How to Replace Drywall Behind Backsplash

Replacing drywall behind a backsplash is a common remodeling task that allows you to update the look of your kitchen or bathroom. While it may seem daunting, it can be accomplished by most DIYers with proper planning, patience, and the right techniques. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the entire process of replacing drywall behind backsplash step-by-step.

Gather the Necessary Materials

Before starting any demolition, you need to ensure you have all the necessary materials on hand. Here is a list of what you will need:

  • Drywall sheets – Use moisture-resistant drywall for areas behind a sink or near water. Purchase 1/4″ sheets if going over existing drywall. Calculate the square footage to know how many sheets to buy.
  • Drywall screws – 1-1/4″ screws work best. Make sure they are corrosion resistant.
  • Drywall joint compound – For embedding tape and smoothing seams.
  • Joint tape – Paper or mesh tape to cover drywall seams.
  • Drywall knives – A 4″, 6″, and 12″ knife for applying joint compound.
  • Dust masks – To avoid breathing in drywall dust.
  • Gloves and eye protection – For safety while demoing and handling drywall.
  • Pry bar – For removing any remaining backsplash tiles.
  • Hammer – For knocking out drywall and prying up nails.
  • Reciprocating saw – For cutting drywall edges and holes for plumbing.
  • Stud finder – Essential for finding studs to secure new drywall sheets.
  • Laser level – Makes hanging drywall easier and more accurate.
  • Ladder – To reach upper portions of the wall.
  • Vacuum – For cleaning up drywall dust and debris.
  • Drop cloths – For protecting floors and countertops from dust.

Before you start demolition, clear the counters and remove anything attached to the walls like curtain rods, shelves, and light fixtures. Cover nearby surfaces with drop cloths. Turn off the water supply to any fixtures on the walls.

Safely Remove the Existing Backsplash

If you currently have a backsplash installed, the first step is to take it down completely.

  • Use a pry bar and hammer to pry off any remaining tiles, being careful not to damage the surrounding drywall. Wear safety glasses to protect your eyes.
  • Use a utility knife to cut through any tile mortar or thinset adhesive still attaching tiles to the wall.
  • Thoroughly scrape off any remaining thinset from the drywall using a putty knife.
  • Vacuum up dust and debris as you work. Dispose of old tiles appropriately.
  • Inspect the drywall underneath. If the surface is damaged, those areas will need extra joint compound for patching later.

Removing the tile fully exposes the drywall underneath and allows you to assess if only a skim coat will be needed, or if sheets need replacement.

Cut and Remove Damaged Drywall

If the drywall is water damaged or was compromised when removing tile, you will need to cut out those sections and replace them with new drywall.

Here is how to cut out and remove damaged drywall:

  • Use a drywall knife to cut through paint or texture around damaged areas, so your saw can cut cleanly.
  • Set your reciprocating saw to a depth that will only cut through the drywall, not hitting plumbing or wires.
  • Outline the damaged sections to be removed with shallow score lines. Make cuts just inside lines.
  • Use a pry bar to pop the cut drywall off the studs. Watch for nails.
  • Cut holes for outlets, plumbing, etc with the reciprocating saw.
  • Vacuum up debris as you work. Dispose of all removed drywall appropriately.
  • Examine what is behind the wall. Look for mold, leaks, or other issues needing repair before hanging new drywall.

Only remove drywall that is compromised or damaged. Any sections still in good shape can remain.

Prepare the Wall for New Drywall

With the damaged drywall removed, some prep work may be needed so new sheets can go up smoothly.

  • Inspect exposed studs and cross-bracing for any issues. Repair or replace damaged wood.
  • Use a shop vacuum to clean out old insulation if present. Consider spraying studs for mold.
  • Look for protruding nails and hammer them back flat so they don’t create lumps or puncture new drywall.
  • Check that all plumbing and electrical lines are secured to studs properly.
  • Confirm studs are consistently spaced 16 inches apart, or less.
  • Mark stud locations along the top and bottom plates for easy reference later.

Prepping the framing ensures your new drywall sheets will install cleanly and securely.

Hang New Drywall Over the Area

With demolition fully complete and the wall prepped, it’s time to install new drywall sheets.

  • Measure the area needing drywall and cut sheets to fit using a utility knife and straightedge.
  • Lift sheets into place against the wall and secure using 1-1/4” drywall screws driven into studs. Drill pilot holes first.
  • Use drywall shims if there are slight gaps between sheets and framing.
  • Stagger seams between horizontal and vertical pieces so they don’t line up.
  • Run sheets horizontal, with seams supported by studs. Cut edges flush with ceiling.
  • For moisture-prone areas, use mold-resistant drywall and waterproof drywall mud.
  • Double up sheets where backing is needed for sinks, cabinets, or tile edges.

Take your time measuring and cutting accurate pieces. Installing drywall improperly can create huge headaches once finishes are applied.

Refinish Seams and Screw Holes

With the new drywall sheets installed, the seams and screw holes will need to be finished out properly to create an even surface.

  • Apply joint tape over each seam between drywall sheets using drywall mud. Smooth tapes with a 6” knife.
  • Spot screws using lightweight topping compound and a 4” putty knife. Feather edges.
  • Let compound fully dry before additional coats. Lightly sand between applications.
  • Apply 2-3 thin finish coats with a 12” knife to blend and smooth the seams and screws.
  • Allow final coats to fully dry, then sand smooth. Carefully scrape off any ridges or tool marks.
  • Vacuum well and wipe down with a damp cloth to remove dust before priming.

Taking time to properly finish and smooth seams will result in a flush wall ready for your new backsplash.

Prepare and Prime New Drywall

Once joint compound is dry and sanded smooth, the new drywall needs to be prepped and primed before installing the new backsplash.

  • Fill any uneven areas with drywall mud. Let fully cure before sanding smooth.
  • Sand surfaces using 100-150 grit sandpaper so primer adheres well. Wipe clean.
  • Seal raw gypsum around edges and seams with drywall sealer so they don’t absorb moisture from thinset.
  • Spot prime over patches and repairs. Allow to fully dry.
  • Apply 1-2 coats of drywall primer to entire area, allowing proper dry time between coats.

Priming creates a uniform surface for your backsplash tiles or panels to adhere to. Caulk around edges, pipes, and fixtures to seal gaps.

Install Your New Backsplash

Once the wall is prepped and primed, you are finally ready for the fun part – installing your new backsplash!

  • Carefully read and follow your backsplash manufacturer’s installation instructions.
  • Dry fit tile sheets on the wall before applying any adhesive to ensure proper fit and alignment.
  • Mix a batch of thinset mortar suitable for the backsplash tile you’ve chosen.
  • Use a notched trowel to spread thinset evenly over the wall area, just enough to adhere tiles.
  • Press tiles into the thinset and slide them into position. Use tile spacers for consistent grout lines.
  • Allow thinset to cure fully per manufacturer directions before grouting.
  • Mix grout and apply evenly over the face of the tiles, pushing into joints with a rubber grout float.
  • Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge once it becomes firm. Rinse sponge frequently.
  • Seal grout lines once fully cured, using a penetrating grout sealer.

Follow all manufacturer instructions closely, as improper tile installation can cause failures and need for expensive replacement. Now step back and admire your hard work!

Frequently Asked Questions About Replacing Drywall Behind Backsplash

Replacing drywall behind a backsplash is a project many homeowners will tackle. Here are answers to some of the most common questions on the process:

How thick should the drywall be behind a backsplash?

Standard 1/2″ drywall sheets are ideal for most backsplash installations. Use 1/4″ backerboard reinforced sheets if existing drywall will remain.

Should I use greenboard or regular drywall?

Moisture-resistant greenboard provides extra protection from steam, splashes, and humidity in kitchens and baths. Use where potential for water exposure exists.

Do I need to remove the old backsplash completely?

Yes, take it down to the studs. This allows you to inspect and repair framing while also achieving the proper wall surface for the new backsplash.

How are drywall seams finished behind a backsplash?

Finish seams with joint tape embedded in drywall mud. Finish screws and corners too. Sand smooth when dry before priming.

Should plumbing or electrical be moved before hanging new drywall?

If possible, move outlets higher above the new backsplash height. Adjust any plumbing in the way of new drywall sheets before installation.

Can I install the backsplash directly over new drywall without priming first?

It is highly recommended to prime bare drywall before setting tile. Priming seals the surface and prevents premature absorption of mortar moisture.

How long should primer and thinset dry before the next step?

Allow primer to dry fully per manufacturer directions, typically 24 hours. Let thinset cure completely which can take 24-48 hours before grouting or exposing to moisture.


Replacing drywall behind a backsplash creates opportunities to upgrade your kitchen or bath. While the process involves careful demolition, proper drywall finishing skills, and patience during curing times, the final results are worth the effort. Use premium materials and follow manufacturer instructions to ensure your new backsplash lasts for many years before ever needing drywall work again.