The term backer board reminds me of when I started my handyman business. There were hundreds of terms and maybe half of them were understandable in context but backer board … means what? It means a special kind of wall board that's moisture resistant so it's used as a tile backing board. The most important tile projects are in bathrooms, especially showers and around bathtubs. It's also used in kitchens behind the backsplash and for tile floors installed anywhere.
But people remember stories best so let me share with you how I learned about backer boards. One of my handyman technicians started to finish a new walk-in shower in a lovely 1700s home in Newfields, New Hampshire. We ran into a scheduling conflict so another technician went out to finish the job. The phone call I got wasn't fun because the new technician ranted for a while about the walls not being finished with backer board. He told me the only acceptable solution was to replace the moisture resistant drywall already installed with backer board!
This was a big job and a loyal, repeat customer so I approved and paid for the upgrade. It wasn't part of the original estimate but I learned a valuable lesson about bathrooms and backer board.
What is Backer Board Made Of?
Backer board is also known as cement board because of it's material content. It is a combination of cement with reinforcing fibers that can be nailed or screwed just like drywall. Backer board comes in 4 x 8 ft sheets like drywall, and a smaller 3 x 5 ft size because bathrooms and backsplashes are smaller. While cement board is typically 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick to add strength to the wall surface, thinner sheets are made for curved surfaces.
Where Backer Board is Used
Where there's water and tile, you'll want to consider using cement board even though it costs a little more than drywall. That means you should expect to find/use it in (here are tile tips for DIY):
- Bathrooms – shower walls and where there's a tile or stone floor, bathtub surrounds and of course tile floors which are common.
- Kitchens – backsplashes, kitchen countertops and tile floors.
- Other water prone rooms in your home – entry ways; mudrooms and laundry rooms.