New technology can rescue unsightly formica backsplash

Q. Is possible to wallcover a smooth and shiny surface? Can you cover a formica backsplash? What about water resistance?

- M. A. F., Langhorne, Pa.

A. Not many materials can be expected to stick to formica. Its smooth surface has traditionally meant that wallcovering it was not possible. But new primers now make covering slick surfaces like formica an option, says Dianne Donnelly, decorative products specialist for Sherwin-Williams in Hingham, Mass.

Adhesion between formica and wallcovering is best achieved by using a universal wallcover primer sealer. This primer will securely bond the two materials while acting as a barrier between them as well, allowing for future separation should you want to replace the wallcovering or expose the original formica.

Make sure to carefully seal around the edges of the wallcovering to prevent water seepage.

Fabric-backed vinyl wallcovering is a good choice for a backsplash because of its excellent water resistance, which makes for easy scrubbing and cleaning.

But vinyl is not your only option. If the main objective is a change of color, you could use paint.

Until recently, the only paints which would adhere to shiny surfaces left a glossy, industrial-looking finish. Today, you can apply an advanced bonding primer to formica, and then apply a flat paint after the primer has dried. Newer, chemically advanced flat paints can now be washed and cleaned as easily as glossy paints.

Wallcovering is usually applied vertically, but for a backsplash, which is a short expanse, horizontal strips may be best, and mean fewer seams. The only reason to wallcover vertically for a backsplash would be to preserve the integrity of a pattern hard to create horizontally.

Readers: Pose your questions and we'll seek out experts on home repairs, gardens, food, and family legal issues. Send queries to the Homefront Editor, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail

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