Laminate offers a versatile and budget-friendly option for your kitchen backsplash, but it’s not without some drawbacks. Here’s what you need to know about using laminate for your backsplash.
What is Laminate?
Laminate is a material made by fusing plastic resin with paper under heat and pressure. This creates a durable, scratch-resistant surface that can mimic natural materials like wood or stone.
There are two main types of laminate used for countertops and backsplashes:
This is the most common type used in kitchens. It’s made of layers of kraft paper soaked in resins and melamine, providing a hard, durable surface. High-pressure laminate can effectively resist impact, abrasion, heat, and stains.
This is thinner and more flexible but less durable. It’s often used for cabinetry and furniture. Low-pressure laminate would not be a good choice for a kitchen backsplash.
Benefits of Using Laminate as a Backsplash
Cost – Laminate sheets are very affordable, starting at around $10 per sheet. This can translate to big savings compared to tile, glass, or stone backsplashes.
Easy Installation – Laminate backsplashes can be applied with construction adhesive and don’t require any specialty skills or tools to install. This makes it a DIY-friendly option.
Durability – High-pressure laminate stands up well to everyday kitchen wear and tear. The resin makes it highly stain, scratch and scorch resistant. It’s also waterproof.
Design Options – Laminate comes in hundreds of colors and patterns, from solid colors and faux finishes to simulated stone and woodgrains. This allows for lots of design flexibility.
Low Maintenance – Other than occasional cleaning, laminate backsplashes are maintenance-free. There are no grout lines to seal or gaps where grime can build up.
Drawbacks of Laminate Backsplashes
Not Heat or Moisture Resistant – Prolonged exposure to heat or moisture can cause laminate to swell, warp or peel. The areas around sinks or stoves need special preparation.
Vulnerable Edges – The edges of laminate backsplashes are prone to chipping and moisture damage, so they require extra sealing and protection.
Not for Heavy-Use Kitchens – Laminate is durable, but may not stand up to decades of wear and tear in busy kitchens. Tile or stone may be better for heavy daily use.
Limitations for Curved Surfaces – It’s difficult to get laminate to conform smoothly to curved or uneven surfaces. The seams are more obvious.
Unsophisticated Look – While design options have expanded, laminate still carries a reputation as a lower-end material. It simply doesn’t have the upscale aesthetic that many desire for their kitchen backsplashes.
Preparing and Installing a Laminate Backsplash
Proper preparation and installation are key to getting the best results from laminate backsplashes. Here are some tips:
- Make sure the wall surface is smooth, clean, and dry before applying adhesive. Fill any cracks or holes with spackle.
- Use a high-quality construction adhesive like Liquid Nails to bond the laminate sheets to the wall. Apply an even layer across the back of the laminate.
- Cut seams for laminate sheets on the back side with a circular saw. This avoids chipped edges. Stagger seams in a brickwork pattern.
- Use trim or caulk to seal all joints and edges to prevent moisture intrusion. Apply caulk along the top and bottom edges too.
- Avoid installing laminate behind cooktops or exposed to excessive steam. Use a heat-resistant backsplash like tile or metal in these spots.
- Consider hiring a contractor experienced with laminates to ensure proper installation, especially for larger or complex backsplash projects.
Maintaining and Cleaning Laminate Backsplashes
Laminate requires minimal maintenance, but proper care will keep it looking fresh.
- Use a damp microfiber cloth to wipe down laminate backsplashes. Avoid harsh cleaners which can strip the protective finish.
- Immediately wipe up any spills or splatters to prevent staining. Soap and water is effective for most stains.
- Reseal edges every 1-2 years with clear caulk. This prevents moisture damage, which can lead to swelling or peeling.
- Don’t allow liquids to pool at seams or along the wall. Dry these spots frequently to avoid issues.
- Use trivets, hot pads, or splash guards near your cooktop to prevent scorching from excess heat exposure.
Laminate Backsplash Ideas
To make the most of a laminate backsplash, consider these design ideas:
- Go for a coordinated look by using matching laminate for the backsplash and countertops.
- Install your laminate sheets vertically instead of horizontally for a modern, sleek look.
- Incorporate decorative accents like ceramic tile trim, lighting, or glass tile inserts to add interest.
- Use bolder colors and patterns to make the backsplash a focal point, since the material itself is more subtle.
- Experiment with mixed textures. Pair glossy laminate on the lower portion with a matte finish along the top.
- Zone your backsplash by using one laminate print near cooktops and a calmer style further from heat sources.
While it has some limitations, laminate can offer an affordable and user-friendly backsplash option, especially for DIY installations. With smart preparation and creative design choices, laminate backsplashes can be quite attractive. Just be mindful of its vulnerabilities to moisture and heat. And if aiming for a high-end kitchen aesthetic, laminate may fall a bit short. But for many style schemes and budgets, laminate deserves consideration as a backsplash material.