Can You Install Backsplash on Painted Drywall?

Installing a backsplash is a great way to add personality and visual interest to your kitchen or bathroom. But if you already have painted drywall in place, you may be wondering if you can install tile or other backsplash materials directly onto it. The short answer is yes, you can install backsplash on painted drywall, but there are a few important steps to take for best results.

Prepping Painted Drywall for Backsplash Installation

Before installing backsplash, the painted drywall needs some prep work:

Clean the Surface

Use a general household cleaner or tsp substitute to thoroughly clean the area where you’ll be installing the backsplash. This removes any dirt, grease or other residues that could interfere with adhesion.

Sand the Paint

Lightly sand the painted drywall to help the thinset mortar adhere better. Be careful not to sand all the way through the paint.

Apply Primer

Next, apply a quality primer like Kilz or Zinsser over the sanded paint. This helps seal the surface and provides extra grip for the thinset mortar. Allow the primer to fully dry per the manufacturer’s directions before tiling.

Choosing the Right Thinset Mortar

The type of thinset used is critical for a long-lasting backsplash installation on painted drywall. Avoid multipurpose thinsets, instead choose one formulated for high bond strength like a polymer-modified mortar. Let it fully cure as directed before grouting.

Protecting Against Moisture Damage

Since painted drywall is prone to moisture damage, take steps to keep water away:

  • Use water-resistant drywall (like purple board) in areas prone to splashes.
  • Caulk around edges with a flexible, mildew-resistant silicone.
  • Seal grout and tile edges to prevent seepage behind tiles.
  • Limit tile coverage to 4-6 feet above work areas. Go with a moisture-resistant paint or alternative surface above tile.

Installation Tips for Success

Follow these tips when installing backsplash over painted drywall:

  • Check for hollow spots and re-secure loose drywall before tiling.
  • Plan out your tile layout to avoid awkward cuts or gaps.
  • Use tile spacers for consistent grout lines.
  • Work in small sections, wiping away excess thinset before it dries.
  • Use a tile leveling system to keep tiles even across uneven drywall.
  • Allow thinset to cure fully (24-48 hours) before grouting.

Grout Care

Grout provides structural stability and water resistance for the backsplash. Be diligent with grout care:

  • Apply grout release or sealer to tiles before grouting for easy cleanup.
  • Grout small sections at a time, wiping away excess before it dries.
  • Cure grout fully (48-72 hours) before exposure to moisture.
  • Seal grout periodically to protect against stains and moisture.

Results: A Stunning, Durable Backsplash

By taking the proper steps to prep and prime the painted drywall, using appropriate thinset mortar and grout, and following good installation practices, you can achieve stunning backsplash results. The end product will be a durable, moisture-resistant focal point you’ll enjoy for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I install a backsplash directly over glossy painted drywall?

It’s not recommended. Glossy surfaces prevent proper thinset adhesion. For best results, sand the glossy paint to dull it before priming and tiling.

What about asbestos in old drywall mud?

Asbestos was common in drywall finishing compounds before the 1980s. Have suspected asbestos materials tested before sanding or removing during backsplash installation.

Should I remove painted drywall before installing backsplash?

In most cases this isn’t necessary. Properly prepped painted drywall provides a suitable tile substrate in areas not directly exposed to moisture.

How do I prevent cracking with backsplash on drywall?

Use polymer-modified thinset, allow proper cure times, seal grout effectively and caulk edges to help prevent cracking from substrate movement or moisture.

Can I install large format tiles or natural stone on painted drywall?

It’s not usually recommended. The weight may cause the tiles to detach. Use smaller tiles or consider cement board as a more secure substrate.


Installing a backsplash on painted drywall requires careful prep and attention to detail both in product selection and proper installation techniques. By following the recommendations above for cleaning, priming, using appropriate thinset and grout, limiting moisture exposure, and allowing proper cure times, you can achieve stunning results that stand the test of time. With some planning and diligence, you can successfully install a durable, beautiful backsplash over painted drywall.