This story shows how to work with gypsum and cementious backerboard.
Backerboard products have made tile installation a more accessible project for the do-it-yourselfer. In the world before backerboard, the first step in a tile job was installing a mortar bed to provide structural rigidity so that the installed tiles couldn't flex and crack. Laying a smooth bed required the skilled touch of an experienced craftsman.
But just as drywall panels have made wall and ceiling installation less demanding than plastering, backerboard makes tile prep a job that doesn't require an apprenticeship.
Consult with several tile suppliers for recommendations on the best backerboard for your project. But be aware that the dealer's inventory may color the advice. For example, a supplier who stocks only cementious backerboard probably won't recommend gypsum panels, even though they are easier to cut.
Approximately 20 minutes per panel
Tape measure, drywall T-square, rasp, mixer, margin trowel, notched trowel for floor application, utility knife and standard hole saw to cut gypsum panels, carbide scriber or abrasive wheel and carbide-tip hole saw to cut cementious panels
Measuring, marking, cutting, driving screws
Gather tools and materials at job site.
Backerboard, corrosion-resistant screws, compatible fiberglass mesh tape
Be aware that the board has a face side a different color from the back. Follow the manufacturer's directions for adhering the board in a thinset bed. Backerboard requires special screws, so don't substitute ordinary drywall fasteners. Follow the fastener spacing recommended by the manufacturer.