Tips for Wood Backsplashes: An Expert Guide to Choosing, Styling, and Caring for Your Wooden Backsplash


A wood backsplash can be a gorgeous addition to your kitchen. The warm, natural look of wood brings an earthy, rustic feel that is both cozy and elegant. Wood backsplashes became popular over the last decade, as part of the farmhouse chic trend. They provide texture and depth, without the coldness of stone or metal backsplashes.

While beautiful, wood backsplashes require some special considerations when selecting, installing, and caring for them. The unique properties of real wood mean it needs protection from moisture, heat, and impact. With the right choices and care, your wood backsplash can last for many years of functional beauty.

In this guide, we’ll cover tips across the entire process of bringing wood backsplashes into your home:

  • Key aspects to consider when selecting wood backsplash materials
  • Design ideas and styles that look great with wood backsplashes
  • How to properly prep and install wood backsplash panels
  • Maintenance and cleaning best practices to protect your backsplash over time
  • Common mistakes to avoid with wood backsplashes

Follow these wood backsplash tips from planning to long-term care, and you’ll have a stunning focal point in your kitchen for decades to come!

Choosing the Best Materials for a Wood Backsplash

The first step for your new wood backsplash is selecting the right materials. Here are the most important factors to consider when shopping for wood backsplash panels, trim, and accessories:

Wood Type

The essence of any wood backsplash comes down to the wood itself. What species of wood should you choose?

Popular wood backsplash options include:

  • Oak – A classic choice that stains well. White oak works best.
  • Cedar – Has a reddish tone and distinct scent. More moisture-resistant.
  • Maple – Hard and durable, stains uniformly for consistent looks.
  • Cherry – Ages well over time, becoming richer in color.
  • Walnut – Prized for its dark chocolate tones and grain patterns.
  • Hickory – Has a mix of varying grain types for visual interest.
  • Pine – Affordable softwood for a rustic, country look. Needs sealing.
  • Reclaimed Wood – Salvaged barnwood or fencing brings shabby chic charm.

Consider factors like the color tone you want, grain patterns, hardness, and cost when selecting wood species. Also look for boards milled perfectly flat to lie flush on the wall.

Planks, Tiles or Panels?

The next decision is the form your wood backsplash will take – solid plank boards, individual wood tiles, or full panels?

Wood Planks

  • Give a cohesive, seamless look
  • Allow you to control board width
  • Can be installed horizontally, vertically, or diagonally
  • Require precision cutting for outlets and fixtures

Wood Tiles

  • Offer versatility in creating patterns
  • Individual tiles are easier to handle
  • Allow mixing different wood types
  • Grout lines add texture but require maintenance

Wood Panels

  • Streamline installation with precut panels
  • No need to stain, finish or seal boards yourself
  • Limit customization but provide built-in protection
  • Easiest DIY option

Finishes and Protection

Raw wood needs protection from moisture, grease, and impact. Factory-finished wood panels offer some advantages, but boards and tiles will need:

  • Stains – Enhance and enrich the natural wood tones
  • Polyurethane – Water-resistant sealant to prevent water damage
  • Penetrating oil – Soaks into wood for protection without changing surface
  • Wax – Adds satin sheen and mild water resistance

Without the proper finish, your wood backsplash will quickly look worn and warped from kitchen use.


Don’t forget accent pieces like:

  • Trim – Frame edges for a polished look
  • Corner pieces – Maintain pattern around angles
  • Cap rail – An extra decorative border at the top
  • Outlets covers – Coordinate with wood tones
  • Lighting – Under cabinet lights highlight details

With all the fundamentals covered, it’s time to move on to planning and design.

Design Styles for Wood Kitchen Backsplashes

A wood backsplash adds warmth and texture no matter your kitchen’s overall design aesthetic. Here are some of the most popular kitchen styles beautifully complemented by wood backsplashes:

Farmhouse Kitchen Wood Backsplash

No kitchen design pairs better with wood than the beloved farmhouse style. White cabinetry, antique accents, and natural wood elements capture cozy rural charm.

For farmhouse, opt for wider ragged planks in oak, pine, or reclaimed wood installed horizontally. Accent with black metal fixtures.

Rustic Wood Backsplash

Rustic kitchens highlight the raw, natural beauty of wood’s grains and knots. Mix planks, tiles, or panels in varying sizes and wood types – especially aged barnwood.

Stain in deeper tones of walnut, cherry, or ebony. Leave some texture unstained. Try open shelving to expand the wood look.

Modern Kitchen Wood Backsplash

Sleek modern kitchens may seem at odds with wood’s inherent traditional vibe. Yet sleeker stained woods like maple, light-toned cedar, or bamboo have a refined modern appeal.

Minimize visible grout on tiles and keep trim simple. Pair with stone or marble countertops to let the wood pop.

Craftsman Kitchen Wood Backsplash

Based on classic arts and crafts styles, Craftsman kitchens deserve backsplashes with artisanal charm. Interlocking wooden tiles or mosaic patterns deliver.

Mix natural and stained variations of oak, Douglas fir, redwood, birch, or maple. Bonus points for handmade ceramic tile accents.

Transitional Kitchen Wood Backsplash

Transitional kitchens bridge traditional and contemporary. A wood backsplash pairs perfectly with the clean lines of shaker cabinets and stainless steel appliances.

Hickory offers both modern and rustic appearances depending on finish. Lean into the best of both worlds.

Let your overall kitchen design inspire how you employ wood backsplash materials, from layout to color tones. Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of installation.

Preparing and Installing a Wood Backsplash

Once you’ve selected your dream wood backsplash materials, proper preparation and installation are key to making it a reality. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Allow Wood Materials to Acclimate

Wood needs to calibrate to your home’s temperature and humidity before installation. Allow panels, planks or tiles to sit in the installed space for 72 hours minimum beforehand.

Clean and Prepare the Surface

Thoroughly clean the installation area and fill any holes or imperfections for a smooth surface to adhere to. Remove existing backsplash wallpaper or tile if present.

Determine Your Layout

Map out the full backsplash area with tape, accounting for outlets, appliances, corners and lighting. Mix and match wood types as desired.

Cut Boards and Tiles

Use a miter saw with fine tooth blade to cut any custom planks, tiles, or trim to fit your layout. Take time for precision cuts.

Seal and Finish Boards

Apply your chosen sealants, stains, or finishes according to manufacturer instructions. Let fully dry before installing.

Attach Backsplash Panels

Screw backsplash panels directly into wall studs for strongest support. For tiles or planks use cement board.

Grout and Seal Tile Joints

Grout small tile joints with epoxy grout for kitchen use. Remove excess. Apply sealant.

Add Details and Accessories

Install any trim, cap rail, corner pieces, outlets, lighting, and other accessories to finish it off.

Take time to properly prepare your installation space, carefully measure and cut materials, and apply protective finishes. Patience leads to stunning results!

Now that you have your gorgeous new wood backsplash installed, let’s go over how to care for it.

Caring for a Wood Backsplash – Cleaning, Sealing, and Protection

Wood backsplashes require some occasional TLC to keep them looking like new over the years. Here are some tips for protecting and maintaining your wood backsplash:

Use mild cleaners

Clean wood backsplashes with mild dish soap and warm water. Avoid abrasive cleaners or scrubbing pads which can damage the finish.

Seal annually

Reapply protective sealants like polyurethane annually to waterproof and preserve your wood backsplash.

Don’t let water pool

Promptly wipe away any water that collects on a wood backsplash from cooking or cleaning. Pooled water can warp or discolor wood.

Clean splatters quickly

Clean oil splatters right away to prevent staining. For stubborn grease marks, use degreaser and non-abrasive scrubbing.

Touch up scratches

Use wood markers to camouflage minor scratches and nicks in the wood backsplash boards.

Check for moisture damage

Inspect regularly for any cracks, mold, or discoloration indicating water damage. Address leaks promptly.

Reseal grout lines

Epoxy grout is more durable for kitchens than cement grout. Still reseal tile grout every 1-3 years.

Diffuse heat sources

Direct concentrated heat sources like ovens away from wood if possible. Attach a heat shield if needed.

Relocate magnets

Don’t put magnets directly on a wood backsplash. The metal can react with wood and leave stains.

By taking steps to properly care for and maintain your kitchen wood backsplash, you can enjoy its warmth and beauty for decades.

Common Wood Backsplash Mistakes to Avoid

Wood backsplashes add striking, natural style to any kitchen. But there are some pitfalls to be aware of to avoid ending up with a lackluster result. Steer clear of these common wood backsplash mistakes:

Neglecting proper sealing

Wood needs serious protection from water damage in kitchens. Skipping sealants under the false assumption that wood “can breathe” will lead to warping, mold, and peeling finishes.

Positioning too close to heat sources

While beautiful, wood doesn’t hold up well to high concentrated heat. Leave adequate space from heat sources and consider adding heat shields.

Using the wrong wood type

Some wood species like pine are too soft for kitchen backsplash use and will dent and stain easily. Select dense hardwoods instead.

Ignoring building codes

Some building codes prohibit certain types of solid wood backsplashes. Stick with fire-rated products to be safe.

Rushing the installation

Take time to properly prepare the surface and carefully measure and cut planks and tiles for a professional result. No shortcuts.

Not sealing grout

Failing to seal porous cement grout leaves it prone to staining and mold. Use epoxy grout or maintain sealants on cement grout.

Letting water pool

Promptly wiping away water, steam, and moisture is imperative. Allowing it to collect damages wood backsplash boards.

Assuming wood is maintenance-free

Wood backsplashes need resealing, occasional repairs, cleaning touch-ups, and other TLC to maintain their beauty through the years.


Aggressive scrubbing and abrasive cleaners can damage wood backsplash finishes. Take a gentle approach to cleaning wood.

Avoiding these missteps helps ensure your coveted wood backsplash ages gracefully. Now that you’re armed with expert tips and advice, it’s time to move forward confidently with your stunning new focal point!

Frequently Asked Questions About Wood Backsplashes

What are the best woods for kitchen backsplashes?

Oak, maple, cherry, and walnut are top choices. Opt for dense hardwoods over softwoods like pine that are prone to damage.

Do you have to seal a wood backsplash?

Yes, it’s crucial to apply protective sealants to wood backsplashes for moisture, stain, and damage resistance. Polyurethane is a top sealant choice.

What is the most water-resistant wood?

Teak is the gold standard for water resistance, followed by white oak, cedar, and cypress as top choices. Proper sealing boosts any wood’s moisture resistance.

How do you clean a wood backsplash?

Use a soft sponge or cloth with mild dish detergent and warm water. Avoid abrasive cleaners or scrubbers. Immediately dry any standing water.

How long do wood backsplashes last?

With proper installation, sealing, care and maintenance, a wood backsplash should last 10-15 years or more before needing replacement.

Can you put wood backsplash in the kitchen?

Yes, wood backsplashes are a popular kitchen design element. Use dense, moisture-resistant woods finished with waterproof polyurethane or similar sealants.

What is the easiest backsplash to install?

Peel-and-stick backsplash panels and tiles offer the easiest installation for DIYers. Get the look of tile without the hassle of mortaring and grouting.

Should backsplash match countertops?

It’s not mandatory, but often backsplash and countertop materials are coordinated for a cohesive kitchen design. Contrasting can also create an eye-catching statement.

What height should a backsplash be?

Standard backsplash height is 4 inches tall, measured from the countertop surface. Full-height backsplashes extending to cabinets are also popular.


The warmth and organic elegance of wood backsplashes make them a coveted feature in today’s kitchen designs. By selecting suitable wood types, properly installing materials, sealing for protection, and providing routine care, your wood backsplash can be a beautiful focal point in your kitchen for years of enjoyment. Consult this guide when making decisions for your project, and avoid common pitfalls. With the right approach, you can have a stunning yet functional wood backsplash enhancing your culinary space. Add this rustic yet refined element to make your kitchen truly distinctive.