Beadboard Backsplash

Beadboard Backsplash

Nothing shows off a traditional kitchen design like a beadboard backsplash. Beadboard, originally a thick tongue-and-groove paneling, dates back to the late 19th Century. It was used for lower walls, or wainscoting, as well as in other locations like ceilings and full pantry walls. The heavy strips, much like today's plank flooring, fasten right to the wooden laths on old homes thus saving the mess and expense of plastering. Many old carpentry manuals refer to the plank product as ceiling, because it was most often used for overhead applications like porches. In the northeastern states, it was called sheathing.

Today's Beadboard Products

Today there is more than one type of beadboard backsplash product, however, they are much thinner than the old planks. The most inexpensive beadboard is made with a recycled wood product called MDF, or medium density fiberboard, with the bead pattern stamped in. These are manufactured in four-foot by eight-foot sheets.

Beadboard made from pine or other solid wood material is very popular in homes where authenticity is required, like for use as parlor wainscoting or as backsplashes. This beadboard is generally manufactured in eight-and-a-quarter inch strips sporting three beads, or vertically-milled designs, and containing tongue-and-groove edging. Purchase the strips in packages of eight-foot lengths or in various sizes. Both types are very easy to install, easy to paint and resist warping.

Using Beadboard Strips for a Backsplash

The main attributes of beadboard strips are:

  • Edge-Matched: Beadboard strips are milled with a tongue on one side and a matching groove on the other to give the effect of the traditional beadboard.
  • Milled Beads: Beadboard designs can vary with one or more half-round beads routed into the smooth surface. The pattern serves to disguise the joint.

This tight, tongue-and-groove design makes perfect strips for a backsplash.

The Beadboard Backsplash Is Back

Traditionally, beadboard was installed around sinks and other places in the kitchen, such as pantries, that needed regular cleaning and could take a good scrubbing. Painted plaster would blister and even come apart but properly sealed beadboard lasted.

In today's kitchen, a beadboard backsplash has a more timely effect on the look of the kitchen than tile or other materials. One popular beadboard product is made from eight-and-one-quarter inch wide pine with a tongue-and-groove joint that locks seamlessly together with eight inches showing. You can easily cut strips to fit the space from the bottom of the cabinet to the countertop. However, it may require a shoe molding for both the bottom and the top of the finished backsplash. Shoe moldings cover any gaps where the beadboard strips meet the countertop and the cupboard bottoms.

Determining How Much Beadboard You Need

To determine the amount of material needed measure the height and width of the backsplash, keep in mind the following. A beadboard strip is eight feet long so one length could be cut into five pieces of nineteen inches in length or four pieces of twenty-four inches. Use eight inches as the width as the extra one-quarter inch tongue is hidden.

Installing Beadboard on the Backsplash

Once you cut the solid-wood, beadboard planks to the right length, install them with one-and-a-half-inch finishing nails to the studs behind the wall. If moisture is a concern, glue together the edges. If the backsplash is to be stained, make sure no glue gets on the surface or the stain won't penetrate.

Beadboard Widths
Pine eight-and-one-quarter inches
Cedar nine inches
MDF four feet by eight feet

Finishing the Backsplash

For a cottage, many people prefer the natural, knotty-pine look but a beadboard backsplash looks great painted. Paint the entire backsplash first before any silicone sealer is applied.

  • Seal the knots - If using pine, make all of the knots, even the tiny ones area sealed with a proper knot sealer. This is available in all hardware and paint stores.
  • Oil-based primer - When this has been accomplished then an oil-based primer should be used to seal the wood.
  • Kitchen-grade latex paint - Oil-based paint is an option but latex is easier to use.
  • Seal the edges - Once the painting is completed seal the area where the shoe molding meets the counter edge with a good-quality silicone sealer. They come in many colors so use one that will blend in.

Beadboard Provides a Historic Look to Kitchen Designs

The beadboard look isn't for every home but it can have many applications, especially when homeowners want an historic look that is both functional and easy to maintain.

Written by Kim Kinrad

Beadboard Backsplash