Can I Tile Over Tile Backsplash?

Tiling over an existing tile backsplash is often done to freshen up the look of a kitchen without undergoing a full remodel. With proper preparation, tiling over tile can transform the space. Here is a detailed guide on how to tile over an existing tile backsplash.

Overview of Tiling Over Existing Tile Backsplash

Tiling over existing tiles is possible in most cases. The key is ensuring the original tiles are in good condition and properly prepared.

The main steps include:

  • Inspecting the existing tile and repairing any damaged areas
  • Cleaning and lightly sanding the tile to roughen the surface
  • Applying a tile adhesive designed for tiling over existing surfaces
  • Laying the new tile, using spacers for even grout lines
  • Grouting and sealing the new tile

Proper prep work is crucial to ensure the new tiles adhere. The process does require some additional labor and materials compared to a new installation. But it allows changing the look without removing the original tile.

Can You Tile Over Ceramic, Porcelain, or Glass Tile?

Tile material impacts whether tiling over the existing is feasible:

  • Ceramic and porcelain – Glazed ceramic and porcelain tiles can usually be tiled over, as long as they are in good shape. Any cracked or broken tiles must be replaced. The surface needs to be scuffed up to provide adhesion.
  • Natural stone – Tiling over natural stone like marble, granite, or slate is not recommended. The stone is too prone to cracking and does not provide a stable base.
  • Glass – Glass tile can be tricky to tile over. It often has a slick surface that adhesive may not adhere well to. Extra preparation like etching the surface is required.
  • Mosaic – Small mosaic tiles are very difficult to tile over evenly. The grout lines will likely show through. Removing mosaic tile first is best.

Porcelain, ceramic, and some glass tiles can generally be tiled over with proper prep. Natural stone and mosaic tiles are better replaced rather than tiled over.

How to Prepare Existing Tile for New Tile

Preparing the existing tile for tiling over is crucial:

  • Deep clean – Scrub all tile and grout lines to remove any grease, soap scum, and dirt. Rinse thoroughly and allow to fully dry.
  • Repair cracks or holes – Fill any cracked, broken, or missing tiles with filler materials. Allow repairs to cure fully before tiling.
  • Rough up the surface – Use a sander or grinder to scuff up the glazed tile surface. This helps the adhesive grip. Wear safety gear to avoid inhaling dust.
  • Remove old caulk and grout – Scrape out all old grout and caulk and clean with denatured alcohol. This helps the new adhesive and grout bond better.

Taking the time to thoroughly clean and scuff up the tile ensures the new materials can adhere properly. Any cracked or broken tiles also must be addressed before tiling over.

What Type of Adhesive is Best for Tiling Over Tile?

Choosing the proper thinset adhesive is key for a long-lasting installation:

  • Latex-modified thinset – A latex-modified thinset is the best choice for tiling over existing tile. The latex provides flexibility and strength.
  • Mastic adhesives – Mastic adhesives are not ideal for tiling over tile. They lack the strength and longevity of a latex modified mortar.
  • Epoxy adhesives – Epoxy adhesives provide an extremely strong chemical bond. They are a good secondary option if a latex thinset is not available.

Always check that the thinset label states it can be used for tiling over existing surfaces. Latex-modified thinsets provide the right blend of strength and flexibility for tiling over tile.

What’s the Best Way to Apply New Tiles Over Existing?

Careful installation technique helps ensure a successful tiling over tile project:

  • Apply thinset with the proper trowel – Use a notched trowel designed for the new tile thickness. Spread evenly in straight lines.
  • Use tile spacers – Keeping tile joints even is important. Plastic spacers allow consistent grout line spacing.
  • Work in small sections – Only apply enough thinset that tiles can be set before drying. Work in 3-4 foot sections.
  • Beat in the tiles – Use a rubber mallet to firmly beat in each tile, ensuring full mortar contact.
  • Check for hollow spots – During installation, tap tiles to identify any voids. Pull up and re-apply mortar if tiles are not fully supported.
  • Clean up excess mortar – Tool the joints and wipe away excess mortar as you go for easier final grouting.

With care and patience, the new tile can be installed over the old for an updated kitchen backsplash.

Tiling Over Tile Backsplash FAQ

Can I use the same grout color when tiling over existing tile?

It is recommended to use a contrasting grout color. Matching the original grout often shows the underlying grout lines. Using a lighter or darker shade of grout helps conceal the previous lines.

Do I need to seal the tiles before tiling over?

Sealing is not mandatory but can provide added protection, especially for porous or textured tiles. Use a tile sealer compatible with the adhesive you’ll be using.

Should the new tile thickness match the old?

Having a similar tile thickness is ideal but not absolutely necessary. Thicker tiles may build out further. Transition trim can help bridge any thickness differences.

Can I just glue tile over the old backsplash?

Tile adhesive is required, not regular household glue. The adhesive needs to specifically be designed to bond tile to existing tile or surfaces.

Is tiling over tile as strong as new installation on drywall?

Tiling over tile can be just as durable, provided proper products and installation method. New installation on drywall provides opportunity for a greater mortar thickness.


Tiling over an existing kitchen backsplash or bathroom can refresh the space without requiring full tile removal. With careful surface preparation, proper adhesive selection, and careful application technique, achieving success is absolutely possible. While requiring some additional effort, tiling over tile allows changing the look without excessive demolition. With a coordinated tile design and grout color, that outdated backsplash can easily be revived with a new tile overlay.