Can Backsplash Tile Be Installed Directly Onto Drywall?

The backsplash in a kitchen is the strip of wall between the countertop and the bottom of the wall cabinets. This area is especially prone to damage from splashes, cooking spills, fingerprints and general grease and dirt. A good way to protect the backsplash, and to add a distinctive touch to the kitchen decor, is to apply tiles. Applying tile to drywall in a kitchen (but not a bathroom, which would require cement board) requires little preparation.

Design Decisions

Tile protects kitchen walls from moisture and grease.

A great number of decisions need to be made before you begin a backsplash project. Choices to make include the height of the backsplash; color, size and material of tile; and the color of grout you wish to use. Consider the color of your kitchen walls, cabinets and flooring in making your selection. Tile for a backsplash should always be glazed or sealed in order to keep the tile from absorbing food or liquid spills or splashes.

Preparing the Drywall

Begin by removing the switchplates and outlet covers from the wall and sand with 80-grit sandpaper, just to rough up the surface a bit to create a good surface that the mastic, a tile adhesive, can stick to. Wipe off the dust from sanding with a damp cloth. Decide where you will start tiling. This could be a focal point in the kitchen, such as over the sink or above the stove. Measure and mark the center of this area.

Applying the Tile

Cover an area about 2- by 2-feet square with mastic using a notched trowel, spreading it evenly to the depth suggested by the manufacturer. Start setting the tile in the mastic at the center bottom of the backsplash. If the tile does not have spacers, use plastic spacers to make sure you keep the distance between the tiles consistent. Continue applying mastic and tiles, cutting tiles as necessary to fill in the backsplash.

Grouting and Caulking

Allow the mastic to dry, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Grout between the tiles by smearing it across the tiles and packing it into the joints. Grout the entire backsplash and then clean off the extra grout with soft sponge dipped in water. Allow the grout to set and then buff the tiles clean. Apply a bead of caulk between the counter and the first row of tiles.

About the Author

Tanya Lee is a professional writer with more than 30 years experience. She has published extensively in the field of education and as a journalist, the latter in such publications as "High Country News" and "News from Indian Country." Lee holds a M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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