Epoxy resin has become an increasingly popular material for creating stylish, durable and easy-to-clean backsplashes in kitchens and bathrooms. Many homeowners love the sleek, glossy look of epoxy backsplashes, as well as their seamless installation and resistance to water, stains and scratches.
However, when it comes time to remodel, a common question arises: can you apply an epoxy backsplash right over existing tile? The short answer is yes, it is possible to epoxy over tile, but there are some important factors to consider first.
What to Know Before Epoxying Over Tile
When applying epoxy over tile, proper preparation is key to achieving the best results. Here is an overview of what you need to know:
Cleaning and Degreasing
The tile must be thoroughly cleaned before applying epoxy. All dirt, grease, soap scum and contaminants need to be removed so the epoxy can properly adhere. A degreasing cleaner formulated for kitchen and bath tile is recommended.
Checking for Cracks or Damage
Inspect the existing tile closely and repair any cracked, broken, missing or uneven tiles. Epoxy will show every flaw underneath, so flaws in the substrate tile can lead to an unsatisfactory finish.
Creating a Smooth Surface
The epoxy needs a smooth, level surface to adhere to. If the grout lines between the tiles are recessed, they will likely show through the epoxy. The grout can be built up flush to the tile with an epoxy patching compound.
For maximum adhesion, the glazed tile surface needs to be dulled and lightly abraded so the epoxy can mechanically adhere. A palm sander with 80-100 grit sandpaper is commonly used.
Applying a primer coat of epoxy before the final flood coat can help the epoxy bond properly to the tile surface. The primer coat also helps hide any remaining flaws in the tile.
Step-by-Step Process for Epoxying Over Tile
With the right products and techniques, it is possible to achieve seamless, glossy epoxy results over existing tile backsplashes and shower surrounds. Here is a step-by-step overview:
1. Clean and Degrease the Tile
Use a grease-cutting, alkaline cleaner made for kitchen and bathroom tile and scrub every inch of the surface. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry fully.
2. Make Any Needed Repairs
Inspect closely for damaged, uneven or missing tiles and repair as needed with a patching compound. Let repairs cure fully.
3. Sand the Tile Surface
Use 80-100 grit sandpaper in a random orbital palm sander to scuff up and dull the glazed tile surface. This helps the epoxy mechanically adhere.
4. Clean and Vacuum Away Dust
Wipe down the sanded surface with denatured alcohol to remove all dust. Then vacuum up remaining debris with a brush attachment.
5. Apply Epoxy Primer Coat
Roll on a coat of high-quality epoxy primer, working it into the grout lines. Allow to cure overnight.
6. Apply Final Epoxy Coat
Mix and apply the final epoxy flood coat according to manufacturer’s instructions. Use a roller with 3/8” nap.
7. Spread Evenly and Pop Bubbles
Carefully spread the epoxy, working from the top down. Use a plastic smoother to remove any bubbles.
8. Allow Full Cure Time
Leave the epoxy undisturbed as it cures fully, typically 24-48 hours. Avoid contact with water during this time.
9. Seal Edges with Caulk
Once cured, seal all seams along walls, edges and fixtures with a waterproof silicone caulk. Allow caulk to cure before use.
When done properly, the existing tile is completely encapsulated under a smooth, glossy epoxy coating. The result is a dramatically updated backsplash on a budget.
Benefits of Epoxying Over Tile
Cost savings – Applying epoxy over existing tile is far less expensive than fully replacing the backsplash. Demolition, new tile and professional installation can be very costly.
Fast installation – Prepping and epoxying over tile can typically be completed over a long weekend. New tile installation takes much more time.
Minimal downtime – The kitchen or bath can be unusable for days or weeks with tile replacement, while epoxying creates minimal disruption.
Customizable looks – Epoxy can be tinted, painted or topped with decorative flakes for unique styles not possible with tile.
Seamless finish – Epoxy creates a smooth, continuous surface without messy grout lines. Grout inevitably collects dirt and mildew over time.
Enhanced durability – Properly applied epoxy is highly resistant to scratches, stains, heat and water damage. Tile grout is more porous and prone to damage.
Easier maintenance – Epoxy’s nonporous glossy surface simply needs to be wiped clean occasionally. Grout lines trap dirt and require frequent scrubbing.
For many homeowners, epoxying over tile is an ideal and cost-effective way to update a backsplash without the mess and expense of a full tear-out. With careful surface prep and application, epoxy can hide flaws, disguise dated tile and create a dramatic new look.
What About Asbestos Tile?
Asbestos was used in some tile products until the 1980s, so tiles installed before then may contain asbestos. Sanding or removing asbestos tiles would release hazardous asbestos fibers and is not recommended. It is best to consult an asbestos abatement professional first if asbestos tile is suspected.
In some cases, it may be possible to safely epoxy over undisturbed asbestos tile, encapsulating the possible asbestos underneath. Again, have the tiles tested and seek professional advice to ensure any asbestos remains undisturbed. Safety should be the top priority.
Choosing the Right Epoxy Products
Not all epoxy products are created equal when it comes to bonding successfully to existing tile. Here are some tips for choosing quality over-tile epoxy products:
Pick industrial-grade epoxy – Look for epoxy resin labeled for industrial, commercial or marine applications, not basic craft epoxy. Industrial epoxies are stronger and more adhesive.
Seek 100% solids – Solvent-free 100% solids epoxy is thicker and cures harder than epoxy containing solvents. Solvents can inhibit bonding.
Verify suitability for wet areas – Be sure the epoxy is formulated to withstand moisture and meet codes for shower and kitchen backsplash use.
Get the right tools – Invest in tools like plastic spreaders, rollers and mixing containers specifically made for epoxy application. Proper tools prevent messes and bubbles.
Talk to product support – Discuss the project with the epoxy manufacturer’s technical team to verify the product’s suitability for applying over tile.
Investing in commercial-grade epoxy designed for coating tile, along with the proper application tools, helps create professional, lasting results.
Hiring a Professional Epoxy Installer
While DIY epoxy backsplash projects can save money, they don’t always go smoothly for amateurs. The products can be tricky to work with, and flaws in the finish are hard to remedy once cured.
To help ensure optimal results, many homeowners opt to hire professional epoxy installation contractors. Experienced epoxy pros have the skills and tools to:
- Properly prep and clean the tile surface
- Apply primer coats to fill in flaws
- Mix and spread epoxy smoothly without bubbles
- Achieve consistent, polished finishes
- Handle any necessary repairs if needed
Professional installers have completed extensive training on working with epoxy resins. They know the quirks of the products and processes. While DIY epoxy projects can work, homeowners with limited experience may find better success hiring a qualified pro.
Common Problems Applying Epoxy Over Tile
Even seasoned DIYers can encounter issues when applying epoxy directly over tile. Being aware of these potential problems can help you avoid them:
Uneven appearance – Grout lines, cracks or damaged tiles showing through can ruin the smooth look of epoxy. Proper prep and patching is key.
Fish-eye effect – This rippled distortion happens when substrate contamination causes epoxy to spread unevenly. Thorough cleaning prevents it.
Bubbles in coating – Air bubbles get trapped when the epoxy isn’t mixed properly or is spread too quickly. Slow, even application prevents bubbles.
Flaking or peeling – If the tile isn’t sanded for adhesion, the epoxy may delaminate or peel away. Scuffing the surface is critical.
Discoloration – Dirt, cleaner residue or unsanded glossy tile surfaces can cause epoxy to yellow or discolor unevenly as it cures.
With care and patience, many of these common problems can be avoided. Paying attention to surface preparation and application techniques goes a long way when epoxying over existing backsplash tile.
Removing Epoxy from Tile
Sometimes epoxy backsplashes simply don’t turn out as hoped. Maybe the finish is uneven or flawed, making a redo necessary. In these cases, removing the existing epoxy can allow you to reapply a fresh coating.
There are a few options for stripping epoxy off tile surfaces:
- Chemical strippers – Solvent-based strippers help soften epoxy so it can be scraped off. Products like Klean-Strip Premium Stripper work well. Wear proper safety gear.
- Heat guns – Heating epoxy to 300-500°F helps soften it for scraping. Use caution not to scorch existing tile.
- Sanding – Aggressive sanding with 60-80 grit discs can gradually grind away epoxy. A random orbital sander makes the job easier.
- Pressure washing – Powerful pressure washers generating 1500+ PSI may blast away peeled edges of epoxy. Won’t work for removing entire coatings.
Completely removing epoxy takes patience and elbow grease no matter the method. Harsh chemical strippers typically work fastest. Just be sure to use safe practices and reapply a primer coat before recoating with fresh epoxy.
Maintaining an Epoxy Backsplash
One of the advantages of epoxy backsplashes is their durability and easy maintenance compared to grouted tile. However, some simple maintenance steps will keep your epoxy surfaces looking like new:
- Use a squeegee to remove water after use to prevent water spots.
- Clean frequently with a mild soap and water. Avoid abrasive cleaners.
- Immediately clean up spills to prevent possible staining.
- Reseal with an epoxy-safe polish every 1-2 years.
- Avoid using harsh chemicals like oven cleaners near the epoxy.
- Repair any chips or damage right away to prevent bigger problems.
- Consider reapplying a fresh coat of epoxy every 5-10 years or as needed.
With proper care, an epoxy backsplash can maintain its high-gloss, like-new appearance for many years before needing reapplication. Simple cleaning routines keep it looking its best.
Epoxy Backsplash Design Ideas
Beyond basic solid color coatings, there are endless options for creating one-of-a-kind looks with epoxy backsplashes:
Tinting epoxy with metallic pigments creates a glittery, shimmery effect. Gold, silver, copper and other metallic epoxies resemble metal backsplashes.
Using techniques like rag rolling or mixing colored epoxy creates organic, marbled patterns that mimic luxury stone.
Printing photos or artwork directly onto special epoxy coatings allows for personalization. Kids’ artwork makes a great photo epoxy backsplash.
Adding sand, glitter or other aggregates creates textured epoxy with depth and visual interest.
Using stencils, masking tape or creative pouring makes it possible to achieve tile-like patterns in epoxy. Geometric designs work well.
Accent Stripes or Frames
Banding the top, bottom or sides of the backsplash in a contrasting color or finish adds nice definition. Metallic silver stripes are popular.
Get creative and have fun designing a completely custom epoxy backsplash. From solid colors to unique designs, epoxy over tile opens up many possibilities.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can any tile be epoxied over?
Most types of tile can be epoxied over as long as the surface is properly prepared. Natural stone, porcelain, ceramic, glass and most other tiles work well. The tile must be solidly adhered with no loose tiles or cracks.
What about epoxying over cracked grout?
Deep cracks or missing grout should be repaired first for best results. However, in general the epoxy coating helps strengthen and waterproof cracked grout lines.
How long does epoxy over tile last?
With proper installation and maintenance, an epoxy coating can last 5-10 years or longer before needing renewal. Harsh cleaners or heavy scrubbing can shorten the lifespan.
Can the epoxy finish be damaged?
Like any surface coating, epoxy can be chipped, scratched or etched by sharp or abrasive objects. Damage is usually localized and can be spot repaired.
Is there a non-toxic epoxy option?
Most epoxy resins do contain some solvents during application. There are lower-VOC and more eco-friendly epoxy formulas available for the health-conscious.
Can epoxy go over painted tile?
Pre-painted tile isn’t the best surface for epoxy adhesion. Removing old paint and exposing the bare tile surface is best.
What about radiant heat under the tile?
Epoxy resins cure well at room temperature but some may not fully harden over radiant heating systems over 120°F. Check product limitations.
Can epoxy go right over existing epoxy?
Yes, as long as the prior epoxy finish is soundly adhered with no damage or contamination. Lightly sanding provides the best results.
Is special ventilation needed?
Epoxy fumes can be quite strong during application. Working in a well-ventilated area is a must. Fumes dissipate as the epoxy cures.
Applying an epoxy coating over existing backsplash tile can be an economical alternative to a full tile demolition and replacement. With careful planning, surface preparation and application, homeowners can achieve professional-looking results and dramatically update the look of their kitchens or bathrooms.
Epoxy resin gives homeowners the ability to completely transform an outdated tiled backsplash without the mess and expense of ripping it out. While epoxying over tile has its challenges, the end result is well worth the effort for many renovators.
With exhaustive cleaning, scuff sanding, applying primer and using commercial-grade epoxy products, it is possible to hide flaws and create a slick new backsplash surface right over your existing tile.
While hiring an experienced professional epoxy installer is recommended for best results, meticulous DIYers can also successfully coat tile with epoxy. Patience and care is required.
Beyond basic solid colors, custom epoxy backsplashes with metallic, marbled and textured finishes allow for limitless design options. Maintained properly, epoxy can outlast the life of the original tile underneath.
When trying to decide between destroying and replacing a tile backsplash or simply epoxying over it, many homeowners choose the faster, more cost-effective epoxy option. Their kitchens and bathrooms are renovated with modern new backsplashes in a fraction of the time and expense.