How to Install Backsplash on Uneven Wall

Installing a backsplash on an uneven wall can seem daunting, but with some planning and preparation, it can be done successfully. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to install backsplash on an uneven wall.

Assessing the Uneven Wall

The first step is to assess the wall and understand the extent of unevenness. Look for any significant bumps, depressions, or slope in the wall. Also check if the studs are uneven. This will help determine the best way to prep and install the backsplash.

  • Use a level and mark any high or low spots on the wall.
  • Check if the unevenness spans across multiple studs or is localized. Localized dips or bumps are easier to fix.
  • Pay attention to corners and edges – these are the most visible parts of a backsplash.
  • If the unevenness is significant (more than 1/4″), you may need to fur out the wall before installing backsplash.

Preparing the Uneven Wall Surface

Proper prep work is crucial for an even and smooth backsplash installation.

  • Fill any small cracks or holes with spackle and let dry completely.
  • Sand bumps smooth. Use joint compound, spackle, or drywall mud as needed to fill dips or depressions.
  • Apply a wall leveling compound if large areas are uneven. Let it fully cure per manufacturer’s directions.
  • Once the wall surface is as even as possible, prime and paint the wall. This creates a uniform surface for backsplash adhesion.

Pro Tip: Use a powder leveling compound for large uneven areas. It sands down better than premixed varieties.

Installing Backerboard on Uneven Studs

If the wall studs themselves are uneven, backerboard installation takes a bit more work:

  • Mark stud center locations on the wall and identify any uneven spots.
  • Cut drywall screws down to various lengths to accomodate uneven stud depth.
  • Start fastening the backerboard in the center of the wall and work outward.
  • Adjust screw length and use shims as needed to fasten board evenly across uneven studs.
  • Make sure board seams land on studs, and use fiberglass mesh tape for filling gaps.

Tip: Use diamond grit sandpaper to grind any high spots on installed backerboard smooth.

Laying Out Tile Pattern

Since uneven walls can throw off tile layouts, do a dry layout first:

  • Start tile layout from the most visible area, usually the center or focal wall.
  • Use tile leveling spacers when laying out tile to identify any unevenness.
  • Adjust layout spacing as needed to accommodate uneven areas. Wider grout lines in some spots can help.
  • Balance cut tiles on outer edges of walls. Plan asymmetric edge tiles ahead of time.
  • Have extra tile on hand for backups. Some tile cuts may not work out perfectly.

Using Levelers When Installing Tile

Tile leveling systems are very useful for an uneven wall installation:

  • Use wedge style plastic levelers at each tile corner to keep tiles flat and evenly spaced.
  • Check that levelers are raising tiles to the right height as you go. Adjust as needed.
  • Use larger 1/4″ levelers if significant unevenness spans multiple tiles.
  • Remove levelers after grouting once tiles are set in place evenly.

Tip: Start leveling tile from the bottom and work up, removing each leveler 1-2 days after installing.

Grouting and Completing the Installation

Follow these tips when grouting an uneven backsplash wall:

  • Grout small sections at a time, wiping and cleaning as you go.
  • Pack grout carefully into uneven joints, using a grout float or finger.
  • Use a grout bag for grouting corners or very narrow spaces.
  • Check for stable adhesion once grout has cured, and re-grout any loose tiles.
  • Seal grout lines once fully cured, and apply tiles sealer for added durability.

With careful prep and installation techniques, you can achieve a professionally installed backsplash on an uneven wall. Go slow, double check your work, and don’t be afraid to make small adjustments during the install. The end result will add beauty and function to your kitchen or bath.

Common Problems When Installing Backsplash on Uneven Walls

Installing backsplash on an uneven wall presents some unique challenges. Here are some common problems to watch out for:

  • Lippage – When the edges of adjoining tiles are not flush due to unevenness. Use levelers and check as you go to prevent this.
  • Grout cracking – Uneven tiles can lead to instability and put stress on grout seams. Ensure proper adhesion and support.
  • Tile movement – Tiles can crack or become unbonded if the wall flexes or levels over time. Proper prep prevents this.
  • Poor corner/edge alignment – Backsplashes on uneven walls often end up with messy edges. Plan outer tiles carefully.
  • Difficulty getting full tile contact – Ensure thinset coverage across uneven wall surface through back-buttering.

Tips and Tricks for Backsplashes on Uneven Walls

Here are some additional pointers to get the best results from an uneven wall backsplash project:

  • Choose medium bed thinset – It has more flex and grab than regular thinset.
  • Use wedge-shaped tile levelers – They compensate better for dips and bumps.
  • Shim underneath upper wall cabinets – Helps prevent cabinet tilt over time.
  • Seal uneven grout lines – Gives added water protection on questionable spots.
  • Consider smaller tile sizes – Makes it easier to adjust around uneven areas.
  • Have a tile wet saw on site – Allows precise cuts needed for uneven wall conditions.
  • Take time planning the layout – A thoughtful tile design minimizes difficult cuts.
  • Inspect finished job carefully – Look for any weak points that need reinforcement.


What’s the easiest backsplash for an uneven wall?

Slim 3-4″ tall ledge or accent tile is the easiest backsplash style for uneven walls. The small tiles follow the wall contours better without the layout challenges of large tile.

Should I use cement or drywall backerboard?

Cement board is best for exaggerated unevenness. It can bridge dips and gaps better than drywall. But drywall backerboard is fine for minor to moderate unevenness.

Is mortar better than thinset for an uneven wall?

No, thinset is the better adhesive for backsplash tile. It is designed for the thin layer and performance needed by wall tile. Mortar is too thick and inflexible.

Can I just use a really thick layer of thinset on uneven areas?

No, using too thick a layer of thinset can lead to adhesion problems. Better to fur out the wall surface with backerboard first. Thinset should be 1/4″ thick at most.

Should I use spacers when installing backsplash on uneven wall?

Yes, tile spacers are highly recommended to keep tile evenly aligned on uneven walls. Place spacers as each tile is set beforethinset cures. Remove once grouted.


Installing backsplash on an uneven wall has its challenges but can be accomplished with careful preparation, using backerboard and levelers, thoughtful tile layout, proper thinset application, and conscientious grouting. Pay attention to detail in evening out the wall, establishing proper adhesion, aligning tiles, and reinforcing grout lines as needed. With patience and persistence, you can achieve a stunning backsplash installation over a less than perfect wall.