Can You Install Tile Over Tile Backsplash?

Installing tile over an existing tile backsplash is possible, but it requires some special preparation and techniques to ensure success. With proper planning and execution, tile can be installed over tile to create an updated, custom look without having to tear out the original backsplash.

What to Consider Before Installing Tile Over Tile

There are a few key factors to think through before taking on a tile over tile project:

Condition of Existing Tile

The existing tile must be in good condition with no cracks, damage, or loose tiles. Cracks and flaws will telegraph through the new tile, so any damaged areas will need to be repaired or replaced.

Flatness of Existing Tile

The existing backsplash must be flat and level. Any unevenness in the original tile will show under the new tile and prevent the tiles from adhering properly. If the existing tile is uneven, it may require skim coating with mortar to flatten it out before installing the new tile.

Type of Existing Tile

Porcelain, ceramic, and natural stone tiles are suitable substrates for new tile. Materials like plastic laminate or acrylic should be removed and are not suitable substrates.

Weight Considerations

Extra weight from the additional layer of tile needs to be accounted for, especially for tile installed on walls. Adhesives and back-buttering each new tile will help bear the weight.

Vapor Barrier Issues

Pay attention to any existing vapor barriers, as two layers of tile will create moisture trap issues. This will require adjustments to the vapor barrier prior to installing new tile.

How to Install Tile Over Existing Tile Backsplash

With proper prep work and planning, the process of tiling over tile involves:

Clean and Rough Up the Existing Tile

Thoroughly clean the existing tile with an alkaline cleaner to remove any grease or dirt. This will ensure proper adhesion of the new tile.

Use a sander or grinder to scuff up and rough the glaze of the existing tile. This porous surface will provide the grip needed for the new tile and mortar.

Apply Mortar and Mesh

Apply a 1/4 inch thick layer of latex-modified thinset mortar over the existing tile and use a notched trowel to comb it evenly.

While the mortar is still wet, embed fiberglass mesh into it as added stability and to bridge any small cracks or grout lines.

Allow the mortar layer to fully cure per manufacturer instructions.

Stagger Layout and Dry Fit Tiles

Plan a layout for the new tiles that staggers the grout lines from the original backsplash. Cut your tiles and dry fit them first before applying adhesive.

Adhere New Tiles

Use a polymer-modified thinset adhesive suitable for large format and/or heavy tiles. Spread it using a notched trowel and back-butter each tile for maximum coverage and adhesion.

Grout and Seal

Allow the tile adhesive to fully cure, then grout the tiles and clean off excess. Apply grout sealant once cured to protect from stains.

Tips for Achieving Best Results

Focusing on these tips will help ensure a professional looking finished product:

  • Take time to properly clean and rough up the original tiles – don’t skip this prep step!
  • Use latex-modified thinset mortar products throughout to allow for slight movement and flexibility.
  • Back-butter each new tile to prevent voids and maximize adhesion.
  • Plan the new tile layout around existing grout lines to avoid raised lines showing through.
  • Use caulk instead of grout between the new tiles and any adjoining areas to allow for expansion and contraction.
  • Apply grout sealer after grouting to protect the new grout lines from staining.
  • Expect the double layer of tile to add some thickness and reduce overall backslash depth.

FAQs About Installing Tile Over Tile

Can you use regular thinset to install tile over tile?

It is best to use a latex-modified thinset when installing over a pre-existing tiled surface. The latex additive provides flexibility to allow for slight movement.

How long does tile over tile last?

Tile over tile can last many years if the subsurface is properly prepared. Follow all recommendations for prep and materials, and the new tile can have a very long service life.

What kind of tile is best for tiling over existing tile?

Porcelain, ceramic, or natural stone tiles are suitable for tiling over existing tiles. Avoid softer types of tiles like mosaics, as they may not adhere as well.

Can you put tile over existing backsplash?

Yes, tile can be installed over an existing backsplash as long as the original tiles are in good condition, thoroughly cleaned and sanded, and a mortar layer is applied first.

Should you remove old backsplash before tiling?

It is not mandatory to remove the old backsplash, as long as it meets the condition requirements. Removal provides the most trouble-free install, but adds cost and time to the project.

Can you tile over cracked tiles?

Cracked, damaged, or deteriorating tiles should be removed and repaired prior to tiling over. Any cracked areas need to be addressed to provide a sound subsurface for new tiles.


Installing tile over an existing backsplash or tiled wall is certainly doable for an experienced DIYer. With meticulous surface preparation, high quality adhesive and grout, and proper planning of the layout, tile can be successfully installed over tile. Taking a careful approach and following best practices for surface prep and application will ensure the new tiles adhere tightly and provide a beautiful upgraded backsplash for years of beauty and enjoyment.