If you need cheap kitchen backsplash ideas, I have one idea that’s cheaper than any of the others I’ve seen: Fiber-Reinforced Plastic, or FRP. With FRP, you can knock out a backsplash with less than $50 worth of materials.
It’s not the best looking material but it’s cheap, easy to work with, and readily available. It will do a good job for you until you can get something better. It’s both cheaper and more durable than many cheap kitchen backsplash ideas I see elsewhere. And since I said ideas, I’ll share one more idea I like a little less, but it’s clever.
FRP as a cheap kitchen backsplash
Big home improvement stores sell FRP in 4×8 sheets for less than $25. The FRP panels you’ll find there are white and have a slightly bumpy texture. It’s waterproof and cleans up easily.
The drawback with FRP, at least in white, is that it’s really plain looking and makes your kitchen look like a restaurant kitchen, because that’s what restaurants use for backsplashes, or, for that matter, entire walls in their kitchens. Bathrooms in office buildings frequently have FRP-lined walls too. The reason is simple. It’s inexpensive and extremely easy to take care of.
Now, if you’re willing to special order, pay a bit more, and can deal with not getting it this very weekend, you can get FRP in other colors. This gets rid of the sterile look while letting you keep the positive low-maintenance aspects. You can expect to pay $30-$35 for a 4×8 sheet of FRP in a color other than white. Considering you probably only need one, it can still be a cheap project. When you choose your color, make sure you can get a color of kitchen-grade caulk that’s reasonably close.
Cutting FRP to kitchen backsplash size
You can scribe and snap FRP to cut it to size, or use a cheap electric metal shear, which costs $50. I think that’s the best way to cut FRP. It’s rated for 14 gauge metal. I don’t know how it does on metal, but it cuts FRP very quickly and easily. If I were going to cut metal, I think I would rather have a more expensive one. But a cheap shear works well on soft plastic.
Attaching FRP to complete your cheap kitchen backsplash
The solvents in ordinary construction adhesive melt FRP, so don’t use it. You need specially made FRP adhesive, which costs about $22 for a gallon. One gallon will be more than enough for a kitchen backsplash.
To keep from making a mess, I like to mask off the border with masking tape. Leave about 1/8-1/16 inch between the tape and the edge of where the FRP will go to avoid gluing the tape underneath the FRP. With some tape along the border, it keeps you from needing to clean up excess adhesive afterward. Just peel off the tape.
Wear gloves while working with the adhesive, as it’s not easy to wash off your hands.
You can apply it with a trowel, but a trowel is hard to get into a one-gallon bucket, so I just use a large paintbrush to apply it in smaller quantities. You’ll ruin the brush, so use one of the cheap 3-inch brushes you can get at a dollar store. Smear on a generous coat.
FRP adhesive grabs pretty quickly, so once you stick the FRP piece into place, it will want to stick pretty well. I can put up a 4-foot run of FRP myself without help. If you’re doing an 8-foot run, you may want a helper. The grab isn’t instant, so once you push it up against the wall, you can slide it around a little to line it up how you want it.
You’re not done yet, though. You need to roll the surface. I like to use a floor roller, but in a pinch you can use a kitchen rolling pin. The pressure removes the air pockets and helps the adhesive to grab and get a firm grip.
Finishing up your cheap kitchen backsplash of FRP
Once the adhesive is dry, I like to caulk the edges and corners to protect it. Use a kitchen and bathroom-grade caulk in a color that’s as close to the FRP color as you can find, and let the caulk cure according to the instructions on the package before putting the kitchen back into use.
White FRP has a commercial look and some may find it too sterile. But if it looks better than what you have, FRP makes for an effective and cheap kitchen backsplash and can buy you time until you can afford the kitchen of your dreams. A neutral-colored FRP, however, can be pleasing and could stay for the long haul. New homeowners frequently get in over their heads with renovations and run out of money. So it’s good to have an option for a good-enough cheap kitchen backsplash to get you by.
Another cheap kitchen backsplash idea: Vinyl
You can use vinyl planks on walls. And the same technique will work with square vinyl tiles too. It won’t be as watertight as FRP, so I don’t like the idea as much, but you’ll have a lot more options as far as the look you can get, if you can find a pattern or design you don’t mind on your wall. Vinyl planks and tiles generally cost around a dollar per square foot and you can usually buy the exact quantity you need, so there isn’t much waste.