Can You Put Tile Backsplash on Drywall?

Installing a tile backsplash can transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom by adding a touch of elegance. Many homeowners opt for tile backsplashes because they are affordable, easy to clean, and come in a wide variety of styles. However, before installing a tile backsplash, it’s important to understand the type of wall surface you’ll be tiling over. So, can you put tile backsplash directly on drywall?

Overview: Tile Backsplash on Drywall

Yes, it is possible to install a tile backsplash directly onto drywall. However, there are a few important considerations to keep in mind:

  • Drywall requires waterproofing – Untreated drywall will absorb water and can lead to mold growth. A waterproof membrane or sealer must be applied before tiling.
  • Drywall lacks sturdiness – Tile backsplashes can be heavy. Drywall alone may not offer enough support, so additional bracing/backerboard is often recommended.
  • Drywall can lead to cracks – Natural expansion and contraction of drywall can transfer to the tile, leading to cracked grout and tiles over time. Backerboard helps minimize this.
  • Proper preparation and materials are essential for a long-lasting tile backsplash on drywall. When done correctly, it can offer a beautiful, seamless look.

Preparing Drywall for Tile

Installing tile backsplash on drywall takes careful preparation but can be done with success:

Step 1: Install Backerboard

Cement backerboard or a similar backer provides critical support and waterproofing. It should be mounted with screws to studs behind the drywall. Transition edges may need additional framing.

Step 2: Waterproof the Drywall

Apply a waterproof acrylic-based membrane that seals the drywall and backerboard. RedGard and AquaDefense are commonly used. Allow to fully cure per manufacturer instructions.

Step 3: Apply Leveling Coat

Skim coat the entire surface with a polymer-modified thinset mortar to smooth and fill any gaps, creating a uniform surface for tiling. Allow to cure completely before tiling.

Step 4: Mark and Cut Tile

Dry fit your tile layout and use spacers before applying mortar. Make any needed cuts before installation.

Step 5: Apply Mortar and Set Tile

Use a quality polymer-modified mortar suitable for drywall application. Apply 1/4″ layer with notched trowel and set tiles. Allow to fully cure before grouting.

FAQ About Tile Backsplash on Drywall

Can you put tile backsplash directly on drywall?

It’s possible but not recommended without proper waterproofing and support. Unmodified drywall alone risks water damage and lacks sturdiness for tile. Backerboard installation is advised.

How do you prepare drywall for a tile backsplash?

Drywall must be waterproofed with a membrane or sealer. Backerboard mounted to studs provides reinforcement. A leveling base coat creates a smooth surface for quality tile adhesion.

What can I use instead of backerboard?

Cement, fiber cement, or Durock backerboards are ideal, but moisture-resistant drywall like DensShield can also be used according to manufacturer specifications.

Can you put tile over textured walls or wallpaper?

No, textured or wallpapered walls must be smoothed before tiling. Popping, cracking, and adhesion issues can occur if tile is placed over uneven textures.

Should tile backsplash go all the way to the ceiling?

Not necessarily – standard height is 4-5 feet above the counter or to the bottom of wall cabinets. Full ceiling height is optional for a bold statement. Building codes may dictate exact height.


Installing a tile backsplash on drywall brings unique challenges but can be done with proper preparation and materials. Ensuring the drywall is waterproofed, reinforced, and has a smooth surface will provide the necessary foundation. Careful installation of quality tile and grout completes the process. With attention to detail, you can achieve a stunning backsplash directly on drywall that will last for years to come.