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For a simple, subtle, cost-effective alternative to tile, try pressed tin
By Larry F. Williams

Replacing the brown-and-gold wall tile in the original kitchen with a light-colored backsplash contributed significantly to lightening and updating the room, and because we used pressed tin rather than the usual ceramic tile, the backsplash is also an interesting decorating element. 

We ordered the tin (normally used on ceilings) by mail from Chelsea Decorative Metal Co. It comes in 2ft x 4ft. sheets in a variety of patterns. We chose a pattern with a 6in x 6in. squares. 

The first step is to cut the tin to size (photos 1-3). 

Apply construction adhesive (
photo 4); then position the tin on the wall (photo 5). We decided to butt the factory-finished edge against the countertop so the cut edge would be hidden by the underside of the cabinets. If you like, you could cover the edges with small moldings. When you have the sheet in position, nail it in place (photo 6); then use a nail set to drive the heads flush with the tin (photo 7). Your pattern will dictate where the tin stops on the wall when there is no upper cabinet. 

photo 7 you can see how the tin extends beyond the upper cabinet (to the edge of the countertop). If we had cut the tin to the same height as the part that's underneath the cabinet, we would have had to cut through a square, leaving an ugly edge at the top. Instead, we followed the pattern, cutting the tin at the top of the square so the edge would be smooth and natural looking. 

For the best results, follow the pattern wherever possible, and position the sheets so the cut edges are hidden in corners.

After we fastened all the tin in place, we wiped it down with a paint thinner in case there was any oil on it; then we let the thinner dry and applied oil-based primer (Kilz) with a roller and paintbrush. When the primer was dry, we sanded it, wiped off the dust and applied two coats of a semigloss oil-based enamel, again using a roller and paintbrush. Before applying the second coat of paint, we caulked all exposed edges, including where the tin abut the countertop, with a paintable latex caulk and then painted over it.


1. Using a long straightedge and a felt-tip pen, measure and mark the height and length of the pieces and any cutouts for electrical boxes, etc.


2. Cut the sheets to size using tin snips. Be careful to make straight cuts. The tin is sharp — you may want to wear gloves!


3. Carefully make all of the necessary cutouts.


4. Apply construction adhesive such as Liquid Nails to the back of the tin.


5. The installer positioned the tin so one row of squares overlapped for a practically invisible seam.


6. A pneumatic pin nailer makes quick work of fastening the tin to the wall.


7. Use a nail set so the nail heads will be invisible when painted.


Completed Example

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