Installing a beautiful backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can really enhance the look and feel of the space. But before you start sticking those tiles up, it’s important to understand what your wall surface is and how that impacts the backsplash installation process. So can you put backsplash tile on drywall?
The Short Answer
Yes, you can install a backsplash directly on drywall as long as you take the proper preparation steps. While tile manufacturers recommend installing tile over cement board for walls that will get wet, it is possible to install backsplash over drywall successfully under certain conditions.
Proper planning and preparation are key when installing backsplash on drywall. The drywall needs to be in good condition, properly primed and painted, and may require a water-resistant coating. Special care should be taken around sinks, stove tops, and other sources of moisture. With careful installation and grouting, a beautiful backsplash can be achieved on drywall.
Benefits of Using Drywall for Backsplash
There are a few advantages to using drywall rather than cement board for a backsplash:
- Cost – Drywall is generally cheaper than cement board, making it a budget-friendly option. The materials for a drywall backsplash can cost $50-100 less than cement board.
- Easier to cut and work with – Drywall is easier for the DIYer to measure, cut, and install compared to cement backsplash. No special tools or blades needed.
- Familiar material – For those comfortable working with drywall, it avoids learning new techniques that cement board requires.
- Lightweight – Drywall weighs less than cement board, making it easier to lift and attach to walls solo.
So if you’re looking to save money and time on your project, drywall can be an ideal backsplash substrate in the right situation.
Considerations for Using Drywall
While drywall backsplash is possible, there are some important factors to consider:
Moisture resistance – Drywall is made of gypsum and paper rather than waterproof cement. Prolonged moisture exposure can cause drywall to warp, bubble, or grow mold.
Strength and durability – Cement board is more rigid and durable than drywall. Drywall may be prone to damage from cracks in grout or tiles being knocked off the wall.
Water exposure – Drywall should not be used for backsplashes directly behind a sink basin or stove where it will be exposed to steam, splashing water, or grease. Opt for cement board or water-resistant drywall in these wet areas.
Existing drywall condition – Don’t install backsplash over damaged, moldy, or loose drywall. Fix any issues with the underlying drywall before tiling.
With the right precautions, drywall can perform perfectly fine for a basic backsplash installation away from direct water contact. Let’s look at how to prep and install backsplash tile on drywall successfully.
How to Prepare Drywall for Backsplash
Proper planning and prep work are crucial when using drywall as a backsplash substrate. Here are the key steps:
1. Inspect and Repair the Drywall
Examine the drywall carefully for any existing damage, mold, or loose joints. Repair any holes, cracks, orProblem areas using drywall joint compound and tape. The surface needs to be in good condition before tiling.
2. Clean and Prime the Drywall
Clean the drywall surface thoroughly to remove any dirt, grease, or other residues which could prevent adhesion.
Priming helps seal the surface so moisture doesn’t penetrate into the drywall paper. Use a quality primer designed for tile and masonry application. Cover the entire backsplash area, allowing the primer to fully dry.
3. Waterproof Coating (Optional)
For extra moisture protection, apply a waterproofing paint or sealer over the primed drywall. Products like RedGard or Laticrete Hydro Ban work well. Apply per manufacturer instructions with complete coverage.
4. Mark Your Layout
Map out the tile design and layout right on the primed drywall using a pencil. Mark the lower edge, vertical lines for the first whole tiles, and score horizontal lines spaced for the tile heights.
5. Cut Outlets or Switches
Trace a box around any outlets or switches in the backsplash area. Use a drywall saw or utility knife to cut out the openings so tiles can fit neatly around them later.
With the drywall prepped, it’s time to focus on the tile installation process.
Installing Backsplash Tile on Drywall
Follow these best practices for installing a backsplash directly onto drywall:
Choose Appropriate Tile
Pick tile material that is designed for walls and backsplash use. Good options include:
- Ceramic or porcelain tile
- Glass tile
- Mosaic tile sheets
- Stone veneer tiles
Avoid heavy natural stone tiles which require a more robust backing. Stick with tiles under 6 pounds per square foot.
Opt for white thinset adhesive rather than mastic for a stronger bond, especially with larger format tiles.
Plan Your Tile Layout
A well-planned layout is key to a successful installation. Mix different sizes, patterns, listellos, and accents to create visual interest. Use tapered edge tiles on the sides. Map it all out beforehand.
Prepare the Tiles
Wash all tiles before installing. Cut any edge pieces needed to fit around corners or edges using a wet saw. Follow all manufacturer instructions.
Apply the Thinset
Use a notched trowel to spread a thin, even layer of thinset adhesive on the wall over a small section. Hold the trowel at a 45 degree angle to create ridges for tile adhesion. Don’t cover too large an area that the thinset could dry before tiles are placed.
Set the Tiles
Firmly press tiles into the adhesive one by one using a slight back and forth motion. Use tile spacers for consistent grout lines. Work in small sections and remove any excess thinset immediately with a damp sponge. Allow to set overnight before grouting.
Grout and Seal
Apply grout between the tile joints, wiping away excess. Allow grout to fully cure per manufacturer recommendations before sealing. Use a penetrating sealer to protect grout and tiles from moisture and staining.
With proper installation and care, a drywall backsplash can perform and look amazing. Let’s look at how to maintain it.
Caring for a Drywall Backsplash
While the backsplash tile itself needs minimal maintenance, pay special attention to protecting the underlying drywall:
- Re-seal annually – Reapply grout sealer every year to protect from moisture and grime.
- Grout maintenance – Watch for any cracks or holes in grout lines that could lead to water getting behind tiles. Re-grout as needed.
- Limit moisture – Immediately wipe up any splashes or spills on backsplash. Avoid spraying water directly at backsplash when cleaning.
- Use backsplash protector – For sinks, a clear splashguard can protect drywall from excess water exposure when installed behind faucets.
- Ventilate – Use bathroom exhaust fans, range hoods, and other ventilation to limit moisture buildup from steam.
With proper installation and care, a backsplash on drywall can perform beautifully and avoid moisture issues. Let’s look at a few frequently asked questions.
FAQs about Installing Backsplash on Drywall
Can you put backsplash in a bathroom or kitchen on drywall?
Yes, it is possible to install backsplash in both kitchens and bathrooms on properly prepared drywall. However, cement board is recommended for directly behind or adjacent to sinks, stoves, tubs and other wet areas prone to splashing. Water-resistant drywall is a good option in these zones.
What type of backsplash can you put on drywall?
Lightweight tile materials appropriate for walls including ceramic, porcelain, mosaic sheets, glass, and stone veneers can be installed on drywall as long as proper adhesives are used. Heavy natural stone or tiles larger than 6 pounds per square foot are not recommended.
Should you seal drywall before installing backsplash?
Sealing the drywall with primer and optionally a waterproof coating before tiling is highly recommended. The sealer protects the drywall paper from moisture damage. Be sure to apply per manufacturer instructions.
Can you put backsplash tile over painted drywall?
Yes, as long as the paint is in good condition. Scuff sand glossy paint and use primer designed for tile and masonry over paint before setting the tiles. The thinset mortar will adhere to primed painted drywall.
Can tile backsplash be installed right over existing drywall?
In most cases, yes. But the drywall surface must be examined for any water damage, mold or other issues first. Repair any damage before applying primer and waterproofing treatment. The wall must be structurally sound for tile.
Installing backsplash tile directly on drywall is entirely possible with careful planning and preparation. While cement board has its advantages for wet areas, a drywall backsplash allows you to upgrade your space beautifully and affordably.
By taking moisture protection precautions, choosing appropriate tiles and adhesives, proper layout and grouting, and sealing and maintenance, you can achieve a striking backsplash installation on drywall that will last for years to come.