My husband and I recently remodeled our mid-century home’s kitchen. We easily made the decision about which type of cabinet and countertop materials to use, but we went round and round trying to select the perfect backsplash.
I knew I did not want a tile backsplash. They require exhaustive maintenance and trends like “subway” or “Moroccan” tile pass quickly, so you’re left with a dated look in just a few years.
Scrolling through Pinterest, I discovered some beautiful painted glass backsplashes, but the prohibitive cost and challenging installation drove me to look for other options. We both loved the look of the glass though, so we decided to find a way to make it work!
As we researched our options, we came across some examples of painted plexiglass/acrylic backsplashes. They looked just like the glass backsplashes, but were more affordable and easier to install!
Painted plexiglass/acrylic backsplashes compliment an array of design styles and are very low maintenance compared to traditional tile and grout backsplashes. Simply wipe them down every now with vinegar and paper towels. (Be careful not to use any scrubbing materials on your backsplash, because they can scratch them.)
You can complete this project yourself in a weekend, with just a few products!
- Utility knife and fresh blades
- Tubes of mirror glue (2)
- A caulking gun
- Latex semi-gloss paint (1 qt.)
- High quality sponge roller
- Silicone caulk (mildew resistant) (clear and white)
- Drywall T-square
- Clear plexiglass sheet 36″ x 72″ – 1/8″ ( 0.118″ ) We used 3. (Purchase at local home improvement store, as shipping may make this cost prohibitive.for our project)
That’s everything needed to complete this project!
We first measured out the area we wanted to cover, factoring in the countertop surface height and window placement. Measure exactly, down to a 16th of an inch! We lightly marked the top line of the backsplash on our recently painted white walls, with painter’s tape and staggered pencil marks.
You’ll find a number of different thicknesses of plexiglass/acrylic sheets at your local home improvement store, but there’s no need to use an acrylic sheet thicker than 0.118″. We chose the Optix brand 0.118″ acrylic sheets, which are available at Lowes.
I drew out our walls on graph paper (the old-fashioned way) to figure out how many sheets of Optix 0.118″ x 36″ x 72″ clear acrylic we’d need. Considering we’d be installing it ourselves, at $65.97 per sheet, we ended up spending far less than we would have for other backsplash materials.
Hint: Call your store ahead of time and ask a clerk to physically go confirm that they have the sheets of plexiglass/acrylic you need in stock. There can sometimes be a disconnect between what their computer says and what’s in stock. You may also want to buy a little extra to allow for mistakes. You can always return it, but it’s nice to have on hand if you end up needing it.
We laid out our plexiglass/acrylic sheets in the back of our pick up, layered between some moving pads. Once home, we placed each sheet on a large blanket-covered table (keeping the protective plastic sheets in place) and using a large sheetrock T-square, marked out our cut lines with a black sharpie.
Hint: Try to use as many factory edges for the top edge of your backsplash as you can, because they’ll look a little cleaner than the edges you’ll have to cut. About 50% of our top edges were uncut/factory edges but because we cut carefully, it’s almost impossible to discern the ones we cut ourselves.
Hint: Always check your measurements at least three times before you cut!
We used the top of an 60’s era headboard covered in old towels, as our main work area. The long and narrow surface dimensions (12″ x 60″) worked well as we made the cuts and broke each section off.
We put a fresh blade in our utility knife and found that using a scoring method, not dissimilar from the technique used to cut glass, worked best for cutting the plexiglass/acrylic. To do this, we secured our sheet in place with clamps (when possible,) held our T-square to our marked line, and then ran the utility knife blade (lightly and slowly at first to prevent the blade from slipping) along the lines we’d drawn to score the sheet. We continued to score again and again, until we had made a deep groove in the plexiglass/acrylic, and then flipped it over and repeated the process on the other side.
Hint: You want a clean straight edge, so don’t shirk on the repeated scoring!
To finish, we forcibly held the scribed line to the edge of our work surface and put pressure on the plexiglass/acrylic we weren’t breaking off, with a long 2 x 4, held alongside of the line. Then with a sharp downward push, we snapped off the portion of the plexiglass/acrylic that extended beyond the work surface, and viola!
Hint: To stabilize larger pieces, we placed beach towels on the top of a rolling tool chest positioned next to the headboard, and let the majority of the sheet/end we weren’t cutting rest on this surface as we made our cuts on the narrower headboard.
I then made paper templates to mark where our outlets were on the walls, cut out the squares in the template and marked the four corners of the outlet opening on the pieces of plexiglass/acrylic. We then used an oscillating multi-function tool to cut out the outlet opening. With that tool, the plexiglass/acrylic cuts like butter, which is great, but take it slow!
Once we had our pieces cut, we held them in place on the walls to make sure they’d fit. Be sure to check the vertical edges that come up against each other! We had to do a tiny bit of tweaking with the oscillating multi-function tool, but not much.
Once they were dry, we held the pieces up to the light to check coverage and touched up the thinner areas. Give your sheets plenty of time to dry completely, then remove the protective plastic coating from the non-painted side of each sheet when you’re ready to install it.
Hint: Before we began gluing each section, we ran a thin bead of mildew resistant clear silicone caulk along the wall where the backsplash met the countertop, and vertically where two pieces would but up next to each other. This will help prevent any moisture/leakage problems in the future.
It was time to begin gluing the pieces into place. We used mirror glue in a caulking gun and started applying the inside corner pieces first, working our way outward. We made sure to cover the walls with plenty of glue in wavy patterns, but kept the glue about an inch away from the edges, so it wouldn’t ooze out.
As we put each piece in place, we used a small block of wood, covered in thick cloth, to slowly rub across each piece to get any air pockets out and push the acrylic firmly onto the walls.
Our countertop was white, so we finished the sealing process with a very thin bead of white silicone caulk, wiped off the excess, and then added some coordinating switch plates and electrical outlet covers.
The entire process could be completed in a day, but we suggest cutting and painting one day and mounting and finish caulking the next.
Our only “hiccup” was incorrectly measuring one piece by 1/16″, so one edge sits up a little higher than the other where those two pieces meet. Fortunately, it’s practically imperceptible, but I will be even more diligent when I measure during my next plexiglass/acrylic project!
Once a sheet is glued in place, it’s difficult to fix or correct any errors, so be exacting with your measurements! Plexiglass/Acrylic does not stand up to high heat, so we installed a stainless steel panel behind our stove, which nicely complemented our new plexiglass/acrylic panels.
We’ve had our backsplash in place for six months, and everyone (regardless of their design aesthetic) loves them and wants to learn how to install a plexiglass/acrylic backsplash in their home!
Pura vida, Penny