Installing a new backsplash is one of the easiest ways to update the look of your kitchen or bathroom. However, if the existing wall already has tile, you may be wondering if you can install a backsplash right over the old tile. The answer is yes, you can install a backsplash over existing tile! Here is a detailed guide on how to add a backsplash over tile.
What is a Backsplash?
A backsplash is a decorative wall treatment installed on the wall behind a countertop, most commonly behind sinks and stoves. Backsplashes serve both practical and aesthetic purposes. They protect the walls from water damage, grease splatter, and other messes while also providing an opportunity to add visual interest and personality to the kitchen or bathroom.
Backsplashes are typically made from tile, metal, glass, stone, or other water-resistant materials. The most popular locations for backsplashes are in kitchens behind stoves and sinks and in bathrooms behind sinks and tubs. However, they can also be installed in laundry rooms, bars, and other spaces.
Benefits of Installing a New Backsplash
There are many great reasons to install a backsplash over your existing tiled wall:
- Update the look – Installing a new backsplash is one of the easiest ways to update the style and feel of your kitchen or bathroom. Backsplashes come in endless colors, patterns, textures, and materials so you can find the perfect design to match your taste.
- Protect the walls – A backsplash serves as a protective barrier against water damage, grease splatters, and stains. If your existing tile is outdated or worn, a new backsplash will provide a fresh clean surface.
- Cover up flaws – Does your existing tile have cracks, stains, or other imperfections? A backsplash is a great way to conceal any unsightly marks on the wall.
- Add value – Updating the backsplash can instantly modernize the look of a dated kitchen or bathroom, which can potentially boost the resale value of your home.
- Inexpensive update – Compared to a full kitchen or bathroom remodel, installing a backsplash is an easy and affordable way to update the space.
Preparing the Existing Tiled Wall
Before installing the new backsplash, you need to properly prepare the existing tiled wall:
Clean the Tile
Thoroughly clean the existing tile with an all-purpose cleaner or tile cleaner to remove any dirt, grease or soap scum. Rinse well and allow it to fully dry.
Remove Loose Pieces
Inspect the existing tile and use a putty knife to remove any loose or cracked pieces of grout or tile. Re-grout any gaps as needed with a grout that matches the existing. Allow the grout to fully cure per manufacturer’s directions.
Scuff Up the Surface
Use 100-grit sandpaper to lightly scuff up the glossy surface of the existing tile. This helps the new tile adhesive adhere properly. Wipe away any dust.
For extra adhesion, apply a primer or sealer to the tile per manufacturer’s recommendations. Allow to fully dry.
Preparing the tiled wall properly will ensure the new backsplash bonds well and lasts for many years.
How to Install a Backsplash Over Tile
Installing a backsplash over existing tile is very similar to a regular backsplash installation. Here are the basic steps:
Choose Your Backsplash Material
Select a backsplash tile or panels that will give you the look you desire. Ceramic, porcelain, glass, marble, and other materials can go over existing tile. Measure the area to purchase the right amount.
Mark Your Layout
Determine the layout of your backsplash. Mark the center point and work outward. Use a level to ensure your lines are straight.
Mix the Adhesive
Mix up tile adhesive mortar, such as Type 1 mastic designed for walls. Get the consistency right by following instructions.
Apply the Adhesive
Use a notched trowel to spread the mastic adhesive evenly onto the wall surface area where you’ll place the first tiles.
Set the New Tiles
Press the backsplash tiles firmly into the adhesive one by one following your layout lines. Use spacers between tiles for even grout lines.
Let Adhesive Cure
Allow the adhesive to fully cure for 24-48 hours before grouting. This ensures a strong bond.
Grout the New Backsplash
Mix up grout and apply it between the tiles filling all gaps. Allow to dry fully and then polish off excess.
Seal and Finish
Apply a sealant to the grout lines and finish by caulking along the edges if needed. Your new backsplash installed over tile is complete!
Always refer to the specific installation instructions that come with your backsplash materials. Taking time to properly prep and install will give fantastic results.
Tips for Choosing a Backsplash to Go Over Tile
When selecting a backsplash to install over existing tile, keep these tips in mind:
- Go for a smooth surface – Textured or hand-painted tiles don’t work as well over existing tile. Choose smoother materials like glass, marble, or metallic.
- Pick a darker color – Lighter backsplash colors let the outline of the underlying tiles show through. Darker solid colors hide better.
- Get creative with shapes – Irregular shaped tiles like hexagons or herringbone patterns help disguise seams.
- Consider small tiles – Smaller backsplash tiles have more grout lines which helps conceal the existing tile outlines.
- Incorporate trim – Frame the outer edges with metal trim or mosaic sheet inserts to transition nicely.
- Have realistic expectations – The new backsplash will refresh the look but underlying tile edges may still be slightly visible on close inspection.
Can You Put Backsplash Tile Over Existing Backsplash?
If your kitchen or bathroom already has a backsplash that is dated or damaged, installing a new backsplash tile over the existing one is certainly possible. Here are some tips:
- The existing backsplash tile must be well adhered. Remove any loose or cracked tiles and re-grout gaps before starting.
- Heavily textured or 3D tile is not a good candidate to go over. The irregular surface will show through the new tile.
- Thoroughly clean and scuff up the old backsplash to improve adhesion for the new tile.
- Smaller sized backsplash tiles will hide seams better than large tiles when going over an existing backsplash.
- Adding a coat of primer or sealer to the old backsplash provides extra grip for the new tile adhesive.
- Use a high quality modified thinset mortar recommended for walls and backsplashes.
- Carefully follow the layout lines and use spacers to ensure even spacing of the new tiles.
- Expect that some seams or grout lines from the underlying backsplash may be faintly visible, but the new tile will still give an updated look.
With proper prep and installation, it is certainly possible to add new backsplash tile right over an existing backsplash.
Can You Put Peel and Stick Backsplash Over Existing Tile?
Peel-and-stick backsplash tiles offer an easy DIY-friendly option for installing a backsplash over existing tile or an existing backsplash. Here’s what you need to know:
- Good surface prep is key – Thoroughly clean and sand the surface to improve adhesion. Seal porous or uneven tiles.
- Look for adhesive-backed tiles – Opt for vinyl, metal, or composite tiles with a strong adhesive on the back instead of glue on varieties.
- Follow the directions – Don’t remove the backing paper until tiles are in place. Apply pressure after sticking for best hold.
- Use roller or grout for best finish – Roll over tiles firmly with a hand roller. Grout around outer edges for a seamless look.
- Imperfections may show – The stick-on backsplash will refresh the look, but seams or grout lines from underlying tiles may still slightly telegraph through.
With proper prep and installation, peel-and-stick backsplash can be a quick and easy solution for installing over existing tile or backsplash.
Can You Put Stone Backsplash Over Tile?
Natural stone backsplashes like granite, marble, travertine, or slate can make for a luxurious feel in the kitchen or bathroom. And yes, it’s possible to install a stone backsplash directly over existing tile! Follow these tips for success:
- To support heavy stone, the underlying tile must be well bonded to the wall. Re-grout or remove and replace any loose tiles.
- Smooth, polished stone works best over tile as the irregular texture of honed, flamed or tumbled stone can show through.
- Thoroughly clean and scuff up the glossy glaze on ceramic or porcelain tile so the stone adhesive bonds well.
- A high quality modified thinset mortar designed for natural stone is recommended. Apply it evenly with a notched trowel.
- Take care when setting the stone pieces to keep straight grout lines. Natural stone can be fragile and needs to be cut precisely.
- Use sanded grout for joints wider than 1/8” or unsanded for thinner. Avoid getting grout residue on the face of the stone.
- Expect some underlying tile lines may faintly show depending on stone thickness. A small price to pay for beautiful stonework!
With attention to detail, a natural stone backsplash can upgrade your space and provide lasting durability over existing tile.
How to Prepare Existing Tile for a Backsplash
Preparing existing tile properly before installing a new backsplash is one of the most important steps. Here is a detailed guide to prepping tile:
- Clean thoroughly with a degreasing tile cleaner and rinse any soap residue
- Scrape out old grout with a grout saw 1/4 inch deep and re-grout any gaps
- Smooth any raised tile edges using a file or stone
- Sand the glossy tile surface lightly with 100-grit sandpaper
- Apply tile primer or sealer and allow to fully dry
- Fill any cracks or chips wider than 1/4 inch with patching compound
- Use painter’s tape around the outer edges for a clean install
- Vacuum up all dust before applying the backsplash
Take your time prepping and address any problem areas on the existing tile. This will lead to a successful long lasting backsplash installation.
Can You Put Backsplash Over Painted Drywall?
It is possible to install a backsplash over painted drywall but there are some special considerations to keep in mind:
- The paint must be in excellent condition with no flaking or chipping which could telegraph through the tiles.
- Heavily textured paints are not recommended as the texture can also show through. Eggshell or satin paint works best.
- Thoroughly sand and degloss the surface of the painted drywall for better adhesion. Wipe away dust.
- Priming over the painted wall provides an even better surface for backsplash tile to adhere to.
- Use a high quality modified thinset adhesive and apply it evenly with a notched trowel.
- Take care installing the tile to prevent cracking the drywall which can happen if it gets over-saturated.
- Expect some imperfections or lines from the drywall seams and corners to be faintly visible through the backsplash.
With extra prep and care taken during installation, backsplash can successfully be installed over painted drywall to give an updated look.
Can You Put Backsplash Over Wallpaper?
Installing backsplash tile over wallpaper is generally not recommended. Here’s why:
- Wallpaper has a textured surface that will likely telegraph through the tile.
- Seams and edges of the wallpaper sheets will also be visible under the tile.
- Wallpaper can peel or bubble if it gets wet from tile adhesive or grout.
- Tile won’t properly bond to wallpaper and may become loose over time.
- To remove the wallpaper later, you’d have to take down the backsplash too.
Instead, it’s best to remove wallpaper first before installing backsplash. If that’s not possible, consider going over it with 1/4” cement board or another underlayment to provide a solid surface for the tile.
How to Transition Different Backsplash Heights
When installing a new backsplash against an existing backsplash of a different height, using a transition strip or creative edging technique can help bridge the two heights for a streamlined look:
- If the height difference is over 2”, install a metal or tile trim strip vertically along the edge.
- For less than 2” height differences, you can taper the new tiles, build out with thinset, or use deco tiles.
- Use bullnose tiles on the edges to help transition between the different planes.
- Cut tapered transitional tiles if going from one height to another.
- Complementary mosaic tiles can be used to fill in and edge up to the next level.
- Small overlaps of 1⁄4 – 1⁄2 inch can be smoothed over with caulk matching the grout.
- For organic variety, use freeform pebble tiles to change heights.
With thoughtful planning and strategic edging, you can beautifully blend old and new backsplash installations.
Do’s and Don’ts for Backsplashes Over Tile
Here are some key do’s and don’ts to keep in mind when installing a backsplash over existing tile:
- DO properly prep the tile – clean, scuff up surface, re-grout gaps
- DO use a high quality thinset mortar suitable for walls
- DO evenly spread adhesive using a notched trowel
- DO press tiles firmly into the adhesive for a good bond
- DO use small grout lines – 1/8 inch or less is best
- DO clean any adhesive or grout off tile surface immediately
- DON’T install over wallpaper or textured paints
- DON’T use mastic or premixed tile adhesives meant for floors
- DON’T spread adhesive too far ahead without setting tiles
- DON’T allow adhesive or grout to cure on face of tiles
- DON’T use sanded grout for narrow grout lines
- DON’T soak the existing tile with too much water when cleaning
Following these simple guidelines will ensure a successful and long-lasting backsplash installation over your existing tile.
Tips for Backsplash and Countertop Integration
Properly integrating the backsplash with the countertop and cabinets results in a streamlined finished look:
- Select backsplash tile or metal sheets that complement the countertop’s colors and textures.
- Maintain a consistent backsplash height that lines up with upper cabinets for a flush fit.
- Caulk along the seam between the backsplash and countertop using a matching silicone sealant.
- Miter cut metal backsplash trim at corners for a seamless transition to countertop laminates.
- Use inset tile sheets or mosaic strips as an accent border tying countertop to backsplash.
- Line up grout lines and patterns symmetrically from countertops to backsplashes.
- Use trim strips or edge profiles as needed for clean finished outer edges of the backsplash.
Properly integrating the new backsplash into the whole kitchen or bath design results in a streamlined finished look.
Backsplash Installation Costs
What is the cost to install a backsplash in an average 10×5 foot kitchen over existing tile? Here is a breakdown of estimated costs:
- Tile Materials – $150 to $500 depending on tile type
- Adhesives / Grout / Supplies – $50 to $100
- Cabinet Trim Pieces – $25 to $100 if needed
- Professional Installation Labor – $200 to $800 based on tile complexity
Total Cost Range – $425 to $1500
Factors impacting overall installation cost include special tile shapes, mosaics, natural stone vs ceramic, labor rates in your area, and the backsplash size.
Installing the backsplash yourself cuts costs significantly but requires time, tools, and skill. Hiring a tile installation pro ensures expertise.
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about installing backsplash over existing tile:
Can you put backsplash tile directly over existing backsplash?
Yes, it is possible to install new backsplash tile or panels directly over an existing tile backsplash, provided the original backsplash is well adhered and properly prepped.
What about putting backsplash over cracked tile?
Cracked, damaged, or loose tiles need to be removed and repaired prior to installing the backsplash over them. Use patching compound to fill large cracks or gaps.
Should backsplash go all the way to ceiling?
Typically backsplash goes to an upper cabinet, with 4-6 inches of bare wall up to ceiling. But full height backsplash designs are also popular options. Consider your style needs.
How do you transition from kitchen to open shelf?
Use metal trim strips, bullnose tiles, coordinating glass mosaic strips, or other edge treatments to create a finished transition from backsplash to open shelves.
Can I install stone backsplash over ceramic?
Yes, natural stone can be installed over properly prepped ceramic or porcelain tile. Ensure strong tile bond and use quality modified thinset mortar.
Installing a new backsplash over existing tile or backsplash can refresh the look of your space. With proper planning, materials, and installation techniques, you can achieve beautiful results. Prepping the existing tile and edges well, using quality adhesives, maintaining straight grout lines, and integrating with the whole design are keys to success. With some elbow grease and care taken during the project, you can attain the upgraded backsplash look you desire over your existing tiled wall.