What Is Backer Board For?

Are you starting to tackle do-it-yourself projects around the home? If so, terms are going to pop up that make you go hmm. Backer board, for example, is a construction element associated with many different projects inside the house. Backer board is too important to ignore when renovating your home, but you do need to know how to use it correctly. So, what is this stuff and what do you use it for anyway? Educating yourself about this one component will help you get through a variety of home improvement projects.

What is Backer Board?

Backer board, sometimes called cement backer board, is a stable, waterproof surface. Siding manufacturer James Hardie explains you use this element in place of drywall when moisture is an ongoing problem. Drywall is a panel made from gypsum plaster and paper and a common structural component in building homes.

Backer board is similar, but made with Portland cement much like exterior siding products, not gypsum and paper facing. In other words, none of the materials that attract mold growth, making it a natural choice for projects that require a waterproof core.

What is Backer Board Used For?

Popular Mechanics describes cement backer board as a flat, hard substrate that works better than plywood in water prone areas. Plywood tends to warp when exposed to moisture. Backer board is the material of choice for projects in the kitchen and bath.

  • Tiling
  • Showers
  • Flooring
  • Countertops
  • Backsplashes

Using waterproof backing material reduces the risk of mold infestation. Some backer board products are also flame resistant, making this an ideal choice for a backsplash in the kitchen, as well, or areas with extensive wiring. 

What are the Advantages of Using Backer Board?

Backer board is made primarily of cement, which means it offers a firm surface for floors and walls. The cement base makes backer board highly resistant to water absorption, so the material will not crumble when exposed to condensation or water leaks.

Are There Disadvantages to Using Backer Board?

Backer board is made with cement, so the pieces are heavier than drywall. You must use the proper tools when working with this material, as well. To cut the board, you need a saw designed to cut through cement surfaces.

The cost of backer board is higher than cheap waterproof drywall, but more resilient. Homewyse states the prices will vary by location, but backer board averages around 2.61 to 2.97 dollars per square foot. Drywall costs between .25 to .55 cents per square foot, according to House Flipping Helper

How Easy is Backer Board to Install?

DIY Network explains that the installation is done is just five steps.

  1. First, check the area to ensure it is stable. The backer board needs a solid surface to attach to – it must be clean and flat.
  2. Score the backer board to make small cuts or use a circular saw with a carbide blade, sizing the board to fit the space.
  3. Lay the backer board in a brickwork pattern. In other words, do no align multiple sheets so the corners touch.
  4. Apply a thin layer of mortar over the underlying surface. For example, if redoing your floor, apply the mortar to the subfloor that will hold the backer board.
  5. Press the backer board into the mortar.

Using backer board is one of those smart choices you make when renovating your home. Combined with other projects, like adding fiber cement siding and EnergyStar appliances, your work will increase the value of your property. Ask the experts at your local home improvement James Hardie siding store if you need to lay backer board first when installing a new shower or tub.