How to Replace Drywall for Kitchen Backsplash

Replacing drywall for your kitchen backsplash can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. With some careful planning and the right tools, this is a DIY project that most homeowners can tackle successfully. This comprehensive guide will walk you through all the steps needed for replacing drywall behind a kitchen backsplash.

Selecting the Right Drywall for Your Backsplash

When choosing drywall for your backsplash project, you’ll need to consider factors like water resistance, mold resistance, and fire codes. Here are some of the best options:

Moisture-Resistant Drywall – Made with a water-repellent paper facing. Helps prevent water damage behind a backsplash but is not waterproof. Usually green in color.

Mold-Resistant Drywall – Treated to deter mold growth. Ideal for high-moisture areas like behind a sink or stove. Look for products that say “mold resistant” on the label.

Cement Board – Made from cement and cellulose fibers. Extremely durable and moisture-resistant but harder to cut and install. Often used for tile backsplashes.

Firecode Drywall – Special type of drywall needed if you live in a municipality that requires fire-rated walls behind stoves. Check your local building codes.

For most standard backsplash projects, moisture-resistant drywall offers the best blend of water protection and ease of installation.

Removing the Existing Backsplash and Drywall

Before installing your new backsplash, you’ll need to remove the old one along with any drywall behind it.

Safety First

  • Turn off electricity and gas to stove/outlets before starting demolition.
  • Wear safety goggles, dust mask, and gloves.

Steps for Removal:

  1. Take out existing backsplash – Remove any silicone caulk at edges with a utility knife. Carefully detach backsplash tiles or panels using a pry bar.
  2. Take down old drywall – Use a drywall saw or utility knife to cut and remove drywall behind the backsplash area. Try to remove it in whole sheets if possible.
  3. Clean surfaces – Use a shop vacuum to remove dust and debris. Wipe surfaces with a damp cloth.
  4. Inspect plumbing and electrical – Replace any damaged wires or plumbing lines. Consult an electrician or plumber if needed.
  5. Prepare for new drywall – Studs should be 16 inches on center for proper drywall installation. Add furring strips if needed.

Measuring and Cutting New Drywall Panels

Now it’s time to measure and cut pieces of new drywall to perfectly fit your backsplash area.

Tips for Measuring:

  • Use a stud finder to mark stud locations on the wall. You’ll need to secure edges of drywall to studs.
  • Measure width and height of the backsplash area. Transfer measurements to drywall sheet.
  • For outlets, measure opening size and locations on wall. Transfer to drywall.

Cutting Drywall:

  • Use a utility knife with fresh blade to score the paper facing. Snap along score line to cut drywall.
  • A circular saw with drywall blade also works for long cuts. Cut on the paper side of drywall, not the whitish gypsum side.
  • Make small notch cuts at corners to allow drywall pieces to fit together.
  • Wear goggles and dust mask when cutting drywall to avoid inhaling dust.

Installing the New Drywall Pieces

Now it’s time to fasten the drywall pieces you’ve cut to size onto the wall. Follow these tips for proper installation:

  • Apply drywall adhesive to studs using caulking gun where the edges of each piece will attach.
  • Lift drywall piece into place and press firmly against adhesive to adhere it.
  • Drill drywall screws every 8-12 inches along stud lines and the top/bottom plates to firmly secure each piece.
  • For outlet cutouts, secure drywall tightly against box using long drywall screws.
  • Use joint compound and tape over seams between pieces. Apply thin coats and sand smooth when dry.
  • Avoid placing seams where backsplash tiles will go. Offset seams from tile layout.
  • Take time to ensure drywall is secure and seam edges are smooth before applying backsplash.

Choosing Your New Kitchen Backsplash

Once your new drywall is installed, it’s time for the fun part – selecting your new kitchen backsplash! Here are some of the most popular options:

Tile: Provides beautiful, customizable finishes. Subway tile, granite, marble, and travertine are great choices. Use water-resistant grout.

Stainless Steel: Sleek, modern look that is easy to clean and sanitize. Budget-friendly metal sheets or costly custom panels are available.

Glass Tile: Gorgeous way to add color and texture. Typically made from recycled glass. Best for low-traffic areas due to fragility.

Natural Stone: Elegant and durable but higher cost. Granite, travertine, limestone, and slate are common stones.

Reclaimed Wood: Rustic, warm aesthetic. Use water-sealed planks to protect against moisture. Provides texture.

Mirrors: Light-reflecting and visually expanding. Use tempered glass panels cut to size. glue directly to drywall.

Peel-and-Stick: Budget option that uses adhesive backing already attached to tiles or panels. Easy DIY installation.

Preparing the Surface for New Backsplash

To ensure proper adhesion and installation, take time to prep the surface of the new drywall before applying the backsplash:

  • Make sure drywall is smooth, dry, and dust-free. Sand any uneven areas.
  • Clean thoroughly with an all-purpose cleaner and rinse with clear water.
  • For tile, paint on a tile setting adhesive primer using rollers or brush. Allow to fully dry.
  • If using backsplash panels, apply silicone adhesive caulk to the backside and let cure overnight face down.
  • For heavy stone tile, screw cement backer board panels to the drywall first to provide reinforced support.

Proper prep ensures long-lasting adhesion and prevents tiles or panels from becoming detached over time.

Installing Your New Backsplash

It’s finally time for the fun part – installing your gorgeous new backsplash! Use these tips:

For Tile:

  • Plan tile layout before mixing mortar, using spacers to set gaps. Have all tools ready.
  • Mix thinset mortar to manufacturer instructions. Avoid air pockets.
  • Use notched trowel to spread thinset where tile will go. Spread even 1/4 inch layer.
  • Press tiles firmly into thinset, use spacers between tiles for consistent spacing.
  • Once tiles are set, use grout float to fill gaps. Wipe away excess gently with sponge.
  • Apply silicone caulk between top edges of backsplash and countertop.

For Panels:

  • Ensure backside has adhesive sheeting, silicone caulk, or construction adhesive attached.
  • Dry fit pieces to ensure proper fit before peeling off adhesive backing.
  • Press panels firmly to wall, holding 30 seconds. Use roller to adhere fully.
  • For seams between panels, apply painter’s tape on wall 1/16 inch from edge to prevent gaps.
  • Install filler panels at edges and corners after large panels are installed.
  • Seal top edges with color-matched silicone caulk.

Caulking and Sealing the Backsplash

Once your backsplash is fully installed, finishing touches like caulking and sealing will help complete the project:

  • Apply thin bead of silicone caulk along all joints with countertop, cabinets, and edges.
  • For natural stone tile, apply quality sealant to help resist staining and damage from moisture.
  • Wipe away any haze or excess caulk with damp sponge. Follow caulk manufacturer curing timeline before exposure.
  • Do not apply grout sealant too soon or moisture can become trapped behind new tiles.
  • If using marble tile, apply pH-neutral sealer to help prevent etching from acids.
  • Let caulk and sealants cure fully for 24-48 hours before using kitchen fixtures.

Protecting Your Investment With Care and Maintenance

To keep your new backsplash looking fabulous long-term:

  • For grout, routinely apply grout sealer and avoid abrasive cleaners which can damage grout.
  • Clean natural stone gently with pH-neutral stone cleaners to prevent etching and pitting.
  • Avoid hanging wet dishcloths on tile edges which can promote moisture damage.
  • Use soft cloths only when cleaning backsplash to prevent scratches.
  • Re-apply sealants periodically per manufacturer guidelines to protect surfaces.
  • Check for any cracks in caulk or grout which require fresh application to prevent moisture intrusion.

With the right care, your new backsplash can remain beautiful for decades to come!

FAQs About Replacing Drywall for Backsplash

Still have some questions? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Should I hire a contractor or DIY my backsplash project?

For novice DIY-ers, installation of materials like natural stone may be better left to tile professionals. Complex demolition or plumbing work also benefits from an expert. Smaller peel-and-stick projects can easily be DIY.

What tools do I need to replace drywall behind a backsplash?

Handy tools include a drywall saw, utility knife, tape measure, pry bar, caulking gun, drill, screwdriver, trowel, router for outlets, shop vac, safety gear, and sandpaper.

How long does it take to redo a backsplash with new drywall?

Budget 2-3 days total for demolition, installing new drywall, applying your backsplash, and grouting/sealing. Working alone expect the project to take closer to 3 full days.

Should I remove or work around existing kitchen cabinets?

Often cabinets can be left in place to avoid the hassle of removal. Use oscillating tools to cut drywall behind and around them carefully.

Can I install a backsplash directly over existing tile?

It’s not advisable to install a backsplash directly over another existing one. Removing the old backsplash allows you to inspect and repair the wall behind fully.

What about plumbing and electrical behind the backsplash?

Take time to inspect all plumbing and electrical lines during demolition. Repair damaged lines and add extra wall protection around lines before reinstalling drywall.


Replacing the drywall behind your kitchen backsplash is a weekend project that lets you give your kitchen an entirely fresh new look. With the right planning and preparation, you can achieve beautiful results. Focus on proper drywall installation, precise backsplash placement, and careful caulking and sealing. The investment of time is well worth finally having the stylish, updated backsplash you’ve been dreaming about in your kitchen!