How to Cover Kitchen Tile Backsplash

Covering existing kitchen tile backsplash can refresh the look of your kitchen without undergoing a full remodel. With some preparation and the right materials, you can easily cover up outdated or damaged tile backsplash with new tile, metal backsplash panels, beadboard, or even wallpaper. Transforming your backsplash is an affordable way to update the style and color palette of your kitchen.

Assessing Your Existing Backsplash

Before deciding on the best way to cover your current backsplash, assess its condition to determine whether you need to fully remove the tile or if you can install new materials directly over it:

  • Cracked or missing grout: If the grout lines between your existing tiles are cracked or missing in areas, you may be able to apply new grout to salvage the backsplash. Choose a grout color that matches or complements new materials you install over it.
  • Stained or damaged tiles: Spot repair or replace individual tile pieces that are stained, chipped, or broken. This may allow you to keep some of the original backsplash while covering problem areas.
  • Outdated color or style: If the tile itself is in good shape but you want a new look, covering it with another material is a perfect solution. Paint, wallpaper, or panels can all conceal the existing tile.
  • Moisture damage: Look for dark grout lines, cracked or loose tiles, or areas of mold/mildew growth. These indicate moisture issues that should be addressed before installing anything new.
  • Sound tile installation: Confirm the existing tile is firmly attached to the wall before covering it. Tap on tiles in various spots to listen for a solid sound. Hollow, drummy sounds mean the tile could detach while adding new materials on top.

Thoroughly clean the entire backsplash once you’ve assessed the tile. Remove any mold or mildew growth with products like bleach, vinegar, or baking soda. Scrub off dirt, grime, or grease buildup with degreasing cleaners. Rinse thoroughly and let it dry completely before moving onto the next step.

Preparing the Surface

Proper prep work ensures your new backsplash materials adhere securely and look smooth applied over the old tile. Take time to prep the surface so your finished project holds up well long-term:

  • Remove loose tiles: If any of the existing tiles are detached or can be pried off easily, take them out. Scrape off old mortar and fill holes or uneven areas with spackling compound once the tiles are removed.
  • Sand glossy tiles: Use 100-grit sandpaper to scuff up the surface of glossy ceramic, porcelain, or granite tiles so the new material can bond. Wipe away all sanding dust.
  • Etch tiles: For very smooth tile like glazed ceramic or marble, etch the surface with an etching product or diluted muriatic acid. This helps bonding products adhere. Neutralize acid completely and rinse the backsplash well.
  • Apply bonding primer: Use a primer made for surface bonding like Mapei Eco Prim Grip or Laticrete Hydro Bond. This helps new materials bond to the tile. Follow product instructions carefully.
  • Fill grout lines: Wide grout lines will show through thin new materials. Fill lines with sanded caulk or mortar for a smoother finished surface. Tool it flush with the tile. Let caulk dry completely before installing covering materials.
  • Skim coat with mortar: For very uneven tile surfaces, skim coating the entire backsplash with mortar or thinset feathered out smooth can help hide irregularities. Allow to fully cure per product directions before covering.

Proper prep allows you to adhere new tiles, panels, or other finishes securely to the existing backsplash. It also minimizes the old tile pattern or grout lines showing through the new covering material.

Covering with New Tile

Installing a new tile layer right over your existing backsplash is a great way to change the color, style, or texture. Thinset mortar adheres the new tile, along with these tips:

Materials Needed

  • Tile that complements your kitchen decor
  • Thinset mortar or mastic adhesive
  • Trowel with notched edge for spreading adhesive
  • Grout and sealing products
  • Tile cutting tools

Steps to Follow

  1. Clean and prep the surface as discussed in the previous section. Provide an absolutely clean surface for the new tile to bond to.
  2. Determine the tile layout and use painter’s tape to mark guides if needed to keep tile lines straight and level.
  3. Mix thinset mortar following package directions. Apply it to the backsplash using a notched trowel held at a 45-degree angle to scratch it into the old tile surface.
  4. Press tiles firmly into the mortar, using spacers between them for consistent grout line width. Work in small sections.
  5. Let the mortar cure fully – usually 24 hours. Remove spacers and apply grout using a rubber grout float. Buff off haze after it dries.
  6. Finish with a penetrating sealant to protect grout and make tile easier to clean. Use an epoxy grout sealer for extra moisture protection around a sink or stove.

With proper thinset mortar and prep, new tile can cover old tile successfully. The process is essentially the same as tiling a brand new backsplash. Take care to keep tile lines even and get full mortar coverage so the tile bonds well.

Installing Metal Backsplash Panels

Metal backsplash panels offer a sleek, contemporary look in materials like stainless steel, copper, or tin. Many styles snap together easily with interlocking edges, providing a quick update.

Benefits of Metal Panels

  • Modern style works with many decors
  • Affordable and easy DIY project
  • Interlocking panels for quick installation
  • Variety of metal finishes and colors
  • Durable and moisture-resistant

Tips for Installation

  • Thoroughly clean and dry the existing backsplash
  • Apply adhesive panel tape or construction adhesive to the backsplash
  • Measure space and cut panels allowing for gaps if needed
  • Lock panels together following manufacturer instructions
  • Use silicone caulk to seal edges and around fixtures

Metal panels install right over existing tile or drywall. Adhesive felt tape on the panels or construction adhesive applied to the wall surface holds them firmly in place. Cut panels precisely with tin snips for professional results.

Applying New Wallpaper

Wallpaper offers tons of patterns and colors to upgrade a tired backsplash. Self-adhesive, peel-and-stick papers make installation easy. Standard wallpaper works too but requires a bit more skill.

Materials Needed

  • Wallpaper (peel-and-stick or standard roll)
  • Wallpaper smoothing tool or squeegee
  • Utility knife and straightedge
  • Wallpaper primer
  • Clear polyurethane (for standard paper)

Installation Process

  1. Clean and sand the tile to prep as discussed earlier. Apply wallpaper primer to seal the surface.
  2. For peel-and-stick paper, cut pieces to size, peel off backing, press into place, and smooth carefully.
  3. For standard paper, apply adhesive using a roller, fold paper inward, position on wall, smooth out bubbles and wrinkles. Trim excess.
  4. Once wallpaper is up, apply 1-2 coats of clear polyurethane with a brush or roller to protect the paper from moisture and grease spatters.

With some diligent surface prep and care during application, wallpaper can conceal an outdated tile backsplash for a new look. Use high-quality primer and polyurethane for durability.

Installing Beadboard Paneling

Beadboard paneling has a timeless cottage charm. The characteristic lapped boards with decorative grooves are an easy DIY installation.

Benefits of Beadboard

  • Classic and rustic appeal
  • Plywood sheets for simple install
  • Many widths and finishes available
  • Affordable way to refresh backsplash
  • Can be painted any color

Installation Tips

  • Use moisture-resistant plywood beadboard sheets at home centers
  • Cut panels to fit with circular saw
  • Apply construction adhesive to back and position
  • Nail boards in place with finishing nails every 12 inches
  • Patch nail holes with wood filler; sand smooth
  • Prime and paint boards your desired color

Beadboard can be oriented vertically or horizontally on the backsplash. Trim out edges and ends with 1×2 furring strips for a built-in look. Add molding at the top or base of the beadboard for decorative detail.

Important Considerations

  • Test new materials in an inconspicuous spot first to ensure proper adhesion and appearance over your existing tile.
  • Remove any accessories, soap dispensers, etc before installing new backsplash covering. Fill any holes or effects leftover with caulk.
  • Expect covering materials to add some thickness over original tile and adjust any trim or edges that butt against backsplash accordingly.
  • Take time to properly clean and prep the tile surface for best results. Rushed prep can result in covering materials failing down the road.
  • Wear safety gear like gloves, goggles, and a mask when prepping tile or cutting materials to install. Follow all manufacturer safety guidelines.
  • Dispose of old tile or construction debris properly. Many materials may be recycled rather than sent to the landfill.

With careful planning and preparation, you can successfully cover up old or dated kitchen backsplash tile with beautiful new finishes. Take your time to assess the existing tile and set up the surface optimally for your selected covering material. Then apply wallpaper, beadboard, metal panels or tile overlays to refresh your kitchen affordably.

Frequently Asked Questions about Covering Tile Backsplash

Covering up old or outdated tile backsplash offers an affordable kitchen refresh. Here are answers to common questions about the process:

Can I install new tile over existing tile backsplash?

Yes, you can install new tile over the old as long as the original tile is in good condition and firmly attached to the wall. Thinset mortar adheres the new tile. Proper surface cleaning and prep are vital for success.

What about moisture issues from the old tile?

Look for dark grout lines, mold, or loose, hollow-sounding tiles which indicate moisture is getting behind the tile. These moisture issues need to be fully addressed before covering old tile.

Do I have to remove the old backsplash completely?

Usually not, unless tiles are very deteriorated or you want to change the size/layout. Cleaning, sanding, and using bonding primers allow most materials to be installed right over old tile.

How do I prep glossy ceramic or porcelain tile to cover it?

Glossy tile glaze needs to be scuffed up using sandpaper and wiped clean. Etching solutions can also help materials bond to very smooth tiles. Always follow product instructions carefully.

Should I fill in the grout lines before covering backsplash?

For thin coverings like wallpaper or panels, filling wide grout lines helps provide a smooth finished surface. Use sanded caulk and tool it flush with the existing tile.

Can I install beadboard, shiplap or similar wood over tile?

Yes, these wood panels can adhere right over the tile with construction adhesive and finish nails. Just ensure the tile is solidly attached and moisture issues are addressed first.

What about using backsplash tile sticker decals?

Sticker tile decals can be an option but may appear temporary. Ensure you thoroughly clean and prep the surface so the decals adhere well long-term without peeling or bubbling.

Does wallpaper backsplash stand up to kitchen grease and moisture?

Using peel-and-stick papers along with wallpaper primer and polyurethane sealer help paper hold up well. Avoid paper behind the stove or sink where it will get direct exposure.

How are metal backsplash panels installed?

Metal panels use adhesive tape or silicone construction adhesive to adhere to the wall. Interlocking edges click together between panels. Seal edges well with caulk for moisture resistance.


Upgrading kitchen backsplash tile without removing or replacing it entirely is very achievable. With proper planning, surface preparation, and installation of quality materials, your new backsplash can conceal existing tile and provide a fresh look. Carefully assess the current backsplash condition and address any issues to ensure covering materials adhere well long term. Then choose peel-and-stick wallpaper, beadboard, metal panels or new tile overlays to easily transform the heart of your kitchen.