Can You Put Tile On Drywall?

Can You Put Tile On Drywall?

Additions and Remodels
DIY
Tile Work
By Mateos Glen Hayes April 26, 2022

Drywall is a ubiquitous feature of residential homes throughout North America. It’s a cheap and plentiful material that is quite versatile. Drywall can be cut into all sorts of shapes and thicknesses in order to help form walls and ceiling panels for all homes. Alas, it is a rather featureless material, typically consisting of a flat white surface.

Sure, you can paint it or texture it, but there’s only so much that can be done with such a basic material as far as looks go. If you feel like one of your rooms needs something better, like a nice layout of multi-colored and patterned tiles, you’re probably wondering if you can install tiles on drywall. The short answer is yes, you can.

The long answer is that it’s a bit complicated. Whether you can put tiles on your drywall depends on where the drywall is located, what kind of surface your drywall has, and the dryness or humidity of the indoor environment. 

The Main Question

Double-check the safety of adding tiles to drywall before getting to work.

Double-check the safety of adding tiles to drywall before getting to work.

To put it simply, you can put tile on drywall in almost any part of your home without any major issues so long as you make the required preparations beforehand. Surprisingly, you also don’t always need a tiler to get tiling installed. You also need to ensure that you use the right mortar, find the right spots and remove any contaminants on the drywall surface. 

That being said, there are a few cases where applying tile over drywall isn’t possible and will likely result in problems. The main areas where putting tiles on drywall will be an issue are those rooms where there is a lot of humidity and wetness.

For example, drywall that is located near showers, bathtubs, saunas, or any outdoor area such as an outdoor kitchen is not the appropriate place to apply tile over drywall. Trying to apply tiles in these areas can cause issues since the tiles will fail to adhere properly and will begin to come loose and fall off. This, in turn, will be a potential danger since falling tiles can cause damage and/or injury. 

What About Wet Places?

Some tiles won’t work on drywall without a concrete board.

Some tiles won’t work on drywall without a concrete board.

On top of the construction problems with applying tiles on a wet or humid surface, this can also cause additional issues beyond tiles falling off. In fact, the tiles can easily hide these problems as well, making it hard to notice them until the problem has developed too far. One of the most dangerous ones is mold, which can form as water seeps behind the tiles and between the gaps in tiles. Since these are wet and dark areas, mold can thrive quite easily.

This mold will cause tiles to dislodge as well, and a large amount of mold can cause significant respiratory problems if you are exposed to it. Tiles can also damage wet drywall structurally by causing rot by trapping moisture behind the tiles.

Pests love moisture as well, and so a bunch of wet tiles is a perfect place for ants, termites, and other creepy crawlies to hang out. The disadvantages of drywall might turn you off, so it’s important you know that there are alternatives available worth considering.

Safe Wet Areas

Will drywall tiles work behind a sink?

Will drywall tiles work behind a sink?

While it is true that there are certain perpetually wet places where putting tiles on drywall isn’t a good idea, there are some exceptions to that rule. In other words, not all wet places are off the table, so long as you keep the risks in mind. Many people tile on drywall for their kitchen backsplash on drywall to break the monotony of a white wall.

It is also possible to put tiles in a washroom if you would like to add a touch of style to an otherwise utilitarian room. However, before putting these tiles in, you’ll need to check the plumbing and sealing in these areas to ensure that there aren’t any water leaks or places where water could seep through.

This will prevent any unexpected mold or other issues from cropping up. 

Is Tiling On Drywall Safe? 

Yes, tiles can be added safely over drywall.

Yes, tiles can be added safely over drywall.

So you might be wondering whether installing tiles over drywall is even a good idea. Isn’t this just too dangerous to trifle with? Well, no. The truth is that it is safe to install tiles on drywall in the areas of your home where there is as little moisture as possible.

A humid climate on its own doesn’t necessarily mean things won’t work out, but just be sure that the area you chose isn’t too wet and things will be fine.

Tiling in Humid Places 

Humid areas require special attention and preparations.

Humid areas require special attention and preparations.

Based on the issues that can arise, it is a safe bet that you should avoid putting tiles on drywall in particularly wet parts of your home. However, some of us live in humid climes where wetness is sort of a fact of life. If that is the case for you, you’ll be happy to know that there is another way of getting tiles onto your drywall without causing dangerous issues.

The most reliable way to add tiles to your drywall is by installing a cement board beforehand. Cement boards are the best product to use in these circumstances because they do not come apart due to repeated water exposure and do not harbor mold growth. This is because the cement board is installed with water-resistant tape that seals the seams of the board. A vapor barrier is also installed behind the cement board to keep moisture from getting through.    

Painted Vs. Unpainted 

Painting drywall is not necessary for tiling.

Painting drywall is not necessary for tiling.

For painted drywall, the most important thing to bear in mind is that surfacing work has to be done before you start laying tiles. Fortunately, doing this doesn’t take very long and can be a nice little DIY project. All you have to do is clean the area you want to add tiles, add TSP (painter’s degreaser), smooth the surface with some sander, and fill holes with spackle.

You can also paint the drywall before adding tiles although this isn’t strictly necessary since you aren’t going to be able to see the paint behind the tiles. However, if you paint or prime the drywall be sure to scuff up the paint with some sandpaper as this will help the tiles bond to the wall better.

However, one important thing you should do in any case is to wait before applying tiles to fresh drywall. New drywall plaster takes at least four weeks to completely dry, so you should wait that long before applying your tiles.

Best Mortar Types

Thin-set type mortars often work best.

Thin-set type mortars often work best.

When it comes to choosing the right mortars, you’ll be looking at a thin-set type mortar as this will be best for setting the tiles on drywall. This is especially true for wetter areas such as sink backsplashes on drywall. Mastic can also work, although we do not recommend it for more humid areas since it won’t bond so well. 

What About Large Tiles?

Brick sheet tiles can also be added to drywall.

Brick sheet tiles can also be added to drywall.

Surprisingly, large tiles should work just fine since they won’t exceed 15 pounds per square foot in weight. This means the drywall should still support the tiles structurally, assuming you’re not sticking mason bricks onto the wall.

Incidentally, those that want to emulate the appearance of bricks on drywall should consider thin brick sheets that are essentially tiles that are made of masonry and look like bricks. Alternatively, a special vinyl product that has the texture of bricks can also be used since this is more affordable and easier to attach to drywall.

MG

Written by
Mateos Glen Hayes

Written by Mateos Glen Hayes

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