Monday, February 4, 2013

Copper Walls in Trailer Kitchen

We knew that there were various aesthetic improvements we wanted to make our new Jayco Jay Flight 28BHS trailer, as well as functional improvements. The first of these, for various reasons, was the kitchen backsplash. Danielle had disliked the "brickwork" contact paper backsplash used in the 2012 model year since she first saw it.  I was not quite as fussed about it but would have preferred a plain wall.  She hoped that they would change it for the the 2013 model year, but when ours arrived, the kitchen looked very much like this stock photo, showing the original decor of a unit with a "Driftwood" interior like ours.

Stock photo, driftwood interior The "brick" backsplash above the kitchen counter here is a strip of contact paper that goes all the way around the kitchen. It goes under the window frame and corner bead molding in the kitchen.  If you're thinking about doing a similar project, be warned that Jayco used permanent contact paper, so it is very difficult to remove and leaves a stubborn, sticky residue behind.  After escalating up through progressively more potent chemicals, we only succeeded in damaging the decorative finish on the wall.

Danielle's original idea was to remove the contact paper and replace it with another contact paper or, as I suggested, to leave the wall undecorated. Once we realized the amount of sticky residue left behind from removing the old paper, we decided to pursue a more complete renovation using Fasade thermoplastic panels, available at both Home Depot and Lowe's. We tested various colors and patterns, and decided on one called "Rings" in an Antique Bronze finish. This choice surprised us a bit, since the cabinet fittings are all pewter-finish, but we both liked the warmth of the bronze finish and the geometric design. The panels were in stock at our local store, which was a major bonus.

Sink with panel Each of the panels had to be cut and fitted to the wall, as they were about 1/2 inch too tall for the space, even here behind the sink. We removed as much of the original trim between the counter and wall as possible.  It is not a silicone sealant but a vinyl trim piece stapled to the back edge of the countertop.  We couldn't get enough of it out for the panel to slide neatly behind it, so cutting was required.

To avoid having an edge of the thermoplastic panel exposed anywhere, we decided to continue the paneling all the way to the edge of the wall past the kitchen counter and to add partial pieces in a strip to take it to the ceiling and floor, both on the bedroom door side and on the side next to the couch. We finished it with oak molding where it met the counter and cabinets, and with a heavier strip of oak to make the "door frame" more structural-looking. Next to the couch, the paneling ends behind the slide-out. The oak moldings were finished with a Minwax English Chestnut stain and a satin polyurethane. I nailed them in with 1" finish nails using an air-powered nail gun.

Window and stove wall with panel Cutting the panels for this side of the kitchen was more challenging. Fortunately, since we started with a partial panel in the corner, the window spanned two panels, as did the electrical box, which made the cutting much easier. Planning is important in a project like this, but here we just got lucky!

It takes fairly heavy kitchen shears to cut the thermoplastic (the instructions recommend tin snips, but ours are too bulky to get a nice cut). Even so, Danielle reported that her hand was very sore before she finished with the cutting.

We removed the window valance, miniblind, and window frame so that the panel could be installed beneath them, then replaced them when we were done. I am not sure anything but caulk holds the window in place once the inner trim piece is removed, so we were careful not to push on the window!

It was interesting to see the detail of how the valance was assembled and mounted. The valance is a simple box of thin wood, covered with fabric, padded in front and on the sides. The fabric is folded tightly back over the top (using hospital corners), and stapled to the inside of the box. There is a sort of "L"-bracket inside the valance, which mounts the valance to the wall.  We might consider covering with a different material in the future since the charcoal grey fabric is the one item that does not complement the bronze panels.

This picture also shows the placement of the remote display for the charge controller we installed as part of our earlier solar project.

Around the range hood was the trickiest area to cut. In our unit, the hood is mounted tightly to the wall, so the panel couldn't slide behind it. The exact contour of the cabinet and range hood had to be traced and cut out of the plastic. The plastic is fairly thick and three-dimensional: the rings are raised, making it difficult to cut straight lines, so intricate cuts are very tricky. This photo actually shows a "reject piece," where Danielle couldn't get a close enough cut and decided that she needed to start over.

A matching strip of Antique Bronze contact paper, also available at Home Depot (intended for covering switch plates), was installed behind the panels, hiding the seam where the panel did not perfectly meet the edge of the cabinet and range hood.

Stove and range hood with panel The panels were installed using Loctite construction adhesive, as recommended by Fasade. We had to go with the adhesive because we knew from experience with our prior trailer that double-stick tape dies in the 100-plus degree temperatures of a Texas summer. We hope that the adhesive will hold up, especially here behind the stove. The manufacturer states "Even though these panels are “Class A” fire retardant, they can be deformed with excessive heat. Never expose to heat over 140°F. Keep toaster ovens, cooking ranges, etc. 2-3 inches away from the backsplash panel’s surface."

The finished effect is excellent. It is hard to see the seam where the panel meets the edge of the range hood without crawling in close or look at. Similarly, the seams between the thermoplastic panels are not obvious, though this pattern makes it harder to hide them completely than it might have been using a pattern with rectangular features.

Detail of under-cabinet trim One minor frustration in this project was the fact that the cabinets weren't mounted perfectly, so the corner cabinet starts almost a quarter-inch lower on the wall than the cabinet above the sink does. This prevented us from using a single strip of molding under the cabinet along the wall. To avoid an ugly seam where the two cabinets met, we decided to add a small strip of oak with a roundover to the front edge of the cabinet, continuing the strip back to the wall on the corner cabinet. This also hides the ugly light fixture above the sink to some extent, though we may replace it someday anyway.

Dragonfly hooks While shopping for this project, Danielle found these "dragonfly" hooks at Lowe's. They look pretty nice here, even paired with the antique bronze of the backsplash. We'll use them to hold dog leashes, as they are mounted on the cabinet directly in front of the door of the unit.

As usual with our projects, we had a bit of "scope creep" on this one, and an aesthetic annoyance turned into a major "glamping." However, we're pleased with the final effect. All told, we used 10 panels at $22 each, plus the cost of glue and moldings.

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