Making the Most of Today's Coved Backsplashes
By Russ Lee
Yet, the popularity of the integral splash is not universal. In certain areas of the South, for example, coved splashes are a rarity, with some large fabricators even refusing to offer the option to their customers. By contrast, in some parts of the North and Midwest, the coved backsplash is considered a standard in most installations. In the West and Southwest, where ceramic tile is still popular, consumer tastes vary from one market to the next.
One of the reasons why some fabricators have discouraged their customers from choosing the coved splash option in times past is the amount of time and effort it takes to build using traditional methods. Adding a coved backsplash to a solid surface installation can easily add upwards of $600 to the total price of the job.
The fabrication process, although not difficult, is an involved process and varies in detail from fabrication shop to fabrication shop. In one popular version, two pieces of solid surface are cut and glued together to form the backsplash section, after which a cove is applied at one end on a router table. After sanding, the assembly is glued into a groove previously cut into the countertop deck.
Once the glue dries, the resulting coved joint between the deck and backsplash is sanded smooth. Cutting, fitting and gluing each of the pieces together in the proper sequence is an exacting and time-consuming process.
Recent advances in fabrication technology, combined with after-market solid surface accessory items, make the inclusion of a coved splash almost as routine as routing the countertop's decorative edge.
While the basic fabrication philosophy remains the same with these new innovations, the time required for fabrication has been reduced. Thus, coved backsplashes have become more economically viable to fabricators and, by extension, to their customers.
Here are some useful techniques for building coved backsplashes successfully.
Molding Inserts: Solid surface fabricator Douglas Ancel of Great Lakes Kitchen and Bath in Standish, MI, noticed a few years back that the number of customer calls for coved backsplashes he fielded at his shop were on the increase. Naturally, he set about looking for a way to accomplish the job with greater speed and efficiency. What he came up with is a product known as Quick Cove, a type of solid surface molding that looks very much like a piece of inside corner mold.
The molding comes with a machined bottom surface and an angled top, which allows it to snap into grooves routed on the countertop deck and the backsplash. Ancel claims the Quick Cove system reduces fabrication time by up to 70% over traditional fabrication techniques.
V-Groove technology: Although v-groove technology has been in use in the woodworking industry for decades, it was still a true breakthrough for solid surface fabricators when Auto V-Grooving of Toronto, Canada, introduced mitre-fold fabrication in the early 1990s. At first, fabricators loved how quickly a drop edge could be built using the technology, and it wasn't long before they were asking for cutters that would produce a mitre-fold profile for a coved splash.
The concept behind the v-groove coving process incorporates the use of precisely ground, three-part rotating cutters, which machine the front side of the solid surface at pre-defined angles. Stretchy tape is applied to the back side of the material directly over the center of the cut, which holds the pieces as they are folded together, in much the same way as a hinge would hold a door. When folded together and glued, the result is a perfectly formed coved backsplash.
The chief advantage to using this method is the quickness with which a coved backsplash can be fabricated in the shop. The disadvantage is that any time the shape of the countertop changes (as with an L- or U-shape top), extensive handwork is required to make the backsplashes match up seamlessly.
Solid surface blanks: It was only a matter of time before somebody came to market with a solid surface "blank" featuring a built-in front edge and coved backsplash, similar to those found in the post-form laminate countertop industry. Not surprisingly, Hartson-Kennedy, a company long associated with the production of post-form countertops, has introduced a line of solid surface tops featuring built-in splashes and front edges. Because the steps of cutting and gluing up drop edges and backsplashes have been eliminated for the fabricator, processing time in the shop is greatly reduced.
Cerfold, as the product is known, is available in 25 colors, and offers a number of styles specifically designed for kitchen and bathroom installations. Deck seams, however, are fabricated differently than traditional solid surface in that they require a mitred joint instead of a butt joint where the two countertop sections come together.
The examples I have mentioned in this article are just a few of
the many new innovations in products and techniques available to fabricators to help them build coved splashes better and in a more timely fashion. You might wish to contact your own fabricator for more details.