Installing a stylish backsplash is one of the most popular ways to update a kitchen or bathroom. But what if the room already has wallpaper that you want to keep? Can you install a backsplash right over the existing wallpaper? The short answer is yes, it is possible to put a backsplash over wallpaper, but there are some important considerations to keep in mind.
Assessing the Existing Wallpaper
The first step is to carefully examine the existing wallpaper. Check for the following:
- Is the wallpaper in good shape or is it peeling, cracked, or otherwise damaged? Any loose areas will need to be removed and repaired prior to installing the backsplash.
- Does the wallpaper have a very pronounced texture? Heavy textures like grasscloth can make it difficult to achieve a smooth finish with the backsplash application.
- Is the wallpaper glossy or does it have a polished sheen? Backsplashes adhere best to surfaces that are matte and not too slick.
If the existing wallpaper is in rough shape, has a deep texture, or is very glossy, it is generally best to remove it prior to installing the backsplash.
Preparing the Surface
If the wallpaper is in good condition and has a subtle pattern or texture, you may be able to install right over it. Here are some tips for proper surface preparation:
- Clean thoroughly – Use a degreaser to remove any kitchen grime or oils from the wallpapered surface. Rinse with clean water and allow to fully dry.
- Remove loose areas – If there are any bubbled or peeling areas of the wallpaper, remove them. Scrape off old adhesive, spackle the area smooth, and sand.
- Add primer – For best adhesion, apply 1-2 coats of primer over the wallpaper before installing the backsplash. Use an appropriate primer like a tile/mosaic primer.
- Consider skim coating – For very textured or damaged wallpaper, it may be best to skim coat over it with joint compound to create a smoother surface. Allow compound to fully dry before priming.
Proper surface prep is crucial for a long-lasting backsplash installation over wallpaper. Taking the time to address any problem areas will help the backsplash adhere smoothly and stay put.
Choosing the Right Backsplash
The type of material you choose for the backsplash will also impact the installation success over wallpaper:
- Smaller tiles with thin grout lines tend to conform better to irregular substrates like wallpaper. Larger tiles may not adhere smoothly.
- Stay away from heavy natural stone backsplashes. The weight may cause adhesion issues over wallpaper.
- Glass tile can work well over wallpaper as long as the surface is properly prepared and primed first. The smooth finish adheres nicely.
- Metal backsplashes are very thin and lightweight. They can install beautifully over wallpaper if primed correctly.
In general, porous, textured materials with smaller sizes like mosaic tile offer the best chance for a successful application over wallpaper. Heavier backsplash products should be avoided.
Hiring a Professional
Installing a backsplash over wallpaper can be tricky. Imperfections in the wallpaper surface can telegraph through the finished backsplash and impact the overall look. To help avoid problems, it’s advisable to hire a professional tile installer or contractor experienced in applying backsplashes over wallpaper.
Some tips when hiring a pro:
- Look for examples of previous backsplash over wallpaper work in their portfolio
- Ask about their process and types of backer board, thinset, and grout they recommend
- Be sure they plan for proper prep work like priming before the install
- Discuss any concerns about the existing wallpaper and troubleshoot problem areas
Investing in a professional installation is the best way to ensure you’ll end up with a beautiful, long-lasting backsplash over your existing wallpaper.
FAQ About Backsplashes Over Wallpaper
Should wallpaper be removed before installing a backsplash?
It depends on the condition of the wallpaper. If it is in good shape with minimal texture/sheen, a backsplash can be applied over it. Heavily textured or damaged wallpaper is best removed prior.
What type of backsplash works best over wallpaper?
Small tile or mosaic tile works best, along with glass or metal backsplashes. Avoid heavy materials like natural stone.
Can you put a peel-and-stick backsplash over wallpaper?
Yes, lightweight peel-and-stick backsplash panels can be applied over wallpaper as long as the surface is properly prepared and primed first.
Should backsplashes be sealed when installed over wallpaper?
Sealing with a grout sealer is a good idea to add a protective barrier and prevent moisture from penetrating through the grout lines into the wallpaper adhesive.
Will wallpaper eventually peel off if a backsplash is installed over it?
If the wallpaper is in good shape and is properly prepped and primed prior to backsplash installation, it should not peel away or loosen from the wall.
Installing a backsplash over existing wallpaper opens up some exciting design possibilities and can allow you to mix patterns and textures. With careful assessment of the wallpaper condition, proper surface preparation, and choosing the right backsplash materials, you can achieve a successful and long-lasting installation over wallpaper. Taking the time to correctly address any potential issues will provide a solid foundation for your new backsplash. Considering hiring a professional installer can also boost your chances of ending up with the look you desire. With the right approach, you can creatively add a backsplash over wallpaper and take your kitchen or bathroom design to the next level.