How to Apply Backsplash to Drywall

Installing a stylish backsplash is one of the best ways to add personality and visual interest to your kitchen. With the right materials and some DIY know-how, you can easily apply a backsplash to drywall yourself. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to apply backsplash tile to drywall.


A backsplash protects the walls behind a sink or stove from water damage and stains. Tiled backsplashes also lend a decorative flair, allowing you to add color, texture, and patterns to your kitchen design.

Before applying tile, it’s important to prepare the drywall surface. Drywall needs to be primed and painted first to create an even, sealed surface. You also need to decide on the tile for your backsplash and purchase accordingly. We’ll go over the complete process step-by-step, from preparing the drywall to grouting and sealing the tile.

Benefits of a Backsplash

Here are some of the benefits of installing a backsplash in your kitchen:

  • Protects walls from water damage, stains, and splatters
  • Creates a decorative focal point and adds visual interest
  • Allows you to add color, texture, and patterns to your kitchen
  • Easier to clean than painted drywall
  • Provides a durable and long-lasting surface
  • Opportunity to add matching tiles in other parts of the kitchen
  • Increases the value of your home

How to Prepare Drywall for Backsplash Tiling

Proper preparation is crucial for a successful backsplash installation. Here are the key steps:

Step 1: Paint the Drywall

Use a high-quality primer and latex paint to coat the drywall where you plan to install the backsplash. This seals the surface and provides a uniform finish for the tile to adhere to. Allow the paint to fully cure for at least 24 hours.

Step 2: Mark the Area

Measure and mark the area where you want the backsplash to go using a level and pencil. Mark just below the lowest point of where the upper cabinets meet the wall.

Step 3: Cut Out Sections for Outlets

If there are any electrical outlets in the backsplash area, carefully cut out a section in the drywall around them. This allows outlets to be accessible once you install the tile.

Step 4: Seal with Waterproof Membrane

Apply a waterproofing membrane over the painted drywall according to the manufacturer’s directions. RedGard and Laticrete Hydro Ban are two popular options. This provides a water-resistant layer behind the tile.

Step 5: Apply the Adhesive Backer Board

Cut cement backer board to fit the backsplash area. Apply tile adhesive to the back of the boards and firmly press into place on the wall. The backer board gives a sturdy, water-resistant surface for the tile.

How to Select Backsplash Tiles

Choosing the perfect backsplash tile is an exciting part of the process! Consider the following when making your selection:

  • Color – Pick a color that complements your cabinets, countertops, and overall kitchen decor.
  • Material – Ceramic and porcelain tiles are most common. Natural stone and glass tiles also make attractive backsplashes.
  • Size – Smaller tiles like mosaics provide more grout lines for a textured look. Larger tiles create a smoother, more contemporary style.
  • Pattern – Grid, brick, herringbone, subway – determine whether you want a uniform or decorative pattern.
  • Gloss/finish – Matte, glossy, metallic, crackled glaze – the tile finish impacts the overall look.
  • Price – Measure the space to determine how much tile you need. Prices range from $5 – $50+ per square foot.
  • Extras – Consider ordering extra tiles to allow for cuts, defects, and future repairs.

How to Apply the Tile

Once you’ve prepped the drywall and have your tile, it’s time for the fun part – installing the backsplash! Follow these steps:

Step 1: Plan the Layout

Dry fit the tiles on the backer board to determine the layout. Cut any edge tiles as needed to achieve your desired pattern and fit.

Step 2: Mix the Adhesive

Mix a polymer-modified thinset mortar adhesive according to package directions. Apply to the backer board using a notched trowel held at a 45-degree angle.

Step 3: Set the Tiles

Press tiles firmly into the adhesive, using spacers to achieve even grout lines. Push out any air pockets. Work in small sections. Allow adhesive to cure per manufacturer instructions before continuing.

Step 4: Cut Tile Around Obstacles

Use a wet saw to precisely cut tiles to fit around outlets, edges, appliances, or other obstacles. Retrace as needed for accuracy.

Step 5: Apply Grout

Mix grout per package instructions and apply over the tile using a rubber grout float. Hold at a 45-degree angle and work in small sections. Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge. Allow to cure fully.

Step 6: Seal the Tile

Apply a penetrating sealant to protect the grout and make cleaning easier. Aqua Mix and Dupont are reliable sealant brands. Reapply yearly.

Tips for Achieving a Professional Finish

Follow these tips to get pro-level results from your DIY backsplash project:

  • Carefully level and align the tile. Use spacers to maintain even grout line spacing.
  • Plan cuts in advance and measure precisely to avoid unattractive uneven tiles along edges.
  • Clean up spills and messes immediately before they dry using a damp sponge.
  • Allow proper drying and curing time for thinset, grout, and sealants. Rushing can ruin the finish.
  • Mix multiple containers of grout to ensure color consistency and enough product.
  • Apply caulk between the countertop and backsplash for a polished finish. Match the grout color.
  • Protect hands with gloves and follow all safety precautions when using wet saws and other tile tools.
  • Work slowly and methodically. Tile placement and grouting are unforgiving – any rushed errors will be obvious.


What tools do I need to install a backsplash?

Basic tools include a tape measure, pencil, level, tile cutter, grout float, mixing buckets, notched trowel, spacers, grout sealer, and sponges. A wet saw is recommended for intricate tile cutting.

How is backsplash tile installed – horizontally or vertically?

Tiles can be installed in either orientation. Horizontal gives a smooth, uniform look. Vertical tiles have a more artistic, handmade appearance.

What thickness of tile works best for backsplashes?

Standard wall tiles and mosaics are often 3/8” to 1/2” thick. Stone slate or ledger tiles can be 3/4” – 1” thick. Thinner porcelain tiles as thin as 1/4″ are also now available.

How do I cut holes in backsplash tile for outlets?

Trace the outlet shape onto the tile. Drill a hole inside the outline with a ceramic drill bit. Use a nibbler tool on the inside edges. Then use a tile file to smooth the cut.

Can I install backsplash over existing tile?

Yes, tile can be installed over existing backsplashes. The old surface must be well-bonded, clean, and roughened up to allow the new adhesive and tile to bond.


Installing a backsplash tile on drywall is an achievable DIY project that can completely transform the look of your kitchen. With the right prep work, materials, and careful tile laying, you can attain professional-looking results. The finished backsplash provides a stylish, mess-resistant surface that upgrades your space with color, texture, and personality.