Can You Put Subway Tile Over Drywall?

Subway tiles are classic, easy to clean, stain-resistant, and designed to add a little drama to the walls. They give a finished aesthetic to your kitchen, baths, and other areas in your home. Installing subway tiles could be a lot of work. You are wondering if you can install subway tiles because you have drywall. You have come to the right post! We have done our research and collected the answers for you.

Placing a tile over drywall is not an issue as long as you fix the wall first and use the correct mortar to install the tile. Analyze the condition of the drywall before buying materials. Start cleaning the wall and check if it is free of holes, cracks, and dirt. Completely dry the wall before tiling.

Do you want to know more about how to prepare the drywall before installing tile? Are you looking for more information about subway tiles? Do you have other questions in mind about tile installation? Continue reading through this post for details because we summed up the answers for you.

White brick subway tile used for a backsplash in the kitchen with small basil leaves, Can You Put Subway Tile Over Drywall?

Can You Tile Drywall?

The answer is yes, you can install tiles on drywall. However, you need to plan and consider the condition of your drywall. Can it handle tiles? Is the drywall surface flat, crack-free, hole-free, and the moisture level not too high? Follow the preparation steps below to tile your drywall perfectly.

How To Prepare The Drywall Before Installing Subway Tiles

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White subway tiles

It is important to prepare the wall before installation to secure the tiles and ensure there are no movements that could damage the grout and tiles.

Check the Wall

Be sure that the wall is flat, with no cracks, bumps, or holes.

Clear the Wall

Remove outlet covers, wires, nails, and anything that can obstruct tiling. Cover the bottom or underneath the area where you are planning to install the tiles. You can use newspapers, old cloth or plastic sheets to cover your workspace.

Clean the Drywall

Make sure the wall is spot-free. Clean it with a wet sponge or cloth.

Dry the Wall

Completely dry the wall before starting your project. Mortar will not adhere to a wet wall. Use a fan or a blower to help it dry faster.

Tips For Installing Tiles On Drywall Under Different Conditions

There are things to consider before installing subway tiles. One of these things is to check the condition of your drywall.

New Drywall

If you have new drywall, use a skim coat to seal the walls and let them dry. Use medium-grit sandpaper so the surface is not too smooth. This will give the tile adhesive something to hold on to.

Check medium grit sandpaper on Amazon.

Painted Drywall

If your drywall is painted, graze and remove any peeling or loose paint to create a flat surface. You can use a vacuum to dust the wall. If the painted wall has grease or oil, you can use trisodium phosphate or an ammonia-based cleaner to clean it.

Check trisodium phosphate on Amazon.


If there is wallpaper, remove it before installation. Scrape the wallpaper and glue. Patch the cracks and holes with spackling compound.

Check spackling on Amazon.

Existing Tiles

You have two options, either remove the existing tiles or install the new tiles over the old ones. Just be sure that the drywall can handle the weight if you plan to install new tiles over existing tiles.

What Are The Tools and Materials You Need To Install Subway Tiles?

Prepare these tools to start your project:

  • Line laser

Worker using laser guide tool to align a switch

  • Tile Spacers

White tile spacers using for laying tiles

  • Tile Saw or Cutter

Worker cutting a black tile using a cutting disk

  • Oscillating Tool

Different sizes of cutting disks on a white background

And you also need to have these materials to completete your tiling project:

  • Mortar
  • Premix Grout
  • Trisodium Phosphate  Cleaner
  • Sandpaper
  • Spackling Compound
  • Subway Tiles

How to Install Subway Tiles

We listed the step-by-step procedure for installing subway tiles.

  • Plan and layout the wall. Measure the wall to know how many tiles you need and where to start attaching the tiles.
  • Start from the center for symmetry and aesthetics. Cut tiles for smaller spaces. Place the cut tiles on areas that aren't visible.
  • Lay out your tiles before adding adhesive. This is to make sure that the tile placement is in alignment.
  • Apply adhesive mortar to the wall using a trowel.
  • Attach the tiles to the wall. Use spacers for grouting and line lasers to level the tiles, so they are even.
  • Let the adhesive set dry first before removing spacers.
  • Apply grout between tiles using a grout float. Leave it to set. Remove excess dry grout from the tile surface using an oscillating tool.
  • Let the tile grout set before installing outlet covers.

Do You Need Backer Board For Wall Tiles?

Backer board is only needed in areas with direct exposure to flowing water such as the bathroom. If you are installing tiles for the backsplash of your kitchen, you don't need a backboard and you can place tiles directly on the drywall. It has less moisture compared to bathroom walls.

Do You Need Primer On Drywall Before Tiling?

Drywall absorbs water. It weakens the adhesive bond between the wall and the tiles. You need to apply primer on drywall to install tiles correctly and prevent mold. Primer also makes the wall temperature resistant.

Check adhesion primer on Amazon.

Do I Have To Grout Subway Tiles?

Grouting takes a lot of time and work, but it is necessary to grout your tiles. Groutless tiles can collect dust, insects, and other particles between them no matter how tight the spaces between the tiles. Adding grout prevents such events. Another thing is that tiles move. They will rub and bump against each other, which could cause breakage and cracks.

Groutless tiles will break the required minimum grout joint size of the American National Standard Institute or ANSI. Proper grout joint size is needed for tiles to breathe.

Check adhesive grout on Amazon.

Things You Need To Know About Subway Tiles

What Is The Most Popular Size For Subway Tiles?

The most popular size of subway tiles is 3 x 6 inches, although you can use any rectangular tiles with 1 to 2 diameters such as 2 x 4, 4 x 8, or 6 x 12.

What Material Are Subway Tiles?

The original subway tile was made of ceramic. However, today's popular tiles are made of porcelain and glass.

Are Subway Tiles Expensive?

Traditional subway ceramic tiles are affordable. Other colors, materials, and designs of subway tiles are much more expensive than ceramic white.

Is Subway Tile The Cheapest?

The price of subway tiles depends on the materials, size, design, and color. It could range from $1 to $8 per square foot. Ceramic tiles are cheaper compared to porcelain and glass tiles.

How Much Does it Cost to Install Subway Tile?

The average cost to install backsplash subway tiles ranges from $15 to $40 per square foot. This estimation does not include professional fees if you are going to hire contractors. They charge $4 minimum per square foot.

You can save money on DIY installation, but you need to do thorough research and planning before starting your project. The total cost could range from $600 to $1,300, including professional fees. You can ask a contractor near you for an estimation.

Is Subway Tiles Out Of Style?

Subway tiles are still in demand and popular today. It is classic, affordable, and stylish, yet versatile. You just need to be creative and flexible in applications. Installing them in different patterns and positions gives a dramatic effect and style. 

How Long Does it Take to Install tile?

Installing subway tiles could take 1 to 3 days, depending on the size of the wall. The installation timetable includes preparation, installing the tiles, and drying.

What Are The Subway Tiles To Choose?

Subway tiles and white cabinets at the kitchen backsplash


This tile is a traditional subway tile made from clay. Ceramic is affordable yet classic and simple.


Porcelain is also made from clay, but the color and texture are the same from outside to inside. Smooth and non-absorbent.


Glass has a translucent glaze and is glossier than ceramic.


Marble is modern and stylish, which is more expensive than other subway tiles.

Natural Stone

Natural Stones are porous, so they must be sealed or glazed to protect them from water and humidity. These tiles are also more expensive than the other subway tiles.


White brick subway tile used for a backsplash in the kitchen with small basil leaves

Installing subway tiles on drywall could be time-consuming and a lot of work. There are things to consider before installing tiles, such as the condition of the drywall, fixing the wall, cleaning, planning, and the installation itself. You may need to consult a contractor for the layout, estimation, and measurements.

If you want to know more about tile installation, you can read these posts for ideas:

How To End Subway Tile Backsplash

11 Subway Tile Bathroom Ideas

How Long Does It Take To Install A Backsplash?


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