Can You Put Tile Over Existing Tile Backsplash?

Installing a new tile backsplash can instantly update the look of your kitchen or bathroom. But is it possible to install new tile over your existing backsplash? The answer is yes, in many cases you can tile over existing tile. Here is what you need to know about tiling over an existing backsplash.

What to Consider Before Tiling Over Existing Tile

There are a few things to take into account before deciding to tile over an existing backsplash:

Condition of Existing Tile

  • The existing tile must be well adhered to the wall. Check that existing tile is not loose, cracked, or missing grout. Any loose or damaged tile must be removed.
  • Existing tile and grout should be free of grease, soap scum and other residue that could prevent new tile from bonding. Clean thoroughly before tiling.
  • Glossy or very smooth tiles can be difficult to bond new tile to. Consider roughing up the surface first with sandpaper.

Thickness of New Tile

  • Standard wall tile is usually 1/4” to 3/8” thick. If the existing tile is thicker, your new tile’s thickness needs to match or be less than the original tile to maintain the same surface plane.
  • If existing tile is thinner than new tile, consider adding a backerboard over the old tile first to reduce lippage between tiles.

Weight Considerations

  • Porcelain, stone or glass tile is heavier than ceramic tile. Ensure the wall structure is adequate to support the weight of the new tile.
  • For heavy tile, it’s best to remove existing tile and start fresh with proper bracing and support.

Waterproofing Concerns

  • Direct water exposure can loosen existing tile and reduce adhesion of new tile. Make sure to properly waterproof shower walls and tub surrounds first.
  • Consider applying a waterproofing membrane over existing tile in wet areas for added protection.

Condition of Wall Surface Under Existing Tile

  • Tiling over existing tile means you won’t know if there are any imperfections or damage behind the old tile. This can lead to cracks in the new tile.
  • Plan to remove any existing tile that is even slightly damaged to inspect the underlying wall surface.

How to Tile Over Existing Tile Backsplash

If your existing backsplash tile is in good shape, the following process will allow you to install a new tile surface:

1. Clean and Prepare the Surface

Clean existing tile thoroughly with an all-purpose cleaner to remove any grease, soap scum or dirt. Use abrasive scouring pads as needed. This allows the new thinset to adhere properly.

If existing tile has a glossy surface, sand it lightly with 30 grit sandpaper to promote bonding. Be careful not to scratch the surface of the tile.

Check for any damaged, cracked or missing grout. Re-grout as needed so the surface is smooth. Remove any loose tiles and inspect the open area.

2. Apply Primer and Skim Coat Thinset

Apply a primer coat according to manufacturer directions. This helps the new thinset adhere to the slick glazed surface of existing tile.

Use a notched trowel to spread a skim coat of thinset mortar over the entire surface at least 1/8” thick. This coats any grout lines and creates a bonding surface for the new tile.

3. Allow Thinset to Cure

Allow the thinset to fully cure according to manufacturer directions before moving to the next step, usually 24 hours. The thinset must not be tacky when tiling begins.

4. Apply Waterproofing if Needed

For shower walls, tub surrounds and behind sinks, apply a waterproofing membrane over the skim coat to prevent moisture penetration. Roll on or trowel per manufacturer directions.

Allow waterproofing to fully dry before adding tile.

5. Spread Thinset and Set New Tile

Use a notched trowel to spread fresh thinset mortar over the skim coat or waterproofing. Spread only a small area at one time.

Before the thinset dries, press the new tiles firmly into place with a slight twisting motion. Use spacers between tiles.

Work in small sections and be extremely careful aligning the tiles. Irregularities under the skim coat can telegraph through new tile and cause lips.

6. Grout and Seal New Tile

Allow thinset to fully cure per manufacturer directions before grouting. This is usually 24 hours.

Grout tile with sanded grout, using a rubber grout float. Wipe diagonally across tiles to fill joints. Clean excess grout with a damp sponge.

Apply grout sealer once cured to protect grout from stains.

Finally, seal the tiles if necessary per manufacturer directions. Use caution with steam cleaners or harsh cleaners on the new surface.

Alternatives to Tiling Over Existing Tile

If your existing tile is damaged, poorly installed, or on a questionable wall surface, it’s often better to remove it and start fresh. Some alternatives include:

  • New cement backerboard – Remove existing tile, then install cement backerboard per manufacturer instructions. Skim coat with thinset before applying new tile.
  • New waterproof membrane – Take existing tile down to the studs, apply waterproofing over bare wall, then build out with cement backerboard and tile.
  • New tile on furring strips – For walls only, apply 1×2 furring strips over the old tile, then add cement backerboard on top of the furring strips. Tile onto the cement board.

The Bottom Line

Tiling over an existing backsplash or wall tile can save time and money compared to removing and replacing tile. But consider the condition of existing tile carefullyfirst, and properly prepare the surface. With careful installation, your new tile canhave a long lasting and beautiful finish.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you put tile over existing tile in a shower?

Yes, it is possible to tile over existing tile in a shower, provided the original tile is in good condition and firmly adhered to the wall. It’s critical to apply a waterproofing membrane over the existing tile first. An anti-fracture membrane is also recommended under the new tile.

Should you put backer board over existing tile?

You can install cement backerboard or a similar product over existing tile if the original tile is damaged or unsuitable as a bonding surfacefor new tile. The backerboard creates a new base for thinset mortar and tiles.

How do you prepare old tile for new tile?

To prepare old tile for tiling over, first clean thoroughly with an all-purpose cleaner ordegreaser.Sand any glossy tile lightly. Check for damaged, missing, or hollow sounding tile andremove. Fill any uneven grout lines with thinset. Apply a primer before skim coating with thinset.

Can you put 12×24 tile over 4×4 tile?

Yes, 12×24 inch tiles can be installed overexisting 4×4 inch tiles, as long as the surface is properly prepared andprimed first. The thickness of the tiles should match as closely as possible. Expectsome lippage due to unevenness under the smaller tiles.

What problems can occur when tiling over existing tile?

Potential issues include new tiles cracking or popping off due to problems with the underlying surface. Irregularities under the old tile can telegraph through and cause lips betweennew tiles. Existing tile could loosen over time due to moisture penetration or improper preparation.