Can I Put New Backsplash Over Old Backsplash?

Installing a new backsplash over an existing one can completely transform the look of your kitchen. However, this project does require some special considerations. Here is a detailed guide on whether you can put new backsplash over old, and how to do it successfully.

What to Consider Before Installing New Backsplash Over Old

When deciding whether to install new backsplash over old, there are a few key factors to consider:

Condition of Existing Backsplash

  • The existing backsplash must be in good condition, with no cracking, chipping, or missing tiles. Major damage will need repairs before moving forward.
  • Old grout should be cleaned and re-grouted if necessary. Crumbling grout can interfere with proper adhesion.
  • Glossy or sealed tiles need to be scuffed up to help the new backsplash adhere properly.

Type of Backsplashes

  • Make sure the new and old materials are compatible. For example, you can’t install new glass or metal backsplash over ceramic or stone.
  • Lighter weight materials like vinyl or laminate can sometimes go over existing ceramic or stone if properly prepared.
  • Heavy materials like stone or ceramic may require removal of old backsplash for proper support.

Condition of Wall Surface

  • Any moisture issues or wall damage behind the old backsplash must be addressed.
  • The wall surface needs to be smooth and ready for new tile adhesion. Joint compound or skim coating may be required.
  • Painted surfaces will need to be lightly sanded and primed for proper bonding.

Height of New vs. Old Backsplash

  • If new backsplash is the same height or lower, it can likely be installed over old.
  • If going taller, the upper portion will need standard drywall preparation.

Electrical and Plumbing

  • Any outlets, switches, or plumbing fixtures in the backsplash area will need to be adjusted for the thickness of new tile.

Preparing Old Backsplash for New Installation

Once you’ve determined the old backsplash is suitable for tiling over, proper prep work is crucial for success. Here are key steps:

Clean Surface Thoroughly

  • Remove all grease, dirt and soap residue from surface using degreasing cleaners.
  • Scrub grout lines to remove all contaminants which can impede adhesion.
  • Completely rinse with clean water and allow to fully dry.

Repair Grout Lines and Damage

  • Re-grout any cracks wider than 1/16”. New grout must cure completely before tiling.
  • Use spackling compound to fill any holes, gouges, missing tiles, or imperfections. Sand smooth.

Rough Up Glossy Surfaces

  • Scuff up the old glossy backsplash as needed using sandpaper or a sander.
  • Ensure the new thinset can properly grip and bond to the surface.

Prime Painted Surfaces

  • Lightly sand and clean any painted backsplashes.
  • Apply primer specifically formulated for tile bonding. Allow to fully cure.

How to Install New Backsplash Over Old

Once prepped, you can move forward with the new backsplash installation:

Step 1: Apply Adhesive Mortar

  • Spread a layer of thinset adhesive using a notched trowel, holding at a 45 degree angle.
  • Use a specialized mortar designed for bonding to existing surfaces.
  • Cover entire surface area, applying even layer into the old grout lines.

Step 2: Allow Mortar to Cure

  • Let thinset adhesive sit for 5-10 minutes until tacky.
  • This allows moisture to evaporate and improves adhesive strength.

Step 3: Apply Backsplash Tiles

  • Press tiles firmly into adhesive mortar. Use a slight twisting motion.
  • Apply in small sections. Don’t cover more than can be tiled before mortar cures.
  • Make sure tiles are level and evenly spaced. Use spacers for consistency.

Step 4: Set Tile Properly

  • As you go, use a rubber mallet to set each tile properly into the thinset.
  • Ensure full coverage and contact between tile and adhesive.
  • Improper bonding can cause tiles to eventually crack or come loose.

Step 5: Grout Seams

  • Once tiles are firmly set, wait 24 hours for adhesive to cure fully.
  • Mix grout according to package directions and work into tile seams.
  • Wipe excess grout with damp sponge and allow to dry completely.

Step 6: Seal and Finish

  • Apply grout sealant to protect grout lines from moisture and staining.
  • If desired, use caulk where backsplash meets the counter or wall.
  • Finally, clean the new backsplash fully and give it a polished look.

Tips for Achieving Best Results

Follow these tips to ensure your new over old backsplash project goes as smoothly as possible:

  • Take time to properly clean and sand the old backsplash first. Rushing this step can ruin the results.
  • Be picky about tile selection. Warped, chipped or inconsistent tiles will be harder to install evenly.
  • Use a reputable thinset mortar designed for bonding to existing surfaces. Don’t skimp on this key material.
  • Apply mortar and tiles in small sections to prevent anything from drying or curing too fast.
  • Allow adequate drying time between steps. Rushing the process can weaken adhesion.
  • Grout carefully and neatly. Poor, uneven grout lines will ruin the look of your new backsplash.
  • Look for tiles and grout that match the color and style you want to achieve. A dramatic new look may require more work.
  • Hire a professional if you don’t feel fully confident in any part of the preparation or installation process.

FAQs About Installing New Backsplash Over Old

Can I put peel and stick backsplash over existing tile?

Peel and stick backsplash tiles are a great option for DIY installation over existing backsplash. Ensure the old tile is cleaned, sanded, and primed to help the adhesive adhere properly.

What about putting new backsplash over painted drywall?

Painted drywall must be properly sanded and primed before installing backsplash. Be sure to use thinset mortar specially formulated for bonding to existing painted surfaces.

Do I have to remove the old backsplash completely?

In most cases, no. As long as the old backsplash is in good condition, proper surface preparation is all that’s needed for new tile installation.

How do I prep glossy ceramic or porcelain?

Glossy surfaces must be scuffed up using sandpaper or a sanding block. This helps the mortar grip properly. Be sure to clean off all dust after sanding.

What kind of thinset should I use?

Use a polymer-modified mortar specifically made for bonding to existing surfaces. These provide a stronger bond than regular thinset.

Can I just put adhesive directly onto the old backsplash?

No, adhesive alone is not suitable for bonding new tile long-term. Proper thinset mortar must be spread into the grout lines and gaps of the old backsplash.

How long will this project take?

Preparation of an existing backsplash for re-tiling will add 1-2 days. The tile installation process itself depends on the size of the space. Allow 2-4 days for installation and drying time.

What’s better – new backsplash over or replacing completely?

If the old backsplash is in good shape, installing over it is ideal. It saves time and mess of demolishing the old tile. Replacing will give you a fresh slate for a totally new look.


Installing a new backsplash over an existing one is entirely doable with proper planning and preparation. Ensure the old backsplash and wall surface are compatible and ready for bonding. Use the right combination of quality thinset mortar, tiles, and grout. Allow adequate drying and curing time between steps. With careful installation and patience, you can achieve beautiful new backsplash results without the hassle of completely removing the old.