How to Prep Wall for Backsplash

Installing a beautiful new backsplash can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. However, proper wall preparation is crucial for ensuring your backsplash installation goes smoothly and lasts for years to come. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to properly prep your wall for a backsplash.

Clean the Wall Thoroughly

The first step is to thoroughly clean the wall you’ll be installing the backsplash on. Remove any dirt, grime, grease or debris. You’ll want a clean slate to work with.

  • Use a general household cleaner or degreaser to scrub the wall. Pay close attention to any especially greasy areas near the stove or countertops.
  • Rinse the wall with clean water and let it fully dry. This can help reveal any hidden spots that need more cleaning.
  • For glossy painted walls, lightly sand to roughen up the surface. This helps the backsplash mortar or adhesive stick.

Repair Any Damage

Inspect the wall closely and make any necessary repairs before installing the backsplash.

  • Seal any cracks or holes in the drywall with caulk or spackling compound. Let repairs fully cure before moving on.
  • If the wall has significant imperfections, you may need to skim coat the entire surface with joint compound to smooth it out.
  • Repaint if needed to give the wall a fresh appearance before the new backsplash goes up.

Remove Outlets and Switch Plates

The backsplash will completely cover the wall, so outlet covers, switch plates and any protruding fixtures need to be removed.

  • Carefully detach any electrical covers or plates gently with a screwdriver.
  • Shut off power to the outlets at the breaker box if needed for safety.
  • For sinks or stoves against the wall, disconnect and remove them to access behind.

Apply Gripping Primer

Priming the wall helps the backsplash mortar or adhesive grip and bond tightly.

  • Use a high-quality primer designed for tile and stone installation. Examples include Mapei Eco Prim Grip and Custom Building Products RedGard.
  • Read the product instructions carefully and apply an even coat across the entire wall surface.
  • Let the primer cure fully which can take up to 24 hours. The wall must be completely dry before backsplash installation.

Make Any Adjustments

This is your last chance to make any changes or adjustments before the backsplash goes up.

  • Mark the wall stud locations for support. Use a stud finder tool or knock to find them.
  • Draw any guide lines on the wall if needed, especially for difficult layouts.
  • Double check the planned height and layout of the backsplash before installation day.
  • Order any extra tiles or materials needed to complete the job.

How to Prep Wall for Backsplash: FAQs

How do I get the wall perfectly smooth for a backsplash?

Skim coating the wall with joint compound will smooth over any dents, cracks or texture. Apply 2-3 thin coats with sanding in between each layer. Prime and paint for a blemish-free surface.

What kind of primer should I use on drywall for a backsplash?

Use a high adhesive primer made for tiles like Mapei Eco Prim Grip or Custom Building Products RedGard. Avoid regular drywall primers which can cause adhesion issues.

Do I need to prime over glossy painted walls before adding a backsplash?

Yes, the slick surface of glossy paint requires priming and roughening for proper backsplash bonding. Lightly sand and then apply an adhesive gripping primer.

What’s the best way to remove old backsplash adhesive off a wall?

Scrape off any chunks with a putty knife. For any remaining residue, use adhesive remover like Goo Gone. Rinse well and let the wall fully dry before priming.

Should plumbing fixtures be removed before installing a new backsplash?

Yes, remove any faucets, sinks or fixtures on the wall before backsplash installation. The backsplash should be installed flush to the wall for the best finished look.

Can I install a backsplash directly over ceramic wall tile?

It’s not recommended. Remove existing wall tile and prep the underlying wall to ensure proper adhesion. Watch for moisture issues behind original tile.


Preparing your wall correctly before installing a backsplash is paramount to achieving a successful result. Take the time to thoroughly clean, make any repairs, apply an adhesive primer, and make final adjustments. With proper prep work, you’ll have a stunning new backsplash that lasts for many years before your eyes every time you walk into your kitchen.