Can You Tile Over Tile Backsplash?


Installing a backsplash in your kitchen can immediately upgrade the look and feel of the space. Backsplashes protect your walls from water damage and splashes while also adding visual interest. Many homeowners opt for tile as their backsplash material for its durability, easy maintenance, and style. But what if you already have an existing tile backsplash installed that you want to update or refresh? Can you simply tile over your existing tile backsplash?

The short answer is yes, you can tile over an existing tile backsplash under the right circumstances. However, there are some important factors to consider before taking on this project to ensure success. Proper preparation and planning are key when tiling over tile.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about tiling over an existing tile backsplash. We will discuss:

  • The pros and cons of tiling over tile
  • What types of tile you can and cannot tile over
  • How to prepare your existing tile for new tile
  • Tiling techniques, tools, and materials needed
  • Step-by-step installation guide
  • Tile backsplash design ideas and trends
  • Frequently asked questions

Armed with the information in this guide, you will be able to decide if tiling over your existing backsplash is the right choice for your kitchen. Let’s get started!

Pros and Cons of Tiling Over Existing Tile

Before deciding to tile over existing tile, weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks of this project.


  • More affordable than removing and replacing tile
  • Less demolition work and mess
  • Preserves existing underlayment
  • Often a quicker project
  • Can work with imperfect existing tile


  • Existing tile must be in good condition
  • Limited versatility in application
  • Adds thickness and weight
  • Tile flaws may mirror through
  • Resale value may decrease

For many homeowners, the affordability and convenience factors make tiling over existing tile worth consideration. However, you need the appropriate existing tile in order to have success.

What Types of Tile Can Be Tiled Over?

You cannot successfully tile over every type of backsplash tile. The existing tile must meet certain criteria:


  • Ceramic
  • Porcelain
  • Natural stone (granite, marble, etc.)
  • Cement board

Cannot be:

  • Wood
  • Vinyl
  • Wallpaper
  • Painted drywall
  • Poor quality tile with loose grout

Ceramic, porcelain, natural stone, and cement board are stable, long-lasting materials that provide an appropriate base for new tile when properly prepared.

Flat and Smooth Surface

The existing tiles must have a flat, smooth surface for the new tile to adhere to. If the tiles are textured, glossy, or have uneven surfaces, it can prevent proper bonding.

Good Condition

The tile must be in intact and in good shape. There cannot be any cracks, missing tiles, or grout in poor condition. If the existing tile is deteriorated or damaged, it is not suitable for tiling over.

As long as your existing backsplash tile meets these criteria, tiling over tile is possible. Next, proper preparation is crucial.

How to Prepare Existing Tile for New Tile

Preparing the surface correctly ensures the new tile will adhere properly for a long-lasting finish. Follow these key steps:

Clean Thoroughly

Use a commercial tile cleaner or mix of vinegar, warm water, and dish soap to fully clean the existing tile. Remove all grease, grime, soap scum and dirt. Rinse thoroughly.

Repair Existing Tile/Grout

Inspect the existing tile and grout closely. Repair any cracked, broken, or missing tiles with new pieces to match. Re-grout any areas that are deteriorated. Ensure grout lines are clean and even.

Roughen the Surface

Use a grinding stone attachment on a power drill to lightly scuff up the glazed tile surface. This etching helps the thinset adhere. Be careful not to damage the structural integrity of the existing tile.

Apply Bonding Primer

Use a tile bonding primer formulated for tiling over existing surfaces. This helps adhesion. Apply a coat and let fully dry.

With the tile cleaned, repaired, etched, and primed – you are ready to start tiling. Follow all manufacturer’s instructions for materials used.

Tiling Tools and Materials

Tiling over existing tile is largely the same as a typical tile installation. However, there are a few specialized materials that will aid application. You will need:


  • Tile cutter
  • Tile spacers
  • Rubber grout float
  • Mixing bucket
  • Notched trowel
  • Grout sealer


  • New tile
  • Thinset mortar adhesive
  • Grout
  • Tile sealer
  • Tile primer/sealer
  • Backerboard (if needed)

The most important specialized material is the thinset mortar. For tiling over existing tile, use a high quality, polymer-modified thinset mortar. This type of adhesive contains polymers that make it extra strong and ideal for bonding to surfaces like existing tile.

Look for thinset mortar that states it can be used for tiling over tile. Follow all adhesive manufacturer’s instructions. In addition to thinset, using a tile primer before laying new tile adds additional bonding power and helps minimize the thickness of the new tile installation.

Tiling Techniques

Applying tile over existing tile is a layered process. Follow these techniques for best results:

  • Stagger the new tiles – Do not align them directly over the grout lines of the existing tile. Offsetting them provides stability.
  • Use high quality modified thinset – As outlined above, this adhesive is formulated to bond to surfaces like existing tile. Do not skimp on regular thinset or mastic.
  • Double up on thinset – Spread a layer of thinset on the back of each new tile in addition to the troweled layer on the existing backsplash. This dual layer of adhesion is key.
  • Use tile spacers – Keeping uniform grout lines between the new tiles will give a clean finish.
  • Cover entire surface – Do not tile just a small section or focal area. Covering the entire backsplash surface evenly distributes the weight better.
  • Grout and seal – Let thinset cure fully per manufacturer instructions before grouting. Seal grout and new tiles when dry.

Following these tips will give your new tiled-over backsplash the best chance of staying firmly bonded to the existing tile surface long-term.

Step-By-Step Installation Guide

Now let’s go through the full process of tiling over tile from start to finish:

1. Clean and Prepare Surface

Clean existing tile thoroughly with tile cleaner. Lightly etch surface with grinding stone. Repair any damaged areas. Apply tile bonding primer and let fully dry.

2. Measure and Lay Out New Tiles

Dry lay the new tiles on the countertop to determine spacing and layout. Use spacers to evenly align and space tiles. Cut any custom tiles needed with tile cutter.

3. Mix Thinset Mortar

In a bucket, mix together polymer-modified thinset mortar per manufacturer instructions. Stir to a smooth, lump-free consistency. Allow to slake for 5-10 minutes before using.

4. Apply Thinset and New Tiles

Use the notched edge of trowel to apply a layer of thinset to existing tile backsplash surface. Then, apply additional thinset to back of new tile and firmly press in place on wall.

5. Allow Thinset to Cure

After setting all tiles, allow thinset to fully cure per manufacturer recommendation. Typically 24-48 hours. Remove spacers once cured.

6. Grout and Seal

Grout tiles with waterproof grout using grout float. Wipe away excess. Allow grout to dry then seal with grout sealer. Lastly, apply tile sealer to new tiles.

Check that all tiles are firmly bonded before continuing use of backsplash. With proper prep and application, the new tiles should be very securely adhered to existing tile.

Tile Backsplash Design Ideas and Trends

If executed correctly, tiling over an existing backsplash opens up many new design possibilities. Here are some backsplash tile ideas that breathe new life into a kitchen:

Mix Tile Shapes and Patterns

Integrate rectangular, square, and mosaic tiles. Play with geometric or abstract patterns.

Go Bold With Color

Make a dramatic statement with deep hues like navy blue, emerald, or eggplant. Or use multi-colored tile designs.

Add Dimension With 3D Tiles

Choose tile with glossy raised patterns, dimensional shapes, or handpainted designs.

Modernize With Metallics

Brushed metals like brass, bronze, and copper tile add contemporary style.

Feature Natural Materials

Wood-look porcelain, stone, or marble tile lends an earthy, organic look.

Expand Visual Scope

Take tile all the way up to ceiling or include decorative borders or listellos.

With the endless tile options available today, you can give your existing backsplash a whole new modern, high-end look perfect for your kitchen aesthetic by tiling over tile.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use a different size tile when tiling over existing tile?

Yes, you can use a different or mixed tile size when tiling over the existing backsplash. Be sure to plan the layout ahead to achieve the desired pattern and visual effect.

Do I need to use a backerboard when tiling over tile?

In most standard applications, a backerboard is not needed. The layers of your existing tile essentially serve as the backerboard to build upon. However, in some cases, if the existing tile is not completely flush with the countertop adding a thin backerboard can help provide a smooth finish.

Will tiling over tile make my backsplash too thick?

It will add slightly to the overall thickness, but likely not enough to cause issues. The thinset, tile, and grout layers will add less than 1/4 inch total in most cases. For standard backsplashes, this slight buildup in thickness is not problematic. But for areas like directly behind a stove, the added depth could impact fit.

Can I just replace a section of existing tile instead of tiling over all of it?

It is best to tile over the entire backsplash surface rather than just a small portion. This ensures an even finish and keeps the layers of tile uniform for better stability. Avoid tiling over just a few select tiles or one area.

How soon can I use my backsplash after tiling over existing tile?

It is important to let the thinset and grout fully cure before regular use of the backsplash. This typically takes 24-48 hours. Make sure all new tiles are securely bonded before exposure to water, heat or other backsplash activities.

What’s the best grout to use when tiling over tile?

Use a high quality waterproof epoxy or polymer-modified grout. Avoid regular unsanded grout which has lower bonding strength. The best grout for tiling over tile has water-resistant properties and maximum adhesion abilities.


Tiling over existing tile backsplash is a project that can completely transform the look of your kitchen when done correctly. Following the tips and guidelines provided in this article will set you up for success. The keys are ensuring your existing tile is suitable, proper surface prep, using high quality thinset and grout, and expert installation technique.

With strategic design choices and tile layout, your new tile-over-tile backsplash can have a seamless, integrated look that appears like it was the original installation. While tiling over tile has some disadvantages to consider, the affordability and relative ease of installation make it a viable option for renovating an outdated or damaged backsplash without undergoing a full tear-out.