Can You Tile Over Drywall?

Drywall is one of the most common walls found in every room in a house. Tiles can be light or heavy depending on their size, therefore, it’s important for the surface underneath to be suitable for tiles. Today, I will explain if it’s possible and a good idea to tile over drywall.

As a general rule, you can tile over drywall. But, it’s not recommended to install tiles over shower walls that are drywall. Instead, a cement backer board is recommended. Tilers also state a primer for drywall to allow better adhesion of the mortar to the drywall to enhance durability.

Installing tiles the right way ensures they last a long time and that they will meet building codes. So, below I will cover exactly how to install tile over drywall and what you need to know before doing so.

Can You Tile Directly on Drywall

Tiles are typically installed onto various different surfaces. Although it’s possible to install tile on virtually any surface, tilers have found that certain best practices should be followed to make sure a tiled surface doesn’t fail early. And need to be replaced too soon, so here’s a summary of if it’s OK to tile directly over drywall or if some prep work is required first.

Overall, you can tile directly to drywall. But, tilers recommend putting down a primer to increase adhesion of the mortar to the drywall. Also, it’s not recommended to install tiles on shower walls that are drywall. Instead, a cement backer board or a similar product should be used for shower walls.

The surface of drywall is typically a type of paper. But, there can be a range of finishes. After the drywall is installed, the screw holes and the joins are filled with builder’s mud. This smooths them off and makes the entire drywall surface flat.

Here’s a video where a tiler explains and shows why using a primer is a very good idea before tiling drywall:

The drywall surface is fine to tile over and works well. However, it works even better and lasts a longer time if a primer is applied to the surface. Such as Mapei Eco Prim Grip or a similar product. 

Rather than the smooth cardboard finish that drywall has, it makes the surface slightly rough. This adds minor grooves and bumps to the drywall. As a result, the mortar or thin-set sticks and holds better to the drywall.

However, there is what is called a European finish. This is where builder’s mud or something similar is sprayed or splattered onto drywall, which creates a rough and uneven pattern. 

Typically this type of drywall finish will be too uneven to tile over directly. Another layer of builders mud will need to be applied to make it smooth and level. Or, it will need to be sanded a bit flat.

Do you need to waterproof drywall

In general, drywall does not need to be waterproofed unless it’s the drywall behind shower walls. It’s necessary to waterproof drywall behind shower walls and is recommended by virtually all remodelers and contractors. 

Some people do use drywall behind shower walls. However, it’s not recommended. Ideally, shower walls should be cement board or a similar material. So, unless the drywall is behind the shower walls, it does not need to be waterproofed.

What preparation is required before tiling over drywall

To prepare a drywall surface to be tiled, the drywall needs to be flat and level. You can test this using a straight edge and a spirit level. If it’s not perfectly flat, then it can be necessary to apply a layer of plaster.

Here’s a video that shows how to prepare drywall to be tiled, as well as how to tile it:

Typically, when drywall is installed, any imperfections, like the holes from the screws and the joins, will be filled in. However, if you installed the drywall yourself, this may not have been done yet. So, if this has not been done, then do that first.

Can You Tile Over Drywall in a Shower

Showers and bathrooms are subjected to a lot more moisture than other parts of a home. Therefore, a range of steps are required to make sure that they don’t develop mold or get water damaged. Drywall is typically used for bathroom walls, so here’s whether it’s possible to tile over drywall in a shower.

As a general rule, you should not tile over drywall in a shower. According to tilers, use cement backer board rather than drywall for shower walls. However, drywall can be used for the rest of the bathroom walls. Provided the drywall is waterproofed, it’s acceptable but not recommended. 

For the rest of a bathroom, use green, blue, or purple drywall because they are more water resistant than regular white drywall. The overwhelming consensus from tilers, remodelers, and contractors is that cement backer board is the best thing to use for shower walls. And drywall should not be used.

Will Thinset Stick to Drywall

Before laying tile, a layer of mortar, also sometimes called thin-set, is applied to a wall or floor. It is responsible for sticking the tile down and holding it in place. Installing tiles onto drywall means that the thinset will be applied to drywall, so this is everything you need to know about whether thinset will stick to drywall.

Overall, thinset will stick to drywall. But tilers recommend applying a layer of primer to drywall before tiling on top of it. A primer makes the drywall surface rougher, causing the thinset to have better adhesion. Doing so increases the durability of tiles installed on drywall.

The exact brand and type of primer is not important. But, the main thing is that it is a primer designed for drywall. One that is recommended by tilers is Mapei Eco Prim Grip. 

Tiles have a weight to them. And once tiles are installed, the force of gravity will cause them to pull on the mortar or thinset underneath.

While a tiled will last a long time, making the bond between the thinset or mortar and the drywall stronger is recommended because it’s not a very time-consuming extra step. But, adds significant durability compared to tiling directly on the drywall surface according to tilers.

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