Can You Put a Backsplash Over Tile?

Adding a fresh backsplash is one of the easiest ways to update the look of a kitchen or bathroom. However, if the existing wall already has tile, you may be wondering if you can install a new backsplash right over the old tile. The answer is yes, you can install a backsplash over existing tile! While it takes a bit more preparation, it can be a simple project that makes a big impact.

An Overview of Backsplash Installation Over Existing Tile

Installing a backsplash over tile is very doable as a DIY project. The key steps include:

  • Cleaning and preparing the existing tile
  • Applying a skim coat to smooth and level the old tile
  • Letting the skim coat dry completely
  • Applying mastic and installing the new backsplash tile
  • Grouting the new backsplash

The most important part is proper prep and getting a smooth, even base for the new backsplash. As long as you take the time to get the surface ready, the installation process is very similar to a standard backsplash install.

Benefits of Installing a New Backsplash Over Old Tile

There are a few advantages to installing a backsplash over existing tile:

  • Saves time and money: Removing old tile properly takes time and extra tools. Covering it is much simpler.
  • Prevents damage: Taking out old tile risks harming the drywall behind it. Installing over is less invasive.
  • Hides imperfections: Applying a skim coat helps conceal any grout lines or uneven tile. The end result looks seamless.
  • Creates a fresh look: A new backsplash can completely transform the space with color, texture, and style.

You’ll reap these benefits as long as you prep properly. Rushing the surface prep could lead to problems down the road with adhesion or moisture getting under the tile.

Preparing the Surface

Preparing the existing tile surface is the most crucial step for a successful installation. Here is an overview of the process:

Clean Thoroughly

  • Use a degreasing cleaner to remove any dirt, grease, or soap scum on the tile.
  • Scrub with an abrasive sponge or pad to remove grime from grout lines.
  • Rinse well and let the tile dry completely.

Thorough cleaning removes any contaminants that could prevent adhesion.

Check for Problem Areas

Inspect the tile for any of the following issues:

  • Cracked, damaged, or missing grout
  • Missing or broken tiles
  • Signs of moisture damage or leaks
  • Areas that are not level or plumb with the rest of the wall

Fix any problem areas before moving forward.

Remove High Spots

Use a rotary tool with a grinding stone bit to gently grind down any significantly raised tiles or grout lines. The goal is to level any high spots to prevent them from showing through the new backsplash. Work slowly and carefully to avoid damaging the tile. Wear safety goggles and a mask.

Apply a Skim Coat

Mix thinset mortar according to package directions and use a trowel to spread a smooth, even skim coat over the entire surface. Use a 1/4” x 3/8” V-notch trowel held at a 45° angle to create consistent ridges.

Allow the skim coat to dry completely, which usually takes 24-48 hours. Then sand any high spots or trowel lines to get the surface as smooth as possible.

The skim coat creates a strong base and helps hide any grout lines or uneven tiles below it. This step is vital for getting great results.

Install Cement Board (Optional)

Applying cement board over the skim coat adds an extra layer of stability and moisture protection. Use thinset mortar to adhere 1/4″ or 1/2″ cement board. Be sure to offset the seams from any tile joints below. Screw the board in place every 8 inches.

This step is recommended for kitchen backsplashes or any area with potential moisture exposure.

Once the surface prep is complete, you can move onto the fun part – installing the new backsplash tile!

How to Install a Backsplash Over Existing Tile

Follow these steps to properly install a backsplash over tile:

Step 1: Plan the Layout

  • Decide on the tile pattern and layout you want.
  • Map it out to ensure you maximize cuts and minimize wasted tiles.
  • If you’re using large format tiles, make sure to follow offset vertical stagger recommendations.

Take the time to think through the design to get the look you want.

Step 2: Mix the Adhesive

  • For the backsplash, use a polymer-modified thinset mortar suitable for walls.
  • Mix it to a smooth, toothpaste-like consistency according to directions.

The right adhesive is important both for strength and flexibility. Don’t use basic pre-mixed mastic.

Step 3: Apply the Adhesive

  • Use a 1/4” x 3/8” V-notch trowel to evenly spread adhesive on the wall.
  • Hold the trowel at a 45° angle pressing firmly to create consistent ridges.
  • Only cover an area that can be tiled within 15-20 minutes to prevent the thinset from drying out.

Proper thinset coverage allows the tile to adhere evenly across the entire back.

Step 4: Install the Backsplash Tile

  • Apply tiles in the pattern established during planning.
  • Use plastic spacers to maintain even grout joint width.
  • Press tiles firmly into place while sliding back and forth slightly.
  • Check periodically to ensure proper coverage and alignment.

Go slowly and carefully to get the layout perfect.

Step 5: Let Adhesive Cure

  • Allow thinset to cure for at least 24 hours before grouting.
  • Do not disturb the tiles while the adhesive sets.

Letting the adhesive cure properly creates a strong bond.

Step 6: Grout the Tile

  • Mix grout according to package instructions. Apply using a float, working it deeply into the joints.
  • Wipe excess grout off the tile face with a damp sponge.
  • After grout has cured, buff and polish the tile with a soft cloth.

Thorough grouting and cleanup completes the professional look.

And that’s it – your new backsplash installed beautifully over your existing tile! With good prep and care, it will last for many years of enjoyment.

Tips for Successful Installation Over Tile

Follow these tips to ensure your backsplash installation goes smoothly:

  • Use a latex-modified thinset: It has better adhesion and flexibility.
  • Check moisture levels: Use a meter to verify the wall is sufficiently dry.
  • Keep joints aligned: Level any uneven tiles to maintain alignment.
  • Let thinset cure fully: Don’t rush, allow full drying time before grouting.
  • Seal porous natural stone: Adds protection for materials like travertine or marble.
  • Make clean cuts: Use a wet saw or tile cutter for precise cuts around outlets and edges.
  • Work carefully around windows: Plan the layout to minimize tricky partial tiles.
  • Use backerboard for heavy tile: Cement board adds stability for stone or large format tile.
  • Prep existing tile fully: Clean thoroughly and apply an even skim coat.

Following these best practices will ensure your new backsplash adheres securely and looks amazing.

Common Questions About Backsplash Installation Over Tile

Many homeowners have additional questions about installing a backsplash over existing tile. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

Can you put backsplash tile over existing kitchen tile?

Yes, you can install a backsplash over existing kitchen tile or bathroom tile. As long as the original tile is in good shape, properly cleaning and applying a skim coat creates an appropriate surface for the new backsplash.

What thinset do you use to install backsplash over existing tile?

Use a polymer-modified thinset mortar suitable for wall applications. This provides maximum adhesion and flexibility. Do not use basic pre-mixed mastic or thinset.

How do you prepare old tile for a new backsplash?

Preparing old tile involves thoroughly cleaning, fixing any damaged areas, removing high spots, and applying an even skim coat across the entire surface. This hides any grout lines or uneven tiles to give a smooth base.

Should you remove old backsplash before installing new?

Removing the old backsplash is not mandatory, but it can make applying an even skim coat easier. If the old tile is in good shape, you can clean and skim coat it rather than take it down completely.

Can I install subway tile over existing backsplash?

Yes, you can install subway tiles or any type of backsplash over an existing backsplash, as long as the old tile is well-secured. Properly prep with a skim coat to conceal the old tile before applying the new mosaic tiles.

What kind of tile can go over existing tile in a shower?

Porcelain, ceramic, or natural stone tiles can be installed over existing shower tile. Make sure the old tile is in good condition first. Use a moisture meter to verify the wall is dry before applying the skim coat and new tile.

Properly addressing any underlying moisture issues is crucial in showers before tiling over old tile.

How long does backsplash tile installation take?

The installation time depends on the backsplash size and tile size. Once properly prepped, the adhesive, tile application, and grouting can typically be done in one day. Applying the skim coat adds 1-2 days prior for drying time. Smaller mosaic tiles also require more time to install and grout than larger tiles.

Professional Installation Recommendations

While installing a backsplash over tile is a DIY-friendly project, some homeowners opt to hire a professional tile installer. Experienced tile setters have the skills to:

  • Correct underlying problems: Professionals can re-support old tile, fix grout, or address moisture issues. This helps ensure a long-lasting result.
  • Smooth uneven surfaces: Contractors have the tools to grind high spots and get walls flat for backsplash installation.
  • Work around tricky areas: Professionals have the experience to perfectly detail the backsplash around windows, outlets, corners, and built-in appliances.
  • Provide custom designs: Tile professionals can create intricate patterns, accents, borders, niches, and mosaic designs.

Hiring a qualified tile setter gives you access to specialized tools and expertise for the best possible outcome. Be sure to get referrals and check reviews. Many tile professionals can also help select materials if desired.

Transform Your Space With a New Backsplash!

Installing a backsplash over existing tile is very feasible with the right prep and materials. With a thorough surface cleaning, proper skim coat, quality thinset and grout, and careful application, you can achieve beautiful results. The end reward is well worth the effort for a kitchen or bath that looks and functions like new.

In Closing

A new backsplash can completely transform the look of a kitchen or bathroom, even when the wall already has tile. With proper preparation and care, installing over existing tile can give an updated, seamless finish. Now get creative with materials, colors, and designs to reinvigorate your space with a fresh backsplash!

5 Benefits of Installing a Backsplash Over Existing Tile

  • Saves time and money compared to replacing the tile
  • Prevents potential damage to the wall behind the tile
  • Conceals any imperfections or grout lines in the old tile
  • Allows for easy upgrades in style with new colors and textures
  • Creates a smoother, more updated backsplash surface

6 Tips for Backsplash Success Over Existing Tile

  1. Clean thoroughly and fix any damaged areas
  2. Grind down high spots
  3. Apply a smooth, even skim coat
  4. Use polymer-modified thinset mortar
  5. Carefully follow layout plans
  6. Allow proper cure times before grouting

How to Prepare Old Tile for New Backsplash

  • Clean with degreaser and scrub entire surface
  • Inspect for cracked tiles, missing grout, uneven areas
  • Grind down any significantly raised tiles or grout
  • Spread skim coat evenly over entire backsplash area
  • Allow skim coat to dry fully before tiling

Common Backsplash Questions Answered

Can you put backsplash tile over existing kitchen tile?

Yes, installing over existing kitchen or bathroom tile is possible with proper preparation.

What thinset should be used to install backsplash over tile?

Use a polymer-modified thinset mortar designed for wall applications.

How long does a backsplash tile installation take?

The installation time depends on the size and type of tile. Smaller tile requires more time.

Should old backsplash be removed before installing new?

Removing old tile is optional. It can be cleaned and skim coated instead.

Can subway tile be installed over existing backsplash?

Yes, subway tiles can be installed over existing tile with proper prep and thinset.