Tiling over an existing backsplash tile is possible, but it requires some careful preparation and technique to ensure success. With the right approach, you can upgrade your backsplash without the hassle and mess of completely removing the old tile.
What to Consider Before Tiling Over Existing Tile
When deciding whether to tile over an existing backsplash, keep these key factors in mind:
Condition of the Original Tile
- The old tiles need to be in good shape with no cracking, chipping, or loose tiles. Damaged tiles should be repaired or replaced before tiling over.
Thickness of the New Tile
- Standard wall tiles are around 1/4″ thick. The new tile cannot be more than 1/8″ thicker than the existing tile, to avoid buildup and alignment issues.
Flatness of the Original Tile
- To get a smooth finish with the new tile, the old tile surface needs to be flat and even. Irregularities in the original tile will show through the new tile.
Type of Tile and Grout
- Porcelain, ceramic, or natural stone tiles are fine to tile over. Avoid tiling over soft, porous tiles. Match the grout color and texture as closely as possible.
- Extra layers of tile add weight. Ensure the wall can support the additional load of new tile.
As long as the original backsplash tile is in good shape, tiling over it is an option. The key is proper prep and using a high-quality tile adhesive.
How to Tile Over Existing Backsplash Tile
Tiling over a backsplash is a multi-step process, but it can be a DIY project if you have tiling experience. Here are the key steps:
1. Clean and Prepare the Surface
Clean off any grime or residue from the old tile using an all-purpose cleaner or tile cleaner. Scrub entire surface and rinse any cleaner residue. Fill any cracked or damaged areas of the existing tile with epoxy filler.
2. Rough Up the Glazed Surface
Use a tile scouring pad or sandpaper to roughen up the outer glaze on the old tile. This helps the new thinset adhere better.
3. Apply Tile Adhesive Thinset
Use a notched trowel to spread a thin layer of polymer-modified thinset mortar evenly over the old tile. The thinset should be white for use with porcelain or ceramic tile.
4. Set New Tiles and Grout
Press the new tiles firmly into the thinset and use spacers for consistent grout lines. Once the thinset has cured, grout the tiles using a grout float and sponge. Match grout color to existing if possible.
5. Seal and Finish
After grouting, remove any residues and seal the grout lines with grout sealer. Buff surface with soft cloth. Caulk perimeter with color-matched silicone.
Tips for Successful Results
- Use a high quality modified thinset adhesive rated for tiling over existing surfaces.
- Check thinset package for specific assembly and cure times based on tile size.
- If tiling a glass mosaic sheet, use special clear thinset adhesive.
- Make sure new tiles do not overlap existing grout lines to avoid buildup.
- Use grout release or sealer on polished or porous tiles before applying new thinset.
- Take time to lay out the tile design and use spacers to get straight grout lines.
Alternative Options to Tiling Over Tile
If the original backsplash is in poor shape or you want a totally fresh look, alternatives to consider include:
- New tile on cement board: Install cement board over old tile for new robust tile substrate.
- Tile removal: Take out old tile and start from the scratch. More work but allows for new design.
- Tub surround panels: Affordable acrylic or PVC backsplash panels install right over old tile.
- Painted backsplash: Use primer and specialized painting kits to paint over tile.
- Wallpaper: Modern peel-and-stick wallpapers apply easily over existing tile.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it okay to put new tile over old in a kitchen backsplash?
Yes, it is generally fine to install new tile over an existing backsplash, provided the original tile is in good condition. The keys are proper surface prep and using the right adhesive thinset.
What thinset do you use to tile over existing tile?
Use a polymer-modified thinset adhesive specially formulated for tiling over existing surfaces. These “tile over tile” thinsets create a strong bond.
Can you put tile over cracked tile?
No, any cracked, chipped, or otherwise damaged tiles must be repaired or replaced before tiling over. Use epoxy filler to patch small cracks.
Should I take off the old grout before tiling over a backsplash?
No, removing the grout is not necessary. Simply rough up the glazed tile surface and apply the new thinset over the existing grout.
How thick can the new tile be when tiling over the old backsplash?
The new tile cannot be more than 1/8″ thicker than the existing tile. Any more can create lippage problems between the two levels.
Can I use the same grout with new tile when tiling over an existing backsplash?
Where possible, use a grout that matches the existing color and texture. But any standard unsanded grout will work when tiling over old grout.
Tiling over an existing backsplash is a viable option for upgrading your kitchen without tearing out your old tile. With careful prep and the right materials, you can achieve a successful overlay tile project. Pay attention to the condition of the original tile, use the proper thinset adhesive, and take the time to install the new tile properly. Then you can enjoy an updated backsplash and improved kitchen aesthetic.