How to Install Kitchen Backsplash on Painted Wall

Installing a kitchen backsplash can transform the look and feel of your cooking space. But many homeowners wonder if they can install a tile or stone backsplash over an existing painted wall. The good news is that with proper preparation, you can achieve a beautiful, long-lasting backsplash on a painted wall. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to install kitchen backsplash on a painted wall.

Assess the Condition of the Painted Wall

The first step is to inspect the wall paint to determine if it’s in good condition for tiling. Check for any cracks, peeling paint, glossiness, or grease that could prevent proper adhesion.

Look for Cracks and Peeling Paint

Examine the wall closely and repair any cracks or peeling paint. Use spackle or caulk to patch small holes and cracks. Scrape off any loose or flaking paint.

Check for Glossiness

Tile adhesives bind best to matte paints. Glossy surfaces don’t allow the adhesive to grip properly. Lightly sand the surface with 120-grit sandpaper to dull any shine. Be careful not to scuff down to bare drywall.

Clean Away Grease and Grime

Degrease the wall using a mixture of mild dish soap and warm water. Rinse thoroughly and let the wall dry completely. This removes any cooking grease that could undermine adhesion.

Prepare the Painted Wall for Tiling

Proper prep work is crucial for getting tiles to stick to painted drywall.

Sand the Entire Surface

Lightly sand the entire wall with 100-120 grit sandpaper. This scuffs up the surface to help the thinset adhesive bind. Avoid pressing too hard, which can cut through the paint.

Apply Primer or Paint Adhesion Promoter

Brush on a coat of primer or adhesion promoter like Mapei Eco Prim Grip. Allow it to dry fully. This gives the thinset something to “tooth” to.

Mark Your Tile Layout

Map out the tile layout with a pencil and use a level to mark perfectly straight rows. Plan the layout so you don’t end up with sliver cuts on the edges.

Spread Thinset and Set the Tiles

Now you’re ready to spread the thinset and lay the tiles. Use a notched trowel to spread a thin, even layer of adhesive.

Use Modified Thinset Adhesive

Look for an adhesive like Mapei Adesilex P10 mixed with a latex additive. The additive adds more grip and flexibility.

Cover a Small Section at a Time

Apply thinset over an area just big enough to set a few tiles. Don’t let the thinset skin over before setting tiles.

Press Tiles into Place

Set tiles into the adhesive, twisting slightly, then use gentle pressure to flatten them in place. Check for full coverage.

Let Adhesive Cure

Allow thinset to cure for at least 24 hours before grouting. This gives it time to reach maximum strength.

Apply Grout and Sealant

Once the thinset has cured completely, it’s time to grout. Spread grout over the tiles filling all joints. Finally, apply a sealant.

Grout With an Epoxy or Polymer-Based Grout

Look for an epoxy or fortified grout. Avoid cement grout which can scratch soft glazed tiles.

Seal the Grout and Tiles

Use an appropriate sealant like Aqua Mix Sealer’s Choice Gold to protect from moisture and stains.

With the proper prep work and materials, you can achieve a stunning, durable backsplash on painted drywall. Just take your time and follow all the steps carefully. Enjoy your upgraded kitchen!

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing Backsplash on Painted Walls

Can I tile over painted drywall?

Yes, you can install tiles or stone over painted drywall as long as the paint is in good condition and properly prepared. Lightly sand and apply primer or paint adhesion promoter first.

What kind of paint works best under backsplash?

A flat or eggshell latex wall paint works best. The matte finish provides more grip for the mortar. Avoid glossy paints, which need to be sanded and primed first.

How do I prepare painted drywall for backsplash?

Lightly sand to scuff up the surface, clean thoroughly, and apply a coat of primer or paint adhesion promoter. This gives the mortar something to adhere to.

Can I use regular thinset for backsplash on painted wall?

It’s best to use a polymer-modified thinset adhesive to allow for more flexibility and grip on the painted surface. Add latex additive as well.

What if my painted wall is glossy?

If the wall has a glossy paint finish, you’ll need to dull it by lightly sanding with 120-grit sandpaper before priming and tiling. This allows mortar to grip the surface better.

How long do I have to wait before grouting a backsplash?

Allow the thinset adhesive to fully cure for at least 24 hours before applying grout. This gives the mortar time to reach maximum strength and adhesion.

Is epoxy or cement grout better for backsplash?

Epoxy grout is preferable for backsplashes, especially when tiling over paint. It resists scratching the tiles, withstands moisture, and is less prone to cracking.

Should I seal a backsplash on painted drywall?

Yes, it’s highly recommended. Use a penetrating sealer made for the tile or stone you’ve installed. This prevents stains and damage from moisture over time.


Installing a kitchen backsplash on an existing painted wall is totally doable with proper prep and the right materials. The keys are to thoroughly clean and scuff up the wall, apply primer and adhesion promoters, use fortified thinset mortar, and grout and seal once the tiles have cured. With some care and patience, you can achieve a stunning backsplash makeover on your painted kitchen wall.