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We're doing a kitchen remodel, and we're prepping to have a tile backsplash installed on one wall, from the countertop to the ceiling. There's a window on this wall, which the sink is centered on. The area of the wall to be tiled (minus the area of the window) is 37 square feet.

The problem is that the wall is uneven. If you put a 48" straight edge up against the most sunken areas, there's a gap of almost a 1/2".

There is also a spot near the window trim where the wall appears to be built up too much, enough so that the tile could end up proud of the trim, which I'm pretty sure won't look so hot.

My inclination is to tear the wall down to the studs and redo it, but our cabinets have already been installed (though not the countertops). There are no upper cabinets on this wall, so I am wondering if it's possible to redo only the part of the wall that is above the level of the countertop?

Or would it be easier to fill the valleys with drywall mud? If so, which type of mud would be best for this application? Are there any issues to consider, like cracking and water exposure? (There will be a sink under the window.)

uneven wall to be prepped for tiling uneven wall to be prepped for tiling

  • It looks like the window trim is already pretty close to the wall surface. It might be easier to fix the trim so it protrudes farther out. – Mike Baranczak Apr 19 '17 at 15:11
  • I see how that would get it so the tile won't be proud of the trim. It seems there would still be a lot of unevenness that will make the tiling difficult and potentially affect the way the whole tiled wall will look after it's done. – S.S. Apr 19 '17 at 17:47
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    Did you consider using smaller tiles? When using smaller tiles, wall defects will be less pronounced, as the tiles will follow your uneven wall better. It also depends on your line of sight, e.g. if you usually stand in front of this wall, you won't notice as much curvature as if the wall was to your side. – haimg Apr 19 '17 at 20:16
  • I had read that somewhere, but we had already bought the tile. – S.S. Apr 19 '17 at 20:18
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I would take out/off the drywall if not from the whole wall then from the cabinets up, take off the window trim , casing and sill. Then address any unevenness of the studs with furring strips or shims. Since the wall is open I would replace all the electrical boxes with the new adjustable depth boxes so you can set them to match your tiled wall. I would then use Denshield in place of drywall, it is similar to drywall, cuts and installs the same, 1/2 thick with a coating on it specifically made for tile. You would only use it where tile would be installed so if the tile will be going all the way to the corner then install it to the corner. If not install it so that it will be just inside ( an inch ) of the tile line so that the texture of the denshield is not visible after tile is installed. install new casing and sill on the window, straight and true so tiling will be less complicated. if you are wrapping the tile into the window you can use the denshield to case and or sill.

  • This approach appeals to me on a number of levels. If we only redo the wall from the cabinets up, after we get the DensShield up and it's plumb and even, it seems like there might a rift between the old drywall and the new DensShield. Do we need to treat it like a drywall joint and tape/mud it? Also, if I can't get DensShield where I am, then what would you recommend as an alternative? – S.S. Apr 19 '17 at 23:13
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As for mudding to make it even - I would not even attempt it. (if it was just a small spot ok).

I would redo the wall - yes more work and a delay but it is not a patch, it will be right when you finish it, and all those other issues you bring up will also be addressed in one instance. Of course you know they say doing it right the first time costs more, but is far cheaper than doing it right the second or third time.

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