How to Install Wood Backsplash

Installing a wood backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can add natural warmth and beauty to the space. With some planning and the right materials, installing a wood backsplash is a relatively straightforward DIY project. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to install wood backsplash in your home.

Select the Wood Material

The first step is to select the type of wood you want to use. Popular choices for wood backsplash include:

  • Maple – Hardwood with tight, straight grain that stains well. Durable and easy to clean.
  • Alder – Affordable hardwood with light tan color. Takes stains and finishes nicely.
  • Pine – Budget-friendly softwood. Has noticeable knots and grain patterns.
  • Oak – Hardwood known for its bold grain patterns. Durable and moisture-resistant.
  • Teak – Water-resistant hardwood. Has an attractive reddish-brown color.
  • Bamboo – Durable and sustainable option. Stains to various shades well.
  • Reclaimed wood – Rustic, unique option from old barns, fencing, etc.

Choose a type of wood that fits your budget and style. Thinner woods like bamboo or reclaimed barnwood work well. For high-moisture areas, use a naturally moisture-resistant wood like teak or avoid wood altogether.

Calculate How Much Wood You Need

Measure the total square footage of the backsplash area. Leave a little extra for cutting mistakes and waste. Purchase enough wood planks to cover the area, accounting for the direction of the wood grain.

For example, if your backsplash area is 8 ft x 4 ft = 32 square feet, purchase 35 square feet of wood to give extra room for cuts.

Prepare the Work Area

Clear the counters and remove anything on the backsplash area. Cover nearby surfaces with drop cloths to protect from drips and spills. Cover exposed section of the floor as well.

Make sure you have all tools and materials in the work area before starting. Necessities include:

  • Wood planks
  • Construction adhesive
  • Caulk/sealant
  • Brad nailer or hammer and finishing nails
  • Drill
  • Countersink bit
  • Twist drill bit (slightly smaller than nails)
  • Wood filler
  • Rags
  • Tape measure
  • Level
  • Stud finder
  • Protective equipment (gloves, goggles, mask)

Cut the Wood Planks to Size

Measure the backsplash area and mark cutting lines on wood planks with a pencil. Use a miter saw to cut planks to size.

Cut pieces to length so edges will align evenly along the backsplash. Test fit pieces first before permanently cutting for best results.

Follow wood grain when cutting to avoid splintering. Seal cut edges with varnish or paint.

Attach Support Battens Horizontally

Mark stud locations using a stud finder. Use a level to draw straight horizontal lines where battens (support strips) will go. Attach 2″ x 2″ battens to the wall using construction adhesive and screws.

Battens should be spaced about 8 to 12 inches apart. They provide a solid anchoring surface for the wood backsplash planks.

Apply Adhesive to the Back of Wood Pieces

Turn wood planks over horizontally, finished side down. Apply a zigzag bead of high-quality construction adhesive to the back of each piece.

Spread the adhesive evenly across the back surface using a putty knife or paint stick. Follow adhesive manufacturer instructions for application.

Press Wood Planks in Place and Nail

Once adhesive is applied, carefully lift and press wood pieces into place on the wall. Use a J-roller or hand pressure to flatten against battens.

Drill pilot holes through the wood into battens using a countersink bit larger than the nail head. This prevents wood from splitting.

Nail pieces into battens using a finish nailer or hammer and nails. Place nails evenly every 4-6 inches along the perimeter and middle.

Repeat Steps Until Backsplash is Complete

Continue preparing, adhesive-ing, and nailing up wood planks until you have covered the entire backsplash installation area.

Take care to tightly align edges where planks meet for a seamless appearance. Check for straightness with a level often.

Apply Wood Filler Over Nails and Gaps

Examine the wood backsplash and apply wood filler compound into any visible nail holes, gaps, or imperfections with a putty knife.

Allow filler to dry completely per manufacturer instructions, then sand flush until smooth. Vacuum sanding dust thoroughly after.

Apply Protective Finish

Choose an indoor-appropriate sealer, stain, paint, or protective finish for your wood backsplash. Apply 2-3 coats, allowing drying time between coats.

Polyurethane is a popular water-resistant option. Tung oil brings out the natural wood grain. Stain adds color if desired.

Follow manufacturer directions closely when applying any finish to the wood.

Caulk Around Edges and Let Dry

Run a smooth bead of bathroom/kitchen caulk around the edges of the backsplash. This seals and prevents moisture and debris from getting behind it.

Make sure the finish and caulk have fully cured before using the backsplash. Allow several days for caulk and finishes to dry completely.

With careful planning, preparation, and attention to detail, you can install an attractive, rustic wood backsplash in your home kitchen or bathroom. Take it slow and don’t be afraid to ask for help lifting and nailing up the wood pieces.

FAQs About Installing Wood Backsplash

What thickness of wood should I use?

1/4 inch thick boards are common, though thinner 1/8 inch boards will work too. Thicker wood is heavier and more difficult to nail up.

What finish is best for water-resistance?

Marine spar urethane or an outdoor-rated polyurethane sealant are best for water resistance. Apply at least 2-3 coats.

Should wood backsplash go all the way to wall edges?

Yes, wood planks typically cover the entire backsplash surface for a seamless look. Leave 1/8 inch from wall edges for caulk.

How do I cut a hole in wood for an electrical outlet?

Clamp a guide in place, then use a plunge router with a straight bit to cut the hole. Smooth edges carefully with sandpaper.

Can I use adhesive alone without nails or screws?

Adhesive alone is generally not strong enough. Use both construction adhesive and nails for a secure bond.

How do I attach wood around a window?

Use small molding strips to frame around the window neatly. Miter cut molding edges at 45 degree angles.


Installing a real wood backsplash brings natural warmth and style to any room. With some simple tools, patience, and attention to detail, you can achieve a professional-looking wood backsplash installation. Carefully measure the space, cut planks to fit, and adhere and nail the wood securely. Finish and caulk around all edges for a polished look. Your new wood backsplash will be a unique focal point you’ll enjoy for years to come.