Can You Tile Over a Tile Backsplash?

Tiling over an existing tile backsplash is possible, but there are a few important factors to consider before taking on this project. With proper preparation and technique, you can update your backsplash without having to completely remove the old tile.

Overview of Tiling Over an Existing Backsplash

The general process for tiling over an existing backsplash includes:

  • Inspecting the current tile and substrate
  • Cleaning and preparing the surface
  • Applying a skim coat if needed to smooth uneven areas
  • Priming the tile surface
  • Applying tile adhesive
  • Laying the new tile
  • Grouting the new tile

Proper prep work is crucial for success. The new tile won’t adhere well and will eventually fail if the underlying surface is not cleaned, primed, and leveled correctly.

Things to Consider Before Tiling Over Existing Tile

Before starting a tiling over project, keep these key factors in mind:

Type of Existing Tile

  • Old ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles are usually fine to tile over.
  • Avoid tiling over soft, porous tiles like sheet vinyl or laminates which can telegraph unevenness through the new tile.
  • Don’t tile over cracked, damaged, or loose tiles. Remove any broken or unbonded tiles first.

Flatness of the Existing Tile

  • Any high or low spots on the existing backsplash can mirror through the new tile, creating an uneven surface.
  • If there are variations of more than 1/8 inch, use a skim coat leveler prior to tiling.

Layers of Existing Tile

  • Tiling over one layer of tile is ok. Multiple layers can create adhesion issues unless you remove tile down to the substrate.

Condition of Grout Lines

  • Crumbling, missing, or uneven grout between existing tiles must be repaired and leveled before tiling over.

Bonding Properties of the New Tile

  • Natural stone tiles with irregular backs don’t bond as well. Use a premium polymer-modified thinset for better adhesion.

Weight and Type of New Tile

  • Heavier tiles like natural stone or large format tiles add more weight load, increasing chances of failure over existing tile.
  • Select a lightweight tile similar to what’s being covered, such as porcelain or mosaic sheets.

How to Prep an Existing Backsplash for New Tile

Prepping properly is the most vital part of tiling over an existing backsplash. Follow these steps:

Clean Surface

Use a degreasing cleaner to remove any dirt, oil or soap scum from old tile and grout. Rinse thoroughly and let dry.

Repair Grout

Scrape out any loose, crumbling, or missing grout and re-grout those areas so tiles are level. Allow grout to fully cure before tiling.

Rouge Up Shiny Surfaces

Use a rubbing stone or fine grit sandpaper to scuff up the glazed surface of ceramic, porcelain or polished stone to help the thinset adhere better.

Apply Skim Coat if Needed

If there are high/low spots or grout lines exceeding 1/8 inch depth, apply a tile leveler primer and skim coat to smooth the area.

Prime Surface

Apply a tile primerspecifically designed for surface preparation and adhesion promotion.

How to Tile Over Existing Backsplash Tile

Once you’ve prepped the surface, you’re ready to lay the new tile. Follow standard tiling techniques:

Apply Tile Adhesive

Use a polymer-modified thinset suitable for the tile type. Spread it evenly with a notched trowel. Only apply as much as can be tiled within the thinset open time.

Lay New Tile

Follow your tile layout, gently pressing tiles into the thinset. Use tile spacers for consistent grout lines. Don’t spread thinset too far ahead of where you’re working.

Grout and Seal

Let tile cure fully before grouting. Apply grout with grout float, wiping away excess. Seal grout once cured. Use caulk where tile meets the counter or fixtures.

Consider Hiring a Pro

Tiling over existing materials adds complexity. For best results, consider hiring a professional tile contractor for the prep work and installation.

Tips for Successfully Tiling Over a Tile Backsplash

Follow these tips to help ensure your tiling over project goes smoothly:

  • Inspect tile for soundness and compatibility with new tile. Repair/replace existing tile as needed.
  • Level any uneven areas in existing tile before tiling over.
  • Clean and roughen up the old tile so the new thinset can bond.
  • Use a quality polymer-modified thinset adhesive made specifically for tiling over existing surfaces.
  • Lay a lighter weight tile to avoid over-stressing the bond. Porcelain and glass tiles are good choices.
  • Take the time to prep properly – don’t rush through cleaning and evening out the old tile.
  • Consider hiring a pro if you’re uncomfortable with any part of the prep or installation process.

FAQ About Tiling Over Existing Backsplashes

Can you use regular thinset to tile over existing tile?

Standard thinsets may not bond well to slick existing tile. Use a polymer-modified thinset specifically made for tiling over tile or other surfaces.

How long does it take to tile over a backsplash?

Tiling a standard backsplash takes 2-3 days – one day for prep work and layout, 1-2 days for installing the tile. Tiling over tile adds time for proper cleaning, evening out the surface, priming, etc.

Should you remove kitchen backsplash before tiling?

It’s not mandatory to remove tile if it’s in good shape. Properly prepping the existing surface for bonding is the most important factor.

What screws to use on backsplash tile?

Use backerboard screws when installing cementboard before tiling. For tiling only, no screws are needed – tile adhesive is used to bond tile to surface.

Can I put Peel and stick tile over existing backsplash?

Yes, lightweight peel-and-stick vinyl tiles can be applied over an existing backsplash if the surface is properly cleaned and prepped first.


Tiling over an existing backsplash is one way to update your kitchen without removing the original tile. With careful inspection, prep, skillful technique, and quality materials, you can achieve long-lasting results. Pay close attention to properly cleaning, roughening, and evening out the old tile so the new tile can bond tightly. Taking a methodical approach will help ensure your new backsplash tiles stay firmly adhered for years to come. Consider hiring a professional tile setter if you’re unsure about any part of the process. With the right approach, you can refresh your backsplash with a brand new look without gutting down to the studs.