Can You Put Backsplash Over Wood Paneling?

Adding a backsplash is one of the best ways to update the look of a kitchen or bathroom. But what if your walls are covered in wood paneling? Can you install a backsplash right over the wood? The short answer is yes, you certainly can! With the right preparation and materials, tile or other backsplash materials can be successfully installed over wood panels.

Reasons to Add a Backsplash Over Wood Paneling

There are several great reasons to add a backsplash over existing wood paneled walls:

  • Update the look – Backsplashes come in so many materials, colors, shapes, and designs. It’s an easy way to give the space a more modern, stylish look.
  • Protect the walls – A backsplash guards the walls from water damage, stains, and splatters from cooking or using the sink. This preserves the condition of the wood paneling.
  • Easier than removing wood paneling – Taking down wood paneling can be a big, expensive project that creates a lot of dust and debris. Adding tile or another backsplash right over the top is much simpler.
  • Create a focal point – The backsplash draws attention and becomes an eye-catching focal point in the kitchen or bathroom. This can help distract from outdated paneling.
  • Reflect your personality – From sleek glass mosaics to handpainted tile, the backsplash options let you customize with colors, materials and designs you love.

Preparing Wood Paneling for a Backsplash

Proper preparation is key to creating a long-lasting backsplash over wood. Here are important steps to take:

Clean the Panels

Use a multi-purpose cleaner to thoroughly clean the wood panels. This removes built-up grease or grime so the backsplash adheres properly.

Fill Any Gaps

Examine the panels for gaps between them or around fixtures. Fill any spaces with silicone caulk to create an even surface.

Sand the Panels

Lightly sanding the wood smooths the surface so the backsplash lays flat and even.

Prime the Surface

Apply primer formulated for tile and wood installations. This gives a uniform base layer for the backsplash adhesive to stick to.

Apply a Moisture Barrier

On walls around sinks, stoves, or other wet areas, roll on a waterproof membrane. RedGard and Kerdi are two popular options. This prevents moisture from seeping behind the backsplash and damaging the wood.

Choosing the Right Backsplash Materials

The type of backsplash you choose impacts how it can be installed over wood panels:


Ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tile are great choices over wood. Use a polymer-modified thinset mortar adhesive to give a strong bond. The tiles can be set in the standard grid pattern or creatively arranged.

Glass Tile

Small glass mosaic tiles have a gorgeous, shimmery look. The mesh-mounted sheets make installation fast. Use a white polymer adhesive thinset for translucent glass.

Metal Tile

Metal backsplashes create an edgy, contemporary vibe. The lightweight aluminum or stainless steel is easy to cut and work with. Be sure to use metal-compatible thinset adhesive.

Peel-and-Stick Tile

Adhesive peel-and-stick backsplash tiles offer quick installation without mess or specialized tools. They come in vinyl, metal, and other materials. Ensure the adhesive will work on wood.

Beaded Board

For a cottage style, beadboard panels create a charming backsplash. Use panel adhesive or construction adhesive to attach the boards over the wood panelling. Use trim pieces for clean finished edges.

Step-by-Step Installation Guide

Once you have prepped the wood paneling, follow these steps for a successful installation:

Step 1: Plan the Layout

Measure the space and map out your backsplash design. Account for outlets, windows, or other fixtures. Shop for materials and cut tile or panels to fit.

Step 2: Prepare the Backsplash for Installation

For tile, assemble sheets on mesh backing. For other materials, cut pieces to the measurements from planning. Use spacers around edges.

Step 3: Mix and Apply the Adhesive

Following package directions, mix the thinset mortar adhesive. With a notched trowel, spread it evenly over the installation area. Apply enough for several tiles at a time.

Step 4: Set the Backsplash Pieces

Beginning in a back corner, press tiles or panels into the adhesive. Twist slightly to ensure good contact. Use spacers to maintain even grout lines between tiles.

Step 5: Let Adhesive Cure

Allow the thinset mortar to fully cure for at least 24 hours. Avoid getting the area wet during this time.

Step 6 (Tile only): Apply Grout and Seal

Once cured, apply grout between the tile joints. Wipe away excess. Apply grout sealant once dry to protect from moisture and stains.

With the right prep and materials, the project can create a beautiful new backsplash design over the existing wood! Proper sealing and maintenance will help the finished backsplash last for many years.

FAQ About Adding Backsplash Over Wood Paneling

Can I install subway tile over wood paneling?

Yes, subway tile is a great choice to install over wood panels. Be sure to use a polymer-modified thinset mortar adhesive to bond the tile properly. The thin rectangular shape of subway tile also installs quickly and creates neat lines.

Should I remove wood paneling before installing a backsplash?

It is not necessary to remove wood paneling before installing a backsplash. Adding tile or another material right over the paneling is much easier and less messy. Just be diligent about proper prep and using quality adhesive and grout.

How do you prepare wood paneling for a backsplash?

To prepare, thoroughly clean and sand the wood panels. Fill any gaps between panels. Apply primer and then a waterproof sealer on walls around sinks or other wet areas. This creates an ideal surface for the backsplash to adhere to.

What about backsplashes for peel-and-stick wood paneling?

Peel-and-stick wood paneling has an adhesive backing so it can be applied right over existing walls. To add a backsplash, remove panels in the installation area so you are applying backsplash adhesive directly to the wall surface rather than the panel adhesive.

Should I seal wood paneling before installing a backsplash?

Sealing wood paneling prior to installing a backsplash is highly recommended. An oil-based primer/sealer soaks into the wood grain and prevents moisture penetration that could cause the panels to warp or swell under the backsplash over time.


Installing a backsplash over existing wood paneled walls can give a kitchen or bathroom an easy makeover. With mindful preparation of the wood surface and using quality thinset adhesives, grout, and sealant, tile or another backsplash material can be successfully set right over wood paneling. The finished result provides an updated, eye-catching new focal point.