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5 DIY ideas for your new kitchen backsplash

From beadboard to bottle caps

Modern kitchen with wooden cabinets and white tile backsplash. Credit: Getty Images / YinYang

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Compared to the cabinetry, countertops, and major appliances required for a functioning kitchen, a backsplash may take a back seat in order of urgency when you’re working on a kitchen renovation.

When you do get around to addressing the wall space between your countertop and the bottom of your cabinets, wall tiles are more than likely what you think of first, and depending on the look you’re after—ceramic, glass, metal—they can be expensive. Unfortunately, the cost of your kitchen backsplash will mount once you add in professional installation.

There’s good news: Quality paint (oil-based or latex) makes a perfectly attractive, durable, and waterproof backsplash surface, but there’s no need to settle for, let’s face it, such an uninspired solution.

It may come as a surprise that there are a number of options for a kitchen backsplash design that are not only less costly than most tiles, but can also give you a more personalized look. Best of all, many of these materials can easily be installed without hiring a professional. YouTube is rife with tutorials, and it’s likely that if you start asking around, friends will have some ideas of their own to share.

1. Wine corks

Cork backsplash in kitchen behind sink.
Credit: Paul McEachern

This creative cork backsplash will surely be a conversation starter.

Paul and Ginger McEachern redid their kitchen shortly after moving into their Natick, Massachusetts, home, but it took several years before they upgraded a painted plaster wall to a kitchen backsplash to be proud of.

Waiting and doing their research paid off, as now they have a conversation piece in their kitchen: a backsplash composed of wine bottle corks laid out in an attractive herringbone pattern.

Ginger, an artist, co-owns an artisan gifts shop in town, but the corks were Paul’s idea. He, a woodworking hobbyist, did all the work—starting with a supply of 1,500 different corks ordered from Amazon that he trimmed to a uniform size with a bandsaw and then glued (Elmer’s worked best) onto half a dozen plywood panels cut to fit into the carefully measured space.

2. Bottle caps

Assorted multi-colored vintage bottle caps.
Credit: Bottle Cap Co

These vintage bottle caps are a retro blast from the past.

If this kind of a unique look is what you’re after, another backsplash idea is to use bottle caps, plain or imprinted, which are available in bulk quantities online and are super inexpensive. Contractor and design expert Brian McCourt demonstrates on YouTube how easy it is to attach the caps with clear silicone glue to medium density fiberboard and then grout it.

3. Glass, two ways

Person with work gloves on lifting glass.
Credit: Getty Images / Andrzej Rostek

If you're looking for a low-maintenance alternative that involves an easy install, glass might be the best choice.

For its versatility, “Glass is probably one of the best backsplashes,” says McCourt, explaining how a glass supply company can custom cut a piece that fits your space. When it comes to what you want to put behind it, the sky’s the limit: wallpaper, sheet music, even a collage of photographs. There’s no grout involved, it’s easy to clean, and if you ever want to change your décor, just remove the glass and put something new behind it.

Erin Nutter, the owner and content creator behind The DIY Nuts blog, was tired of her glass tile backsplash and ready to rip it out and put in something new. But, before investing in a costly redo, she had the idea to simply paint the multi-colored wall tiles white, and, she says, she was shocked at how well it turned out.

She advises, “Use a primer meant for glossy surfaces, and then a urethane latex enamel paint.”

4. Peel and stick

Assorted tile backsplashes in modern kitchens.
Credit: In Home / Roommates Decor / West Elm

With peel-and-stick tiles, there are endless options to choose from that can coincide with your kitchen's existing décor.

A number of the design experts we surveyed recommend budget-friendly peel-and-stick materials. These adhesive-backed plastic or vinyl squares look like tile, but are much, much easier to install, because you don’t have to deal with mortar or grout.

Within this category, endless options offer a wide variety of colors and patterns: Dimensional and slightly textured tiles, the ever-popular subway tile, marble-esque options, metallic checkerboard pattern, and more, even, gold tin.

5. Beadboard

On left, modern styled bathroom. On right, white panel wall under window sill.
Credit: Craftsman

Beadboards have the potential to add a rustic feel to any room in your home.

To achieve the farmhouse look that’s popular these days, Michael Dean, co-founder at Pool Research, says beadboard is the way to go.

“This material is one of the easiest backsplash installs, as they can be placed over existing tile, as well as being cut to size and installed in one large piece,” he says.

Lynne Sade, who has a farmhouse renovation blog, A Farmhouse Reborn, agrees. “The great thing about cutting beadboard is you can just cut rectangles from one big sheet and then glue it together on the wall in small pieces as you go, where you want it, with the vertical lines easily joining up.”

Sade recommends using a high-gloss paint for a surface that wipes clean easily.

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