How to Change Backsplash Without Removing Tile

Changing your backsplash can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. However, many homeowners dread the messy, labor-intensive process of tearing out old tile. Luckily, there are several clever ways to change your backsplash without removing the existing tile. This allows you to quickly and affordably upgrade your space.

Supplies Needed

Before diving into the project, gather the necessary supplies:

  • Paint or tile that matches your desired backsplash style
  • Painter’s tape
  • Drop cloths
  • Paint brushes and paint tray (if using paint)
  • Tiling tools (if using new tile)
  • Grout
  • Caulk
  • Primer
  • Cleaning supplies

Make sure to get paint or tiles that work with your current scheme. For example, glossy paint tends to look better on ceramic or porcelain tiles. Select grout and caulk in a color that matches the new materials. Primer will help the paint adhere to the glossy tile surface.

Clean the Tile Thoroughly

Before making any changes, thoroughly clean the existing backsplash tile. Go over it with an all-purpose cleaner or diluted vinegar solution to remove any grease or grime. Use a plastic scraper or putty knife to scrub off any chunks or residue. Rinse the tile and let it dry completely before moving forward.

Proper cleaning will allow the new materials to properly adhere to the old tile. It also provides a blank slate for your upgraded backsplash.

Apply Painter’s Tape

Use painter’s tape to mask off any areas you don’t want to paint or tile over. For example, tape off the countertop, edges where the backsplash meets the wall, and around outlets or switches. Apply the tape down firmly and press along all edges.

The tape keeps the new paint or tile contained to the backsplash. It protects the surrounding surfaces from drips, splatters, and smudges. Carefully applying tape results in crisp, clean lines for a polished finished look.

Add a Drop Cloth

Before painting or applying new tile, cover any exposed surfaces with a drop cloth. Clear off the counters and place cloths over the cabinets, floors, and appliances. Tape down the edges of the cloth to keep it from shifting.

The drop cloth provides an extra layer of protection from spills, splashes, and debris. It saves clean-up time and prevents damage to surfaces below the backsplash.

Apply Primer

If painting the existing tile, apply a coat of primer first. Use a small paintbrush to primer on the grout lines. Then use a mini foam roller to cover the rest of the tile. Let the primer dry completely before moving to the next step.

The primer helps the new paint better adhere to the glossy tile surface. It allows for a smooth, even coat of paint and prevents chipping or peeling down the road. Primer is an essential preparatory step when painting over tile.

Paint the Backsplash

Once primed, use a mini foam roller and angled brush to apply two coats of paint in your desired color. Work in small sections, painting both the tile and grout lines. Paint vertical strokes first, then horizontal. Allow each coat to fully dry before adding another.

Go slowly and carefully during this step to ensure even coverage. The roller allows you to quickly cover the tile surface while the brush lets you get into the grout lines. The two-coat system provides a durable, quality finish.

Add an Accent Color

For extra pop, use painter’s tape and a small brush to add stripes or geometric shapes in a contrasting color. For example, add some navy blue stripes to a white backsplash or metallic gold diamonds over black paint.

This optional step elevates a simple painted backsplash to the next level. The accent shapes add visual interest and dimension for a more dynamic, trendy look.

Apply New Tile

For a longer-lasting solution, apply new tile over the existing backsplash. Mark the surface into a grid pattern with tape to guide the installation. Spread thinset mortar evenly across each section using a notched trowel. Then firmly press the new tiles into place, using spacers between them.

Once the tiles are set, apply grout between them with a rubber grout float. Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge. Allow the grout to fully cure before using the backsplash. Use caulk to seal any gaps along the edges.

Properly applying the tile and grout ensures your new backsplash will be sturdy and water-resistant. Taking time with this step prevents leaks, cracks, and falling tiles down the road.

Consider Open Shelf Storage

If your goal is a completely new look, install open shelves in place of the existing backsplash. Measure and mark the tile where you want the shelves to go. Use a carbide tipped grout saw to carefully cut along the lines and remove sections of the tile.

Then install wooden boards in the open spaces to create shelving. You can stain or paint the boards to match your cabinetry.Display pretty dishes, cookbooks, or spices on the new backsplash shelves.

Adding open shelving maintains the existing tile while also providing a fresh, modern update. The combination of tile and wood makes for a textured, eclectic look.

Add Wood Trim

For a simple change, install new wood trim right over the existing backsplash. Measure and cut trim pieces to size. Then pre-drill and nail the trim pieces in place over the tile. Use silicone caulk to fill any gaps.

Choose trim that coordinates with your cabinetry style, whether shaker, beadboard

The new wood trim instantly transforms the look of the backsplash and kitchen. It adds warmth and detail without the hassle of removing and replacing the tile. The simple trim can be stained or painted to match your decor.

Hang Removable Wallpaper

Swap out your backsplash in minutes with temporary wallpaper. Peel and stick wallpaper adheres right over existing tile. Look for removabl

Browse bold patterns, nature prints, or faux textures like marble or brick. Carefully measure the backsplash and cut the wallpaper to fit. Slowly peel off the backing and press on the paper, smoothing out any air bubbles.

Removable wallpaper allows you to quickly change up the look of your backsplash without committing to permanent tile. When it’s time for a switch, simply peel it off. This technique adds style without installation hassle.

Display a Metal or Tile Sheet

Cover up the existing tile with a decorative metal or tile backsplash sheet. Use self-adhesive metal sheets with patterns like copper, tin, or stainless steel. Or opt for mosaic tile sheets that easily stick over the old tile.

Carefully measure and cut the sheet to fully cover the backsplash from counter to cabinet. Then peel and stick to install. Use a putty knife to press down around the edges. Finally, wipe away any residual dust or debris for a finished look.

The new metal or tile sheet provides instant visual impact and completely disguises the previous backsplash. It’s a fast, affordable way to refresh the heart of your kitchen.

Add Mirror Tiles

For contemporary sparkle, install decorative mirror tiles over the existing backsplash. These adhesive tiles have a mirrored surface surrounded by grout lines to mimic a traditional tile look. Arrange the tiles in a fun geometric pattern.

The mirrored tiles give depth and shine to your backsplash while concealing the old tile beneath. Light bounces off the glassy tile, making the small space appear larger and brighter. It adds a glamorous feel with eye-catching appeal.

Questions and Answers

Q: How do I prep my existing tile before painting it or applying new tile?

Thoroughly clean the tile first with a degreasing cleaner or diluted vinegar solution. Use a plastic scraper or putty knife to scrub off any grime or residue. Once the tile is free of dirt and oil, apply painter’s tape around the edges for a clean finish. Apply primer before painting for the best adhesion and coverage.

Q: What supplies do I need on hand for changing my backsplash without removing tile?

Gather painter’s tape, drop cloths, primer, paint or new tile that matches your scheme, caulk, grout, tiling tools, brushes, rollers, and cleaning supplies. Make sure you have materials to prep the existing tile as well as supplies for the new backsplash finish.

Q: What’s the best technique for painting over existing backsplash tile?

After taping edges and priming, use a mini foam roller and angled brush to apply two coats of paint. Work in small sections, covering both tile and grout lines. Roll vertically first, then horizontally. Let each coat fully dry before adding the next. The combination provides smooth, even coverage.

Q: How do I cut into my existing backsplash tile to install open shelving?

First, measure and mark the areas for the shelves. Use painter’s tape to outline the shape. Take a carbide tipped grout saw and carefully cut along the tape outline to remove sections of tile. Then install and secure wooden boards in the open spaces to create shelves.

Q: Can I apply wallpaper over my old backsplash tile?

Yes, peel and stick removable wallpaper can adhere right on top of existing tile. Make sure to precisely measure and cut the wallpaper to size. Slowly remove the backing, press on the paper, and smooth bubbles. When ready to change it, simply peel off the wallpaper without damaging the tile underneath.

Q: What’s the best way to update my backsplash on a budget?

Some of the most budget-friendly options are applying adhesive wallpaper, displaying a metal sheet, or adding new trim over the existing tile. These easy install products disguise the old tile for a brand new look for less than replacing the entire backsplash.

Q: How long do backsplash updates like wallpaper or trim last compared to new tile?

Things like paint, removable wallpaper, or trim will likely last 1-5 years before needing replacements or refreshing. New tile properly installed and grouted can last 20-30 years. So permanent tile is the longer-lasting solution if you can invest more upfront.

Q: What’s the benefit of just updating my backsplash instead of replacing it completely?

Changing your backsplash without removing tile saves huge on time, cost, and labor compared to a full replacement. It allows you to quickly upgrade on a budget. Bonus perks are less demolition mess and avoiding potential damage to walls or countertops.

Q: What precautions should I take when working on an existing backsplash?

Carefully tape off any adjacent surfaces to protect them from paint, thinset, or debris. Cover nearby surfaces with drop cloths. Take time to properly clean and prepare the existing tile for the best results. Remove any dust before painting or applying finishes. Wear safety goggles and gloves when cutting tile or grout.


Updating your backsplash doesn’t require the intensive process of removing and replacing all your existing tile. With some clever tricks and affordable materials, you can disguise or enhance your old backsplash. Options like paint, trim, wallpaper or tile sheets allow you to switch up the look on a budget and with less work.

Carefully prepare the old tile then apply your new finish material, whether paint, tile, metal sheet, trim or wallpaper. Use painter’s tape and drop cloths to keep the project contained. Adding a fresh backsplash instantly updates the heart of your home without the headache of a complete tile demolition. With a little creativity, you can transform your kitchen without removing a single tile.