Can You Put Backsplash on Drywall?

Installing a backsplash is a great way to add visual interest and protect your walls in a kitchen or bathroom. Many homeowners opt for backsplash tiles, but did you know you can also install backsplash directly on drywall? Here’s what you need to know about putting backsplash on drywall.

What is Drywall?

Drywall, also known as gypsum board or sheetrock, is the most common interior wall material used in modern construction. It consists of a paper-faced sheet of gypsum plaster sandwiched between two thick paper liners. Drywall is appreciated for its fire-resistant properties, affordability, and ease of installation compared to materials like plaster.

Benefits of Using Drywall for Backsplash

There are several advantages to installing backsplash directly on drywall rather than first adding cementboard or another substrate:

  • Cost savings – Skipping the additional substrate means saving on materials and labor. Going directly onto drywall is the most budget-friendly backsplash option.
  • Minimal demolition – If your walls are already drywall, you can start installing backsplash immediately rather than tearing them down to add cementboard first. This makes the project simpler.
  • Thinner application – Backsplashes on drywall have a thinner overall application compared to adding another layer like cementboard. This may be preferable for tight spaces.
  • Lightweight – Drywall is lighter than cementboard or other backer materials. This reduces the overall weight load on your walls.

What Type of Backsplash Works on Drywall?

While you have options for backsplash on drywall, some materials are better suited than others:

  • Tile – Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tile work well when applied directly to drywall. Use a polymer-modified thinset adhesive to account for the lack of cementboard.
  • Peel-and-stick – Vinyl, metal, or other peel-and-stick backsplash tiles conveniently stick right to drywall without thinset or grout.
  • Paint – A painted backsplash is easy to apply to drywall. Use high-quality primer and latex paint formulated for bathrooms/kitchens.
  • Wallpaper – Wallpaper or faux finish wallpaper can add visual impact. Use an adhesive formulated for wallpaper on drywall.
  • Wood – Wood backsplashes should be finished and sealed properly before installation on drywall.

Preparing and Priming Drywall for Backsplash

Proper prep is crucial for successful backsplash installation on drywall:

  • Repair any drywall damage, flaws, or imperfections with joint compound. Sand smooth.
  • The drywall surface must be totally smooth and free of bumps. Sand if needed.
  • Clean thoroughly to remove dust, oils, or soap residue that could impede adhesion.
  • Apply high-quality primer formulated specifically for tile or other backsplash materials. This improves adhesion and prevents moisture damage.
  • Let the primer coat fully dry per manufacturer instructions before applying thinset or other adhesives.

How to Install Backsplash on Drywall

Once your drywall is prepped and primed, installation is straightforward:

Peel-and-Stick Backsplash

  1. Measure and cut peel-and-stick tiles to fit your design.
  2. Wipe the drywall with a clean, damp cloth. Dry completely.
  3. Remove protective backing and press tiles firmly into place on the drywall.

Tile Backsplash

  1. Apply thinset mortar adhesive using a notched trowel. Comb in one direction.
  2. Press tiles into the ridges of thinset and wiggle gently to ensure good contact.
  3. Use plastic tile spacers between tiles for consistent grout lines.
  4. Allow thinset to cure per package directions before grouting.
  5. Mix grout and apply between the tile joints, smoothing with a rubber grout float.
  6. Wipe excess grout with a damp sponge and allow drying completely.
  7. Apply grout sealer to protect the grout lines.

Follow all specific product instructions carefully for successful installation results.

Tips for Backsplash on Drywall

Keep these tips in mind:

  • Only use adhesives and grout suitable for drywall installation.
  • Take extra care preparing the surface – any imperfections will show through finished backsplash.
  • Joint compound and drywall are absorbent. Wipe up spills immediately before they penetrate the drywall.
  • Seal grout and some porous tiles to prevent moisture damage over time, which can compromise adhesion.
  • Consider adding a vapor barrier between drywall and tile in high-moisture areas like behind a stove.

The Bottom Line

Installing a beautiful backsplash can be accomplished directly on drywall with proper products and techniques. The keys are meticulous surface preparation, quality adhesive and grout, and maintaining good ventilation. With the right approach, you can achieve the same stunning results as with cementboard but without the added costs and labor. Backsplashes on drywall are an attractive, budget-friendly option for your next renovation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is drywall waterproof enough for backsplash?

Drywall alone is not waterproof. However, with proper preparation, sealing, quality adhesive and grout, and maintenance of the finished backsplash, drywall can support backsplashes in kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas prone to moisture.

How do you prepare drywall for a backsplash?

Proper drywall prep is vital. The surface must be free of flaws, bumps, dust, oils, and soap residue. Apply a primer formulated specifically for backsplash materials. The primed surface allows for optimal adhesion.

Can you put tile backsplash directly on drywall?

Yes, tile can be installed directly on drywall without cementboard. Use a polymer-modified thinset adhesive and take care to cleanly trowel and fully embed the tiles. Grout with an appropriate grout. Make sure to seal the grout and tile if needed.

What about using mastic instead of thinset?

Mastic adhesives are not the best choice for backsplash on drywall. Mastic does not offer the strongest bond. Thinset mortar is preferred for its superior adhesion and resistance to moisture and mold.

Should I still use cementboard under a painted backsplash?

For a painted drywall backsplash, cementboard is not required. Drywall typically provides sufficient preparation for quality painted backsplashes, as long as proper priming and paint are used.


Installing backsplash directly on drywall is a viable option that can provide beautiful results. With careful prep, high-quality materials, and proper installation techniques, backsplashes can be applied to drywall successfully and affordably. Pay attention to details like thorough priming and sealing to create a backsplash that protects your walls while making a stylish statement.