How to Install a Wood Backsplash the Right Way
Last week I showed you how I painted the Pallet Wall in a Box boards to create a weathered wood look using Amy Howard at Home Products. I was so pleased with how they came out ~ exactly the greyed, old barn wood look I wanted. Next it was time to install the boards on our laundry room wall. It was a bit of a trial and error process, but at the end of the day we got the backsplash focal point we wanted. We definitely learned some do’s and don’ts and I want to show you how to install a wood backsplash the right way.
Now, we are not 100% through with the wall, but we have finished the first phase. We will finish the second phase after we’ve installed the countertop over the washer and dryer. That will be another learning process, I’m sure.
How to Install a Wood Backsplash the Right Way
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Just as reminder, let me show you the wall before we started installing the wood. Very plain, and everytime I walked into the laundry room ~ like 10 times a day ~ the first thing I saw was the plumbing hookup and outlets. Not a pretty sight.
And here is what my boards looked like after I painted them. Don’t you just love the weathered barn look? It was so easy to create.
Since I’d never attached wood to a wall before, I went to Lowe’s and explained to the nice man (Remember to always smile to the men at Lowe’s ~ you’re not flirting, you just want to keep their attention while you are explaining your DIY projects to them.) about the Pallet Wall in a Box and how thin the boards were (1/4~inch) and what they were made of (kiln~dried solid red oak) and how I wanted the backsplash to look (I actually don’t think he was as excited about my vision as I was.) Then I asked the $1000 question: what was the best way to put the boards on the wall? Without hesitation, he said Liquid Nails. I’ve heard of Liquid Nails, but never used anything like that. He was very nice and explained to me how to use the product and that I would need a caulk gun. We took me to the aisle with the Liquid Nails and then to the aisle with the caulk gun and I walked out of Lowe’s ready to conquer that wall.
Here’s what he told me:
- Apply the Liquid Nails in a lazy “S” across the board.
- Don’t use very much.
- Put a few finishing nails in to hold the boards in place until they adhere to the wall.
That sounded easy enough.
Our First Attempt to Install the Wood Backsplash
I sweetly asked Sweet Shark for help. Sweet guy that he is, he will be the first to tell you that he doesn’t enjoy handyman projects. He would much rather play golf and hire someone to do stuff like this. But he knew that I was convinced that this was a DIY project that we could do ourselves.
So he loaded the caulk gun for me.
Before I painted the boards, I had labeled each one on the back with the row (top, middle, bottom) and the order from left to right (1, 2, 3) across the wall. I tried to put a bead of Liquid Nails on the back of the first board which was a little hard for me ~ I don’t have a lot of arm strength. So Sweet Shark became the marksman and shot the board with the Liquid Nails.
We started on the left side and put the first board up and held it and held it until it felt like it was going to stay put. Then we put the second board up and did the same.
And the third board. At this point we decided to add a few finishing nails just at the corners.
That was enough to get us started and it was dinner time. We felt like we were on our way to backsplash glory. The next morning, Sweet Shark came in the bedroom (I was still in bed working on my iPad.) and he said you better come look at the wall. I could tell from the tone of his voice that something was up. Sure enough, the 3rd board had bowed out and the nails had come away from the wall. The first 2 boards seemed to be fine. So we pulled the board off the wall. The Liquid Nails residue was still there, which we expected.
Here’s what the board looked like. Obviously this board was unusable.
The Second, Successful Attempt to Install the Wood Backsplash
Fortunately, we had plenty of Pallet Wall in a Box boards left, so Sweet Shark cut one the same length as the bowed one and I gave it the weathered wood treatment using One Step Paint and Cerusing Wax. This process only takes about 45 minutes including dry time. In the meantime, we tried to figure out what made the board bow overnight. It was a much longer board than the first 2. Did we put too much Liquid Nails on it? Whatever the reason, we came to the conclusion that we didn’t even need the Liquid Nails. If you just used finishing nails, why bother with the Liquid Nails. From there the process went “fairly” smoothly.
Sweet Shark even let me hammer in a couple of nails.
Each board was numbered in order to create a random pattern. As we added each board, we tried it both ways, flipping it over from top to bottom to make sure we had the best fit. Although all the boards are supposed to be 5 1/2 inches wide, we found there were some variations. And a few boards were thicker than the 1/4~inch.
MAJOR TIP: these boards are very thin, only 1/4 of an inch so DO NOT put the nail too close to the corners. We found that the wood could split. We had no problems when we nailed in about 3/4 to 1~inch from the corner or edges. The longer the board, the more nails across the length to secure it to the wall.
We breezed through the first and second runs. Then we came to the wall outlet. At first I thought about taking off the outlet plate and covering over the plug. But then we thought that as soon as we did that, we would find we needed the plug. Sweet Shark felt he could make the cut out. First, the board to the left of the outlet had to be cut about 1/4~inch shorter.
Then Sweet Shark measured and cut the last board with the cut out. We figured if we messed it up, we had plenty of boards left to paint and recut. He just used his hand saw, and he “nailed” it ~ the cut was perfect. I was so proud of him for becoming the handyman of the day.
I sanded the raw cut edge and dabbed some A Good Man is Hard to Find One Step Paint on the raw edges.
Then we nailed up the final board. We stepped back and examined our work. High fives and a few whoops! Here you can see the staggered run of the wood.
Some of the nails show and some don’t. It all depended on how the light hit them. I just dabbed my finger in the One Step Paint and barely touched the nail head. That took the shine off. In a couple of places the paint made the nail stand out more. So I went over the nail and surrounding area with a little bit of Cerusing Wax on a lint~free rag and the made the nail blend in the wood.
Here’s the finished wall.
To say that we are loving the backsplash is an understatement. And several hours later the boards were still flush against the wall and looking awesome.
Installing the Wood Backsplash the Right Way
So here are our suggestions for how to install a wood backsplash the right way, whether you are using a Palette Wall in a Box or other types of wood.
- As you are cutting the length of boards to fit in your space, be sure to label on the back which row and in which order they go. This crucial step makes installing the boards faster and gives you the random look that makes this backsplash look so good.
2. We painted my boards first. Since we were not moving the washer and dryer out of the way, I wouldn’t have been able to easily reach the wall to paint. If you don’t have anything in front of your boards, it might be easier to paint once they are on the wall. But the advantage of painting each board individually is that you can paint the edges of the boards so no raw edges show.
3. Forget any adhesive and just use finishing nails for the Palett Wall in a Box. The other advantage (besides saving a little money and time) is that if you later want to remove the boards, you don’t have any adhesive residue like we have for the first 3 boards. It’s much easier to fill in a few tiny nail holes if necessary. I don’t ever plan on taking the wood backsplash down.
4. We had the bottom of the cabinets as a top line to start the first row of boards. If you don’t have a place to start your first row, be sure to use a level and mark where the first row should start. You don’t want your backsplash to go downhill.
5. Play with each board to see which way it fits on the wall and abuts to the boards above and next to it. We did this with every board, flip more than once to decide which way was a better fit. We used the hammer to tap the boards to the one next to it and the one above it to get as tight a fit as possible before nailing.
5. Place the nails at least 3/4~inch away from the corners and the edges. This is thin wood and it can split if you nail too close to the corner.
Step back and admire your work! These are the basic, but important ways I can think of to show you how to install a wood backsplash the right way. We would definitely use the Pallet Wall in a Box. Since we have several boards left and we know the right way to install them, I’m going to think of other applications for the rest of the wood.
We’re not finished with the backsplash. We want to add some flat molding where the weathered boards meet the side walls, but that will have to wait until we’ve installed the countertop over the washer and dryer.
That will be a fairly intense project as neither Sweet Shark or I have done a DIY like this. But we are learning and I think we’re up to the challenge. Keep checking back on our progress.
Looks great Carol! Your persistence paid off. 🙂