Can You Put a Tile Backsplash on Drywall?

Installing a tile backsplash can transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom by adding a touch of style and visual interest. Many homeowners opt for tile backsplashes because they are attractive, easy to clean, and durable. However, before installing tile, it’s important to understand what type of wall surface it will be adhered to. Here’s what you need to know about installing a tile backsplash directly on drywall.

What is Drywall?

Drywall, also known as gypsum board or wallboard, is used to finish interior walls and ceilings in most homes. It consists of a gypsum plaster core sandwiched between two layers of heavy paper. Drywall is an excellent base for painting and applying wallpaper. It can also serve as a substrate for tile backsplashes.

Some key advantages of drywall:

  • Smooth, uniform surface for decorating
  • Easy to cut and install
  • Fire resistant
    -Absorbs sound
  • Economical option compared to other wall finishes

However, drywall also has some disadvantages that need to be considered for tile installation:

  • Porous and prone to water damage
  • Not very durable or rigid
  • Can sag over time if not properly supported

Challenges of Installing Tile on Drywall

While it’s possible to install tile backsplashes directly on drywall, there are some challenges to be aware of:

Lack of rigidity – Drywall alone does not provide a sturdy enough surface to support tile long-term. Tile is rigid and dense, while drywall is soft and prone to movement. This mismatch can lead to cracking grout and tile over time.

Moisture sensitivity – Drywall is easily damaged by moisture. Tile backsplashes see a lot of water exposure in kitchens and bathrooms. Water leakage can cause drywall to soften, swell, and crumble.

Heavy weight – Natural stone tiles, like granite and marble, are very dense and heavy. Large format tiles with thin profiles are also heavy. Drywall may not be able to support substantial weight without eventual sagging.

Surface irregularities – Drywall typically has minor bumps, seams, and dimples throughout. These imperfections can transfer through to the tile installation and become visible.

Preparing and Reinforcing Drywall for Tile

While installing backsplash tile directly on drywall comes with challenges, it is possible to reinforce walls for a successful end result:

  • Look for moisture-resistant drywall – Specialty drywall products such as greenboard are designed for high humidity areas.
  • Seal the surface – Coat drywall with primer and a waterproofing membrane before tiling. This seals pores and prevents moisture intrusion.
  • Use cement board – Cement board can be applied over drywall to provide a very rugged tile substrate. It adds strength and moisture resistance.
  • Add supportive materials – Fiberglass mesh tape and mortar can be used to cover seams and build up the installation surface. Backerboard provides rigidity.
  • Correct any underlying issues – Fix leaks, seal penetrations, and address sagging or damaged drywall before installing tile.

Best Practices for Tiling on Drywall

If you plan to install a tile backsplash on drywall, either directly or after reinforcing, follow these best practices:

  • Select lightweight tile materials, like ceramic or mosaics. Avoid heavy natural stone.
  • Opt for smaller tile sizes and simple layouts. Large tiles are heavier and harder to support.
  • Include movement joints for grout lines. Allow at least 1/8-inch grout lines and use flexible grout.
  • Use a high quality thinset mortar suitable for drywall adhesion.
  • Consider adding a crack isolation membrane for protection.
  • Take extra care preparing the wall surface so tiles mounts smoothly without uneven areas.
  • Seal and finish edges of drywall to prevent moisture intrusion behind tiles.
  • Test a small area first to confirm tiles adhere properly before tiling the entire space.

FAQ About Tiling on Drywall

Can you put tile directly on drywall in a shower?

This is not recommended. Drywall typically cannot withstand the constant moisture and potential for water damage in a shower long-term. Use cement board or another waterproof backing.

What about using mastic adhesive rather than thinset mortar?

Mastic adhesives are not suitable for bonding tile to drywall. Mastic does not provide the strongest bond. Thinset mortars specifically designed for drywall provide optimal adhesion.

Should I remove existing drywall before installing a new tile backsplash?

Not necessarily. As long as your drywall is in good condition with no moisture damage, you can tile directly over it after proper surface preparation and reinforcement.

Can I install large format subway tiles on drywall?

It’s best to avoid heavier tiles and keep sizes under 4 inches when installing directly on drywall. Mosaics, penny tiles, and smaller subway styles are better options.

Is greenboard drywall sufficient for a kitchen backsplash?

Moisture-resistant greenboard provides more protection than regular drywall but still requires sealing and reinforcement before applying tile. Cement board is more ideal.


Installing tile backsplashes on drywall is a more complex process than tiling on cement board or other ideal substrates. However, with careful surface preparation and reinforcement, it may be accomplished successfully. The key is managing the inherent moisture sensitivity and lack of rigidity in drywall. For best results, opt for smaller tiles, use premium thinset mortar, and take steps to seal and strengthen walls before your tiling project. With proper planning and materials, you can end up with a beautiful new backsplash on drywall that lasts.