How to Cover Existing Tile Backsplash

Covering an existing tile backsplash can refresh the look of your kitchen without requiring a full remodel. With some planning and elbow grease, you can install a new backsplash over the old tiles for a fraction of the cost of replacing them entirely. There are several options for covering up tile, from painting to adhering new tiles or panels right over the old ones.

Assessing the Existing Backsplash

Before deciding on the best way to cover your current backsplash, you’ll need to assess its condition.

  • Is the existing tile in good shape overall, or is it cracked, chipped, or falling off in areas? Severely damaged tile will need repairs or removal prior to adding any coverings.
  • What material is the existing backsplash made of? Ceramic and porcelain tile are common. Natural stone, glass, or metal backsplashes are also possibilities. The material affects what types of coverings will adhere best.
  • Is the tile glazed or unglazed? Glazed tiles have a shiny, water-resistant coating. Unglazed tiles absorb more. Coverings stick better to porous, unglazed tiles.
  • How is the tile finished? Matte tiles aren’t too slick for coverings to grip. Glossy finishes can cause adhesion problems.
  • What color and pattern is the existing tile? A bold or unusual design may still show through some covering options. Solid colors hide best.

Thoroughly cleaning the backsplash is also essential before adding any coverings. Grease and grime prevent proper adhesion.

Painting Over Tile

Painting tile backsplashes is an affordable and easy update. With proper prep and application, paint adheres well and provides a fresh look.

Paint Types for Tile

The right paint ensures long-lasting results. Consider these options:

  • Epoxy paint – Epoxy formulas stick well and cure to a hard, scratch-resistant finish. They’re especially effective for coating ceramic and metal.
  • Acrylic latex – Acrylic latex paints bond best on porous, unglazed tile. They offer good durability.
  • Bonding primer – Primers like Kilz improve paint adhesion on slick or glossy surfaces like glazed tile.
  • Spray paint – Spray enamel paint in a can allows quick, easy application for small backsplash areas.
  • Enamel paint – Oil-based enamel paints provide a durable, high-gloss finish. Work well on metal tile.

Painting Tile Backsplash Steps

Follow these steps for best results painting over tile:

  1. Clean the tile thoroughly with an all-purpose cleaner and rinse. Address any grout issues.
  2. Lightly sand glazed or glossy tiles to roughen the surface so paint can grip better.
  3. Apply bonding primer to the entire backsplash. This helps the paint stick to the slippery tile surface.
  4. Apply two coats of paint with a brush, roller, or sprayer. Allow proper drying time between coats.
  5. Use painter’s tape to prevent getting paint on cabinets, countertops, etc. Remove carefully while the paint is still wet.
  6. Avoid wiping or cleaning the newly painted backsplash for several days to allow paint to fully cure.

Painting Tile Backsplash Pros and Cons

Painting over tile has advantages:


  • Inexpensive way to update backsplash appearance
  • Wide range of color options
  • Good option for small areas like a backsplash
  • Preserves existing tile substrate


  • Doesn’t improve deteriorated grout
  • Paint can chip or scratch off over time
  • Glossy tiles require etching/sanding for paint to bond
  • Not effective for large kitchen areas

Applying Adhesive Coverings

Adhesive-backed coverings like vinyl, tiles, or metal sheets stick right to your existing backsplash for a fresh look.

Materials for Adhesive Tile Coverings

Popular backsplash covering products include:

  • Peel-and-stick vinyl tiles – Easy to install vinyl available in many patterns
  • Removable wallpaper – Self-adhesive, temporary wallpaper offers custom prints
  • Stick-on metal sheets – Real metal coverings add contemporary style
  • Adhesive plastic panels – Waterproof PVC panels install with adhesive strips
  • Peel-and-stick mosaic tiles – Self-adhesive small mosaic tiles resemble ceramic tile

Installing Adhesive Tile Coverings

Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application. General tips include:

  • Thoroughly clean and dry the existing backsplash before applying adhesives
  • Apply covering evenly while applying pressure to all areas to ensure it sticks
  • Use a plastic applicator or putty knife to smooth the material and improve adhesion
  • Roll surfaces with a rubber wallpaper roller to help eliminate bubbles or wrinkles
  • Don’t stretch covering materials. Cut them to properly fit each area.
  • Use caulk around edges and seams for a finished look

Pros and Cons of Stick-On Tile Coverings

Adhesive coverings offer benefits but also have some downsides:


  • Quick and easy application
  • Affordable material costs
  • Many style and finish options
  • Removes easily if desired later


  • Existing tile bumps may still show through
  • Grout lines and tile edges may still be visible
  • More delicate than permanent tile
  • Prone to peeling at edges over time

Setting New Tile Over Existing Backsplash

Installing new tile over the existing backsplash is possible in many cases. This provides a fresh look while avoiding messy tile removal.

Can New Tiles Be Set Over Old Ones?

Setting tile over tile is feasible if:

  • The existing tile is in good condition with no major cracks or damage
  • The old tile is properly secured to the wall
  • The existing tile surface is adequately prepared

Tile generally cannot be installed over existing tile if:

  • Old tile is cracking, loose, or falling off the wall
  • Old tile has a glossy surface coating that prevents bonding
  • The layers build up too thickly, making walls uneven

Preparing Existing Tile for New Tile

Proper prep is crucial for new tile to stick to the old backsplash well. Steps include:

  • Clean thoroughly to remove all grease, dirt and debris
  • Sand or etch very glossy tiles so new thinset mortar adheres
  • Fill any missing grout lines with new grout for a level surface
  • Prime the tile and apply a latex-modified thinset adhesive

Setting New Tiles

Use a notched trowel to spread the thinset adhesive on the existing backsplash. Follow usual practices for professional tile installation:

  • Plan tile layout and do any needed sub-wall preparation
  • Cut tiles precisely to fit the space
  • Work in small sections, wiping away excess thinset
  • Use tile spacers for consistent grout line width
  • Seal grout once dry according to product directions

Re-Tiling a Backsplash Pros and Cons

The pros and cons of installing new tile over an existing backsplash include:


  • Avoids tear out of old tile
  • Wide variety of new tile and grout choices
  • Can follow any design for a customized look
  • Permanent solution that lasts for years


  • Extensive surface preparation required
  • Tile layers build up thickness on the wall
  • Wrong tile size or pattern may not hide old look
  • Professional installation expertise needed

Removing Old Backsplash Tile

Eliminating the existing backsplash tile entirely opens all options for a new kitchen look.

Reasons to Remove Old Backsplash

It’s best to remove tile when:

  • Tile is damaged, cracked or unrepairable
  • An underlying moisture issue exists behind the tile
  • You want to resize backsplash area or change its position
  • Old tile has failed due to poor initial installation
  • You wish to replace with different tile size, patterns, or orientation
  • Access is needed to wiring, plumbing, or wall behind the backsplash

Steps to Remove Tile Backsplash

Removing old backsplash tile takes time and care to avoid wall damage but can be DIYed. Follow these general steps:

  1. Protect countertops and floors from debris and damage during work.
  2. Score grout lines with a utility knife. Use a hammer and chisel to carefully pry off tiles.
  3. Apply heat with a hair dryer or heat gun to soften old tile mastics and adhesives.
  4. Scrape off remaining thinset mortar or adhesive from the wall with a putty knife.
  5. Fill any gouges in drywall and smooth uneven spots for new tile prep.
  6. Clean and seal the wall once tile and adhesive are fully removed.

Pros and Cons of Removing Tile Backsplash

Tile removal has advantages but also some disadvantages to weigh:


  • Allows you to start fresh with any new design
  • Fixes any hidden moisture or wall issues behind tile
  • Damaged substrate can be repaired before new installation
  • Provides the flattest surface for easiest new tile application


  • Very dusty and messy demolition work
  • Possible wall repairs needed after tile removal
  • Takes more time and work than covering existing tile
  • Risk of wall damage during prying off of tile

DIY Backsplash Covering Ideas

Looking for some simple, budget-friendly ideas to refresh your existing kitchen backsplash? Consider these easy DIY covering solutions:

Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper

Self-adhesive wallpaper rolls provide an instant backsplash update. Choose from many colors, textures, and patterns to suit your style. Abstract designs hide old tile well. Peel off years later if desired.

Faux Tin Ceiling Tiles

These adhesive metal “tin” tiles create a Victorian-era charm on backsplashes. The silver color disguises dated tile colors well. Use tin tiles solely or mix with painted areas.

Beadboard Planks

Wrap existing tile with DIY beadboard made from basic lumberyard trim pieces. Cut and install boards horizontally for a cottage look. Paint or stain a natural wood tone.

Mirror Panels

For contemporary sparkle, attach mirror panels over the backsplash with liquid nails adhesive. Use tempered glass for safety. Outline panels with trim molding for drama.

Chalkboard Paint

Coat tiles in chalkboard paint to create a handy message center and family organizational zone. Customize with chalk art or frequently-used phone numbers.

Fabric Covering

Adhere fabric over the backsplash with liquid stitch adhesive for a soft, textured look. Use moisture-resistant outdoor fabric or plastic tablecloth material. Change patterns seasonally.

Hiring Pros to Cover or Replace Backsplash

Attempting to paint, re-tile, or install backsplash coverings has its challenges. For excellent results with less hassle, consider hiring skilled remodeling pros.

Reasons to Hire Pros for Backsplash Work

Professional contractors offer expertise vital for a quality finished project:

  • Knowledge of all suitable materials and options for your needs
  • Proper preparation and installation for long-lasting results
  • Access to specialized tools and equipment
  • Precision cutting and fitting of coverings or tiles
  • Experience with achieving flawless finished edges and seams
  • Ability to identify and fix underlying issues with existing tile

Finding Qualified Backsplash Contractors

Look for specialists experienced with backsplash installation and remodeling:

  • Read online reviews of local contractors. Check ratings with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Verify necessary licenses, insurance, and bonding.
  • Ask to see examples of previous backsplash projects.
  • Get at least three bids to compare cost estimates.
  • Ask contractors detailed questions to determine knowledge level.

Hiring a backsplash pro ensures your project is done right the first time within budget.

FAQs About Covering an Existing Tile Backsplash

Many homeowners have additional questions when considering a backsplash covering project.

Does new grout need to be used when installing tile over existing tile?

Yes, do not try to regrout the existing grout lines. New grout is required to fill in the natural gaps between the old and new tiles. Match grout color to your new tile.

What about electrical outlets in the backsplash area?

Shut off power and remove outlets prior to covering backsplash. Patch any holes and reinstall outlets over the new backsplash material. Take care not to cover operating outlets illegally.

Should backsplash coatings extend all the way to cabinets or countertops?

Most experts recommend leaving a slight gap between countertops/cabinets rather than running the backsplash completely edge to edge. This allows for shifting and prevents damage.

How do you prep shiny glazed ceramic tile for painting?

Lightly sand glazed tiles with 100-grit sandpaper to roughen up the surface. Wipe away debris. Apply bonding primer specifically designed for slick surfaces before painting tile.

Can you use metal backsplash tile if you have an induction cooktop?

Metal backsplashes can disrupt inductive cooking technology. Check your cooktop manual – many specify only non-metallic tile within 18” vertically of the cooktop.

Is it okay to use grout coloring on an existing backsplash?

Yes, grout coloring kits allow you to restore and refresh existing grout lines without having to regrout the entire backsplash. Follow product instructions carefully.


Whether you wish to refresh the look of your existing kitchen backsplash or cover issues with damaged or outdated tiles, there are many options available to homeowners. Carefully evaluate your goals, budget, and the current backsplash installation to select the best covering method. With proper materials and some DIY dedication, you can achieve beautiful results and a like-new backsplash appearance without the cost of a full replacement. Or leave it to experienced remodeling professionals for expert installation without headaches. With creative use of tile paint, adhesives, new tile, or replacement materials, your backsplash can gain an affordable facelift.