How to Tile Over Sheetrock

Mosaic tile being installed over drywall in a bathroom.
  • 2-4 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 90-140
What You'll Need
Joint compound
Putty knife
Primer or sealant
Paint roller
Tile adhesive
Trowel
Tiles
Tile spacers
Tile cutter
Grout
Grout float
Sponge
What You'll Need
Joint compound
Putty knife
Primer or sealant
Paint roller
Tile adhesive
Trowel
Tiles
Tile spacers
Tile cutter
Grout
Grout float
Sponge

Sheetrock, or drywall, is no different for tiling over than wood, plaster, cement, or other wall materials. If you are tiling an area that is not in a bathroom, tiles can be applied directly to the sheetrock simply and easily. The wall has to simply be prepared in order to complete this task properly.

Note: If you are looking to place tiles on a drywall inside a bathroom, you will need to use a vapor barrier or some type of backing in order to prevent the sheetrock from getting wet, which will cause it to deteriorate.

Step 1 - Obtain Materials from Home Improvement Center

Purchase the joint compound, putty knife, primer, adhesive, and other materials needed to apply tile from a home improvement center. You may also be able to find the tiles needed to accomplish this job there, but if you don't see something you like, you can also go to a carpet and tile store for a different selection.

Step 2 - Fill Holes

Using the joint compound and putty knife, fill all holes and punctures in the sheetrock. Scrape the blade over the compound in the hole to smooth it out and avoid having to sand the wall later. Then, allow the this to dry completely before moving on to the next step.

Step 3 - Apply Primer to the Sheetrock

Apply a coat of primer sealant to the wall. Roll it onto the surface evenly to avoid drips that might cause the tiles to hang strangely.

Step 4 - Place Tile Adhesive on the Sheetrock

Next, take the tile adhesive (thinset mortar) and apply it to the drywall with a trowel. Spread the adhesive evenly in small in sections since the adhesive can dry before you lay any tile if your work area is too large. Once you spread the mortar, press the tiles into place. Use tile spacers as you go to keep each piece evenly separate from one another.

Use a tile cutter to make any cuts needed to finish the edge of a row. Measure carefully to decide where the tile needs to be cut, and operate the machine according to its instructions. Do not wear loose clothing when operating this tool and keeping fingers away from the cutting surface.

Step 5 - Grout and Clean

Allow the thinset to dry according to any instructions on the packaging. Then, you can fill in the gaps between the tiles with grout to seal and finish this project.

In this step, you need a grout float and grout that is either redi-mix or a substance you must prepare for the tile. Mix the grout, if needed, according to any instructions, and then start to work it between the tile using the float. Spread a generous amount to fill the gaps. Use a wet sponge afterward to clean away excess, and then use it once again after the grout dries to clean the tiles.

Tile Over Sheetrock FAQ

Can I tile directly on drywall?

While it may not always be a good idea because it can be difficult to get tiles to stick to certain surfaces, you can tile directly onto drywall. It is possible to tile onto drywall that has been painted or even tiled already.

Sheetrock is a specific brand name for drywall, so all Sheetrock is drywall. However, not all drywall is Sheetrock because there are multiple brands.

What is the best adhesive for tile on drywall?

Many types of adhesive can be used to secure tile on drywall. One particular favorite is liquid nails because this is a material that is easy to work with and it's very easy to find.

Do I have to use backer board for tile?

It is a good idea to use backer board under tile in the bathroom because this board protects the wall from moisture. Unless you're using a moisture barrier, you want to install backer board before you place tile.

However, you should not install this board on top of drywall. This comprises the ventilation and can lead to mold growth and other moisture management problems.

Moisture-resistant paint and other options can still be used instead.

Will ceramic tile stick to drywall?

With the right adhesive, ceramic tile will stick to drywall. In areas prone to moisture, such as bathrooms, you will want a strong adhesive.

However, because of the excess of moisture in the shower area, it is not recommended to put ceramic tile directly on drywall. In wet areas like this, you should use cement board instead of drywall or use a water-resistant tile backer on top of drywall before you place the tile.

Do walls need sealing before tiling?

Walls should be prepped before tiling, which means that holes and cracks should be patched and a coat of primer should be applied. This prep work will ensure better tile adhesion and a better-looking final result.