I want to tile 100% of my bathroom walls. The potential problem is that portions of the plaster walls have been wallpapered AND painted(!). I suspect that the painter ran into trouble removing the wallpaper from the plaster walls and just decided to paint over everything.

The question is-- what sort of preparation do I need to go through to lay tile on these sections? Removing the wallpaper is obviously impossible at this point, and I doubt that I'd be able to tile on the paint.

  • 2
    Why is removing the paper "obviously impossible"? I doubt that's true.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 15:40
  • To clarify further, what sort of plaster? It would help if we knew the home's vintage.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 18:52

4 Answers 4


It's going to depend on the tiles used. But in any case, wallpaper stripping is in order. That should bring you back to solid plasterboard, which is fine for most wall tiles. If you are putting really heavy wall tiles (such as those made for floors), then you need to 'feel' the existing plasterboard. If there's give in it, it would be prudent to either plasterboard over (but where are the battens?), or start again, by stripping all that off. In which case, there's not much point in stripping the wallpaper off first...

If it's all plaster, rather than board, then all you need to do is get rid of the paper, which is not an impossibility, whatever you think. That's all.

  • Tile over plaster if soft plaster can be a nightmare. Better to totally remove the lath and plaster and put in backer board in a bathroom especially. I do not think this is good advice. Yes tile over Sheetrock was common in the 50’s & 60’s but not so much now in bathrooms at a minimum a upgrade to green or blue board is needed.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 16:59
  • Horsehair plaster is a rare animal. It's more likely that this is solid, modernish plaster, which is a fantastic tile substrate.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 20:17

First of all: despite what the other poster says, drywall can be used as a substrate for tiles. I've done it in my bathroom 6 years ago, and it's still solid. Some caveats: you can't use drywall in wet areas, like showers. The drywall has to be supported properly so it doesn't move (although this applies to anything that goes under tiles). The drywall has to be sound. And if there's wallpaper on it, like you have, then that's no good.

I see two options for you:

  1. Strip the walls down to the studs, and put up new drywall and/or cement board. This will also make it easier to do other stuff like adding electric outlets, or replacing questionable plumbing.
  2. Put 1/4 inch cement board on top of the drywall. Use a combination of construction adhesive and screws.
  • I don't think it's necessary to remove stout plaster, nor is it necessary to overlay it.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 20:15

This already has an accepted answer that may be bad advice!

If it is “horsehair and lath “ plaster you would be a fool to put tile on it.

if it is cement based plaster then rent a pro steam unit or

spray the walls with water and a surfactant mix and then use a wire cup brush. This can can clean a normal size bathroom in a little over an hour.

If old school I remove the plaster and lath install backer board and tile.

Old school soft plaster and tile do not always mix in some cases the wall starts falling apart from the moisture in the thinset or mastic.


Drywall is not solid enough surface and will flex, thus creating cracks in tile joints.

You would use backer board, screwed on to the drywall.

No need to prep the drywall, scrape off the wall paper and roughen the paint for better adhesion.

You might need quarter rounds to cover the edges of the tile wall.

  • 2
    Tile is commonly installed over drywall in areas outside of showers. Also, this isn't drywall. It's plaster, which is much more robust.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 15:38
  • @isherwood rather than guessing the quality of the plaster/drywall, using backer boards is safe solution
    – Traveler
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 18:31
  • Yep, but also massively more complicated and expensive. It also doesn't answer the question (though you sort of did later in the post, but only in extremely vague terms).
    – isherwood
    Commented Jul 14, 2022 at 18:50

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