Installing a tile backsplash can be a great way to upgrade your kitchen’s style and functionality. However, if you currently have a laminate backsplash, you may be wondering if you can simply tile over it rather than removing and replacing the entire laminate section. The short answer is yes, it is possible to install tile over an existing laminate backsplash under certain conditions. With proper planning and preparation, tiling over laminate can allow you to achieve the look of tile without the hassle and expense of a full backsplash replacement.
Factors to Consider Before Tiling Over Laminate
Before deciding to tile over laminate, there are several important factors to take into account:
Condition of the Existing Laminate
The condition of the existing backsplash should be examined. Laminate that is excessively worn, cracked, peeling or damaged is not a suitable subsurface for tiling. If the laminate is in poor condition, it’s best to remove it and start fresh with the tile installation.
Flatness of the Laminate Surface
In order for tiles to adhere properly, the laminate subsurface must be smooth, flat and regular. Any significant bumps, ridges or irregularities in the laminate could prevent the tiles from bonding securely. The flatter the laminate, the better the results will be when tiling.
Type and Texture of the Laminate
The composition and texture of the laminate material impacts how well the tile adhesive and grout will bond. Tile tends to adhere best to high-pressure laminate (HPL) with a smooth, uniform surface. Other common laminates like melamine or low-pressure laminate have more textured surfaces that pose adhesion challenges.
Thickness and Density of the Laminate
Thicker, denser laminate materials are more likely to provide a stable subsurface for tiling. Thin panels or lightweight laminates are prone to movement, flexing or warping under the added weight of tile, resulting in cracked grout lines or tile pop-off over time.
Cabinets and Countertops Materials
If tiling a backsplash above cabinets or countertops, ensure these surfaces are made of moisture-resistant materials that can withstand exposure to thinset, grout and tile sealers. Tiling over laminate near wood cabinets or countertops is risky.
Accessibility and Open Wall Space
The backsplash design should allow for accessibility. Areas blocked by cabinets or appliances will be difficult to reach for cleaning and maintenance after tiling. Having ample open wall space is ideal.
How to Prepare Laminate for Tiling
If your laminate backsplash is determined to be in good condition for tiling over, proper preparation and planning will help ensure success:
The laminate should be cleaned thoroughly prior to tiling. Grease, dirt and residue must be removed so the tile adhesive can properly bond. Clean with an all-purpose cleaner or degreasing agent.
Sand the Surface
Lightly sanding the laminate with 120-150 grit sandpaper creates micro-abrasions for the adhesive to cling to. Be careful not to sand through the laminate surface.
Check for Sealers or Waxes
If present, commercial waxes or sealers on the laminate must be removed so the thinset can permeate the surface. Chemical strippers or mechanical sanding usually does the trick.
Fill Any Gaps
Inspect the laminate joints and seams carefully and fill any gaps, holes or imperfections with a patching compound formulated for laminates. This helps level the surface.
Apply Adhesion Promoter
Adhesion promoters formulated for laminates can be rolled or brushed onto the backsplash prior to tiling. This enhances the bond between the tile adhesive and laminate.
For lightweight or flexible laminates, installing a cementitious backerboard over the laminate provides a more stable subsurface for tiles. This adds cost but improves results.
How to Tile Over Laminate
Once the laminate backsplash has been prepped, the tile installation process can begin:
Select the Tile Adhesive
Choose an adhesive suitable for bonding tile to laminates like a premium thinset or mastic. Latex or polymer-modified thinsets perform better than plain thinset. Consult manufacturer guidelines.
Plan Your Tile Layout
Dry lay the tiles to map out placement and get the desired alignment. For easier installation, start tiling in the center and work outward. Minimize small cut pieces on the perimeter.
Apply the Adhesive
Use a notched trowel to spread the adhesive evenly across the backsplash surface. Apply only enough adhesive that can be tiled over within 30 minutes before it skins over.
Set and Arrange the Tiles
Following the layout, carefully set the tiles into the adhesive one by one. Use plastic tile spacers for consistent grout line spacing. Level and align the tiles neatly.
Let Adhesive Cure
Allow the installed tiles to set undisturbed for at least 24 hours. This allows the adhesive to cure properly before grouting. Avoid walking on or cleaning the tiles during this time.
Mix and Apply Grout
Prepare grout by mixing powdered grout with water or latex additive for enhanced adhesion. Apply grout to fill the tile joints using a rubber grout float or squeegee. Let sit for 10 minutes so it can start to cure.
Clean Excess Grout
Use a damp sponge to wipe diagonal across tiles to remove excess grout from the surface before it hardens completely. Rinse sponge frequently and change water often.
Seal and Finish
Once grout has cured fully (about 72 hours), apply a penetrating sealer to the grout lines and tile surfaces. This prevents stains and makes routine cleaning easier.
Tiling Over Laminate Backsplash – Pros vs. Cons
There are both advantages and disadvantages to consider when deciding whether to tile over laminate:
- Less demolition and lower cost compared to replacing laminate
- Preserves existing backsplash size and boundaries
- Avoids alterations to surrounding cabinets, walls or countertops
- Significantly faster project timeframe
- Less dust and debris generated
- Bond of tile adhesive may be compromised
- Potential for cracking or loosening of tiles over time
- Grout lines more prone to cracking as laminate settles or expands
- Tile repairs or removal more challenging down the road
- Limits the tile size and weight that can be used
- Resale value may be lower than new backsplash
Overall, tiling over laminate can be a viable option in many situations with the right preparations, adhesives and tile choice. However, full laminate removal and replacement provides the most stable, long-lasting subsurface for heavy-use backsplash areas. Consult a professional installer to determine the best route for your specific kitchen.
FAQs About Tiling Over Laminate Backsplash
Many homeowners have additional questions about installing tile over an existing laminate backsplash. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:
Is it OK to put tile over laminate countertops?
Tile can be installed over laminate countertops, but it is generally not recommended. Countertops need to withstand more abuse, heat, and moisture than backsplashes. The tile adhesion may fail more readily.
What kind of tile is best for laminate backsplash?
Porcelain, ceramic or natural stone tiles up to 12″x12″ are suitable for laminate backsplashes. Select medium-weight tiles; avoid heavy stone or large format tiles which may not adhere as well. Mosaics tiles are also a good option.
Can you put tile backsplash over wallpaper?
It is not advised to tile directly over wallpaper. To get a paintable surface, remove wallpaper first, then install tile backsplash. The textures and seams under wallpaper will likely distort the tile.
What thinset is best for laminate backsplash?
Polymer-modified thinsets (also called mastic or mortar) offer superior adhesion for installing tile over laminate backsplash. Consult manufacturer for best product match for your tile and laminate type.
How long does tile backsplash take to install?
The time to tile a backsplash varies based on size, but 1-3 days is typical. Tiling over laminate can cut installation time in half since laminate doesn’t have to be removed first. Curing and grouting add 1-2 days.
Can you put backsplash tile behind stove?
Yes, tile can be installed behind stoves. Use heat-resistant tiles like porcelain or natural stone. Leave a small gap between stove and tile. Use caulk rated for high temps to seal the gap.
Do you have to seal tile backsplash?
Sealing is highly recommended for all tile backsplashes. The sealer prevents staining and damage and makes tiles easier to clean and maintain. Reapply sealer periodically as needed over time.
Can I install subway tile over existing backsplash?
You can install subway tiles over an existing backsplash like ceramic tile or laminate. Ensure the old backsplash is well-secured to the wall and flat. Use a quality thinset adhesive made for tiling over existing surfaces.
Installing tile over laminate backsplash can allow you to upgrade the look of your kitchen without undertaking a major renovation project. With careful prep work, proper adhesive selection and the right tile choice, tiling over laminate can produce beautiful results while saving time and money compared to a full laminate backsplash replacement. However, full removal of laminate prior to tiling does provide the most durable and stable subsurface for tiles. Assess your specific backsplash and kitchen needs to decide if tiling over laminate is suitable or if a fresh tile installation is worth the extra effort. With some planning and effort, you can achieve the upscale tile backsplash look you desire, whether tiling over laminate or starting from scratch.