How to Cover Ceramic Tile Backsplash

A ceramic tile backsplash can be a beautiful addition to any kitchen or bathroom. However, over time ceramic tiles can become outdated, damaged or you may just want to change the look. Luckily, there are several easy options for covering up ceramic tile backsplashes.

Evaluate the Existing Tile

Before deciding on how to cover the ceramic tile backsplash, take some time to evaluate the existing tiles. Look at the condition, size, texture and color. This will help determine the best covering option.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Are the existing tiles in good condition or are they cracked, chipped or missing grout? Tiles in poor condition will need extra preparation for the new covering.
  • What size are the tiles? Smaller tiles like mosaics will require a smoother covering than larger tiles.
  • What texture are the tiles – smooth, glossy, matte? This will impact what adhesive and grout works best.
  • Is the color light or dark? Dark grout lines may still show through lighter coverings.

Once you’ve noted the condition, size, texture and color you can better choose the right materials for covering the existing ceramic tile backsplash.

Clean and Prepare the Tile Surface

Properly preparing the tile surface is key to getting coverings to adhere correctly. Follow these steps:

Clean and degrease the tiles: Use a degreasing cleaner or mix of vinegar and dish soap to thoroughly clean the tiles and grout. This removes any built-up grease or grime.

Sand and scuff: Lightly sand the glossy tiles and scuff up the surface using sandpaper. This helps the adhesive stick better.

Repair grout: Scrape out any cracked or missing grout and re-grout those areas so the surface is smooth. Allow new grout to fully cure before applying the covering.

Fill any holes or uneven areas: Use spackle or tile filler to smooth over any holes, chips or uneven areas for the best covering results.

Preparing the backsplash surface takes a bit of work but it helps coverings adhere properly.

Choose the Best Covering Method

There are several good options for covering up ceramic tile backsplashes. Consider what will work best for your kitchen or bathroom.

Tile Overlay

Installing a new tile over the existing is a popular option. This completely transforms the look while keeping the backsplash area durable.


  • Creates a fresh new look for the backsplash
  • Many tile options – glass, marble, metal, stone
  • Can match new kitchen or bath decor
  • Maintains a water-resistant surface


  • Tile adds weight, check if walls can support it
  • Existing grout lines may show through lighter tiles
  • Installation can take several days for mortar to cure before grouting

Plastic Wall Panels

Plastic wall paneling comes in acrylic, PVC or polycarbonate material. Panels install directly over existing tiles for quick coverage.


  • Lightweight installation goes up in one day
  • Many color and finish options like subway tile, stainless, copper
  • Panels are waterproof and easy to clean
  • Inexpensive way to refresh backsplash


  • Some panel quality thinner than tile and prone to scratching
  • Grout lines and uneven tiles can telegraph through panels
  • Limited heat resistance, not ideal behind stoves


Beadboard panels give a timeless, vintage look over tile. The thin wood strips install similarly to plastic panels.


  • Classic style works in many kitchens
  • Attaches directly over old backsplash
  • Various width planks and finish options
  • Mitered edges give a custom look


  • Not water or heat resistant
  • Grout lines may shadow through light wood colors
  • Prone to scratches and water damage over time

Metal Sheets

For an industrial vibe, metal sheets like stainless steel, copper or tin can overlay tile. Expect a lot of sound reflection.


  • Sleek, modern look from metal finishes
  • Easy peel-and-stick application
  • Provides heat, moisture and scratch resistance
  • Can cover uneven tiles or grout lines


  • High noise reflectivity
  • Metal may dent if heavy pans or pots hit it
  • Cost is higher for copper and stainless steel sheets

Mirror Tiles

Small mirrored tiles reflect light and make kitchens appear larger. Their shine hides imperfections.


  • Brightens and enlarges kitchen spaces
  • Tiny grout lines less visible behind mirror tiles
  • Instantly updates a backsplash on a budget
  • Easy for DIY application in an afternoon


  • Fragile glass and sharp edges require safety precautions
  • Mirrored tiles show water spots and streaks easily
  • Can break if hit by heavy pans or falling cans

Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper

Removable wallpaper sheets provide an instant change. Many patterns hide grout lines and tile flaws.


  • Huge range of colors and patterns
  • Budget-friendly option under $100
  • Easy peel-and-stick application
  • Pulls off easily for future changes


  • Not durable or waterproof
  • Peeling issues possible if tile isn’t properly prepped
  • Grout lines and unevenness can show through vinyl


Painting over ceramic tile is an affordable way to freshen up a backsplash. Use a bonding primer and silicone caulk for best adhesion.


  • Inexpensive materials under $50
  • Any color paint can be used
  • No special skills or tools needed
  • Easy to touch up or change color later


  • Paint can peel or scratch off over time
  • Glossy tiles require sanding for paint to bond
  • Grout lines may show through lighter paint

With so many options available, there are great ways to cover ceramic tile backsplash to match any style and budget.

How to Install a Tile Overlay

Installing tile over an existing ceramic tile backsplash is one of the more durable and attractive options. With proper preparation and materials, here is how to complete this project:

Step 1: Adhere Cement Backerboard

Start by measuring and cutting 1/4 or 1/2 inch thick cement backerboard panels to fit the backsplash area. Cut holes for outlets. Then apply thinset mortar to the backsplash and press backerboard in place, nailing or screwing to studs. Let dry overnight.

Step 2: Apply Mortar and New Tiles

Spread a layer of thinset mortar evenly over the cement backerboard. Then press new tiles into the mortar. Use spacers between tiles for consistent grout line spacing. Let mortar fully cure for 24-48 hours.

Step 3: Grout and Seal New Tiles

Mix grout with a latex additive for strength. Apply over tiles and work into grout lines. Wipe excess. Let dry 4 hours minimum before sealing tiles with a penetrating sealer. This prevents stains.

Step 4: Finish Edges

If needed, install bullnose tiles along the edges for a finished look. You can also install a tile backsplash hood over the stove for a custom focal point.

With the right prep and materials, tiling over an existing backsplash is a great upgrade. New tile can modernize a kitchen or tie into updated floors and counters.

Covering Tile Backsplash with Plastic Panels

Plastic wall panels give ceramic tile a quick makeover while adding stylish and contemporary texture. Here’s how to install these interlocking sheets:

Step 1: Measure and Cut Panels

Measure from counter to cabinet and draw a layout of panel dimensions. Cut panels face down with circular saw at full blade depth to prevent chipping edges.

Step 2: Create Support Framework

Many plastic panels require a support frame screwed into studs. Cut furring strips or Z-bars to layout size. Drill into ceramic tiles avoiding grout lines. Secure support pieces with tapcons or anchors.

Step 3: Attach Panels

Apply silicone adhesive to back of panels in a zig-zag pattern. Press panels onto supports working top to bottom while keeping seams tight. Use shims behind panels if needed. Let adhesive fully cure 24-48 hours.

Step 4: Seal Edges

Use silicone caulk down seams and along top and bottom edges. Wipe away excess for a waterproof seal. Consider an additional layer of clear silicone over entire surface for glossy look.

Plastic wall panels require careful prep and installation but can give a backsplash sleek modern texture in just one day. Wash gently with dish soap and water. Avoid abrasive cleaners.

Installing Beadboard Over Existing Tile

Beadboard offers a timeless look over ceramic tile with its thin parallel wood strips. Though not waterproof, properly installed beadboard holds up well in backsplashes.

Step 1: Attach Support Strips

Cut 1×3 inch furring strips to length. Hold up to backsplash area spacing strips 2-3 inches apart. Drill and attach with tapcon screws into grout lines.

Step 2: Prime and Paint Strips

Apply 1-2 coats of primer to strips, allowing to dry between coats. Then paint strips to match beadboard for a seamless look once installed.

Step 3: Apply Beadboard Planks

Using panel adhesive, press beadboard planks onto strips keeping edges tightly lined up. Hold in place with finishing nails if needed through tongue end of planks.

Step 4: Fill Seams and Finish

Lightly sand any uneven planks. Fill seams with wood putty. Apply caulk between countertop and panels. Paint, varnish or polyurethane for desired finish.

Beadboard requires careful prep and finishing but creates a timeworn look over tile. Avoid excessive moisture and clean by dusting or wiping with a soft damp cloth.

How to Install Metal Sheets Over Tile

For a sleek modern update, metal sheets offer durable coverage over worn ceramic tiles. Copper, tin and stainless steel all make bold statements.

Step 1: Thoroughly Clean and Dry Surface

Use non-abrasive cleanser to clean tiles then denatured alcohol to remove residue and oils for best metal adhesion. Let fully dry.

Step 2: Prepare Backsplash Area

Make sure surface is flat and well-supported. Cut sheets to size allowing 1/4 inch for expansion along edges. Apply rubberized membrane at seams for sound dampening.

Step 3: Peel and Apply Sheets

One at a time, peel off sheet’s protective film and apply adhesive to back using zig-zag motion. Carefully press in place aligning edges and smoothing air pockets.

Step 4: Install Backsplash Trim

Use aluminum, copper or stainless trim pieces cut to size with snippers to finish open edges. Attach trim with silicone adhesive and peel-and-stick fasteners.

Metal sheets make a statement for contemporary kitchens but require careful precision cuts and installation to avoid buckling. Clean gently with non-abrasive cleaner.

Installing Mirror Tiles Over Ceramic

Small mirror tiles lend lots of light and the illusion of space to backsplashes. Their high shine disguises uneven grout on existing tiles. Follow these steps:

Step 1: Prepare the Surface

Clean tiles thoroughly then roughen surface with 220-grit sandpaper so adhesive adheres well. Fill any holes or chips with spackle for a smooth finish.

Step 2: Plan Layout

Dry lay mirror tiles in the sequence you’ll install them. Make sure cut edges are in corners or edges. Adjust to size if needed before applying adhesive.

Step 3: Apply Mirror Tiles

Use a high-quality silicone adhesive to attach mirrors. Apply in a zig-zag pattern to back of each tile. Place tiles gently but firmly into position. Leave up overnight.

Step 4: Grout and Seal

After 24 hours, apply grout carefully between tiles. Wipe away excess to prevent hazing on mirror surface. Seal grout once fully cured to allow easy cleaning.

Mirror tiles should transform a once-tired backsplash into a bright focal point. Use care when cleaning to avoid damaging reflective surfaces.

Applying Wallpaper Over Ceramic Tile

Self-adhesive wallpaper can give quick transformation to ceramic tile. To ensure it adheres properly, follow these key steps:

Step 1: Clean and Sand Surface

Scrub tiles with TSP or other degreaser. Lightly sand to roughen and remove gloss. This helps wallpaper bond tightly.

Step 2: Fill Uneven Areas

If existing tiles are heavily grouted or uneven, fill low spots with spackle for a smoother finish. Allow to fully dry before wallpapering.

Step 3: Cut Wallpaper to Size

Measure panels to size and cut with utility knife and ruler. Add a few extra inches to edge panels to wrap corners.

Step 4: Apply Adhesive Backing

Lay panel on flat surface and carefully peel away top of two-sided tape strip. Fold over and press firmly to activate adhesive.

Step 5: Mount Wallpaper

Line up panel horizontally and apply to wall slowly smoothing out air bubbles underneath. Use spackle blade to make seams disappear.

Wallpaper testing confirms that with proper prep, even ceramic tile can conceal its bumps and grout lines under gorgeous patterns. Remove wallpaper slowly with heat gun.

Painting Over Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Painting ceramic tile has challenges but with the right prep and products, provides an inexpensive way to refresh the look. Here are the key steps:

Step 1: Clean and Dry Surface

Use TSP or other degreaser to deeply clean tile. Rinse thoroughly and let dry 24-48 hours so paint bonds well.

Step 2: Lightly Sand Tiles

Use 220-grit sandpaper to scuff up the glazed tile surface for better paint adhesion. Vacuum dust when done.

Step 3: Apply Bonding Primer

Roll on a thin layer of bonding primer designed for glossy surfaces. Let dry fully. Spot prime any porous grout lines.

Step 4: Apply Two Coats of Latex Paint

Using a small foam roller, apply two coats of latex paint allowing proper drying time between coats. Water-based paint sticks to primer better than oil-based.

Step 5: Re-grout if Needed

If existing grout lines are darkened with mildew or grime, consider applying new grout to refresh the look after painting.

With careful prep and paint selection, even ceramic tile can transform easily. Avoid harsh cleaners and abrasive scrubs to keep the painted finish lasting longer.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I tile over cracked or missing tiles?

It’s best to repair any cracked, broken or missing tiles for the most seamless finish. Use spackle to fill small holes and replace larger damaged tiles with ones that match the existing before tiling over.

What about the extra thickness of an overlay?

Good planning resolves the extra thickness tile or panels add. Adjust any backslash outlets upwards before starting. For countertops, pipe in thinset mortar to slope it perfectly up to meet the new overlay.

Should I remove old grout before tiling over?

Removing all the existing grout is tedious and unnecessary. Simply fill any missing or cracked grout so the surface is smooth. New thinset mortar will adhere over old grout.

Can I apply wallpaper directly over glossy tile?

Glossy or smooth tiles should be lightly sanded first to help wallpaper bond better. Scrub off any residue and let tile dry fully before applying adhesive wallpaper.

How long does painted tile last compared to new tile?

Painting ceramic tile is less durable than overlaying with new tile. But properly prepped tile with 2 coats of latex paint should hold up several years if gently cleaned and not constantly soaked by water.

What about a textured covering like stucco over tile?

Stucco applied over tile can give unique texture, but the multiple layers required can get quite thick. Thinset mortar adheres lightweight tiles over old tile more securely.


Covering an outdated ceramic tile backsplash can refresh the entire look of a kitchen or bathroom. With proper planning and preparation, materials like tile, plastic panels, wallpaper or even paint can disguise what lies underneath. Consider both your budget and the functional needs of a backsplash space before proceeding. And don’t be afraid to seek professional help for tricky tile installations. With some time and care, that once-loved but now tired tile backsplash can easily be revived or hidden by a new covering.