Countertop contractor removed old kitchen backsplash tiles but badly damages walls (some parts). I'm planing to install 3x8 white subway style ceramic tiles. Which options are better:

  1. Patch drywall holes and install new tile over ols drywall

  2. Don't patch drywall and add 1/4" cement board to old drywall and install new tiles over it

  3. Remove old walls, replace with new walls (or 1/2" cement board?) and install new tiles

  4. Any other way?

Any potential issues with each option. There are electrical outlets. I attached some photos.

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  • Do you have an unfinished basement or crawl space? Because if you do, I will answer that you remove 2, 3, 4 to upgrade the electrical service to this area. A relatively small job and now's the chance ... so long as you can get cabling to the panel easily. And you get fresh walls to tile as a side effect.
    – jay613
    Oct 7, 2023 at 13:00
  • If the wall cabinets are easily removed, I would take them down before doing whatever you end up doing.
    – Huesmann
    Oct 7, 2023 at 13:34
  • Maybe make the outlets quads; all done from above, and they wouldn't be in the way while you tile. Cabinets aren't easily removed but the stove and all your stuff has to go. Make room for the cover plate screws for the decoras like you have to do for old work boxes.
    – Mazura
    Oct 7, 2023 at 14:15

3 Answers 3


Scrape off any loose paper and remaining thinset (I think that I see uncollapsed ridges from old thinset in area 3 from your photo). Use Zinsser BIN on the wall to prep the torn drywall paper areas for water based products (instead you can use an oil based primer to save a buck, but it'll smell for a few days). You'll get blistering under your mud and/or thinset if the BIN layer isn't thick enough, so apply 2 or even 3 coats--it dries amazingly fast. Fill in all of the low spots with a wide putty knife and 20 minute mud. Proceed with tiling (I would use adhesive, not mortar).

I don't like the un-taped horizontal joints in your drywall. If a horizontal grout line lands within an inch of a joint, then I would tape those joints (open it a little with a knife, mesh tape it, and use the 20 minute mud again).

  • That's the drywaller's problem, not the tile guy's. If it looked finished but there was just no tile backsplash, the tools and materials needed are a bucket of mastic +1, and a v-notch trowel.
    – Mazura
    Oct 7, 2023 at 14:02
  • Thanks popham. There are some large collapsed parts as large as 8", so I would need to remove them and repair with new drywall pieces. I guess I can use your method for more solid parts. Do you have any reservation and concerns with adding a 1/4" cement board all over the area, so I don't need to repair the drywall?
    – Moe
    Oct 7, 2023 at 15:08
  • @Moe, on the 1/4" cement board I would be weary of my window trim getting thinner and I don't like the electric boxes sinking into the wall, but that latter problem is easily cured.
    – popham
    Oct 7, 2023 at 15:36

What to do depends on what quality of job you desire. Are you looking for quick and easy, or something that takes time but has better results?

The areas are in varying degrees of damage. ( Not the contractors fault. Tile comes off as it comes off.)

Area 1 needs nothing to tile.

Areas 2 and 3 look to be able to have some divots filled with patching compound and then tiled.

Area 4 is best served by cutting out the drywall and installing new. There are so many big divots, that patching will still leave a weak surface.


Cover all the areas with 1/4 inch drywall. It's the most work. But it will ensure a flat secure surface for the tile. A thick aluminium edge Like Schluter or another trim and you can avoid redoing the corned bead. Use plastic spacers to move the outlets out

"Thanks RMDman. Area 1 was so bad with large holes that I temporarily covered by a cutboard." – Moe 1

With that new info; If it were my kitchen, I would replace all the drywall.

  • Thanks RMDman. Area 1 was so bad with large holes that I temporarily covered by a cutboard. I prefer your option 2. But do you mean add 1/4" cement backer board? You typed 1/4 drywall. Why not backer board?
    – Moe
    Oct 7, 2023 at 15:04

Suggestion: Replace the drywall and take the opportunity to upgrade the wiring.

Remove and replace all the drywall in areas 2, 3, and 4. While removedreplace all the outlet boxes with quad ones. Make sure at least two different dedicated breakers serve these boxes. Use metal junction boxes installed robustly on bracing to withstand abuse, and use mud rings carefully selected to be almost flush with the new tile.

Use new, 15A GFCI outlets, one per circuit. Someone "got fancy" and installed 20A outlets there. I would not bother with that. I have never seen a kitchen appliance that requires one. Unless you are washing your kitchen floor with a commercial machine that you borrowed from the supermarket, you don't need these.

If you do want to "get fancy" -- mix and match the dedicated breakers across the new quad boxes. IE make multiple circuits available in each box rather than have one circuit for the left counter and one for the right.

The resulting tile job will look better, not just because you have a nice flush wall to work with, but because the outlets won't wobble and the covers will sit flush and won't crack.

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