevent moisture penetration behind the wallpaper.
Watch For Curling or Peeling
Lifting seams or edges can indicate trapped moisture damage. Carefully peel back and investigate the cause. Reapply seam adhesive to small lifted areas.
Over time, steam, grease and moisture can compromise wallpaper adhesives. Periodically reseal the entire backsplash by applying a new layer of adhesive or commercial wallpaper resealing product.
FAQs About Using Wallpaper for a Backsplash
Is wallpaper really waterproof enough for kitchen backsplash use?
Wallpaper is not completely waterproof, but many types are specially formulated to withstand moderate amounts of moisture. Vinyl, properly sealed paper, or laminate wallpapers work best in kitchens. Use additional caulking and primers for added protection.
What’s the best wallpaper adhesive for backsplash installation?
Look for mold and mildew-resistant vinyl wallpaper adhesives made especially for use in kitchens and bathrooms. Clear adhesives reduce the chance of staining light wallpapers. Follow label directions closely.
Should I remove wallpaper backsplashes before selling a home?
Well-installed, neutral wallpaper backsplashes in good condition can improve a home’s resale value. Loud prints or heavy textured wallpaper may be less appealing to buyers. Remove any dated or damaged wallpaper.
How do I cut wallpaper around electrical outlets and switches?
Use an angled razor blade to carefully slice the wallpaper vertically from the top corner down along each side of the outlet. Then cut out the opening using a utility knife. Avoid nicking surrounding paper.
Can I apply wallpaper directly over existing ceramic tile?
No, do not adhere wallpaper directly to glossy ceramic tiles. You must first skim coat the tile with a thin layer of joint compound to create a more textured, grippy surface for the wallpaper to stick to.
Is it okay to get my wallpaper backsplash wet?
In general, wallpaper should be shielded from excessive moisture which can cause bubbling, peeling, staining, and mold growth. Wipe up spills quickly and avoid spraying water directly at the wallpaper.
Creative Wallpaper Backsplash Ideas
Wallpaper offers almost endless options for creating a customized, creative backsplash look. Consider these ideas:
Metallic Faux Subway Tile
Wide strips of reflective silver, gold, or copper wallpaper mimics the look of real tile for a fraction of the effort and cost.
Natural and Organic Patterns
Grasscloth, woodgrain, cork, or fabric-textured wallpapers bring calming natural textures to backsplashes.
Vintage Pattern Repeats
Classic floral trail prints or deco geometrics layered on backsplashes add retro charm with a modern twist.
Faux Marble and Granite
For elegant veining minus the maintenance, marbleized wallpaper backsplashes imitate the real thing at a budget price.
Bold and Eclectic Prints
Surround a stainless range with vibrant Moroccan patterns or mod circles for an eye-catching focal point.
Black and White Graphic Impact
Crisp stripes, trellis designs, or harlequin diamonds make a statement in stark black and white.
Novelty and Photomural Scenes
Customize your cooking environment with food imagery, wine labels, or scenic photography wallpaper backsplashes.
Installing wallpaper as a backsplash provides a simple and creative way to add color, texture, and interest to your kitchen or bathroom design scheme. With proper preparation, careful installation, and regular maintenance you can achieve a beautiful, on-trend wallpaper backsplash that coordinates perfectly with your décor. Just be sure to select materials specially engineered to endure heat, grease, and moisture. With the right wallpaper choice, your new backsplash will look amazing for many years to come.