Adding a stylish backsplash is one of the most popular ways to update any kitchen or bathroom. But what if your walls are already covered in wallpaper? Can you install a backsplash right over wallpaper?
The short answer is yes, it is possible to install a backsplash over wallpaper. However, there are some important considerations to keep in mind to ensure a successful, long-lasting installation. Careful prep work and using the right materials will allow you to upgrade with a backsplash while keeping your existing wallpaper intact.
What to Consider Before Installing a Backsplash Over Wallpaper
When contemplating adding a backsplash over wallpaper, there are a few key factors to consider:
Type of Wallpaper
- The type and texture of the existing wallpaper will impact how easily the backsplash can be installed over it. Vinyl, non-woven materials, and other smooth wallpapers provide the simplest installation surface. Heavily textured wallpapers may require extra smoothing and prep work.
Condition of the Wallpaper
- Backsplash installation is easiest when the wallpaper is in good, well-adhered condition. Peeling, damaged, or otherwise compromised wallpaper should be repaired, smoothed out, or potentially replaced before adding the backsplash.
Weight and Style of the Backsplash
- Heavier backsplash materials like stone or concrete may require additional support over wallpaper. Adhesives can also weigh down wallpaper over time. Consider lighter-weight backsplash materials like aluminum composite, acrylic sheets, or lightweight ceramic.
Planned Removal of the Wallpaper
- If you think you may want to remove the wallpaper at some point, a backsplash could make eventual wallpaper removal more challenging.
Carefully considering these factors will help determine if your wallpaper can support a backsplash, or if some wall surface prep will be required beforehand.
How to Prepare Wallpaper for a Backsplash
With the right prep work, most wallpaper surfaces can be readied for backsplash installation. Here are some tips:
Clean the Wallpaper Surface
- Remove any grease or other residues with degreasing cleaners and let the wallpaper dry completely before applying any backsplash materials.
Repair any Damage
- Fix any peeling edges, holes, bubbling, or cracks within the wallpaper with wallpaper adhesive and seam sealers.
Sand Down Textured Areas
- For heavily textured wallpaper, use fine sandpaper to sand down any raised areas to create a smoother surface.
Skim Coat with Joint Compound
- In some cases, applying a thin coat of drywall joint compound over the wallpaper can help create the flush, smooth surface needed for backsplash application. Allow compound to dry fully before installation.
Prime the Surface
- Priming over wallpaper can help backsplash adhesives better adhere. Use oil-based or other heavy-duty primer designed specifically for wallpaper.
With the wallpaper surface prepped, you can move onto the exciting step of selecting and installing your new backsplash!
How to Attach a Backsplash Over Wallpaper
Once your wallpaper is ready, it’s time to attach your stylish new backsplash. Here are some tips for successful installation:
Select the Right Adhesive
- Using the manufacturer’s recommended adhesive is key. Opt for heavy-duty, water-resistant adhesives designed specifically for backsplash installation over difficult surfaces.
Follow All Directions
- Carefully read and follow the application directions on the selected adhesive. Pay attention to any special directions for use over wallpaper.
Use a Notched Trowel
- A notched trowel will help evenly spread the adhesive and allow for proper contact between the backsplash and wallpaper surface.
Take Extra Care at Seams and Corners
- Don’t allow gaps between backsplash pieces or at corners. Adhesive should be continuous for best adhesion.
Ensure Proper Contact with the Wall Surface
- Once applied, use a rubber grout float or roller to firmly press the backsplash against the wallpaper to ensure strong, full contact between the surfaces.
Allow Proper Cure Time
- Give the adhesive plenty of time to fully cure before grouting or exposing the backsplash to moisture. This helps prevent future failure.
Follow adhesive directions closely and take care to carefully attach the backsplash. This will provide a secure bond and allow the new backsplash to enhance your wallpapered space for years to come.
Tips for Grout Application Over Wallpaper
Grout fills the seams between backsplash tiles, but this wet process can damage wallpaper. Here are some tips for grouting a backsplash over wallpaper:
- Use a waterproof epoxy-based grout. Avoid traditional water-based grouts which can saturate the wallpaper.
- Limit water use during grouting. Dampen the grout sponge lightly and avoid over-washing.
- Don’t grout all at once. Work in small sections to prevent excessive moisture on the wallpaper.
- Allow each section to dry before moving on. A blow dryer on a cool setting can speed drying.
- Avoid abrasively scrubbing the grout over the wallpaper. Use a light touch.
- Consider sealing the wallpaper before grouting for added protection.
With some minor adjustments to your process, you can safely grout your backsplash without ruining the existing wallpaper underneath.
Ideal Backsplash Materials for Wallpaper Installation
While any backsplash material can work over wallpaper, some types are better suited to the surface. Here are some recommended options:
- Metal backsplashes like stainless steel, copper, or aluminum provide ultra-lightweight coverage that won’t weigh down wallpaper adhesives.
Glass Tile or Mosaic
- Small glass tiles keep the weight distributed and the smooth surface is great for applying over wallpaper.
- Acrylic makes a glossy, waterproof backsplash material that can be cut to size and adhered over wallpaper easily.
- Composite backsplashes made of paper, resin, and aluminum are durable yet super light over wallpaper.
Lightweight Ceramic or Porcelain
- While heavy stone is difficult for wallpaper, lightweight ceramic tile or porcelain can work if properly supported.
Choosing lighter weight, low-moisture backsplash materials will make installation and long-term adherence easier on your wallpapered walls.
Common Questions about Installing Backsplash Over Wallpaper
Many homeowners have additional questions about successfully adding a backsplash over existing wallpaper:
Does the wallpaper need to be removed?
In most cases, no. As long as the wallpaper is in good condition with no peeling or damage, a backsplash can be installed right over it. Proper prep is important though.
What about moisture from the backsplash damaging the wallpaper over time?
Using grout sealing and waterproof epoxy grouts will limit moisture exposure. Heavy-duty adhesives also prevent moisture ingress to protect the wallpaper.
Can any backsplash material be used over wallpaper?
Ultra heavy stone is difficult for wallpaper adhesion, but most other common backsplash materials like ceramic, metal, or glass tile can work with the proper prep and installation.
Will the backsplash installation damage the wallpaper?
If care is taken to properly clean, prep, prime, and adhere the backsplash, the wallpaper should remain undamaged. Just take extra care during grouting.
Is it easier to just remove the wallpaper instead?
Sometimes, yes. But for many homeowners, wallpaper removal can be tedious and damage the wall underneath. Installing over wallpaper preserves it for an easier upgrade.
Carefully considering these questions and factors will ensure your project goes smoothly and the end result is a stunning, functional backsplash over your existing wallpaper.
Enhancing Your Space with a Wallpaper-Friendly Backsplash
The key advantage to installing a backsplash over wallpaper is that you can upgrade your space without the tedium of wallpaper removal or potential damage to the wall underneath. Follow these best practices:
- Stick with smooth-surfaced, well-adhered wallpaper
- Thoroughly clean and prep the wallpaper surface
- Use lightweight backsplash materials to limit stress on the adhesive
- Take care with grout and moisture to avoid saturation
- Employ heavy-duty adhesives designed specifically for backsplashes over wallpaper
With proper planning and care, your stylish new backsplash will seamlessly accent your wallpapered kitchen or bathroom walls with an extra pop of pattern and texture.
So don’t let existing wallpaper deter you from installing the backsplash of your dreams. With a few precautions, you can put in a backsplash over wallpaper and enjoy a whole new look with minimal fuss.
Can I Install Subway Tile Over Wallpaper?
Subway tile is a classic backsplash choice loved for its versatility and clean, simple lines. But can you install these subway tiles over existing wallpaper?
The answer is yes – subway tiles can be installed over wallpaper with proper preparation and care. Here are some tips for getting great results:
Choose the Right Subway Tile
Opt for lightweight ceramic or porcelain subway tiles. Heavy natural stone tiles may be too cumbersome for wallpaper. Also select smaller format tiles like 2×4” or 3×6”. Larger tiles can slump over uneven wallpaper seams.
Prep the Wallpaper Surface
Ensure the wallpaper is solidly adhered, clean, and grease-free. Fill any seams or flaws with adhesive caulk. Lightly sand any heavily textured wallpapers. Wipe away all dust with a tack cloth before tiling.
Prime Over the Wallpaper
Priming using an oil-based primer designed for wallpaper creates a uniform surface for tile mortar to adhere to. Make sure the primer coat is fully dry before tiling.
Use a Contact Adhesive
Spread a thin layer of clear tile mastic or non-sagging multipurpose contact adhesive over the wallpaper before installing the subway tiles. This keeps the tiles firmly in place.
Focus on Proper Grout Installation
Use an epoxy or latex-based grout instead of a traditional cement grout. This limits moisture exposure. Take extra care to not over-saturate the wallpaper when cleaning grout haze.
Use Grout Sealant
After grouting, apply a waterproof grout sealant. This provides an extra moisture barrier to protect the wallpaper underneath the subway tile.
With some adjustments to materials and installation method, subway tile can upgrade a wallpapered kitchen or bathroom backsplash. Take things slowly and let all layers dry fully for best results.
Using Peel-and-Stick Backsplash Tiles over Wallpaper
Peel-and-stick backsplash tiles offer an easy upgrade option, especially for DIYers. The adhesive backing allows the tiles to be applied right over many existing surfaces, including wallpaper. Here are some tips for using peel-and-stick tiles over wallpaper:
Select Lightweight Vinyl Tiles
Heavier real stone composite or ceramic tiles may weigh down wallpaper. Opt for lightweight vinyl tiles instead – these adhere better over uneven wallpaper seams.
Make Sure the Wallpaper is Well-Adhered
Press along the wallpaper to check for any lifting edges or bubbles. Use adhesive under loose areas to re-secure the wallpaper to the wall before applying tiles.
Clean the Surface Thoroughly
Use a degreasing cleanser formulated for wallpaper. Any oily residue will prevent the adhesive tiles from properly sticking. Rinse and let the wallpaper dry fully.
Cut Tiles to Fit Outlets or Switches
Measure carefully and use a utility knife with a sharp blade to cut the vinyl tiles for a precise fit around any outlets or switches in the backsplash area.
Start with the Bottom Row
Adhere the bottom row of tiles first. Align them perfectly level to create a straight foundation for the rows above. Work up row by row from there.
Use a Grout Pen
Grout color pens are ideal for adding faux grout lines over vinyl backsplash tiles. This finishes the look without risking moisture damage on the wallpaper.
With their self-adhesive backing, vinyl peel-and-stick tiles create an easy and damage-free backsplash solution over existing wallpaper.
Can You Use Backsplash Panels Over Wallpaper?
Backsplash panels or sheets provide a sleek, simple way to add a backsplash over existing surfaces. Typically made of waterproof materials like metal, acrylic, or composite, many panels can be applied right over wallpaper. Here are some tips:
Opt for Thin and Lightweight Panels
Thinner panels around 1/8” thick made of aluminum, acrylic, or resin materials are ideal over wallpaper. Their light weight won’t stress wall adhesives.
Prepare the Wallpaper Surface
Clean, degrease, and sand the wallpaper so panels apply flush with no lifting edges or bubbles. Fill any seams as needed.
Use the Manufacturer’s Recommended Adhesive
Special high-bond panel adhesives are designed for application over surfaces like wallpaper. Follow all label directions for best results.
Cut Panels to Fit Your Space
Measure carefully and use a circular saw with a fine-tooth blade to cut panels to fit your backsplash area perfectly.
Use Color-Match Caulk at Seams
Caulk between panels and at edges using a caulk that matches your backsplash color. This provides extra adhesion and a seamless look.
With proper prep and installation, backsplash panels allow for dramatic upgrades over wallpaper quickly and with minimal mess or demo.
Installing Sheet Metal Over Wallpaper
Metallic finishes like copper, tin, stainless, or aluminum sheets create brilliant backsplashes. Luckily, thin metal sheets can also be applied over wallpaper with ease. Here’s how:
Select Thinner Gauge Metals
Look for decorative metal backsplash sheets that are 24 gauge or thinner. This lightweight metal won’t weigh down wallpaper adhesives.
Fit Sheets Precisely
Carefully measure and cut sheets to fit your backsplash space exactly. Use metal snips for easier cutting. File any rough edges.
Create a Smooth Surface
Fill any seams, sand bumps, and prep the wallpaper so the metal backsplash sheets sit flush against the surface.
Use a Contact Adhesive
Specialty contact adhesives designed for metal bonding provide a super-strong grip between the metal and wallpaper surface below.
Consider Edge Moldings
For a finished look, apply coordinating metal trim pieces around the edges of the sheet metal backsplash area.
The brilliant sheen of metal backsplashes elevates any kitchen or bath in an instant. Applied properly over wallpaper, sheet metal offers a lightweight yet luxe upgrade.
Glass Tiles or Mosaic Backsplash Over Wallpaper
Glass backsplash tiles refract light beautifully to enhance any wallpapered space. The naturally smooth surface and lightweight nature of glass also makes installation over wallpaper straightforward. Here’s how to do it:
Clean and Scrape the Wallpaper
Remove any grease or residue and scrape over heavily textured wallpaper using a putty knife to create a smooth surface for tiles to adhere to.
Use a Primer-Adhesive
Primer-adhesives are formulated to both prime and “tooth” the wallpaper surface while also providing a strong adhesive base layer for the glass tiles.
Opt for Smaller Tile Sizes
Large glass tile sheets can sag over uneven wallpaper. Choose smaller mosaic sheets or individual tiles to distribute weight better.
Use Grout Sealant
Applying grout sealant after grouting the glass tile backsplash provides added waterproofing. This prevents moisture from seeping behind the tiles.
Take Care When Grouting
Work in small sections and wipe excess grout from the glass gently to avoid scratching. Rinse sponges frequently to limit water exposure.
The reflective qualities of glass tile make it the perfect match for accentuating any wallpaper design. Follow these tips for keeping the wallpaper in great shape underneath.
Can You Apply Faux Backsplash Panels Over Wallpaper?
Faux backsplash panels give the look of trendy tile or metal backsplashes with none of the mess or hassle of installation. Many faux panel types can also be applied over existing wallpaper. Consider these tips:
Size Down the Panels
Large 4’x8’ faux backsplash panels may sag on wallpaper. Opt for smaller 8”x12” sized panels instead – these adhere better.
Match Panel Texture
Select panels with a flush finish versus heavily embossed textures. Smooth panels sit flatter on textured wallpaper.
Use a High-Bond Adhesive
Specialty bonding adhesives designed for foam panels provide the needed strength to bond to wallpaper without sagging.
Check Out Foam Options
Faux panels made of polystyrene foam sheets are super lightweight yet paintable. These are ideal over wallpaper.
Cut Panels to Fit Precisely
Use a sharp utility knife to accurately cut panel pieces to fit around outlets, corners, and edges for a seamless look.
With the right faux backsplash panels and proper adhesive, you can transform the look of your kitchen or bath easily over existing wallpaper.
Installing Vinyl Backsplash Rolls Over Wallpaper
Vinyl backsplash rolls offer convenient wall coverage in various stone and ceramic looks. The flexible and thin material also makes vinyl rolls an ideal wallpaper topper. Here are some application tips:
Clean the Wallpaper Thoroughly
Remove grease, oils, adhesives, soap residue, or anything that could impede adhesion. Rinse cleaners away fully.
Fill Any Grooves and Gaps
Use caulk to fill any wide wallpaper seams or texture grooves for the most flush surface. Allow caulk to dry fully before adhering vinyl.