How to Install or Repair Drywall for a Kitchen Backsplash
Most homeowners will need to install or repair some drywall at some point in their homeowning life. It can be quite intimidating, cutting into the “skin” of your home.
But if you’re careful and aware of the basic ideas behind how to install drywall, it really is pretty easy. We like the idea of starting in an area like a kitchen backsplash because, although you must measure and cut and install with care to provide a flat workable vertical surface, the bulk of your drywall work will be covered up with a gorgeous backsplash. So it takes a bit of the pressure off, don’t you think?
Here’s a step-by-step guide on installing (or repairing) drywall, particularly aimed at doing it for a kitchen backsplash. (Of course, the general guidelines are the same pretty much anywhere, so this tutorial will help you with most of your sheetrock-installing needs.) Please note that the photos throughout this article show different sections of the kitchen’s drywall, due to lighting and other photographic constraints.
DIY Level: Intermediate to install or repair a drywall
Materials you’ll need to install or repair drywall:
- razor blade
- drywall screws and drill
- putty knife / trowel
- joint compound (also known as “drywall mud”)
- drywall tape
- sanding block – fine to medium
- spray texture
- primer& paint
How to install or repair drywall:
In order to be able to install drywall correctly, you’ll need to make sure that all the vertical edges of the drywall itself can be screwed to a framing 2×4. Even if this means cutting your sheetrock further than you might need, or want, to cut it.
The edge of the existing drywall in the photo above ends right at the edge of a 2×4 (which means one side of the drywall would be “floating” freely – not good), so we’ll need to cut it back to the next framing stud.
The red line in the photo above represents where the 2×4 is. Notice we have cut halfway over the 2×4, so both the remaining drywall and the new drywall piece can be screwed securely to the 2×4.
You may use a razor blade (box cutter, x-acto knife, whatever you call it) to get a clean cut on the drywall.
Use a box cutter to cut the drywall corners clean and square.
Make sure everything that would prohibit the new drywall from lying flat against the framing studs is gone. Take out any screws or nails, if there are any. Also scrape away any residual gunk, including glue or whatever else. The 2x4s should be free and clear.
In the event that you run into space where it’s impossible to cut the drywall at a halfway point on a stud (such as this space above the kitchen sink, for example, where the framing doesn’t match up with the cupboards), you’ll need to install 2×4 support.
After measuring the height of your space as well as the distance from that space to the nearest framing stud, you’ll need to cut 2x4s according to those measurements. In this instance, that required an 18” 2×4 (for the height) and two 5” 2x4s (for the distance from the nearest 2×4).
Begin by screwing in the two shorter pieces to the nearest framing stud. We used a diagonal screw direction for attachment, two screws per piece.
Next, you’ll need to attach your 2×4 length to the two shorter pieces you just installed. Use a nail gun if you have one, or screws, or good old-fashioned hammer-and-nails.
As you can see from the photo above, installing this 2×4 to the space will allow the new drywall to be secured on the sides. This is critical for long-term support; if a drywall edge is left floating, it will bend and warp and potentially crack…along with anything that is installed on top of it (like backsplash tiles).
Repeat this step in as many areas as you need to ensure 2×4 framing support on the vertical axes of your new drywall.
At this point, you are ready to measure, cut, and fit your new drywall pieces to your space. Drywall sheets typically come in 8’ lengths (12’ lengths are available as well but are much more troublesome to transport and manage for the average homeowner).
Measure so that each drywall piece starts/ends on a stud, even if it means cutting a little length off a longer drywall piece and adding in a second piece. But measure all walls.
The wall in the photo above, with the red line, measured 8’ ½” long. Knowing this, we were able to install the adjoining drywall first, which took away ½” because the new drywall is ½” thick. This made the red line wall an exact 8’ long – much easier to work with.
Measure and pencil in your measurements on the drywall. Use a box cutter to score the exposed (non-brown) side of the sheetrock.
Carefully bend the sheetrock along the scored line.
Pull the sheetrock all the way down to separate the inner stuff.
Keeping the sheetrock bent, you can use a box cutter to cut through the back layer. Try to keep your cuts clean, but don’t worry if they’re not perfect or if the paper backing rips a little bit. It shouldn’t affect your install.
Along with measuring the sheetrock perimeter, you’ll want to measure and cut out spaces for any electrical switches or outlets. Again, measure, draw, and score these spaces.
Use a hammer or the back end of a drywall knife to pop out the center and create a drywall hole.
A drywall knife is the easiest tool to use here for cleaning up your edges and corners.
Test-fit your drywall piece. Make sure all edges and corners lie flat and that any electrical considerations are made accurately. If the drywall doesn’t lie flush, pull it off and use a drywall knife to “shave” the necessary edges until it does fit.
Aim for a fairly close fit around electrical outlets and switches, although if you’re a little off, it’s okay. Remember that the electrical plate will cover up a little of the edge, so you have a bit of a safety zone.
Corners are good here. If your corners aren’t lying flat, double check to make sure the old drywall corner is cut clean; it’s easy to overlook an old hunk of drywall in the corners, which keeps the new piece from lying flush.
When all looks good, pull the drywall away from the wall just a couple of inches so you can mark the studs. This makes it much faster and easier to screw the drywall in once it’s up there for good.
Screw in the new piece of drywall along the studs that you’ve marked.
Measure carefully and cut carefully, and your drywall should go up fairly easily and quickly. If there are gaps between your drywall pieces but you’re planning on installing a backsplash over them, you won’t even need to worry about taping and mudding them.
When the drywall is screwed into place, it’s time to mud and tape. You’ll want some drywall tape, joint compound (also known as drywall mud), a fine to medium sanding block, a putty knife and larger trowel, and gloves (optional).
If you’ve never done this before and have the option, choose a section of drywall that’s somewhat hidden to be your “practice” section. This particular section is behind the refrigerator.
Begin by spreading your joint compound over the cracks.
The goal here is to fill the crack enough to create a smooth, seamless surface.
You can also use a larger trowel-type spreader for the mud. A larger one such as this helps to smooth the mud more cleanly.
You want the joint compound to be thick enough to be able to sand down later, but not so thick that it takes forever to sand down later.
Cut a piece of drywall tape that’s long enough to run along one seam, from one corner to another.
Related: Best Drywall Patch Kit for Your Home Repair Projects
Place the tape gently on the wet joint compound directly over the seam.
Push the tape into the joint compound. You want all the mesh to sink into the compound, creating a strong support when the compound dries.
After the tape is pushed into the compound, put a little more wet compound onto your putty knife and run it over the tape again.
Doing this might expose some of the tape’s “grid” lines.
Add a little more compound so those grid lines are covered up, but add just enough to cover them (not too much – you want layers to be as thin as possible).
Let joint compound dry. It make take a while – even 24 hours, depending on the thickness of the mud.
When joint compound is completely dry, gently sand it smooth with a fine sanding block.
Tip: Angle the block to taper the joint compound toward the wall so as to minimize the possibility of exposing the drywall tape.
If you notice irregularities, pockets, cracks, or if the drywall tape grid is exposed, repeat the application steps with very thin coats until the wall is smooth and seamless.
This is a messy process; be sure to vacuum your workspace as you go so as to avoid tracking the mud dust everywhere.
If your walls are textured, you’ll need to match the flat new drywall to the rest of your walls by adding similar texture. To do this, begin by taping off any nearby surfaces that you DON’T want textured. This includes countertops, backsplashes, cabinets, etc. Even electrical outlets and similar should be covered.
Spray textures are available at your local home improvement store. These are two examples. I have found both to work equally well.
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Adjust the settings on your spray texture as per the can’s instructions, then practice spraying on a non-wall surface. When you have the right spray, you’re ready to do the wall.
Make several light passes with the spray texture over the new drywall surface, keeping the spray can about two feet away from your wall. (The method is similar to spray painting – do quick, light strokes. You can always fill in more later.) When your texture matches the surrounding walls, stop spraying and let it dry.
Prime and paint the newly drywalled and textured wall. Congratulations on your seamless drywall installation!
Note: The author is an experienced, although not professional, home improvement enthusiast. Homedit is not responsible for any injuries or damages caused as a result of this tutorial.