How to Install a Copper Backsplash

A copper backsplash can add a beautiful, warm accent to any kitchen. Copper’s rich, reddish-brown color and natural patina make it a unique and eye-catching choice. Installing a copper backsplash is a relatively straightforward DIY project that can completely transform the look of your kitchen. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to install a stunning copper backsplash in your home.

Choose the Right Copper for Your Backsplash

There are a few options when it comes to the type of copper you use for your backsplash:

Copper Sheets

Copper sheets provide one solid piece of copper that can be cut to size. Copper sheets offer a seamless look and are easier to install than tile. They are available in a variety of sizes and thicknesses. Go with a thicker 20+ oz copper sheet for increased durability.

Copper Tiles

Copper tiles allow you to create patterns and designs with smaller pieces of copper. Tiles come in a range of sizes including 1×1 inches, 4×4 inches, 12×12 inches, etc. Smaller tiles mean more grout lines. Ensure the tiles have enough thickness (0.5-1 mm) to be sturdy during installation.

Pre-Patterned Copper Sheets

Pre-patterned copper sheets have designs already cut into them. This gives you a customized look without the hassle of piecing tiles together. Patterned sheets are available in tin ceiling, herringbone, chevron, and mosaic designs.

Choose the option that best suits your kitchen’s size and style. Copper sheets work well for small, uninterrupted spaces, while tiles allow for more creativity.

Calculate How Much Copper You Need

Measure the total area of the wall space you want to cover in your copper backsplash. For best results, use a laser measurer or measuring tape to get the most accurate dimensions.

Once you have the width and height, multiply them together to get the total square footage. Add an extra 10-15% onto your total copper needs to account for unusable off-cuts and pattern matching during installation.

Having a bit extra is better than being short on material. For a more seamless look, opt for larger sheets rather than small tiles which require extensive grout lines.

Gather Your Materials

In addition to your copper sheets or tiles, you will need:

  • Adhesive: Choose a high-quality adhesive specifically made for metal backsplashes. Liquid Nails and Gorilla Construction Adhesive are two good brands.
  • Backing board: Cement, fiber cement, or water-resistant drywall boards work as backing.
  • Screws: Corrosion-resistant screws are ideal as copper can corrode steel over time. Self-tapping screws for metal studs make installation easier.
  • Sealant: A water-based polyurethane sealant will protect your copper from moisture damage and oxidation.
  • Grout: Choose unsanded grout for joints under 1/8 inch or sanded grout for wider grout lines. Match grout color to the tone of your copper.
  • Caulk: Waterproof silicone caulk seals gaps between the backsplash and countertops/fixtures.
  • Tools: Tin snips, drill, driver bit, sand paper, grout float, sponge, painter’s tape, and safety equipment.

Purchase all materials beforehand so installation goes smoothly from start to finish.

Prepare the Wall for Installation

Proper preparation is crucial for a long-lasting backsplash. Follow these steps:

  1. Clean the wall thoroughly – Remove any existing backsplash, outlet covers, etc. Wipe away all grease, dust and debris.
  2. Repair any damage – Fill holes, seal cracks, and smooth imperfections with drywall compound.
  3. Prime the wall – Apply primer to aid adhesion and prevent moisture damage.
  4. Install backing board – Screw cement, fiber cement, or water-resistant drywall boards to the wall studs.
  5. Apply painter’s tape – Tape off any adjacent areas you want to protect from adhesive oozing.

Take your time with prep work to provide a sound base for your copper to adhere to.

Cut and Shape the Copper

Copper sheets being cut to size

The key to a professional look is neatly cutting and shaping your copper:

  • For copper sheets, measure and mark your material, allowing a 1/4 inch overhang on all sides. Use tin snips to follow your cut lines.
  • For copper tiles, use a wet tile saw for precise cuts. A hacksaw with a miter box also works for straight lines.
  • File down any rough edges post-cutting. Bevel cut tiles at an angle along the backsplash edges.
  • Drill holes for plumbing fixtures, outlets, and mounting screws prior to installation. Place painter’s tape on the copper before drilling to prevent scratching.

Take safety precautions when cutting copper – wear gloves and eye protection. Work slowly and double check measurements.

Install the Copper Backsplash

Once your copper is cut, it’s time for the fun part – installation:

  1. Apply adhesive to the wall and copper pieces according to manufacturer instructions. Cover at least 80% of the surface area.
  2. Press the copper firmly into place, sliding it slightly to activate the adhesive. Use a J-roller or grout float to flatten completely.
  3. For tiles, insert sanded grout between the joints. Let it set slightly and then ‘grout-float’ to compact and smooth the grout lines.
  4. Allow the adhesive and grout to fully cure for at least 24-48 hours before sealing or using the backsplash.
  5. Apply a thin bead of silicone caulk around all edges and let dry. This waterproofs the installation.
  6. Finish by applying two coats of sealant to the entire backsplash, allowing drying time between coats.

Take your time laying the pieces and thoroughly wipe away any excess adhesive or grout as you work. Careful installation ensures your backsplash will last for decades.

Helpful Tips and Tricks

Follow these pointers to make your copper backsplash installation go smoothly:

  • Stick painter’s tape along the wall’s top edge and cabinets to catch any overhang.
  • Dry fit pieces first without adhesive to finalize the layout and identify any problem areas.
  • Mix and match tile sizes and patterns for a more dynamic look. Use small tiles around outlets and plumbing fixtures.
  • For easier tile cutting, create a template with the exact measurements to trace onto the copper.
  • Use a handheld mirror to check for proper adhesion and see the backsplash from different angles as you work.
  • Install the copper in natural lighting so variations in tone and color are visible.
  • Remove any excess grout or caulk with a damp sponge before it dries for easy clean-up.
  • Buff out minor scratches with 0000 super fine steel wool once the sealant has fully cured.

Take advantage of copper’s malleable nature by gently bending sheets to fit around curved walls or recesses. The options are endless!

Caring for Your Copper Backsplash

Copper backsplash aging over time

Part of the appeal of copper is how it gracefully ages. Here are some care tips:

  • Avoid abrasive cleaners or scrubbing to prevent scratching the finish. Use a damp microfiber cloth to gently clean.
  • Reapply sealant every 2-3 years to protect from water stains and oxidation.
  • Embrace the patina! Over time copper develops a lovely bluish-green patina. Let this natural process enhance your backsplash’s charm.
  • For a consistent antique look, use liver of sulfur to artificially patinate tiles before installation. Always test on scraps first.
  • Immediately dry any water on your backsplash to prevent water stains and damage.
  • Use trivets and silicone mats under hot pans to avoid burns that can alter the color.

Clean with care and your copper backsplash will develop character and increase in beauty over time.

FAQs About Installing Copper Backsplashes

How is a copper backsplash different from installing regular tile?

Copper requires a more precise installation approach. The malleable material can dent and scratch more easily than ceramic or porcelain tile. Extra care is also required when cutting to avoid creating sharp edges that can cut fingers. The softer metal means tiles can shift after setting if not properly adhered, making precise measurements and ample adhesive essential.

What’s the best way to cut copper tile?

Use a wet tile saw with a new diamond blade for smooth, accurate cuts. For detailed shapes, a jigsaw with a metal blade allows tight corners. Hand shears or aviation snips also work for straight cuts. File down any rough edges post-cutting. Always use eye and hand protection when cutting metal.

Can I install copper tile over existing tile?

This is not recommended. The adhesive bonds best to a flat, smooth surface without old grout lines. Remove any existing backsplash completely before installing new copper tile. Skim coat the wall with mortar first if it is heavily textured or uneven.

How do I prevent oxidation on a copper backsplash?

Apply two coats of sealant like polyurethane over the entire surface during installation and reapply every 2-3 years. Immediately wipe away any water on the backsplash. Use silicone mats, trivets, and pan shields when cooking to block splatter. Open vents or hoods when boiling water or other activities that produce steam.

What color grout should I use with copper tile?

Choose a grout color that matches or complements the shade of your copper. Warm brown tones like cocoa, nutmeg, or mahogany work well. Contrasting shades like bright white or black can provide a bold pop of color. Apply dark grout carefully as any overflow or residue on the copper tiles will be clearly visible.

Wrap Up

Installing a stunning copper backsplash brings unique style and coziness to your kitchen. With some careful planning and time invested, you can DIY a professional-looking backsplash. Follow the tips above and enjoy the rich, colorful look copper adds for many years to come. Embrace the scratches and patina that develop – they add antique character and make your copper backsplash truly one-of-a-kind. With its natural warmth and timeless beauty, you can’t go wrong with a copper backsplash upgrade.