How to Install A Wood Plank Backsplash

How to Install a Wood Plank Backsplash. A simple tutorial that even a beginner DIYer can tackle.
I’m a sucker for a good wood planked wall. Who isn’t, right? I’m actually trying to muster up the courage to break it to my husband that I want to rip out some of our board and batten and do one in my living room. If you’re reading this dear, now you know. I love the look of wood planking because it’s timeless and works with just about any style, and today, I’m going to show you How to Install a Wood Plank Backsplash for less than $100. (I’ve updated some of these photos since the original post, so you also get a little look at the different faces of my kitchen, and proof that this has held up BEAUTIFULLY for 4+ years now.)
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About a year and a half ago, the crappy little laminate back splash started to peel away from the wall behind the sink and mold became a risk on our walls. And we all know, MOLD = not a good situation. So it became sort of an emergency to rip it out and replace it–not that I was complaining about having to ditch yet another builder’s grade eye sore. Oh, and when I say “laminate back splash,” I mean this little thing that’s like four inches wide.

My first choice was white subway tile, but this was something that needed to happen immediately. Hiring it out wasn’t in the budget, and by the time we took into account the cost of the tile, the tools to cut it all and install it, and our lack of tiling know-how (I figured a prominent wall in the house wasn’t the best place to start testing our tiling skills), we decided that it was probably best to find another option. So, wanna guess how much this project cost? After pricing out what I wanted, I was sold when the price tag was less than $100, and I really do love it just as much (if not more) than subway tile.
Here’s how we did it:
WOOD PLANKED BACK SPLASH
You’ll need:
Tongue & groove wood planks (they come in packages of like 10). I bought mine at Lowe’s and they come in a couple of different lengths. I bought mine in the longest length, and then we cut them down to size.
Liquid nails
Brad nails (a nail gun would be ideal too, but we did ours without)
Countersink for your nails
Stain blocking primer (like Kilz or Zinser)
White paint (mine is satin finish)
First,  we removed the old laminate pieces (obviously). See that box cutter in the picture up above? Use that (or some other knife) to cut along the caulk at the top of the existing back splash and along the bottom where it’s attached to the counter so it doesn’t rip pieces of your counter off. Then, and I learned this the hard way, stick a knife down behind it and slide it along the back to loosen it from the wall. If you just start ripping it away from the wall, you can end up pulling off some of the drywall.
See that hole below? That’s what happens when you don’t cut it away first. It’s fixable with some putty, but who wants the extra work, right? Next, use a putty knife to scrape the residual caulk off of the counters. Are you grossed out at what was under there? So. Was. I. NASTY!!
A little sidenote: I opted for the tongue and groove planks instead of just plain old pine planks for a couple of reasons. First, they’re cheaper–always a bonus. But the biggest reason was because, while I love the look of a planked wall with those tiny little crevices in between each plank, this is a kitchen. I didn’t want food getting in the cracks, or water from the sink when I was washing dishes, all that grease that builds up in a kitchen–you know, all of that good stuff. Since the tongue and groove is interlocking, it completely seals off the wall behind it and makes for much easier cleanup.
Soooo, next, measure and cut your wood to the desired length (we sort of drew a pattern on the wall to get an idea of what we wanted). We cut two lengths (32″ and 46″) so that we could stagger them. Then, obviously, there were some cuts in different lengths at the ends and around the outlets. For the top row under the cabinets and at the top of the wall over the sink, we had to cut the planks lengthwise (with a table saw) to get the width we needed. If you don’t have a table saw, you can measure your width and your home improvement store will probably be glad to cut them for you.
Using the liquid nails, glue the planks to the wall starting from the bottom up and from the corners, out to the end of the wall. If you’ve never used liquid nails, a little goes a long way. Think of glue in elementary school: only enough to make it stick, not so much that is squishing out all over the place. Stick the boards in place on the wall, one at a time, and you’ll need to hold them there for a minute until the glue sort of sticks it down. Also, see that random weight on the counter? Those work great for keeping the boards in place until the liquid nails dries.
There were a couple of places where, for whatever reason, the boards weren’t completely pressed to the wall with the liquid nails, so we used small penny nails to secure them to the wall. You can use a nail gun, or if you don’t have one, just use a hammer and then sink them into the wall with a countersink (ask the people at the home improvement store–they’ll know what you’re looking for). You can also use a small screwdriver set at the end of the nail and then hammer it until the nail just barely sinks into the wood. The point is to be able to cover the nails with putty so you end up with a smooth finish. You can leave it there, but we added a little 2″ rounded molding at the bottom to give it a more finished look (I’m so horrible at process pictures–you can see the molding in the pictures at the end of the post).
If you’ve used nails, patch over them with some putty, then let everything set overnight. Next: paint. Oh! But first, sand your puttied spots smooth, of course. If you’ve been around here for a bit, you know that I’m a big fan of stain blocking primer (you can get the whole rundown here). Let me just say this: if you don’t use it on this project, you’ll be sorry. See all of those knots in the wood? They are full of oils from the wood…oils that seep out…and oils that turn your paint yellow, especially in the sun. A stain blocking primer is not even an option here, it’s a must. So paint on your primer–I would recommend two coats and maybe a little more over the big knots. Then paint with your color of choice (I used Valspar’s Great White Way). As always, I used my favorite foam rollers.
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This has actually been in my house for a year now and it has held up beautifully. All of the messy splashes behind the sink and the stove wipe up beautifully. We also carried the planking over onto the back of the bar, which you can see here.
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 *Some photos have been updated since the original post.

Comments

  1. says

    So glad I found this! Exactly what I was looking for after pricing the tile installation (ouch!). Question though, had yall thought about doing the planks vertically? If so (or not) what made you decide to go with laying them horizontally? Thanks!

  2. Melissa says

    Love this. So much so that I want something similar in my new kitchen. My question-Did you put this behind the stove? Everyone I mention it to seems to think that it is a bad idea to put wood behind a stove. Any advice?

    • says

      Thank you! I had the same worries and had heard the same thing! I did put it behind my stove and I have had ZERO problems with it. I do have to say, if you look at the pictures, my stove comes up fairly high on the wall, so there’s not a lot exposed, so I’m not sure how it would be with a flat, counter top type stove, but I’ve never had a problem cleaning mine up with just soap and water, so I’m sure it would be fine. In fact, I think it gets messier behind the sink, but it wipes clean just fine. We’re going on three years with it and I have never regretted it!

  3. Nadia says

    Thank you for sharing! Looks beautiful! I bought cedar planks and do not want to paint them. But, they still need some treatment… Any advice? Thank you!

  4. Mike Matthews says

    Looks great, exactly what I am starting today, I hate to say it, but looks like my lovely wife was right by looking at your wood. I thought it would make more sense to stain the wood first, but I see you did not. Anyways looks great, and is also great to see what are’s is going to look like..
    Thank you
    Mike

  5. Evelyn M. Van Winkle says

    I am doing it using non wood planks in a grey tone after painting the wall grey. i think wood is a bad idea as eventually it will start to rot and water will find a way to it.. … if it works for you well thats fantastic, but my wood is rotting badly and it is finished , that is why i am having to do this project. so .. fake wood flooring is my option.
    thank you for the details about the knife behind the board.. helpful .. blessings

  6. Ravi says

    Hi! I stumbled upon your blog when I goggled v-groove backsplash. Thanks for the post, now I know I am not the only when with ‘crazy’ ideas, lol. Your DIY looks fantastic and encouraging and I think I am going to do this. I had a couple of questions, if you dont mind me asking. Did you return the boards to the window frame? if not, how did you finish the cut ends to get a finished edge? I am not able to tell from the pictures. Any info and/or close picture would help. Appreciate it! cheers from Charlotte, NC!

    • says

      Thanks! We just cut them off at the edge of the window frame, so they’re actually “raw” around the window, but then I just painted the ends and the inside of the window frame the same color and you can’t even tell. If you look at like the 6th picture down (where the wood is still raw and you can see the outlets, you can kind of see where we made the cuts). Happy backsplashing!! ;)

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