Replacing your kitchen backsplash can transform the look and feel of your kitchen. However, it’s important to understand the process and how difficult it can be before taking on a backsplash project. Here’s a detailed look at what’s involved in redoing kitchen backsplash and how challenging it typically is.
Assessing the Difficulty of a Backsplash Redo
Several factors determine how hard it will be to redo your kitchen backsplash:
Layout and Size of the Backsplash Area
- Smaller, straightforward layouts are easier to work with than large or intricate backsplash designs.
- It’s more straightforward to replace a backsplash contained on a single wall than one wrapping around corners or multiple walls.
- Backsplashes running up to the ceiling or incorporated into other design elements can complicate the process.
Type of Existing Backsplash Material
- Ceramic tile backsplashes require more demolition work than materials like laminate or painted drywall.
- Older materials like asbestos tile must be handled carefully during removal to avoid health hazards.
Type of New Backsplash Materials
- Tile backsplashes require more precision and skill to install than installing a new sheet of laminate or painting over existing surfaces.
- Natural stone tile is more difficult to cut and work with than ceramic tile.
- Any type of tile backsplash takes more time and expertise than simple backsplash materials.
Scope of Other Kitchen Remodeling Plans
- If you’re doing a full kitchen remodel involving cabinetry, countertops, plumbing, etc., redoing the backsplash will be easier since those components will be removed anyway.
- For simple backsplash-only projects, you’ll have to be careful about protecting other finished kitchen components.
DIY vs. Hiring a Pro
- Attempting a backsplash replacement as a DIY project is more difficult than hiring an experienced contractor, especially for tricky layouts or tile installations.
So in general, the more intricate your existing backsplash design, the harder it will be to redo. Tile backsplashes, especially natural stone, also rank among the more difficult options. But even relatively straightforward backsplash projects require some demolition and installation work.
Steps Involved in Replacing a Kitchen Backsplash
Replacing a kitchen backsplash involves a series of steps, including:
1. Planning and Materials Selection
- Decide on the look, materials, colors, and accents for your new backsplash.
- Plan the layout and purchase all necessary tiles, tools, and supplies.
2. Prepping the Work Area
- Protect existing kitchen components like countertops and appliances with drop cloths and masking tape.
- Remove items from backsplash area including lighting fixtures, soap dispensers, etc.
3. Demolishing and Removing the Old Backsplash
- Carefully demolish and remove existing backsplash materials wearing protective gear.
- Properly handle disposal of old backsplash tiles and materials.
4. Preparing and Repairing the Wall Surface
- Inspect wall area and make any necessary repairs to drywall or plaster.
- Ensure surface is smooth, clean, and ready for new backsplash installation.
5. Making Any Electrical or Plumbing Alterations
- Adjust locations of outlets, switches, or plumbing lines if needed.
- Add any new electrical components for lighting or appliances if part of project scope.
6. Applying New Backsplash
- Follow all preparation steps based on type of backsplash, including applying cement board for tile.
- Accurately measure and cut materials to fit the space.
- Carefully install the new backsplash materials.
7. Finishing and Sealing the New Backsplash
- Properly apply any required grout, caulk, or sealants for new backsplash.
- Polish and seal tile if applicable.
- Allow all materials to fully cure.
8. Completing Final Installation Details
- Reinstall lighting fixtures, soap dispensers, accessories.
- Seal any edges and transitions to countertops or walls.
- Thoroughly clean new backsplash.
- Remove all protective coverings.
As you can see, even a small backsplash project requires coordination of many steps for a seamless finished product. The amount of demolition, skill required for new materials installation, and complexity of your layout are the biggest factors determining the difficulty level.
How Challenging are Specific Backsplash Materials and Designs?
From easiest to most difficult, here is how some popular backsplash materials and designs rank in terms of installation work:
Painting over existing drywall is the easiest backsplash upgrade option. Use an oil-based, high-gloss enamel paint for best moisture resistance. Be sure to properly prep and prime the wall first.
Like paint, wallpaper offers an affordable and approachable option for DIY upgrades. Remove old backsplash, repair drywall, prime, and hang new adhesive wallpaper. Match patterns carefully at seams.
Sheet Materials (Stainless Steel, Beveled Mirrors, etc.)
Sheets of backsplash materials like metal, glass tile, or mirrored surfaces just need proper cutting to fit the space. Use caulk for seams and beveled edges prevent sharp lines. Expertise is needed for drilling holes for outlets and fixtures.
Pre-fabricated plastic laminate sheets are an easy and inexpensive choice, available in many colors and patterns. Use a sharp utility knife to score and snap sheets to size. Match up patterns or seams between sheets carefully.
Small glass mosaic tiles are simple to apply but cutting can be tricky. The grout lines hide any imperfections. Use a snap cutter for straight cuts and nippers on curved cuts. Glass tiles don’t usually need sealing or polishing.
Ceramic tile backsplashes are very common. Their ease of install depends on your tile layout. Intricate patterns and irregularly shaped tiles make cutting and placement more challenging. Sealing grout lines is important.
Denser than ceramic tile, porcelain is more durable and stain-resistant. But it’s also heavier and can be difficult for DIY installation, especially for intricate layouts. Use a wet saw for cutting porcelain cleanly.
Natural Stone Tile
Materials like granite, marble or travertine have beautiful natural patterns but are tricky to install. Each piece varies, so cutting precision is crucial. The stone requires sealing and can stain easily. Leave installation to the professionals.
Full Slabs of Stone or Concrete
Large slab backsplashes create a striking, seamless look. They require special equipment to cut and polish heavy materials like granite or concrete. Precision is vital since slabs can crack or chip easily during handling and installation.
Intricate designs are possible with metal backsplash tiles, which can create a contemporary, industrial vibe. But cutting thin sheets of metal calls for special snips. Hammering tiles into backerboard can also dent and damage them if you aren’t highly skilled.
Backsplashes With Special Lighting or Shelving
If you want your new backsplash to incorporate customized features like glass shelves, lighting, or builtins like spice racks, the complexity rises significantly. The installation process takes precise coordination of multiple elements. Be sure to have the electrical know-how required or enlist general contractor help.
Full-Height Backsplashes Spanning Multiple Walls
For full-height backsplashes reaching 4 feet or higher, or designs wrapping around corners and covering multiple walls, installation difficulty multiplies quickly. Challenges include tiling at greater heights safely, working on multiple planes, and keeping everything aligned where walls meet. Leave projects like this to a very experienced tiler.
Common Concerns When Redoing a Backsplash
Many homeowners express these worries when considering taking on a backsplash remodeling project:
Protecting Countertops and Cabinets During Demolition
It can be stressful trying to remove an old backsplash without damaging surrounding kitchen components. Take your time and keep countertops protected with drop cloths and painters tape. Remove doors and drawers from any cabinets adjacent to the backsplash area to prevent damage.
Managing Plumbing Lines, Electrical and Holes
If you’re adjusting any plumbing or electrical, be sure to turn off water and power supplies first! For simple refresh projects, work carefully around existing fixtures and outlets to minimize holes to patch. Take photos before demolishing so you can recreate the previous layout if needed.
Achieving an Even Surface for New Installation
To end up with a flawless finished backsplash, the wall surface must be even and properly prepared. Scrape off old adhesive or grout fully, fill any gouges or holes, and sand down high spots. Follow all primers and underlayments recommended for your new backsplash material.
Cutting Materials Precisely for Seamless Appearance
Careful tile-cutting is crucial for beautiful finished results. Plan your layout so seams and edges are less visible. Use the right cutting tools and techniques for each material. Porcelain and natural stone require wet saws for clean cuts, while glass tile snippers produce smooth edges without chips.
Grouting Issues Like Cracking, Staining or Discoloring
Grout haze and staining can ruin the look of a new backsplash. Use sealing and smoothing techniques to get grout lines clean and uniform. Check that all grout has fully cured before sealing or excessive cleaning. Use a grout color that matches the tile shade to hide discoloration over time.
Achieving a Professional Quality Finish
Many DIYers are disappointed that their new backsplash doesn’t have the refined look of professionally installed kitchen tile. Avoid this by using high-quality tile, carefully planning the layout, and allowing ample time for each step. Hire a tile pro for tricky aspects like cutting irregular shapes or natural stone.
Estimated Time Requirements for Common Backsplash Projects
Here are approximate timelines for installing or replacing several typical backsplash designs:
- Painted or wallpaper backsplash: 1-3 days
- Sheet backsplash material (stainless, laminate): 1-2 days
- Glass mosaic tile backsplash: 2-3 days
- Ceramic or porcelain tile backsplash: 3-5 days
- Natural stone tile backsplash: 5-7 days
- Backsplash incorporating shelving/lighting: 1 week+
- Full-height multi-wall backsplash: 1 week+
Actual timeframes can vary based on the size of your space, complexity of layout, skill level, and any special installation challenges. Building in extra time is wise in case issues like cracked tiles or grouting problems arise. Professional installers will work significantly faster than DIYers.
Cost Comparison for Backsplash Materials and Installation
Here are typical price ranges for backsplash materials along with estimated installation costs:
- Painted backsplash: $100-$300 total
- Wallpaper: $300-$500 total
- Stainless steel: $40-$60 per square foot, $200-$500 installation
- Glass tile: $15-$50 per square foot, $4-$10 per tile for installation
- Ceramic tile: $5-$15 per square foot, $5-$10 per tile installation
- Porcelain tile: $15-$50 per square foot, $7-$15 per tile installation
- Natural stone tile: $40-$150+ per square foot, $10-$25 per tile installation
- Professional full install: $25-$50 per square foot
Keep in mind natural stone, specialized tiles, and custom cutting and patterns will increase costs. Professionally installed backsplashes range from $1,500 up to $5,000+ depending on materials used and overall scope.
Key Takeaways on Difficulty of Backsplash Redos
- The most significant factors determining how hard it is to redo a backsplash are the size and layout, types of materials being removed and installed, necessary electrical or plumbing alterations, and DIY vs professional installation.
- Typical steps include planning, prep work, demolishing old materials, repairing and prepping the wall, electrical and plumbing adjustments, installing the new backsplash, grouting/sealing, and final details.
- Paint and wallpaper backsplashes are simpler than tile, laminates, or stone. Cutting and placing intricate or natural stone tile is most difficult.
- Give yourself ample time, especially for first-time projects. Consider hiring a pro for tricky layouts or natural stone tile.
- With proper planning, patience, and attention to detail, redoing your kitchen backsplash can give you an updated, eye-catching focal point to enjoy for years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to replace a tile backsplash?
For an average sized kitchen backsplash of 10-30 square feet, it typically takes 2 to 5 days from start to finish for DIYers to replace a tile backsplash. Experienced pros can often complete a tile backsplash installation in 1-2 days.
Can I install a new backsplash over the old one?
It’s not recommended to install a new backsplash directly over an existing one. To ensure proper adhesion and prevent moisture issues, you need to remove the old backsplash completely before installing the new one.
What’s the easiest kitchen backsplash to install?
The easiest DIY backsplash options are paint, wallpaper, laminate sheets, or stainless steel sheets. These materials involve less intensive demolition and don’t require specialized cutting or tile setting skills.
Should I hire a contractor to install a new backsplash?
For simple projects using materials like paint or wallpaper, DIY installation may suffice. But for tile backsplashes, hiring a pro ensures proper tile setting, grouting, and finishing for superior results. Pros have the right tools and experience.
How do I cut glass tile for a backsplash?
Use a glass tile nipper, available at home improvement stores, to cleanly cut and shape glass mosaic tile pieces. A carbide rod glass cutter can also score and snap tiles. Avoid rough tile snips or scissors which can chip the tile edges.
Can I put a backsplash directly over drywall?
For moisture resistance, a waterproof cement board or fiber-cement backer should be installed over drywall before tiling a backsplash. Backsplashes like vinyl, laminate, or painted drywall don’t require backer board.
How thick should backsplash tile be?
Standard backsplash tile thickness is 3/8 inch to 1/2 inch. Mosaic sheets and smaller tiles can be 1/4 inch thick. Larger format tiles should be at least 3/8 inch thick and rectified for flatness. Natural stone tile is cut thicker at 1/2 inch or more.
Is it cheaper to DIY a backsplash?
DIY backsplash installation costs less in material costs but takes much longer. Factor in expenses for tile, tools, adhesive, and grout. Getting professional installation of tile averages $25-$50 per sq. ft. but saves time and ensures quality results.
Can backsplash tile go straight to wall or do you need backer board?
Backer board is recommended for kitchen backsplashes, especially for natural stone or glass tiles. Cement, fiber cement, or Durock boards provide moisture resistance and prevent warping. Some acrylic-based thin backsplashes can apply right to the wall.
How do you waterproof a tile backsplash?
Use quality waterproof grout and apply a grout sealer after installation. Silicone caulk seals all corners and edges. Also, install cement backer board prior to tiling rather than just drywall for water protection.
The difficulty of redoing your kitchen backsplash depends on the existing materials, layout, and complexity of the new design. Ambitious tile projects require more skill and effort than painted or laminate backsplash upgrades. Careful planning, allowing ample time, and using professional installers for tricky tile jobs will ensure the end result is beautiful and functional for years of use. With some effort and diligence to do the job right, you can achieve the backsplash of your dreams.