Aluminum flashing, for those not familiar with it, is actually a building and construction product used in conjunction with roofing. But we're not here to talk about using it for its intended purpose. We're here to see how we can repurpose it creatively for our interiors.
Creative solutions come into play often when it comes to interior design. Each home, room or project will be different and have its own design challenges that must be met and solved. Whether the challenge calls for a functional or aesthetic solution, solving the dilemma can be quite rewarding. Especially when you think outside-the-box.
Using building and construction materials in unconventional ways in design is another method of "repurposing". We are taking a product and finding a new function or use for it. Using products such as aluminum flashing develops an industrial feel which many people crave.
Think of an old brick-walled loft with a two-story atrium, exposed ventilation ducts and electrical conduit suspended from the ceiling. Although we are not going quite that industrial, the appeal for these finishes is quite strong. Brushed aluminum, nickel and chrome are mainstays in modern and contemporary design. Aluminum flashing just seems to fit quite well and begs to be used for more than roofing.
I stumbled upon aluminum flashing while strolling around one of my favorite home improvement stores. Once I saw it, numerous ideas popped into my head. See some of the examples in use below.
In the above examples you can see how the addition of aluminum flashing to these kitchen cabinets provides a modern, industrial touch, or oddly enough, a retro feel (think 1950's diners).
The cabinets previously had plain, unfinished base molding. The upper trim was strictly added as a decorative accent to break up the black and mimic the horizontal influence of the base molding.
Aluminum flashing runs the length of these kitchen counters as a backsplash. Black ceramic wall tiles were added to create a nice focal feature behind the stove.
The flashing ties in well with the stainless steel appliances used throughout the space.
If you decide to use aluminum flashing in some of your design projects, please note the following.
Aluminum flashing comes in different thicknesses so see which thickness works best for your application. If you are running a long stretch of wall such as the counter backsplash above, a thicker sheet works best. The material does dent easily so keep that in mind and work slowly.
It also comes in different widths (height) and lengths. If you select one close to the width you require for your application, you may eliminate the need to cut it; other than in length.
Cutting it can sometimes be problematic, especially if you need a nice straight edge which is most often the case. Use a metal straight edge ruler and dot points every couple of feet with a grease pencil (china marker) to mark the line you want to cut. Place the flashing on a floor that won't be damaged from a utility knife possibly cutting into it. I had an old piece of linoleum that I did my cuts on, or consider laying a flat piece of cardboard beneath the flashing.
Remember, if you must stop and start your cuts, there will be a greater chance your line won't be straight. Be sure the cardboard you are cutting on is large enough to accommodate long, continuous cuts if possible.
Use a utility knife with a new blade for best results. It is best to score your line a few times until it is cut through rather than trying to cut completely through on the first pass. Remember, excessive pushing into the material while cutting it could produce dents or waviness in the finished piece you want to use.
Cut a section of flashing off the roll and do some test cuts into it with your metal ruler and utility knife. Practice getting a nice straight edge.
Note: Use extreme caution when working with a utility knife and with aluminum. Sharp edges can cut! Work slowly.
Adhere the flashing with an extremely light coat of Liquid Nails or similar adhesion caulk. Do not place big dabs on the back as they may show up as an outward dent or bump in the finish once the flashing is adhered to the wall, cabinet or other substrate you use. Aluminum is extremely light and adhering it in place does not take much effort. You do want your edges to stay firmly adhered however so use a bit of extra care in those areas.
You can also lightly tack it into place with small nails which is what I did for the cabinet base and accent molding. Tap the nails in carefully and avoid striking the flashing hard with the final hammer tap to avoid dents. Keep the nail flush with the surface of the flashing to avoid any wavy or dented appearance.
Note: Aluminum flashing may have a shiner front and duller back-side finish. Be certain the side you want exposed is facing outward.
Adding aluminum flashing creates a unique, decorative touch but it is not completely child-friendly. I suggest using flashing only in areas where children may not come in contact with it. Even adults should be careful where they use it to avoid any chance of potential cuts.
Aluminum inserts and accent paints were used to give this old, farm style cabinet and sink ensemble a fun twist.
Aluminum flashing is only one example of a building material being "repurposed". Take a walk around your home improvement store and look for other items to repurpose in your designs.
Some other materials to consider are faux tin ceiling tiles. Use them for a kitchen backsplash or a wall covering. If you have the means to cut it, diamond plate sheeting can produce a cool, industrial vibe.
Be creative with your solutions, whether functional or aesthetic, and get noticed!