Should I use wallpaper as my kitchen backsplash?

Wallpaper is one of my favorite products. I use it in pretty much every project of mine. There are endless options, different colors, textures, and patterns. I can literally get lost in a wallpaper book. When I go through a good book or a showroom I get excited and start to build rooms in my mind. I get inspired. That being said, is wallpaper really a good choice as a kitchen backsplash? I say yes! as long as you choose the right one. I will explain:

Wallpaper is a great choice for a kitchen backsplash. It’s budget-friendly and overall an easy element that you can use to add to or change the look of your kitchen without going on a full remodel mode. The best type of wallpaper for your kitchen backsplash is washable, scrubbable, heat-resistant vinyl wallpaper. Proper vinyl wallpaper can repel liquid and easily be wiped clean, and if it offers heat resistance it should perform well in your kitchen no matter what kitchen zone.

The right paper can serve as a starting off point for an entire room, and that room can certainly be the kitchen. When I see a great pattern I ask myself two questions – one is “where can I use it ?” and the second is “who am I going to do this to?”. You see, wallpaper has the ability to infuse and show personality. There are calm, timeless, and elegant choices, such as a solid color paper with a tactile texture – like a vinyl grasscloth or faux linen (see pictures) that will add to a serene-looking kitchen, and then there are quirky papers with bright fun colors and shapes (pictures) that can really help a fun personality shine through. As I said, wallpaper as a backsplash is a rather easy element that you can use to add to or change the look of your kitchen (much like a rug in the kitchen – you can read here how a rug can upgrade your kitchen design).

Advantages of wallpaper as a kitchen backsplash:

There are advantages to installing wallpaper on a backsplash. Savings of both cost and time are a couple.

Wallpaper is a relatively cheap option to upgrade your kitchen design

Kitchens are one of the most expensive rooms to renovate and using tiles, or stone on the backsplash can be both costly to purchase and install.
The case may also be that stone or tile is just not in the budget right or perhaps it is a rental unit that needs to be spruced up. There are some very well-priced, inexpensive wallpapers that are appropriate for kitchen use and that can be easily applied. Some papers have self-adhesive to make the job even easier and less costly. Using wallpaper in these cases can offer the perfect solution.

Wallpaper can save you time on installation of a backsplash

Some wallpapers are simple to install and can definitely be a rather quick and painless DIY, there are however papers that should be professionally installed (like very costly papers for example). Either way, a wallpaper installation can be shorter than a tile backsplash installation thus saving you time. The kitchen is one of the busiest areas in the house. Every day that the kitchen is shut down is disruptive to any household and so easy and fast installation is a big plus.

What to consider when using wallpaper as your kitchen backsplash

Although a kitchen backsplash is typically not hard used surface it does take a beating from everyday use depending on which Kitchen zone it is at, such as behind the sink (CLEANING AND PREP ZONE) where it gets splashed on or behind the range (COOKING ZONE) where cooking oil and sauces “decorate” it. Being a VERTICAL SURFACE also means it has the potential to be a focal point in the kitchen. All the more reason to choose a material that is easy to take care of and looks great.

Which type of wallpaper should you use for your kitchen?

There are some wallpapers especially targeted for backsplash use that are printed in horizontal pattern (so the rolls are installed left to right), making it easy to understand and see what the end result will look like. Also, these papers being designed for backsplash use come with some water and heat resistance. My recommendation is washable, scrubbable, heat-resistant vinyl wallpaper.

Look at the specification

Because you are looking to apply the wallpaper in a kitchen, heat, stain, and water resistance need to be considered. To find out if the product you are looking at will perform look at the specifications. If you are shopping in person and looking through a sample book you will find them on the back of the paper or the back of the book. If you are online shopping that information should be easily available to you, otherwise either email the supplier or move on to a different product. You should consider using commercial/contract-grade wallpaper.

Commercial/contract grade and Residential grade – what are they?

A commercial/contract grade paper means that the product has gone through extensive testing for durabilities such as scratch and fire resistance and that it can be used in a commercial space (there are different and at times more strict standards for commercially used products). It can also mean that it has an acoustic rating as well as a bacterial-resistant coating (think schools, day-cares, and hospitals). There are two different types of commercial grades Type I and type II – type II being the thicker and stronger of the two. There are different commercial rating standards for European and North-American papers. A residential grade wallpaper means it has been approved for residential use and is not required to necessarily have high scratch resistance or a fire rating because of a typically low-traffic area of application. I consider kitchens high-traffic areas and so a commercial/contract grade paper will offer more peace of mind but it is not a must. As I always tell my clients- think of how you and others use your space and then decide what product is right for you.

Can I only use vinyl wallpaper for my kitchen backsplash?

The answer is no. Although using vinyl wallpaper will most likely be the easiest type to take care of (and we do like easy in the kitchen) you can pretty much choose any other paper.

Wallpaper comes in a variety of different materials such as grasscloth, flocked, fabric (such as silk), and glass beads to name a few. There are endless, beautiful appropriate options out there. No right or wrong – unless you choose ugly- and if you opt for a less durable product there are options of what to do about that.

How to protecr your kitchen wallpaper?

Let’s say you chose a less durable wallpaper and you want to protect it. You can do so by having glass installed on top of it. If you go with glass, then please choose “starphire” glass. In simple terms, starphire glass is a more clear than regular glass. It has much less of the green/blue color in it and that is due to the fact that it is manufactured using less iron. I absolutely love using this type of glass in my projects and always specifying it. The reason is that it will not change the color of whatever is behind it to green (it is especially noticeable if the wall behind it is white like in the case of glass railings or if the tiles are white like in a shower enclosure situation) and now that you know regular glass does this you will notice it. You are welcome. Using starphire glass will ensure that the color of the wallpaper you chose will show as it truly is. You did after all choose it with its color in mind and the last thing you need is to invest money in it and the glass only to get a different color. Starphire glass is more pricy, it’s about 20% more expensive for the material only (not the installation) but it’s absolutely worth it.

Wallpaper pricing

Wallpaper pricing can be confusing. It varies from one manufacturer to the next.
Most wallpaper is priced by the yard – 36” or 91.44 cm but that is not how it is sold.
Some wallpaper is priced by the yard and you can purchase as many yards as you need.
Some manufacturers require you to purchase a minimum amount of yardage and the price can change if you buy over a certain amount.
Some are priced by the roll which is typically 15 yards for vinyl. Grasscloth and paper wallpaper are typically 11 yards (or 10.05 meters) but are sold in two rolls increments- I know this is confusing- look at the back of the wallpaper book for this information or just ask the salesperson.

Wallpaper installation

Certain papers are more challenging to install than others because of how thick they are or how wide like in the case of a 54” wide vinyl. A 54” vinyl wallpaper can be heavy and more finicky to install in a small area such as a backsplash. A 54” paper will mean fewer seams on your backsplash but it may also mean a more challenging installation. If you are planning on a DIY then I suggest going with a vinyl that is 21”-36” wide. Self-adhesive papers make the job even easier.

I always have my wallpaper installer confirm the amount that I need before I place an order. Especially if it’s a pattern that I am using and there’s the extra calculation of the pattern repeat to take into consideration. Also, an installer can foresee future issues that may occur either due to the paper selected or the condition of the walls. It is a good idea to have your installer come over and look at the job prior to ordering or you can send them a picture and measurements of the space. Besides, as a general rule, I have installers check measure whatever it is they are installing such as tiles, carpets, etc. It saves the fun experience of running out of the material halfway through the job. Incidentally, a good installer will check that they have the right amount of materials before starting the job.

Order a little extra wallpaper. Depending on how it is sold this can be an extra roll or a few extra yards (or a drop – this means a length of wallpaper strip measuring from ceiling to floor). There are a couple of reasons for this. One is – things can happen in a job and having the extra material around can be a stress and time saver. The second reason is – like all materials wallpaper is manufactured in batches and one batch can have a different dye lot than another, this means that if you order the same wallpaper at a different time (maybe you decided to add more paper in a different area or you need to remove some of the paper to fix something behind it) you can end up having a color difference between the two orders. So, for insurance, I suggest ordering the extra paper.

You have chosen to use wallpaper for your kitchen backsplash. Be it for decorative or budget reasons. What type should you use? Your best option is a vinyl (commercial grade) paper that is washable, offers heat resistance, and is scrubbable. There are endless wallpaper options out there and some are specifically made to use in kitchens because of their durability, however, if you come across a product that does not possess the above qualities and that you absolutely fall in love with (it happens to the best of us) you can have used it with the added layer of protection of glass (preferably staphire or low-iron glass).


My name is Adi and I have been an interior designer for 17 years and loving it. Over the years I have designed many kitchens. Finding smart and easy to take care of materials, sourcing appliances, lighting, flooring and customizing the kitchen gives me joy. DOKITCH.COM is my way of passing my knowledge on. Feel free to explore..

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