Making the Most of Today’s Coved Backsplashes

by WOHe

Making the Most of Today’s Coved

By Russ Lee

Some people say that no solid surface installation is complete
unless it includes a coved backsplash along the back wall perimeter
of the cabinets. Certainly nothing beats the gracefulness of a
monolithic solid surface radius where the countertop deck and
backsplash come together. Whether it is the same color as the rest
of the countertop or features a contrasting color for effect,
adding a cove to the installation creates a feeling of permanence
and style that silicone caulk or grout lines simply are unable to

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

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

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

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.

Quicker solutions
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

  • 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

  • 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
    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
    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.

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