How to Cover Tile Backsplash


Installing a beautiful backsplash is one of the most popular ways to upgrade any kitchen or bathroom. Backsplashes not only provide an attractive, easy-to-clean surface behind sinks, stoves, and countertops, but they can also add visual interest, color, and personality to the space.

However, over time, backsplashes can become damaged, dingy, or simply out of style. Replacing the entire backsplash can be expensive and time-consuming. A much easier and more budget-friendly solution is to simply cover the existing tile with a new material. This provides a fresh facelift and protects problem areas like grout lines without requiring a full tile replacement.

Covering a tile backsplash is a relatively easy weekend project for an intermediate DIYer. With the right materials, tools, and techniques, you can give your backsplash a makeover while avoiding the cost and mess of a full tile demolition. This article will walk through everything you need to know to successfully cover up an outdated or damaged tile backsplash.

Assessing the Existing Backsplash

Before starting any covering project, you need to assess the current condition of the backsplash tile. Check for any cracked, missing, or broken tiles that need to be replaced or repaired. Examine the grout lines for cracks or staining that indicate potential water damage behind the tile.

It’s also important to identify what type of tile material you are covering. Ceramic and porcelain tiles are the most common backsplash options. You may also have granite, marble, or natural stone tiles. Each material has different properties that can impact the covering process. For instance, natural stone tiles are very porous and would require a sealant before covering.

Thoroughly clean the entire surface and re-grout any problem areas. This provides a smooth, clean foundation for the new covering material to adhere to. Any damaged or missing tiles also need to be repaired.

Once you have a sound, prepped surface, take measurements of the backsplash area – length, height, angles, and anything that will impact installing the new covering. Having precise measurements is key for a smooth installation.

Choosing a Covering Material

There are several excellent options for covering existing backsplash tile:


New tile is the closest to a true replacement, offering unlimited choices for colors, textures, and patterns. Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tile can go right over the old backsplash. Use a quality tile adhesive and make sure the new tile does not overhang the counter or existing backsplash edges. Tile is more labor intensive, requiring precise angle cuts.

Mirror Tiles

For a glamorous look, mirrored tile covers provide beautiful shine and reflection. The adhesive sticks directly to the existing tile. Mirror tile easily brightens up any space.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel sheets give an ultra-modern, industrial vibe. You can install them in vertical or horizontal strips. Stainless needs strong adhesive and may require extra brackets for support. It’s also prone to showing water spots and fingerprints that require frequent cleaning.

Faux Tin Tiles

Faux tin tile panels provide a vintage flair. The lightweight material installs with construction adhesive and trim pieces to hide edges. This budget-friendly option comes in zinc, copper, brushed metal, and other colors.

Peel and Stick

Peel and stick backsplashes come in materials like acrylic, vinyl, and real wood veneers. Just peel off the backing paper and press onto the tile. Peel and stick panels are affordable and easy to install but not very durable for the long term.


Beadboard provides a timeless cottage look made from interlocking wood panels. You can paint or stain them to match your cabinets. Use panel adhesive and trim molding for a built-in look.

No matter what material you select, be sure it is moisture and heat resistant to handle the demands of a kitchen or bathroom backsplash.

Preparing the Surface

Once you have chosen a new backsplash covering, proper surface prep is crucial for it to adhere correctly. Follow these key steps:

  • Clean the tile thoroughly with an all-purpose cleaner or degreaser. Remove any soap residue, dirt, or oils.
  • Scrub all grout lines to remove any grime or staining. Re-grout if necessary.
  • Use painter’s tape to mask off the countertop edges and any adjacent surfaces.
  • If you have natural stone tile, apply a sealant as directed to prevent staining or water absorption.
  • Sand the tile if needed to smooth any bumps or high spots.
  • Wash the tile again to remove dust after sanding. Let it fully dry.
  • Apply painter’s tape perpendicular to grout lines to help bridge any divots or uneven areas.

Follow all specific surface prep directions provided for your covering product. Taking time to correctly prep saves headaches down the road.

How to Install the New Backsplash Covering

Once prepped, you are ready to install the new backsplash material following either the manufacturer instructions or these general guidelines:

Adhesive Backsplash Panels

For peel and stick, stainless steel, acrylic, or other adhesive backed coverings:

  • Measure panels and pre-cut them to size as needed using tin snips for metal or a utility knife and straight edge for acrylic.
  • Cut pieces to fit any outlet cutouts precisely.
  • Apply the panels in an order that avoids small pieces at edges and corners.
  • Peel off backing and press panels onto the tile. Smooth out any bubbles or ripples immediately.
  • Use a J-roller (or regular roller) to firmly adhere the whole panel, rolling across to push out air pockets.
  • If gaps show at seams or edges, use silicone caulk to fill and seal.


For new tile coverings:

  • Use a notched trowel to spread thinset mortar evenly across the backsplash area. Only cover sections immediately where tile will be set.
  • Cut tile pieces with a wet saw for any complex fitting. Use tile nippers for small curves or notches.
  • Press tiles into the thinset firmly, use spacers for consistent grout lines.
  • Let the thinset cure fully – 24 hours, before applying grout.
  • Mix grout and apply smoothly over all tile and joints. Wipe excess grout off tile faces with a sponge.
  • After grout cures, use a soft cloth to polish off any remaining haze on the tiles.

Wood Panels

For beadboard or other wood coverings:

  • Measure the backsplash area and cut planks to fit using a miter saw.
  • Apply panel adhesive to the back of planks, covering the entire surface evenly.
  • Press and hold planks on backsplash area for 30-60 seconds. Use finishing nails if needed.
  • Install trim molding at seams and perimeter edges using finish nails and wood glue.
  • Fill nail holes with wood filler; sand and finish planks with polyurethane.

Regardless of material, work systematically and use care not to overwork the adhesive. Follow all drying times to achieve the strongest bond. Step back periodically and examine for straight, level lines.

Finishing Touches

Once the new backsplash covering is fully installed, you can complete the facelift with these final touches:

  • Apply fresh caulk between the backsplash and countertop or walls. Smooth the bead with a fingertip for a clean finish.
  • Replace any outlets, switch plates, sconces, or other fixtures on the backsplash area.
  • Seal natural stone materials again for maximum protection.
  • Clean the new backsplash fully with appropriate cleaner – avoid abrasives.
  • Add an accent strip, decorative tiles, or trim as desired.
  • Touch up any paint, trim, or walls impacted during the installation process.
  • Finally, enjoy your fresh, new backsplash look!

With the right prep and materials, you can easily cover up outdated or damaged tile backsplashes. Just follow essential installation steps for a seamless facelift. Transform any kitchen or bath with stylish new backsplash covers that protect and beautify the space.

Frequently Asked Questions About Covering Tile Backsplash

Covering an outdated or damaged tile backsplash offers a simple and affordable alternative to replacing the entire backsplash. Here are answers to common questions about updating backsplashes this way:

How do you prepare a tile backsplash for covering?

Proper prep is crucial for successful backsplash covering. Thoroughly clean the tile, re-grout any failing grout, repair chips/cracks, apply sealant if needed, sand bumps, and use painter’s tape on edges. Follow all product-specific surface prep steps.

What is the easiest backsplash to install over tile?

Peel-and-stick panels or sheets provide the quickest update for covering tile backsplashes. They adhere directly to the tile surface after prepping. Stainless steel sheets are another very easy DIY install option.

Should you remove old backsplash before installing new?

Removing the old backsplash tile before covering is not mandatory. As long as the tile is properly prepped, new materials can be installed right over the existing tile in most cases.

How do you waterproof existing backsplash?

Apply a silicone-based sealant to natural stone tiles to waterproof and prevent staining/damage before covering. For manufactured tile, simply ensure grout lines are sound and re-grout if needed before installing the backsplash covering.

Can I install beadboard over existing ceramic tile?

Yes, adhesive-backed beadboard planks can be installed right over properly prepped tile. The planks easily adhere to the flat, hard surface of ceramic or porcelain tile. Use trim to hide any edges.

How do you attach metal backsplash to tile?

Use a premium waterproof adhesive designed for metal backsplashes. Apply an even coat across back of metal sheets. Maintain constant pressure while rolling sheets onto tile. Brackets provide extra support if needed.

Can you put backsplash tile over existing backsplash?

Tile can be installed over a well-prepped existing backsplash. Use thinset mortar rated for the weight and follow all proper tiling installation techniques. Extra care at grout lines is required for smooth, even tiling.

How do you update a backsplash on a budget?

Peel-and-stick panels, beadboard, or faux tin provide quick, affordable backsplash updates. Look for budget materials like plastic or vinyl instead of metal or real wood. Paint existing tile for lowest cost option.

What is the most waterproof backsplash?

Porcelain, stainless steel, and glass tile backsplashes provide maximum water and stain resistance. Use sealed natural stone or metallics for upscale waterproof backsplash options. Limit grout joints and re-seal annually.

Upgrading your backsplash doesn’t require remodeling the entire kitchen or bath. With smart planning and preparation, even inexperienced DIYers can cover over worn or outdated tiles quickly and affordably. Give your space a fresh new look with any of the excellent backsplash covering materials and techniques available today.


Covering existing tile provides a simple, affordable way to update any backsplash. With proper planning and preparation, homeowners can install new materials like tile, metal, or panels right over the old backsplash. Careful surface prep and using quality adhesives designed for backsplashes will ensure your new covering adheres smoothly and lasts beautifully.

In just a weekend, you can transform the look of your kitchen or bath with a stylish new backsplash covering. This easy facelift allows you to protect problem areas and introduce new colors, textures, and designs without the cost or mess of removing existing tile. Choose from an array of covering materials like tile, stainless steel, peel-and-stick panels, beadboard, and more. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions combined with the techniques outlined here for a flawless finished project. With a little time and effort, you can give your backsplash and your whole space an affordable makeover.