Can You Put Tile Over Laminate Backsplash?

Installing tile over laminate backsplash can be a fast and affordable way to update the look of your kitchen. However, there are some important factors to consider before taking on this project.

Overview of Laminate Backsplashes

Laminate backsplashes became popular in the 1980s and 90s as an alternative to ceramic tile. Laminate is made from sheets of kraft paper infused with melamine resin. It is layered and fused together under heat and pressure to create a durable, scratch-resistant material.

The advantages of laminate backsplashes include:

  • Inexpensive compared to tile
  • Easy DIY installation
  • Seamless, uniform appearance
  • Variety of colors and patterns
  • Resistant to stains, scratches and moisture

However, laminate does have some disadvantages:

  • Not as durable as tile over time
  • Can warp or bubble when exposed to excessive moisture
  • Limited styles compared to ceramic tile
  • Does not increase home value like tile

Can You Tile Over Laminate Backsplash?

Yes, it is possible to install ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tile over an existing laminate backsplash. There are a few important steps to follow:

Clean and Prep the Laminate Surface

The laminate needs to be clear of grease, soap film and debris. Scuff the surface with sandpaper to help the thinset adhesive adhere properly.

Check for Moisture Damage

Inspect the laminate for any bubbling, warping or signs of excessive moisture exposure. Severe damage should be repaired prior to tiling.

Apply a Membrane or Backerboard

Laminate is too slick for thinset to bond directly to. A membrane or backerboard creates a rough, porous surface for the adhesive. Fiberglass mesh membranes are the easiest to install.

Use Modified Thinset Adhesive

Be sure to use a polymer-modified thinset adhesive to bond the tile. Unmodified thinset alone will not adhere well to laminate.

Consider Smaller Tile or Mosaic Sheets

The laminate surface is more flexible than backerboard. Using smaller tiles or mosaic sheets reduces the risk of cracking from movement. Large format tiles are not recommended.

Use a Grout Release Prior to Grouting

Apply a grout release or sealer to the tile before grouting. This prevents the laminate from expanding when exposed to moisture from the grouting process.

Expect Some Limitations

Tile over laminate will never be quite as durable as tile over cement backerboard. Avoid using very heavy tiles and take care not to drop heavy objects on it.

Key Considerations

Installing tile over laminate has some risks. Here are a few key factors to weigh:

  • Moisture exposure – The laminate must be protected from excessive moisture. Consider a waterproofing membrane.
  • Heat tolerance – Laminate can warp or bubble under heated tile like in a backsplash near a stove. Use caution.
  • Tile weight – Heavier tile greatly increases the risk of cracking or de-bonding. Mosaic sheets are safest.
  • Longevity – Durability is limited compared to proper tile backerboard. This may impact resale value.
  • DIY skill level – Tiling over laminate is more complex than regular tiling. Novices should get professional help.
  • Cost savings – Adding backerboard and membrane reduces cost savings versus new laminate.
  • Aesthetics – Joints and seams may be more visible, depending on original laminate quality.

Carefully weighing these factors will determine if tiling over laminate backsplash is the right choice for your specific kitchen. Consulting a tile professional is highly recommended before starting. With proper installation and care, tile can upgrade the look of laminate for years before eventual replacement. But improper installation can lead to premature damage or failure.

Step-by-Step Installation Guide

If you decide to tile over laminate backsplash, follow this general process:

Supplies Needed

  • Tile (ceramic, porcelain or natural stone)
  • Thinset adhesive (polymer modified)
  • Grout
  • Grout sealer
  • Notched trowel
  • Fiberglass mesh membrane
  • Scuff pad or sandpaper
  • Grout float
  • Grout sponge

Step 1 – Prep

  • Clear counters and remove any items from backsplash area.
  • Scuff laminate surface withpad to rough up.
  • Clean thoroughly with household degreaser.
  • Rinse any soap residue and let dry fully.

Step 2 – Apply Membrane

  • Cut mesh membrane pieces to size of backsplash.
  • Apply thinset to back of membrane with flat side of trowel.
  • Press membrane firmly into place on laminate.

Step 3 – Install Tile

  • Apply thinset adhesive using notched side of trowel.
  • Press tiles into adhesive one at a time in desired pattern.
  • Use spacers for consistent grout lines.
  • Be sure tiles are fully set in thinset before moving on.

Step 4 – Grout Tile

  • Allow thinset to cure fully per manufacturer directions.
  • Apply grout release or sealer as recommended.
  • Grout tile lines with sanded grout using float.
  • Wipe away excess grout with damp sponge.
  • Allow grout to cure fully before sealing.

Step 5 – Seal and Finish

  • Apply grout sealer following product directions.
  • Wipe down tiled area with soft cloth.
  • Seal any exposed laminate edges with silicone caulk.
  • Allow everything to cure fully before using backsplash.

Maintaining Tile Over Laminate

Once installed, be sure to keep the following maintenance tips in mind:

  • Use a gentle cleaner designed for tile and grout. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Re-apply grout sealer on a regular basis per manufacturer directions.
  • Wipe up spills quickly to avoid moisture seeping behind tiles.
  • Do not allow heavy objects to impact the surface.
  • Check for any cracks in grout or tile which could allow moisture intrusion.
  • Monitor for bubbling or swelling of the underlying laminate over time.

With proper installation and care, a tile backsplash can be a stylish upgrade over dated laminate. Take the time to carefully consider if it is the right choice for your kitchen.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I tile directly over laminate backsplash?

No, laminate is too slick for thinset to adhere to. A backerboard or membrane must be added first to create a gripping surface.

What about using larger format tiles?

Large tiles have a higher risk of cracking or loosening over time on laminate. Mosaic sheets or smaller tiles 4 inches or less are recommended.

Is it better to remove the laminate before tiling?

Yes, removing old laminate and installing cement backerboard is ideal for the most durable result. But tiling over laminate can work if done properly.

How long does tile over laminate typically last?

It varies based on quality of installation and maintenance. Generally 5-10 years of life can be expected before issues arise and replacement is needed.

Should I get professional help for this project?

That is highly advisable, especially for DIY novices. The details of surface prep and proper modified thinset use are critical.


Installing tile over an existing laminate backsplash can transform the look and feel of your kitchen. With careful planning and proper installation, tile can upgrade laminate with style and enjoyment for years before needing replacement. Be sure to fully evaluate the limitations and commitment required before starting. For best long-term durability and value, removing laminate to install tile backerboard is ideal. But tiling over laminate can be a worthwhile upgrade if done correctly. With realistic expectations and professional help if needed, you can avoid potential pitfalls and end up with beautiful new tile over laminate backsplash.