A Formica backsplash is a popular, affordable, and easy way to add style and protect the wall behind a kitchen countertop or bathroom vanity. Formica is a brand name for laminate sheets that consist of decorative paper fused to particle board or plastic. Formica backsplashes are available in many patterns, textures, and colors to suit any design aesthetic. Installing a Formica backsplash is a relatively simple DIY project that can upgrade the look of a kitchen or bath. Here is a detailed step-by-step guide on how to install a Formica backsplash.
Planning the Formica Backsplash
Before starting installation, take time to properly plan the backsplash project:
Choose the Right Formica Product
Formica manufactures different product lines for countertops and vertical surface applications. For backsplashes, choose Formica Brand Laminate which comes in a standard 4 x 8 foot sheet size and 0.028 to 0.048 inch thickness range.
Formica Brand Laminate sheets feature a durable melamine resin surface that resists scratching, staining, and heat. The laminate sheets can be cut to size and have edges finished for a custom backsplash.
Avoid Formica 180fx, which has an adhesive pre-applied to the backside. This product line is designed specifically for countertop installations.
Measure the Area Carefully
Use a tape measure to measure the length and height of the area you plan to cover with the Formica backsplash. Remember that backsplashes are typically installed starting from above the countertop or vanity top up to the bottom of wall cabinets.
Mark down the dimensions and use them to estimate the number ofFormica sheets needed for the project. Having extra material on hand can help avoid problems if any cutting or alignment issues occur.
Choose the Right Pattern and Colors
One of the great things about Formica laminate is the multitude of different patterns and colors available. Browse design catalogs or websites and order free samples to view colors and textures in person.
Make sure to choose a Formica sheet that complements the countertop or vanity surface material and ties in with the overall room décor. Many homeowners choose to match solid surface countertops and backsplashes, but contrasting or coordinating colors also give good results.
Gather the Right Tools and Materials
Installing a Formica backsplash requires a few specialty tools and materials. Be sure to have these items on hand before starting the project:
- Formica laminate sheets (pre-cut to size or purchased in 4×8 sheets)
- Carbide-tipped circular saw blade for cutting Formica
- Table saw or jigsaw for cuts
- Construction adhesive or silicone adhesive
- Caulk gun
- Paintable acrylic latex caulk
- Measuring tape and straight edge
- Utility knife and extra blades
- Masking tape
- Clean cloths and acetone or denatured alcohol
Prepare the Wall Surface
The wall area that will receive the Formica backsplash should be cleaned and prepared prior to installation. Remove any existing backsplash and make sure the wall surface is smooth, dry, and free of cracks or damage that could prevent proper adhesion.
Sand glossy paints and apply primer if needed so the adhesive bonds well. Clean thoroughly with denatured alcohol to remove grease, soap film, or any debris that could impede application. Use painter’s tape to mask off the countertop edge and any adjacent surfaces.
How to Cut Formica Sheets for Backsplash
Formica backsplash installations typically use full width sheets to minimize seams. But it may be necessary to cut the laminate sheets to fit properly. Here are some tips for cutting Formica:
Allow the Sheet to Acclimate
Formica, like many other construction materials, can shrink or expand slightly due to temperature and humidity changes. To avoid issues, keep the Formica sheet in the room where it will be installed for 24-48 hours before cutting to allow it to acclimate.
Use a Circular Saw with Carbide Blade
The most precise way to cut Formica is using a circular saw fitted with a fine-toothed carbide-tipped blade made specifically for cutting laminates. Mark the cut lines and carefully guide the saw along the marks through the sheet.
Cut with Good Backing Support
Always rest the Formica sheet on a sturdy work table or saw horses when cutting to minimize vibration. For long cuts, use helpers to support the weight of the sheet on both sides of the saw blade. Avoid letting the laminate overhang the work surface to prevent cracking.
Make Relief Cuts for Curves and Holes
For any curved cuts, drill a hole at the start of the inside curve and make small relief cuts approaching the hole from either direction prior to the final cut. This prevents cracking and chipping in the laminate. Use a jigsaw for detailed curved or hole cuts.
Cut Slowly and Smoothly
Applying too much pressure or forcing the circular saw can cause overheating and melting. Cut steadily but slowly, allowing the blade to do the work. Pausing briefly during long cuts helps dissipate heat.
Smooth Rough Edges
Use a fine-grit sandpaper to carefully smooth any rough edges along cut lines. All cut edges that will be visible should be finished to prevent snagging and injuries. Avoid sanding the laminate surface itself.
Preparing and Applying Formica Backsplash Adhesive
Proper adhesive selection and application are vital steps for a successful Formica backsplash installation.
Choose the Right Construction Adhesive
For Formica backsplashes, a high-quality heavy duty construction adhesive works best. Look for adhesives specially formulated for bonding laminates. Some good options include Liquid Nails for Kitchen and Bath, Gorilla Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive, or Loctite PL Premium Polyurethane Construction Adhesive.
Prepare the Wall and Laminate for Adhesive
Both the back of the Formica sheet and the installation wall need to be properly prepped before applying adhesive. Lightly sand the laminate backside. Make sure the wall is smooth, clean, and dust-free after sanding and priming. Wipe both surfaces down with denatured alcohol just prior to adhesive application.
Apply Adhesive Properly
Spread a generous amount of construction adhesive evenly over the back of the Formica sheet using a notched trowel. Apply additional adhesive in a bead along each edge. Follow the adhesive manufacturer’s instructions for proper open time before fitting the sheet on the wall.
When ready, carefully lift and fit the Formica sheet against the wall, pressing firmly from top to bottom while sliding into the final position. Use a J-roller tool or heavy roller to apply firm, even pressure over the entire surface of the backsplash to ensure strong adhesion and minimize air bubbles.
Follow Adhesive Cure Times
It’s important to follow the specified cure time for the construction adhesive used, which can range from 12-24 hours for initial bonding strength. Avoid disturbing or cleaning the Formica backsplash until fully cured. The bond will continue to strengthen over several days. Allow at least 24-48 hours before using the sink or countertop.
How to Finish Edges for a Seamless Look
Completing a professional edge finish hides any visible laminate layers and creates a unified, seamless appearance for the installed Formica backsplash.
Sand the Top and Bottom Edges
Use 100-150 grit sandpaper to lightly sand all top and bottom edges of the Formica sheet where it will meet the wall, countertop, or cabinets. Sand just enough to dull and smooth the laminate’s surface and remove any saw marks or rough areas.
Carefully Apply Edge Banding
For the best seamless finish, apply 3mm PVC or ABS edge banding tape to all exposed top and bottom edges. Carefully trim and file the edge banding to create a smooth, flush transition.
Seal Edges with Silicone Caulk
Once applied to the wall, fill any gaps between the Formica backsplash edges and the adjoining surfaces with paintable silicone caulk. Tool the caulk smooth for a continuous seal. Allow to fully cure before painting.
Finish with Coordinating Caulk
Finally, use coordinating colored acrylic latex caulk along the joint between the backsplash and countertop or vanity. Smooth with a wet fingertip before the caulk skins over. This finishing touch makes the Formica backsplash appear unitary and built in.
How to Create Seams Between Backsplash Sheets
When multiple Formica sheets are needed to cover the desired backsplash area, carefully create seams where sheets meet:
Pre-plan the Layout
Map out the full backsplash area and determine the best layout for where seams will be located when using multiple laminate sheets. Avoid seams directly behind cooktops or sinks if possible. Minimize seams in highly visible areas.
Ensure Precise Edge Alignment
When applying sheets, accurately align and position edges to achieve the smallest, cleanest seam possible. Use painter’s tape along the countertop back edge to guide sheet placement. Remove tape after adhesive has cured.
Sand the Edge Seam Areas
Once sheets are securely bonded to the wall, use 100 grit sandpaper to lightly sand both sheet edges that meet at the seam. This helps level any minor alignment variances and prepares the area for caulk.
Caulk the Seam
Apply a smooth, consistent bead of paintable silicone or acrylic latex caulk along the entire edge seam. Tool the caulk into the seam with a finger or caulk shaping tool, wiping away any excess. Allow caulk to fully cure before painting.
Apply Joint Compound if Needed
For wider gaps, fill seams with joint compound, allow to dry, then sand smooth. Finish by recaulking for optimal seam concealment before painting or applying wall color.
Painting and Caulking the Formica Backsplash
Once fully installed, properly painting and caulking the Formica backsplash is the final step to maximize adhesion and create a built-in look:
Wait the Recommended Time Before Painting
Review adhesive label to determine the wait time until painting can begin. Most construction adhesives take at least 24 hours to cure sufficiently before paint can be applied to the Formica surface.
Scuff the Surface Before Painting
Use 150 grit sandpaper to lightly scuff the entire Formica backsplash surface prior to painting. This helps the paint bind better. Thoroughly dust the sanded surface before priming.
Apply Primer and Paint
Follow manufacturer instructions for primer and paint products. Generally, a high adhesion primer is applied first, followed by at least two finish coats of quality latex paint in the desired color. Allow proper drying time between coats.
Caulk Joints and Gaps
Use paintable acrylic latex caulk to fill any remaining gaps or joints between the backsplash edges and wall, counter, vanity, or cabinets for optimal seam concealment and water resistance
Remove Masking and Clean the Surface
Carefully remove any remaining painter’s tape and masking materials. Clean the entire surface with a mild soap and water solution to remove residue. Avoid harsh scrubbing for several weeks to allow paint to fully cure.
Tips for a Successful Formica Backsplash Project
Keep these additional tips in mind for completing a Formica backsplash installation successfully and avoiding common pitfalls:
- Acclimate the Formica sheets to the room temperature and humidity for 24-48 hours before cutting and installing.
- Gather all materials, tools, and safety equipment needed for the project prior to starting.
- Wear eye protection, gloves, and a respirator when cutting Formica to avoid inhaling dust.
- Measure carefully and test cut on scrap pieces first to avoid wasting full sheets due to sizing errors.
- Ensure the wall surface is smooth, strong, dry, and thoroughly cleaned before applying adhesive.
- Follow all adhesive manufacturer instructions for proper open time, bonding strength, cure time, and paintability.
- Apply firm, even pressure when bonding Formica sheets to the wall using a J-roller to minimize air bubbles.
- Avoid cleaning agents, harsh scrubbing, or excessive moisture on the Formica backsplash for several days after installation.
- Match caulk colors closely to the backsplash laminate or wall paint for the most invisible, seamless look.
With patience and proper planning, you can achieve a stylish, durable Formica backsplash installation that enhances your kitchen or bath. Take your time and don’t be afraid to ask for help lifting and fitting the Formica sheets during adhesive application for best results. In no time you’ll be enjoying an attractive, low maintenance backsplash.
Frequently Asked Questions about Installing Formica Backsplash
Many homeowners have additional questions when taking on a Formica backsplash installation project. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
Does the Wall Have to Be Totally Smooth to Install a Formica Backsplash?
The wall should be as smooth as possible, with any protruding grout lines or uneven areas sanded smooth. However, small texture from underlying wall materials like painted drywall is generally acceptable as long as properly prepared and primed.
What About Outlets and Switch Plates in the Backsplash Area?
Electrical boxes, outlets, and switch plate covers that occur within the backsplash installation area should be removed prior to measuring and cutting the Formica. After applying the laminate sheet, carefully cut out the proper opening for the electrical box and then reinstall switch plates and outlets.
Can I Install Formica Sheets Horizontally Instead of Vertically?
Yes, Formica backsplash sheets can be installed horizontally if desired. Make sure seams between horizontal sheets are tightly aligned and occur along the entire horizontal plane rather than at inside or outside corners for the best appearance.
What Do I Do if the Formica Cracks When I’m Cutting or Installing It?
Cracking can occur if force is applied inconsistently during cutting, if the sheet is not fully supported, or by impacts during installation. If small cracks occur, fill carefully with a coloured epoxy resin filler compound, sand smooth and touch up paint. If large cracks or multiple fractures occur, it’s best to replace that Formica sheet.
Should I Seal or Apply Grout Between Sheets After Installation?
No, there is no need to apply any sort of sealant or grout between the edges of adjoining Formica sheets after installation. Properly sanded edges and finished with caulk is sufficient for a watertight seal. Matching caulk provides a better look than a grout line.
How Soon Can I Use the Sink or Cooktop After Installing the Backsplash?
It’s best to avoid use of sinks, cooktops, and applying any moisture directly to the Formica backsplash for at least 24-48 hours after installation to allow adhesive and caulk to fully cure. Follow all adhesive manufacturer recommendations for curing times before regular use and cleaning.
Installing a stylish, durable Formica laminate backsplash is a relatively straightforward DIY project that can completely transform the look of a kitchen or bathroom. With proper planning, patience, and care taken at each step, a beginner can achieve professional-looking results.
From preparing the wall surface to carefully cutting Formica sheets, properly applying adhesive, finishing edges, caulking, and painting, this detailed guide covers the entire process start to finish. Follow the tips and techniques outlined above, take your time, and don’t be afraid to ask for an extra pair of hands when installing larger laminate sheets.
In no time, you will have a beautiful, low-maintenance Formica backsplash that provides style and protection for years to come. The transformation will amaze you and your guests!