Can You Put Backsplash on Painted Drywall?


Installing a backsplash is a great way to add visual interest and protect the walls behind a kitchen counter or bathroom vanity. But can you install backsplash tile directly onto existing painted drywall? The short answer is yes, it is possible to apply backsplash tile to painted drywall in most cases. However, there are some important considerations to keep in mind. Proper surface preparation and using the right materials will help ensure a successful installation.

Preparing the Painted Drywall Surface

The key to a long-lasting backsplash installation is proper surface preparation. Here are some tips for getting painted drywall ready for backsplash tile:

Clean the Surface

Make sure the wall is free of dirt, grease, soap scum, or any other debris that could interfere with adhesion. Wash the wall with a mild detergent and rinse thoroughly.

Sand the Painted Surface

Lightly sand the painted drywall using fine grit sandpaper. This helps rough up the surface a bit so the tile mortar can grip better. Be careful not to sand all the way through the paint.

Check for Hollow Spots

Tap along the drywall to check for areas that sound hollow. These spots indicate voids behind the drywall that must be filled and patched prior to tiling.

Fill Any Holes or Imperfections

Use drywall joint compound to fill any cracks, holes, or uneven areas in the painted wall. Allow compound to fully dry and sand smooth.

Prime the Surface

After preparing the wall, apply a coat of primer to help the tile mortar adhere. Use a bonding-type primer made for tile projects.

Using the Right Materials

Choosing the proper mortar and grout is also key for a long-lasting installation:

  • Use a polymer-modified thinset mortar which is formulated for bonding tile to painted drywall. This type of mortar will offer greater adhesion and flexibility.
  • Choose an unsanded grout for grout joints 1/8 inch or smaller. Sanded grout can scratch softer painted drywall surfaces.
  • Use a grout release or sealer to protect the painted drywall surface from staining during grouting.

Installation Tips and Tricks

Here are some pointers to help the installation go smoothly:

  • Let mortar cure fully (at least 24 hours) before grouting. This prevents grout from pulling off the tiles.
  • Grout carefully, using a rubber grout float, and avoid smearing grout onto the tile faces. Wipe up any excess immediately.
  • Seal the grout and tile once fully cured using a penetrating sealer. This prevents stains and makes the backsplash surface easier to clean.
  • Caulk where the countertop and backsplash meet using a flexible, mold-resistant caulk.
  • Take time to properly prepare the surface and use high-quality setting materials. This will help ensure the backsplash stays securely bonded to the painted drywall.

Common Concerns About Backsplashes on Painted Drywall

Some homeowners worry that installing backsplash over paint may lead to problems down the road. Here are some common concerns and solutions:

Concern: The tiles may not adhere well to glossy paints.

Solution: Lightly sand glossy paints to dull the surface before applying tile. Use a bonding primer as well.

Concern: Grout or mortar may stain the painted surface.

Solution: Use a grout release and be careful not to smear materials on the wall. Wipe up spills immediately before they set.

Concern: Moisture from the thinset or grout could cause paint to blister or peel.

Solution: Allow mortar to fully cure before grouting. Make sure the wall is well-primed and paint is in good condition before tiling.

Can You Put Backsplash on Painted Drywall?

Yes, you can successfully install a backsplash on previously painted drywall in most cases. With proper prep and the right materials, backsplash tile can adhere well to existing painted walls and provide a beautiful, protected surface that lasts. Just be sure to thoroughly clean and scuff the surface, use a tile-grade primer and polymer-modified thinset, grout carefully, and seal the finished backsplash. Addressing any potential adhesion issues upfront will help ensure the backsplash stays securely bonded to the wall long-term.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplashes on Painted Drywall

Can I put backsplash tile directly on semi-gloss painted drywall?

It is best to lightly sand semi-gloss paint to dull it before tiling. Be sure to use a primer and tile mortar designed for use on painted surfaces.

What kind of thinset should I use for backsplash on painted drywall?

Use a polymer-modified thinset mortar specifically formulated for use over painted drywall. This type of mortar has additives to improve adhesion.

Should I paint the drywall first before installing the backsplash?

Yes, it is best to paint the wall before tiling for a more finished look. Be sure the paint is in good condition with no peeling or cracks.

How long should I wait before grouting a backsplash on painted drywall?

Let the mortar cure fully, generally for 24 hours, before applying grout. This helps prevent the grout from pulling tiles off the wall.

Can I use sanded grout for my backsplash over painted drywall?

It’s best to use unsanded grout to avoid scratching or damaging a softer painted surface. Sanded grout is harder and can mar drywall.

Should I caulk where the countertop meets a backsplash on drywall?

Yes, use a flexible caulk where the backsplash meets the countertop. This helps seal the gap and allows for normal expansion and contraction.


Installing a tile backsplash on top of existing painted drywall is an excellent way to refresh your space. With some simple surface prep using primer, thinset mortar, and grout formulated for drywall, you can achieve a durable, beautiful backsplash installation. Pay attention to proper cure times and grouting technique to avoid any issues. Then seal and enjoy your updated kitchen or bath!