Installing a laminate backsplash can be a great way to add personality and visual interest to your kitchen. Laminate backsplashes come in a wide variety of colors, patterns, and textures, allowing you to customize your space. While laminate may not be as durable as materials like ceramic tile or natural stone, it is an affordable, user-friendly option that can be easily installed as a DIY project.
When installing a laminate backsplash, proper preparation and careful attention to detail are key for creating a finished look. With some basic tools and materials, you can achieve a seamless installation. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the entire process of how to install laminate backsplash in your kitchen.
Choose the Right Laminate Material
The first step is selecting the right laminate product for your backsplash installation. Here are some things to consider:
- Thickness – Laminate backsplashes typically come in thicknesses ranging from 1/8 inch to 1/2 inch. Thicker laminate holds up better over time. 1/4 inch is recommended for backsplashes.
- Finish – Matte finishes hide scratches and fingerprints better than glossy laminate. A lightly textured finish also helps disguise seams.
- Color/pattern – Make sure to pick a laminate backsplash that complements your cabinetry, countertops, and overall kitchen decor. Solid colors, faux stones, or subtle patterns are versatile options.
- Water-resistance – While not waterproof, many laminates today are designed to withstand moderate water exposure. Look for terms like “water-resistant” or “melamine” when choosing your material.
Once you select the laminate, order sheets that are slightly larger than your total backsplash area to allow trimming for a custom fit.
Gather the Necessary Materials
Installing laminate backsplash requires just a few supplies:
- Laminate sheets – Make sure you purchase enough laminate to cover your entire backsplash area. It’s better to have extra than not enough.
- Silicone adhesive – Choose a kitchen-and-bath silicone adhesive that remains flexible and waterproof once cured.
- Seam sealer – Seam sealing tape or aluminum trim pieces will help hide seams between laminate sheets.
- Wall backing – Foam board or cement board provides a smooth, sturdy surface for laminate application.
- Utility knife – For precise cutting and trimming of the laminate sheets.
- Caulk gun – To apply silicone adhesive. A caulk gun with an applicator tip is ideal.
- J-roller – Ensures strong adhesion between laminate and wall.
- Painters tape – Helps align sheets and temporarily hold in place.
- Measuring tape – For measuring and marking cuts.
Gather all materials and tools needed before starting work to make the installation process go smoothly.
Prepare the Wall Surface
Proper wall prep is crucial for a successful laminate backsplash installation. Here are the key steps:
- Clean thoroughly – Wipe down the entire backsplash area with denatured alcohol to remove grease, dirt and debris. Rinse and let dry completely.
- Remove existing backsplash – Take down any old backsplash material like tile or wallpaper. Scrape away adhesive residue.
- Fill holes and seams – Use spackle or drywall compound to patch any holes, cracks or uneven areas in the wall. Let dry completely and sand smooth.
- Add wall backing – For moisture-prone areas behind the sink or around windows, install cement board. Elsewhere, foam board panels work well. Secure with construction adhesive and/or screws.
- Prime the surface – After repairs, apply primer to create a uniform surface. Allow primer to fully dry.
Take your time with wall prep to establish a clean, smooth, and securely fastened surface for laminate application.
Measure and Cut the Laminate Pieces
Once your backsplash area is prepped, the next step is measuring and cutting your laminate:
- Measure precisely – Use a measuring tape to measure the height and width of the backsplash space. Make a sketch of the overall layout and mark cut measurements.
- Account for outside edges – Be sure to measure from the outside edges so that laminate sheets overhang slightly for a clean finish.
- Cut with utility knife – Use a straightedge as a guide to cut laminate with several passes of a sharp utility knife. Make cuts slightly wider than measurements.
- Cut openings – Measure and cut openings for electrical outlets, pipes, or other obstructions in the backsplash area.
- Test fit pieces – Dry fit all laminate pieces to ensure proper size, shape, and alignment before permanently adhering. Make any necessary adjustments.
Precise laminate cutting results in tight seams and a professions looking finished install. Take your time with measurements and test fits.
Apply Silicone Adhesive
With laminate pieces cut to size, you’re ready to attach to the wall using silicone adhesive:
- Prepare adhesive – Load silicone adhesive into caulk gun. Cut the tip to desired bead size. Test on scrap material to ensure proper application.
- Run steady beads – Apply a continuous 1/4″ bead of silicone adhesive along the top and bottom edges on the backside of the laminate piece. Also apply a 1/4″ bead in a zig zag pattern across the back.
- Spread evenly – Use a caulk spreader or putty knife to spread the adhesive evenly across the entire backside of the laminate sheet.
- Remove excess adhesive – Wipe away any adhesive squeeze-out before it dries. Clean adhesive from laminate surface with denatured alcohol.
- Allow to tack up – Let adhesive sit for 5-10 minutes until no longer transfers to finger when touched. This “tack up” time ensures proper grab.
Applying adhesive properly prepares laminate pieces for secure wall bonding. Follow adhesive manufacturer instructions for optimal results.
Adhere Laminate to the Wall
Once adhesive has tacked up, it’s time to firmly press laminate sheets to the wall:
- Align bottom edge – Use painters tape to hold bottom edge of laminate piece in place against top of countertop. Align cleanly.
- Apply pressure – Starting at the center point, use firm hand pressure to smooth the entire sheet against the wall. Work outwards towards edges to avoid trapping air bubbles.
- Roll surface – Roll a J-roller across entire laminate surface to ensure strong adhesion and squeeze out any remaining air pockets.
- Secure top edge – Use painters tape to hold laminate sheet along top edge. Tape small strips every 6-12 inches.
- Check seams – Look along seams from backing to ensure proper alignment and prevent gaps between sheets.
Take care pressing laminate firmly and evenly to the wall surface. Proper application prevents future lifting or peeling issues.
Seal Seams and Finish Edges
For a seamless look, you must treat laminate seams and edges properly:
- Seam sealant – Apply specialized seam sealing tape or aluminum trim to hide visible seams between laminate sheets. Press firmly.
- Clear caulk – Run a thin bead of clear silicone caulk along seams and let cure fully to prevent moisture intrusion.
- Edge trim – For clean finishing, install matching laminate or metal edge trim along top and side edges using silicone.
- Remove tape – Once adhesive has fully cured, carefully remove painters tape from laminate surface.
- Fill gaps – Use caulk to fill any remaining gaps along edges or seams for a sleek appearance.
- Clean surface – Wipe down entire laminate backsplash with a soft, damp cloth to remove dust and debris after install.
Properly concealing seams and edges gives your laminate backsplash the polished, built-in look you want.
How to Maintain and Clean Laminate Backsplash
Caring for your laminate backsplash properly will keep it looking like new:
- Soft cloth – For regular cleaning, use a soft, damp cloth with warm water or mild dish soap as needed. Avoid abrasive cleaners.
- Don’t soak – While laminate is water-resistant, excessive moisture can damage adhesive and backing. Quickly wipe up spills and do not allow water pooling.
- Avoid harsh chemicals – Chemicals like bleach, oven cleaners or acidic cleaners will mar and corrode laminate. Stick to gentle cleaning solutions.
- Inspect caulk – Check caulk lines periodically for any gaps or cracks. Re-apply caulk as needed to prevent moisture issues.
- Re-seal annually – Apply a fresh bead of silicone caulk along edges, seams, and around fixtures once a year to maintain water resistance.
With proper care and maintenance, your laminate backsplash will stay beautiful and functional for years of everyday use.
Troubleshooting Common Laminate Backsplash Problems
While laminate backsplash installation is relatively straightforward, issues can arise. Here are tips for troubleshooting some common problems:
Laminate appears warped or wavy
- This occurs when laminate is not properly pressed flat to the wall. Use a J-roller across entire surface to adhere tightly.
Gap showing at seam
- Applying additional silicone caulk into the gap then smoothing with wet finger can conceal small seams. For large gaps, remove and re-install using seam tape.
Laminate lifting at corner
- Lifting is caused by inadequate adhesive coverage. Re-activate adhesive with heat and re-press corner down, holding firmly for 60 seconds.
White haze on surface
- Hazy film is caused by adhesive leaking at seam. Carefully scrape off adhesive with plastic scraper, then buff surface with non-abrasive pad.
Laminate peeling from wall
- If pieces completely detach, inadequate wall prep is likely the cause. Remove loose pieces, prep wall again, re-apply adhesive and replace.
With attention and care, any issues that arise with your laminate backsplash can typically be corrected for an improved appearance and performance.
Frequently Asked Questions About Laminate Backsplashes
What’s the best adhesive for laminate backsplash?
Clear 100% silicone adhesive specifically formulated for kitchen and bath provides the best bond and water resistance.
How long does laminate backsplash last?
With proper care and maintenance, laminate backsplashes generally last 3-5 years before needing replacement. Heavy use areas may require new laminate in less than 3 years.
Should I caulk around laminate backsplash?
Yes, apply a bead of clear silicone caulk along all joints, seams, and the junction with countertops. Caulking prevents moisture intrusion that can damage adhesive or wall behind.
What should I put behind a laminate backsplash?
1/4″ thick cement board or foam paneling creates a stable, uniform surface for laminate application. Follow manufacturer instructions to properly prepare and attach wall backing.
Can I install laminate backsplash directly over drywall?
Laminate manufacturer’s do not recommend installing directly on drywall alone. Cement board or foam backing panels should be added to drywall for proper adhesion and moisture prevention.
Is laminate cheaper than tile backsplash?
Generally, yes. Laminate sheets cost less per square foot compared to ceramic or porcelain tile. Laminate is also very DIY-friendly, avoiding labor costs. However, laminate is less durable than tile.
Should laminate backsplash go all the way to ceiling?
Laminate backsplashes typically end 1-2 inches from the ceiling. Going to the ceiling can make upper portions prone to lifting over time. Leaving a small gap allows matching trim to be installed for a clean finish.
Installing laminate backsplash is an approachable DIY project that can give your kitchen an affordable, customized look. Following the preparation, installation, and finishing steps detailed in this guide will help ensure your laminate application is successful and long-lasting. With proper care and maintenance, you can enjoy your new laminate backsplash that stands up to busy kitchen use for years before needing any update.