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How to Replace a Formica Backsplash

Is your countertop in good shape but your Formica backsplash is deteriorating? The reason it’s swollen is because the board was made from pressed wood/particleboard. If your mica is a current color and not considered discontinued plastic laminate, then it’s possible to switch out the splash without removing the kitchen, bathroom vanity or laundry room counter.

Some mica backsplashes get screwed to the countertop from underneath and others only get glued to the wall to secure them. If yours is screwed on and you can remove the countertop easily, then take it out and remove the splash by removing the securing screws.

When the new backsplash is fabricated it should be made from pine or ¾” thick plywood. If you’re making the replacement, fabricate it a little higher than the existing one. This will cover up the caulking and paint line on the wall.

How to Fix a Plastic Laminate Backsplash That is Damaged

I learned how to fix a water damaged back splash through trial and error. The insight I have gained will help you if you decide to replace the plastic laminate splash yourself. If you want to attempt repairing the damage here are a few tips.

  • Cut the caulk line along the wall with a razor knife. Be extra careful with this tool.
  • To remove the old splash, use a stiff putty knife and a hammer. Just be extra careful to not scratch the surface of the countertop. Work from the top of the splash, separating it from the wall. Be careful to not pry against the wall too much because it will collapse.
  • If there are screws sticking up from the counter top, once you get the deteriorating particleboard piece off, either break them off or leave them. If you decide to leave them in place, it will be necessary to notch out the new backsplash around them.
  • Breaking the screws off is not really recommended as a first option. If you decide to break them off, do this by tapping them back and forth until they snap off. If this doesn’t work, take a hack saw blade and cut the screw part way through and try tapping it again.
  • Fabricate the replacement Formica backsplash using pine or plywood.
  • Before gluing it into place put it on the countertop and see how well it fits. If there are gaps, apply pressure downward, to see if the splash will rest tightly on the surface of the countertop. If not, you have two options: 1) Scribe the backsplash with a belt sander to fit the contour of the Formica top. 2) Loosen the screw that are holding the mica countertop down and place shims between the cabinet and the counter where the gaps are located. Do this until you have completely eliminated the gaps.
  • Put a thin bead of colored caulking on either the bottom of the plastic laminate backsplash or on the Formica countertop.
  • Because you cannot screw the splash into place, it will need to be adhered to the wall with an adhesive. You can do this with either Liquid Nail or caulking. Apply generous portions of the adhesive in large squirts about 2 ½” in diameter and place them about 12” apart on the back of the pine or plywood.
  • Cut prop sticks that will be jammed between the backsplash and the upper cabinetry bottoms to hold the splash in place while it is drying.
  • Wipe the colored caulking off really good. If you need to re-caulk the seam because there are minor voids do so. Just make sure that you don’t leave a large caulk line that is visible. They look very unattractive. Professional cabinet makers never leave large lines of caulking.

So that’s how you replace a swollen plastic laminate backsplash that has been water damaged. If there is not a lot of evidence of the particle board deteriorating but has expanded, it may be difficult to remove the splash from the counter top if it is screwed on. Do Not damage the plastic laminate surface of the countertop, be extra careful.

Categories: Backsplashes
  1. Tomarcus Ocel
    February 14th, 2010 at 05:29 | #1

    What do you recommend for the counter top base?
    Some recommend MDF. Others recommend particleboard and the list goes on…
    I need some professional advise.


  2. admin
    February 20th, 2010 at 09:19 | #2

    Whereever there is a seam in the top section of the counter, I like to use plywood. The rest of the counter can be particle board. Always use pine or plywood for the backsplashes.

    If you want to make the entire counter our of plywood the expence is not that great, go for it.

  3. SC Alexis
    February 1st, 2011 at 06:24 | #3

    The particleboard backsplash I’m replacing was white. Should I paint the pine replacement white to match? Or any other ideas to keep it as protected from water as possible?

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