Kitchen backsplash construction concerns

hickorywoodJanuary 18, 2006

In remodelling my kitchen, I am replacing my Formica countertops and backsplash. The countertops will be Corian and the backsplash will be tiled. The existing backsplash goes from the countertop to under the wall cabinets, approximately 17 inches. This backsplash is now covered in Formica adhered to 3/8 inch thick sheetrock. Selectively removing the Formica covered backsplash will be difficult but not impossible. If I remove existing sheetrock down to the studs, is it acceptable to replace what is existing with 1/4 inch thick cement board as an underlayment to cemented 5/16 inch thick tile? With 1/4 inch thick cement board, the new wall will be approximately 3/16 inch thicker than it is now, about maximum acceptible without compensating the extra thickness to accommodate adjacent door and window casings. Do not want to use 1/2 inch thick cement board if I do not have to. Will the thin cement board be strong enough as the sole backing to the tile? (I am not removing my wall cabinets and the existing rear wall exhaust range hood. Because the depth relationship between the hood and cabinets must be retained, I need to keep this backsplash wall as thin as possible to the original.) (Covering the existing Formica with 1/4 inch cement board and tile is not the best option because the wall will end up being 1 inch thick affecting existing electrical outlet and switch installations. Also, in some areas, the tile edge will be exposed, and detailing the exposed edge of the new tile to look good will be difficult.)

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I can relate to your dilemma and having to improvise to avoid creating other problems like not having the face of the tile too high, finishing the exposed edge and making it look good. Even if you did this, the tile edge coming out past the door and window frames wouldnÂt look right. Anyway, to answer your question, the ¼" cement board would be fine as a way around this. Good luck with the reno!

Ontario DIYguy

    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 7:54AM
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I'd prefer to see half-inch over studs. 1/4" will be too flimsy, too flexible, and possibly cause you problems down the road.

How about adding a simple back band around the window and door trim? It's quite simple to do and not expensive.

It'll add additional detail to your trim, giving you more attractive shadow lines on the trim as well as with the 1/2" backer, a more durable tile installation.

Couldn't get the system to accept this as a link, kept getting error messages. Here are examples of backband molding:

Best, Mongo

    Bookmark   January 21, 2006 at 4:40PM
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I WOULD NOT use only a 1/4" cement board. It would be too flexible, allowing the tile and grout to move, cracking the grout.

What you COULD do is remove existing d/w, and install 3/4" plywood in between the studs, securing it to furring strips you would nail to the studs. Then use 1/4" CB over that.

This would be a lot of work, and I don't know how it would affect the outlets, but that could be dealt with.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2006 at 5:23PM
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Cement board is very rigid but not very strong even the 1/2" stuff. cement board is not required under a backsplash. What might be possible is when you have the sheet rock removed. Add 2x4 cross pieces between the existing studs, probably 3 rows to keep the maximum spacing down to 6" then put 1/4" exterior plywood on top with a 'lot' of nails, then tile on top with mastic.

this will be a fair amount of work but it is probably the thinest wall you can get. 1/4" cement board could probably be used with 6" unsupported width instead of the plywood, but would not be as strong.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2006 at 11:44AM
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Thanks to all for the replies. As a follow up to my original concern, I talked to a local contractor regarding removal of the Formica backsplash prior to tiling. He suggested that I try to heat the material and pry it off the wall surface. I decided to use my wife's hair dryer to heat the Formica, and starting on an exposed edge, used a wide bladed spackle knife to pry it off gradually while selectively applying heat to it. The contact cement softened enough to loosen the bond between the Formica and sheetrock and the method I used worked like a charm! Took some surface paper off the sheetrock, but I do not think this is a big problem. Now with this problem resolved, I can tile over the existing sheetrock, saving considerable time and money. Have a few more walls to go, but now I have confidence of success.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2006 at 5:13PM
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I thought it would be too thick if you didn't remove the 3/8 drywall and replace it with 1/4"?

Quote"With 1/4 inch thick cement board, the new wall will be approximately 3/16 inch thicker than it is now, about maximum acceptible without compensating the extra thickness to accommodate adjacent door and window casings."

Did something change? Or did you decide that the 1/8" extra would be no big deal?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 6:56AM
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Wow, that's great that you got the formica off with the hairdryer-I'm looking at doing the exact same thing and I had been thinking that putting up new drywall/cementboard/plywood was probably more of a job than I was willing to tackle, but now I'm psyched to try it! I can't wait to get rid of the formica backsplash with the ugly metal 'trim' around the edges....

    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 11:34AM
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Here are examples of Kitchen backsplash construction techniques and Tips:


Kathy White

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 11:46AM
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