Copper Backsplash behind cooktop? Pros and Cons

trpltongueMay 21, 2013

Hello all,

We are trying to figure out what to do with our backsplash. We love the old-world Italian look of travertine tiles, but with 2 kids we are "messy" cooks so stuff ends up splattering on the backsplash behind the cooktop quite often.

I know that you can seal travertine and grout but I know us and the chances that we'll actually take the time to reseal every couple years is pretty slim. That's why we're looking at low maintenance material, at least behind the cooktop.

My current thinking is some sort of metal (likely copper) behind the cooktop area and travertine on the remaining portions of the backsplash. We both like the look of aged copper (irregular darker brown, not the green patina).

Does anyone who actually uses copper have any pros / cons of copper material? Maintenance, rust, etc?

I'd love to hear your comments.


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I have copper countertops and love them, but they are definitely not for everyone. If you expect your backsplash to look the same way all the time or to look uniform, don't get copper. Sealed copper, trying to keep a uniform look, would be a maintenance nightmare. However, you you truly like a rustic look that changes with everything that touches it, then you will enjoy copper.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 9:03AM
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We definitely like the rustic old-world look and really enjoy the organic changes with time. We do NOT want a bright uniform copper backsplash, but prefer the nuances and mottled colors of aged copper. I really wanted a soap-stone countertop but the builder couldn't offer it.

How is the maintenance with your countertops? I'm assuming you also prefer the rustic look? Any issues with cleaning / rusting / etc?

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 9:19AM
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I almost put copper behind our range, but wanted a copper hood and felt that it might be too much. I have a copper backsplash on our pine hutch (click for kitchen) and in the main level laundry room (house tour):

Neither are treated with anything. The copper on the hood wasn't treated before installing, but the copper panels that cover the TV (over FP in LR) were just wet down and let dry a few times. The laundry room and pine hutch sheets were not treated either, just wiped with damp cloth often after we moved in to help get them started.

The cats eat on the laundry room counter and the area behind that has changed quicker, so I imagine behind the stove would be the same.

I think you would be fine. Just be warned any splashing tomato based or acidic sauces will take away the patina, but the spots will turn pretty quickly - especially if you are wiping with damp cloth (or mist with water bottle). I had a copper sink in our last house as the main kitchen sink and one just like it in the current laundry room, so lots of experience.

This post was edited by allison0704 on Tue, May 21, 13 at 9:45

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 9:39AM
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You will find that acidic splatters will leave bright spots, basic splatters will leave brown to black spots and some things that get left to dry will form green spots that can be rubbed off, leaving bright, shiny copper until it re-patinas. Oily splatters will leave an oil-slick looking sheen on the copper. If you wipe things off before they dry, you should never see green patina.

Typically, I clean my counter with a mixture of ammonia and rubbing alcohol - it works well to cut grease and encourages brown patina.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 9:58AM
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With dark cabinets and dark counters I'd recommend going with something lighter in color. If you want metal, what about a stainless steel backsplash?

We had a travertine backsplash and it was no problem to maintain. The backsplash get far less wear and tear compared to a counter, so you should not have to reseal it anywhere near as often.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 10:24AM
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I've got 2 copper sinks in my kitchen, the big one in the soapstone perimeter and the prep in the Verde (dark green) marble Island. I keep telling my DW that the sinks are the thing I'm most surprised about as they are AWESOME!! Very care free and like the soapstone they change all the time. I use cast iron probably 70% of the time when cooking, I've had SS and white sinks previously, the copper can handle the cleaning without the black streaks as with the white or the smudges that occur w/SS. They always look good and just require a wipe after using. Most people are very taken w/them, I love the change in the patina. I'm all about living surfaces that change as the family uses them.
Not sure I would like copper counters, soapstone is warm and quiet and marble is great to work dough on. A back splash would be great if it wasn't 'too much', I currently have a stainless hi-shelf on my Blue Star (moss green w/matching Proline hood) and love it.

This post was edited by Mistman on Tue, May 21, 13 at 14:52

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 11:19AM
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It is a nice natural material. I had a counter years past. I did like when it went 'patina' and would just use ketchup to give it a nice bright clean once a month when the drink rings got did have an earthy natural feel to it. (it was on the side counter with a pass-thru and bar stools. And in a ranch in Texas)
Get a sample if you go with it. Some are thin and have a coating that keeps them 'bright'. It is a bit fake looking when coated.
Ketchup is acidic and thick so it did a nice clean wipe. Rinse and done...though not really a fuss free splashy cook scenario. Anything 'splashed' on it will just build up and need to be cleaned eventually. Acidic foods will eat the patina and drip down. (and folks complain about stainless?, lol)
I just would not want so much oil and food 'build-up' behind where i cook. It just is not fuss-free. Not sure what is best but a solid surface backsplash will not have grout....that absorbs everything and looks grungy.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 12:40PM
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Thanks for all of the great comments. We are not the types to leave food sitting on the backsplash so we wouldn't have a bunch of buildup to deal with, but spaghetti sauce, grease, etc will undoubtedly hit the backsplash and be left in place for a few hours to a day or so.

I m somewhat concerned about the dark cabinets with the dark finish of the copper. That's one of the reasons we were looking at travertine, it is nice and light :). We previously had a ceramic tile backsplash with tite grout lines and over time the grout lines stained and had to be cleaned which was no fun. I would really hate to have a tomato sauce stain seep into expensive travertine.

I would like stainless but my wife is not a fan. It's too industrial for her.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 2:26PM
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We'd often get spaghetti sauce splashed up onto our travertine backsplash and never did stain it. We did use a good quality stone sealer. I believe that it was Dupont StoneTech.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 3:51PM
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acidic splashes will be an issue if I considered it in my kitchen. I often squeeze lemon right over the pot. I also cook with a lot of tomato as well. The bright splotches don't read as patina to me.. just a mess.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 3:58PM
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gpraceman, how often did you seal the travertine? I used stone tech sealer on our floor grout and was really disappointed. It left a light green/yellow residue and never did completely seal. Even after 4 coats water did not bead up as advertised.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 4:20PM
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We only sealed upon install. It was in for about 4 yrs before we sold that house. We didn't have any problem with the sealer.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 4:52PM
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My plans are for a copper backsplash behind the stove. Love the stuff.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 7:12PM
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That's good to hear. I can handle sealing once every 5 years or so, but having to seal every year would be a bit of a pain. I'm also just worried about the one time that I spill cooking wine or something and it hits an area that isn't sealed well enough. It's not like there's a do-over for an accident like that :(

I just think I'd be paranoid cooking around the travertine?

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 1:03AM
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We have Travertine in our kitchen, pantry, laundry and bathrooms. Sealed with Miracle Sealants, 511 Porous Plus. We used a sealer (instead of an enhancer) since I did not want the color of the stone enhanced. A few months after we moved in, I was taking a gallon can of stain around the house to touch up - dropped the lid upside down onto the floor. The stain beaded and wiped right up.

Here is a link that might be useful: MS 511

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 9:25AM
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That surprises me. I incorrectly stated earlier that we used stone tech sealer on our floor grout, but seeing your link reminded me that we used Miracle Sealants 511 Impregnator. It had a slight yellow/green tint to it and even after 4 applications the grout was not sealed. Water would still soak in.

That's what makes me nervous about Travertine. I have heard people say that it seals up just fine, but the only experience I have with sealant was a failure. I suppose I could buy some tile and sealer and test it out.

My wife really wants travertine and some sort of decorative mosaic behind the cooktop.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 9:36AM
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@trpltongue - I do think that you should get some tiles and sealer and give it a try to ease your mind.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 11:12AM
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Impregnator is a different product than the Porous Plus (which we used). DH sealed the floors/shower walls himself - one coat. There was no yellowing.

Here is a link that might be useful: Our kitchen

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 12:49PM
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That's so crazy. I actually came across pictures of your kitchen when googling for copper in the kitchen :) I really love the colors and material in your kitchen.

I understand that impregnator is a different product than the porous plus and it sounds like the porous plus worked great for you guys. It just makes me nervous :) I like to do all the tile and fine detail work myself so it's a big time commitment and I HATE having to redo things :) So if the sealant failed, I would be frustrated to say the least.

I'm going to keep looking for examples of copper with dark cabinetry and maybe convince my wife that it's a good look. If I can't do that, then I'll get the stone and sealer and give it a test :)

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 2:57PM
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I have ss behind my range due to design considerations but chose copper for my backsplash material everywhere else; after 5 years, I've never looked back. It's as maintenance free & indestructible as anything I've encountered while looking good through it all. I use a lot of limes & always have a few pin-points of 'clean' copper showing but due to the uneven patina look, they don't stand out.

FYI, my cabinets are black/green & aesthetically, copper provided contrast without being overwhelming. The pictures I've seen of coated copper that stays shiney are beautiful but I can't imagine any copper remaining in that state without pampering or daily polishing.

This is an old photo showing the contrast:

This post was edited by antiquesilver on Wed, May 22, 13 at 23:16

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 9:39PM
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I have a travertine backsplash with a house full of messy cooks. I used Spectralock epoxy grout, and just using that grout sealed the travertine better than any sealant I've ever used. It's impervious to everything we've thrown at at.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 10:25PM
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Thanks for the photo, that looks great. I really do like the copper look.


That's a great point. I had completely forgotten about epoxy grout! I was planning on using epoxy grout in our shower remodel because of it's waterproof nature.

That would certainly take care of the grout grunginess, and it sounds like several folks have had good success with general sealants for the travertine.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 4:18AM
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Copper Backsplash are great in dark combinations of color I`m not so sure about the white bright colors

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 5:14AM
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Circus Peanut

Unless you seal it and scrupulously maintain the sealant, the copper will definitely turn a mottled dark brown, like an old penny, regardless of whether it's splashed on; just a natural effect of oxidation. It's gorgeous but whether you like it for your space all depends on the effect you're after.

Aliceinwonderland is my idol (waves!), and here are the copper countertops I made that are modeled after her incredible island. Don't know how dark your cabinets are; these are a medium-dark 15-yr-old cherry with a 'fruitwood' stain, whatever that was in the '90's (we recycled them from the ReStore). All the counters are copper, around 5 yrs old.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 11:14AM
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