Preparing and Installing High Gloss Acrylic Kitchen Splashbacks

The latest trend in interior design, high gloss kitchen splashbacks are a colourful and modern alternative to glass splashbacks offering a flawless and long lasting finish.

The high gloss is created by a layer of clear acrylic which is coextruded over a layer of coloured acrylic. The remarkable light admittance of the clear acrylic allows the colour to show through, resulting in a vibrancy and depth of colour not seen in other acrylic sheets.

Plexiglas Hi-Gloss acrylic can be mounted as a splashback around the kitchen behinds sinks and work surfaces, though it should not be used behind a hob or other heat source. Exposure to high temperatures can warp acrylic over time, so if the high gloss is to be installed behind a hob a heat-shielding material such as toughened glass should also be used to protect the acrylic.

High gloss acrylic sheets are fastened to a wall or supporting structure with a high-strength double-sided tape along with crosslinking silicone to ensure a flawless and long lasting finish with no distortion to the surface of the sheet. However before the sheet is installed there are a number of preparations to make to both the sheet and the substrate to ensure the splashback looks its best.

Top Tip: High gloss acrylic sheet will be delivered with a masking film on the surface to protect from scratches and marks – don’t remove this film until the sheet is installed!

You may wish to drill and cut the acrylic sheet before installing to make holes for plug sockets, pipes or other wall features which will interrupt your splashback. To do this extreme care must be taken to prevent the sheet from cracking or breaking, so it is recommended that only pre-ground twist drill bits that are designed for use with acrylic sheet are used. When drilling the sheet, the drill bit should be positioned slowly and carefully pushed through. Slow the feed as the bit reaches the other side to prevent chipping of the coloured layer, and it may be beneficial to use a piece of wood as a supporting material. To cool the acrylic simply apply tap water to the area that has been drilled.

To saw the sheet, non-vibrating high speed machine should be used to achieve the cleanest-cut edges which may then be polished to restore the high gloss lustre. Circular hand and table saws may be used, but should only protrude slightly beyond the surface of the sheet to minimise vibration and movement. Jigsaws are also suitable for cutting high gloss acrylic sheets, and will effectively and neatly saw the plastic if only straight-tooth blades are used and if care is taken to place the shoe firmly on the masking film. This will safeguard the acrylic from unwanted chipping, preserving the edge for the most professional finish to the splashback. Once again, tap water may be used to cool the acrylic after cutting.

Top Tip: Measure twice, cut once!

Once your colourful high gloss acrylic sheet has been shaped to fit your kitchen, you may wish to finish the edges and restore that crystal-clear lustre to the splashback. This is particularly important where the edge may be visible and it will give the splashback an almost glass-like effect and the high transparency of the plastic will allow the layer of colour to be seen.

To smooth off and buff the edges of high gloss acrylic, wet sanding should first be carried out in three stages with three grades of sandpaper:

• First, coarse sandpaper of 80-240 grit

• Then, medium sandpaper of 400 grit

• And finally, fine sandpaper of 600-1000 grit

Once the sanding process has been finished and the rough edges of the plastic caused by sawing or cutting have been smoothed out, the shine can be restored to the acrylic with the use of a polishing wax, paste or even a commercially available car polish. Many cut plastic sheeting suppliers will recommend a brand of polishing wax or paste, and this product will prove useful later on as a means of removing scratches from the surface of the plastic which may incur through years of use. For edge finishing, apply the polishing product and buff with a soft material. A buffing wheel will deliver extremely satisfying results for edge finishing.

Top Tip: Concealed edges may be finished by simply deburring with a scraper or a file.

Once the sheet is fully prepared, it’s time to prepare the wall or substrate for installing the high gloss splashback. High gloss acrylic sheeting may be installed on a number of surfaces including:

• Waterproof gypsum wall board

• Coated moisture-resistant chipboard

• Coated MDF

• Firmly installed mirror tiles

• Stone or concrete coated with latex paint

• And many more

The key requirements of a suitable substrate for a high gloss acrylic kitchen splashback are that it is water resistant, flat and uniform in profile, and free from loose material. Preparation of the substrate is a key part of installing a splashback, and the better the substrate the better the surface of the acrylic will look once it is installed. All walls and substrates must be clean, flat, dry, free from grease and dust, solid and load bearing.

Once the sheet and the wall have been prepared and properly finished, the splashback is ready for installation. Here we will discuss the recommended method for permanent wall installation of high gloss acrylic, such as in a kitchen as a splashback surface.

Top Tip: Before final installation, perform some ‘dry runs’ to ensure the sheet is cut correctly and the substrate is properly prepared. Once bonded there’s no going back!

Before applying the bonding materials to the wall, clean the reverse of the acrylic sheet with isopropyl alcohol or petroleum ether, this will remove any traces of dust or grease which may undermine the adhesive. Then we are ready to apply the adhesive to the substrate. I would recommend 19mm double-sided mirror tape and crosslinking silicone strips positioned between the tape. The silicone beads should be between 3 and 4mm in height, and the strips of tape and silicone should be evenly distributed with just enough space to prevent the silicone from coming into contact with the tape once it spreads out.

Once you think the sheet is ready to go on the wall, position it at a 45o angle before straightening it against the wall and pressing it firmly and evenly. Using a spirit level helps to improve the evenness of the spread, resulting in the even distribution of the silicone and the surface of the acrylic being absolutely flat. When you are happy that the sheet is firmly bonded to the wall, leave it to set for twenty-four hours.

Once the silicone has set, finish off the edges and joins in the splashback with a waterproofing silicone seal and remove the masking film from the surface. After allowing the seals to dry for a further twenty-four hours the splashback will be finished and ready to enjoy!

Top Tip: Don’t remove the protective film until you have finished work in your kitchen!

Once installed, many years of flawless performance can be expected from a high gloss acrylic kitchen splashback, but nevertheless care should be taken to protect the surface of the sheet.

Acrylic is a fantastic and hygienic material for use in food preparation areas, and it is very easily maintained. All that is needed to remove dirt from the surface of high gloss acrylic is a soft cloth, a little detergent and some warm water. The warm water softens the deposits while the soap creates a lubricating layer which protects the plastic from any damage. Once wiped away with a soft cloth, the acrylic will be restored to its best condition.

There is no need to use scourers, abrasive cleaning products or harsh chemicals when cleaning high gloss acrylic. Using any of these methods will very likely scratch and damage the surface of acrylic leaving it susceptible to bacteria and mould growth, and leading to the rapid deterioration of the high gloss shine.

Inevitably, with years of use it is probable that a high gloss kitchen splashback will become scratched. Thankfully, removing the scratches from the surface of acrylic is easy and it is simple to keep a splashback in ‘as new’ condition. Small hairline scratches and marks can be removed with the use of a polishing paste or wax. If you used such a product to finish off the edges of the sheet prior to installation the same can be used to buff fine scratches out of the sheet. Simply employ the same technique used in buffing the edges of the sheet with a soft cloth and a great amount of care.

If the scratches are larger, for example if they can be felt by lightly running a fingernail over them, use a fine sandpaper of 600-1000 grit to gently smooth out the scratch and then buff with the polishing product. If proper care and gentle cleaning methods are carried out, there’s no reason why a plastic kitchen splashback shouldn’t provide years of unblemished high gloss and a modern finish for your kitchen.

Top Tip: Regular cleaning with warm water, a little soap and a soft cloth will keep an acrylic kitchen splashback at its best.

High gloss acrylic is available in a number of colour options to suit all interior design tastes and styles of kitchen from cut to size plastic suppliers. Many stockists of high gloss acrylic offer to drill, cut and polish the edges of the sheet for you to deliver it ready for installation! Installing a high gloss acrylic kitchen splashback is a fantastic way to modernise an interior and introduce a startling colour scheme, and as we have seen they are very easy to install and maintain.

I do hope you have found this little ‘how-to’ guide useful!