Do I Need Cement Board for Kitchen Backsplash?

Installing a kitchen backsplash can take your cooking space from drab to fab. While there are many material options for backsplashes, a popular choice is tile. If you decide to tile your backsplash, you’ll need to install it on a proper substrate. This raises the question – do you need cement board for a kitchen backsplash?

What is Cement Board?

Cement board, also known as Wonderboard or Durock, is a construction material made of concentrated portland cement layered between fibrous boards. It is often used as a base material for tile installation.

Some key features of cement board include:

  • Extremely durable and moisture-resistant
  • Does not warp, shrink or swell when exposed to water
  • Fire and mold resistant
  • Provides unmatched tile bond strength

Cement board is available in a variety of sizes and thicknesses. Thicker boards provide more durability for floor installations. Thinner boards are well-suited for wall tile applications.

Why Use Cement Board for Kitchen Backsplashes?

There are a few reasons why cement board is recommended for kitchen backsplashes:

Prevents Damage from Moisture

The kitchen is prone to splashes, spills and high humidity. Cement board provides a waterproof barrier that prevents moisture from reaching the wall behind the tile. This protects the integrity of the wall from water damage.

Superior Tile Bond

The porous surface of cement board allows thinset mortar to grip tightly. This creates an incredibly strong bond between the tile and substrate. Tile installed over cement board is less likely to crack or detach over time.

Fire Resistance

Kitchen fires, though rare, can be devastating. Cement board is inherently fire-resistant which adds protection behind stoves and ovens.

Mold Resistance

Ever have mold grow around tile grout lines? This pesky issue is prevented with mold-resistant cement board.

Adds Structure

Cement board has a cement-reinforced core that provides a strong, rigid base for tile. This prevents cracks that can occur when tile is installed over drywall alone.

Installation Tips

Installing cement board for a kitchen backsplash is a relatively easy DIY project. Here are some tips:

  • Use 1/2 inch cement board for walls and ceilings.
  • Cut boards with a utility knife or special cement board shears.
  • Fasten boards with cement board screws, spaced 8 inches apart.
  • Tape joints with fiberglass mesh tape and thinset mortar.
  • Allow thinset to fully cure before applying tile adhesive.
  • Completely embed tile edges for waterproofing.

Be sure to wear proper safety gear when cutting and installing cement board. Follow all manufacturer instructions for best results.

Alternatives to Cement Board

While cement board is highly recommended, it’s not the only substrate option:

  • Drywall – Not moisture-resistant but can work if a waterproof membrane is applied first.
  • Green board – Drywall with moisture-resistant core. Not as strong as cement board.
  • Plywood – A budget option but requires sealing and does not have the strength of cement board.

However, cement board remains the gold standard substrate for kitchen backsplash installations. The durability and performance simply can’t be beat.


So, do you need cement board for a kitchen backsplash? The answer is a resounding yes. Cement board’s superior moisture, mold and fire resistance make it the ideal substrate for kitchen tile backsplashes. Its strength also prevents cracked grout lines and tiles over time.

While materials like drywall or plywood can technically work, they don’t provide the level of protection and stability that cement board does. For peace of mind and a worry-free backsplash, choose cement board and you won’t go wrong. With proper installation, it will provide a lifetime of beauty and performance for your kitchen tile.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I install tile directly onto drywall?

A: It’s not recommended. Drywall alone does not provide adequate moisture protection. Over time, the drywall can warp, crumble and damage the tile. Use cement board or apply a waterproof membrane to drywall first.

Q: What thickness of cement board should I use?

A: For walls and backsplashes, 1/2 inch cement board is ideal. It provides durability without being overly heavy and cumbersome to install.

Q: Can cement board get wet?

A: Yes, cement board is highly water-resistant and cannot be damaged by water exposure. This makes it perfect for high-moisture areas like kitchen backsplashes.

Q: Is cement board better than Hardibacker?

A: Hardibacker is a popular brand of cement board. There is no functional difference between Hardibacker and other cement board brands. Choose whichever brand is most readily available.

Q: Should cement board seams be taped?

A: Yes, once screws are installed, the seams between cement board sheets should be taped with fiberglass mesh tape and thinset mortar. This prevents moisture intrusion between panels.