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Portable Backsplash for Renters

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Do you have vertical slat blinds, beige carpet, and white walls? Are you renting in a place with a significant chunk of your savings tied up in your security deposit? Do you watch HGTV and salivate over the kitchen remodels while steadfastly refusing to even glance at your own bland room that happens to have an oven in it because, let's be honest here, you hesitate to even call it a kitchen? Even my landlord, a man who is generally open to my DIY plumbing and electrical work, would balk at a kitchen project. But I think there are some folks out there who would love to add a dash of evanescent personality to their kitchen with an inexpensive and easy tile backsplash for the wall behind the stovetop or the sink.

Because the walls in my building are cinder blocks (fancy, huh?), it's a nightmare attaching anything to a wall, so I need my backsplash to be three things: First, it's gotta be a lean-to, because I can't glue or screw it to the wall; Second, it needs to be a close fit where it meets the hood so it blends into the kitchen without looking conspicuously like an add-on; Third, it needs to be easy (a problem solved by replacing thinset with Loctite Power Grab). Luckily, I noticed that my oven unit has several holes in the back where I managed to use some extra pegboard hangers (those little wire clips that hold tools) to support the completed backsplash. Those clips, plus the tight fit at the top and the inch or so of stove supporting the base, should hold the backsplash pretty nicely. If it starts to come away at the top, using some of that sticky 3M poster gunk should hold it in place without putting any holes in the wall or ripping off the paint.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the backsplash needs to look good. It needs to add panache to an otherwise ho-hum area of the wall. It needs to match with our hand towels and the generic tile floor, maybe serve as a visual transition from the beige carpet into a kitchen with a bit of color. It needs to shout Tuscan villa, mid-century modern, and cozy cottage all at the same time. It will serve as the beacon of originality in a The Giver-type dystopia of dullitude and blandification. Reasonable expectations, obviously. A philosophical framework to support you when the caulking gun starts to give your hand blisters and you realize that one of the tiles is obviously larger than the other ones. This is not just a fight for your kitchen, it is a fight for creativity against the blight of apathy and laziness, this is a fight for ALL the kitchens. So suck it up, buttercup, we're making a backsplash.
 
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ccronkhite4 months ago
pretty cool idea. One suggestion, you don't have to settle for leaning it. I'm currently renting a house after owning one for that past five years.
I'm pretty sure our landlords wouldnt mind us putting nails in the wall but it's old plaster and honestly I don't trust it to hold most of our pictures.
We've been using the command velcro mounts to hang all our pictrues in the new place and I have to say they are pretty awesome.
Ya know, why settle for just a backsplash? You could use this to make 1ft square pieces to tile your bathroom. Or use it with beadboard and moulding to add some waincoting to your place. That would be an interesting look, cyderblock and waincoting :)

New decorating trend... Modular Remodeling
wilgubeast (author)  ccronkhite4 months ago
Remodule! Velcro mounts is a great idea, but the lean-to has held up for a coupla years at this point.
narchibald1 year ago
Love this idea, I wanted to do something like to the apartment I am living in but if I move I would not be able to take it with me, but now with this, I can!!!! Keep the great ideas coming!!!!  LOL, this is what I really meant to say!!!!
narchibald1 year ago
Love this idea, I wanted to do something like to the apartment I am living in but if I move I would be able to take it with me, but now with this, I can!!!! Keep the great ideas coming!!!!
kathynv1 year ago
Terrific idea. This is perfect for making mosaic items and putting them in places all over the house, not just as a portable backsplash. It's also great as a backspash when you're like me and have changing tastes. It will be easy for me to remove and replace the panel(s) when I choose something different. Thank you!
Very clever!
taria2 years ago
I do love this idea, but with me my tastes change quite a bit and having just one thing set wouldn't work for me. so I do it a different way. I use the stone colored contact paper and cut squares and use them to look like fake tiles on the walls. it loos good and I can change them up when I want something different. but I do love this idea, don't get me wrong.
shayhurs2 years ago
I did a similar thing using furnace plenum.

To create an edge, I took some scrap aluminum screen window frame, framed the plenum piece, and then glued it to the wall behind the oven.

The Big Box stores wanted $250 for the equivalent and I spend about $30 max. Only challenge was finding a piece of plenum that was not too scratched up (You can buff minor scratches out.).
After buying a hot glue gun/glue sticks and having my original purpose NOT be successful, I'm wondering if hot glue would work here? Might have to try it... although we're allowed to put holes in the wall in my complex, so many people have done so over the years, it's hard to find original wall where I want it!

I like the look though. You could match any color setup!
wilgubeast (author)  whisperonthewind2 years ago
I imagine that hot glue could work, as long as it doesn't lose grip with heat applied to it. The area behind the stove occasionally gets a little warm. Once you've applied your grout and sealed everything up, everything should stay in place. Hot glue is definitely not recommended for a real tile project, but this one is temporary and non-structural.
ejf2 years ago
Great instructable - I've been looking to tile in my own place. BUT the tile can be high buck. where can we get good looking cheap tile??
tn. ejf2 years ago
oh - and of course, there's your local freecycle dot org.
tn. ejf2 years ago
another idea would be to check your local stone mason - the one near where i used to live had dumpsters full of broken slab in the back they allowed me to pick through. free marble, slate, black granite, and on one happy day, a nice piece of jasper measuring about 2" by 5"!
wenoel ejf2 years ago
Most tile stores throw out old or discontinued tile and they often allow people to dumpster dive and take them for free. It can give you enough for a small project but you'll have to be creative so it won't look like a hodgepodge.
lvstrvl ejf2 years ago
Check your area for a ReStore or a building materials recycling store they resell materials taken from demolition and remodeling projects. Usually contractors will donate new materials leftover from a project. I have seen some beautiful glass tiles at my stores.
amyclark2 years ago
1. What is MDF?? Maybe it's somewhere in the text, but I couldn't find it. (Maybe it's something most people know??)
2. Those little spacers--I think they are shaped that way so you can put one at the corner of 4 tiles, laid flat--but your way would make them way easier to take out, it seems like!
3. What I love about your instructable is it's great for anyone, renters or owners--it is daunting to think about putting up permanent tile when you don't know what it will look like. I think it would work in other areas also!!
4. It also seems like it would be easier to work on the MDF (whatever it is!) on a flat surface, rather than on a wall.
5. Great instructable--thanks!!!
tn. amyclark2 years ago
1 - already addressed, just adding: MDF is a non-structural (meaning, don't use it for anything bearing any significant amount of weight) made out of wood fibres and a whole lotta glue.

2 - you'd think that's how those spacers are to be use but - speaking from experience - they're a royal pita to get out. you have to dig in there and pry them loose and then your tiles get all knocked askew.

3 - agreed - a kickplate is a great use for this idea, methinks; a decorative bit put at the bottom of my door where all the boot prints are from kicking the door open while holding bags of garbage, laundry, or groceries and the dinks from ramming it open with the stroller.

4 - tiling is a funny thing. generally speaking, you want to construct it how it lies. you could - and again, from experience - spend ages getting everyting just perfectly "so" while having it lying flat only to find it's just not looking right once it's upright.
MDF stands for medium density fiberboard.
I rented for 11 years, and I would have LOVED this. I might make one for my friends who rent. This is brilliant!
This is really great; just what I need right now; wouldn't have thought of it in a million years! Thanks.
You have exactly described me in the first paragraph, and this project is so great! Any way to spruce up the drabbest of apartment kitchens is a win in my book.
BtheBike2 years ago
Sweet ible . i might settle for a linoleum patch tho myself . grease is dang near impossible to get out of grout .=/
If you use a good sealant and use several coats to make sure that the grout is really sealed the grease will wipe away as easily as if it were on a countertop.
pigsnfish2 years ago
Great idea, even for homeowners! We have this marvelous Arts and Crafts home that we got on a foreclosure. However, we can only afford to do minimal damage to our checking account. We've been very reluctant to pull of the BRIGHT RED tiles on the backsplash of our kitchen counter because we're afraid of the mess we'll find under it, and that if we did pull it all off, that might lead to the old, "Well, we replaced the backsplash for a couple hundred dollars, we might as well replace the entire kitchen cupboards and crappy vinyl flooring while we're at it." (And that, of course, leads us into "Gee, the kitchen looks great except for all these old appliances and dated table and chairs." I know myself too well.)

So now I'm going to see if a temporarily permanent backsplash could be put over the old one. I could even have my kids help with the tiling...they love to do stuff like that. I may end up with mosaic like structures mounted all over my house thanks to your instructable.

Great idea and superbly written descriptions.
gaprilday2 years ago
Oh my! I love reading your commentary as much as following the steps of the instructable. I think this is one of the best sites on the internet and you certainly have done your part to make it so. Excellent 'how-to' with superb directions. I especially like the bit about the caulking gun blisters and odd sized tiles. You have obviously done more of these projects and know just when we are likely to start tearing out clumps of hair. Nicely done.
Oh, this is lovely! I can't wait to try my hand at spicing up our kitchen with this... It really is a remarkably sad and bland place to spend so much of my days. Thanks for the great instructable!
ditto candida :0)
puzka2 years ago
Ha ha, thought this was an instructable for a Bidet. We call these a splashback in Australia
lfb1232 years ago
WONDERFUL! Love this-I am preparing to tackle my backsplash, but not until I have a nice vacation first. THANKS for sharing and inspiring!
YellerKitty2 years ago
Well you did it again ... this is stupendous! I no longer have to rent, but my son and daughter both do, and this is just GREAT! What a terrific way to add one's own personal touch to an otherwise 'ho-hum' setting. Brilliant, simply, jaw-droppingly brilliant. Nicely done!

P.S. For renters who have built-in cooktops, another option might be to use the same concept in a 'picture frame' type setting, and attaching it to the wall with a couple of those 'big ape' type hangers that don't leave a discernable hole in the wall.
*¬◊
Now this is truly awesome, haing done the rental thin in the past, i know that is like, is there a 6th star option !!!
commiejay3 years ago
I had this same idea a few years ago but never had the chance to implement it.
canida3 years ago
Nice! Makes your kitchen look remarkably classy.
scoochmaroo3 years ago
This is really genius. And looks like a lot of work. Well done!
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