Can You Lay Tile Over Tile Backsplash?

Laying tile over an existing tile backsplash is possible, but it requires careful preparation and technique to achieve success. With proper planning and execution, you can install a beautiful new tile overlay that updates the look of your kitchen or bath. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to lay tile over tile for a backsplash.

Should You Tile Over Existing Tile?

Tiling over existing tile has advantages and disadvantages to consider:


  • Saves time and money – Removing old tile is labor-intensive. Covering it with new tile is faster and more affordable.
  • Prevents damage – Taking down an old backsplash can harm drywall behind it. Tiling over avoids this potential issue.
  • Maintains the same footprint – New tile can match the existing backsplash size. Full removal may require further tile purchase.
  • Achieves a fresh look – A tile overlay provides visual updates and hides dated or damaged tile underneath.


  • Increased thickness – New tile adds another layer, slightly recessing counters and windows.
  • Uneven surface – Grout lines and height differences may telegraph through the new tile.
  • Limited tile choice – Large format tiles or natural stone may not adhere well over existing tiles.
  • Short-term solution – An overlay masks underlying problems but doesn’t fix them permanently.

Overall, tiling over a backsplash makes sense if the existing tile is in good condition, extra thickness is acceptable, and radical style changes aren’t required.

Planning Your Tile Overlay

Careful planning ensures a successful backsplash overlay installation:

Step 1: Inspect and Prep the Existing Tile

  • Examine for cracks, damage, and loose tiles. Repair issues before moving forward.
  • Clean thoroughly to remove any grease, soil, or soap scum that could interfere with adhesion.
  • Rough up the glazed tile surface using sandpaper or a sander so the new thinset mortar can grip.
  • Fill any wide grout lines with thinset to prevent shadowing. Allow to fully cure before tiling.

Step 2: Choose Appropriate Tile

  • Smaller tiles, mosaic sheets, and penny rounds adhere better than heavy stone or large tiles prone to slippage.
  • Porcelain, ceramic, and glass tiles are ideal lightweight choices. Avoid fragile natural stone or heavy tiles.
  • Match the thickness of the existing tile as closely as possible for the most seamless finish.

Step 3: Use Proper installation Products

  • Select a high quality modified thinset mortar that bonds well to existing tile.
  • Choose unsanded grout for narrow joint widths, sanded for wider grout lines. Match grout color to your new tile.
  • Use a premium polymer-modified grout with stain resistance and strength.
  • Choose tile spacers and tiles with a width that aligns with your old grout line spacing.

Step-By-Step Guide to Tiling Over Existing Tile

Once you’ve completed planning and preparation, follow these key steps for proper installation:

Step 1: Apply Thinset Mortar

Spread a layer of thinset adhesive on the backsplash using a notched trowel. Push hard to work into the grooves and ensure maximum coverage and adhesion.

Step 2: Set New Tiles

Firmly press tiles into the thinset, using spacers for consistent grout line spacing. Check for full coverage and proper adhesion. Remove any thinset squeezed up in joints.

Step 3: Let Set Until Cured

Allow thinset to fully cure for 24-48 hours before proceeding. This prevents tiles from shifting and provides strength.

Step 4: Grout Tile Joints

Mix grout and apply using a rubber grout float. Push into joints and clean excess from the tile face with a damp sponge. Allow grout to partially cure.

Step 5: Seal Grout

Seal grout lines with a penetrating sealer to prevent staining and increase water resistance. Allow to fully cure.

Step 6: Caulk Perimeters

Caulk along the top and sides where the backsplash meets counters, walls, and windows using a flexible silicone sealant.

With careful installation methods, your new tile overlay can provide a completely updated look while saving time and frustration compared to a full backsplash tear-out! Maintain it well, and it can serve as a durable and attractive solution for years.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I put subway tile over existing backsplash?

Yes, subway tiles with a thin profile work extremely well for overlaying existing backsplashes. Their small uniform size adheres nicely to the tile below.

Should I take off old backsplash before tiling?

Removing old tile first is best for addressing underlying moisture or wall damage. But for straightforward upgrades, tiling over the old backsplash is much easier and more affordable.

What thickness of tile is best?

Aim for a similar thickness as your existing tile – 1/4 inch mosaics and tiles specifically designed for walls adhere well. Avoid cumbersome natural stone mosaic tiles.

Does backsplash tile need backer board?

Backer board provides critical moisture protection behind tub and shower surrounds. But for protected kitchen backsplashes, tiling directly over existing tile or drywall is generally acceptable.

Can I use the same grout on new tile?

It’s best to use fresh grout in a color that matches your new tile instead of reusing old grouted. Ensure you select the right grout texture and type for your tile spacing and needs.

Key Takeaways: Tiling Over an Existing Backsplash

  • Inspect and prepare existing tile properly, repairing any damage before moving forward.
  • Select the right tiles such as small format porcelain or ceramic and quality thinset mortar and grout.
  • Follow best practices for tile prep, installation, grouting, and sealing for success.
  • A tile overlay provides big visual impact and avoids extensive removal work, saving major time and money.
  • Manage expectations on final thickness and underlying grout lines possibly showing through the new tile.

With careful planning and prep work, tiling over an existing backsplash is a great way to affordably give your kitchen or bath an entirely fresh new look!