How to Put Backsplash Over Tile

Installing a new backsplash is a great way to update the look of your kitchen or bathroom. If you already have existing tile that is in good shape, you may want to install the new backsplash right over the old tile. This can save you time and trouble instead of having to rip out and replace the whole thing. Putting a backsplash over existing tile can be a DIY project if you have basic tiling skills. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to put backsplash over tile.

Assess the Existing Tile

The first step is to take a close look at the tile you will be installing the new backsplash over. Make sure the existing tile is in good shape with no cracks, damages or loose tiles. If the existing tile is damaged, you will need to remove it before installing the new backsplash.

Consider the following when inspecting the existing tile:

  • Cracks or chips – Any cracked or chipped tiles need to be removed and replaced. Cracks will eventually spread if not addressed.
  • Loose tiles – Check all existing tiles to make sure they are completely stuck down. Tap on each one to identify any hollow or loose areas. Remove any loose tiles.
  • Cleanliness – The tile must be free from any dirt, grease or grime that could prevent adhesion. Clean thoroughly if needed.
  • Level surface – Use a level tool to check for any uneven tiles. The new backsplash will only be as level as the existing tile. Address any problem areas.
  • Grout lines – Make sure grout lines between existing tiles are clean and even. Re-grout if necessary.

If the existing tile is in generally good shape, solid and clean, you can move forward with the new backsplash installation.

Prepare the Tile Surface

Once you have determined the existing tile is suitable for installing over, the next step is to properly prepare the surface. This gives the new backsplash maximum adhesion.

Here are the key steps for preparing the existing tile surface:

  • Deep clean – Use a degreaser and scrub brush to deeply clean all existing tile and grout lines. Rinse thoroughly.
  • Sand down – Lightly sand over the existing tile using 100-150 grit sandpaper. This helps rough up the smooth surface for better adhesion.
  • Wipe clean – Wipe down the sanded tile using a damp cloth or sponge to remove all dust and debris. Allow to fully dry.
  • Apply adhesive primer – Use an all-purpose primer designed for tile and stone. This provides an optimal bonding surface. Apply an even coat and let dry completely.

Proper prep of the existing tile is vital for the backsplash installation success. Don’t skip any steps in the process.

Select Your New Backsplash Tile

Once your surface is prepped and ready, it’s time to choose the perfect backsplash tile. Consider the following criteria when selecting your tile:

  • Style – Select a tile shape and pattern that fits your design vision. Subway tile, mosaics, large format and ledgestone are popular options.
  • Material – Ceramic and porcelain are common backsplash choices. Natural stone like travertine or marble can also be nice. Glass and metal tiles add flare.
  • Color – Choose a color that coordinates with your cabinets, countertops, floors and wall paint. Neutrals or bold colors can both work well.
  • Finish – Matte, glossy or textured tile finishes impact the overall look. Make sure to view finishes in person before purchase.
  • Cost – Backsplash tile can range dramatically in pricing. Set a budget and stick with tiles you can afford.

Be sure to purchase enough to cover the entire installation area plus extras to allow for cuts and possible breakage.

Gather Your Backsplash Installation Supplies

Installing a backsplash over existing tile requires just a few essential supplies. Be sure you have all the tools and materials on hand before starting:

Tools Needed

  • Tile cutter – For cutting tile to fit around outlets, corners, etc.
  • Wheel nipper – Helps nip off small edges of cut tile pieces.
  • Tile spacers – Keeps consistent grout lines between new tiles.
  • Trowel – For spreading tile adhesive onto the surface.
  • Grouting float – To apply and smooth the grout.
  • Sponge – For grout clean up.
  • Safety gear – Gloves, dust mask, knee pads, eye protection.

Materials Needed

  • Backsplash tile – Your selected field tiles and accent tiles.
  • Thinset mortar – For applying tiles to the surface. White or gray.
  • Grout – Stain resistant epoxy grout recommended. Matches tile color.
  • Grout sealer – Protects grout from stains once installed.
  • Backerboard – If existing tile is over drywall.
  • Adhesive primer – If needed based on surface prep.

Check that you have all required backsplash installation materials before starting.

Prepare the Work Area

The work area should be prepped and protected prior to installing the new backsplash tile. Follow these tips:

  • Clear counters and remove anything on walls within the backsplash area.
  • Cover countertops with rosin paper or plastic sheeting to protect from drips.
  • Have a clean bucket of water and sponges for cleaning as you go.
  • Cover floor with drop cloth to catch fallen tiles and debris.
  • Turn off all appliances and outlets within the workspace.
  • Have all your tools, tiles and materials organized and ready to go.

A safe and prepared work area will make the installation process go smoothly.

Install the New Backsplash Tile

Once your supplies are gathered and the workspace is prepped, it’s go time for installing the new backsplash tile. Follow this step-by-step process:

Step 1: Apply the Mortar

  • Use a notched trowel held at a 45 degree angle to apply a thin coat of thinset mortar to the surface.
  • Only cover a small work area at one time to prevent thinset from drying out.
  • Press tiles firmly into the mortar, using spacers between tiles for consistent spacing.

Step 2: Set the Tiles

  • Working in rows, set your field tiles first in an even grid pattern.
  • Cut border and accent tiles as needed using a tile cutter.
  • As you set tiles, use a rubber mallet to lightly tap and adhere them in the thinset.
  • Check tiles for level and use tile spacers to maintain even grout line spacing.

Step 3: Let Mortar Cure

  • Allow thinset mortar to fully cure per manufacturer instructions, usually 24-48 hours.
  • Keep area clean and avoid walking on tiles during the curing period.
  • Cured thinset will appear hazy white across the entire backsplash area.

Step 4: Apply the Grout

  • Apply grout over the entire surface using a rubber grout float working in small sections.
  • Work at an angle, forcing grout deeply into grout lines. Remove excess.
  • Wipe diagonally across tiles with a damp sponge to smooth and clean grout.
  • Allow grout to partially cure per manufacturer instructions before final cleaning.

Step 5: Seal the Grout

  • Once grout has cured, apply grout sealer evenly over the entire surface with a small paintbrush.
  • Allow sealer to penetrate grout lines and dry completely.
  • Buff surface with a clean cloth to remove any remaining haze once dry.

Once complete, your new backsplash installed over existing tile is ready to enjoy! Be sure to caulk all edges with mildew-resistant silicone.

Tips for Backsplash Installation Success

Installing a backsplash over tile has its challenges but can absolutely be DIYed with proper prep and patience. Here are some top tips:

  • Take your time cutting any intricate tile pieces to avoid cracking or breaking tiles.
  • Make sure to use matching grout color to your tiles for a seamless look.
  • Pre-seal porous natural stone tiles before installation to avoid grout staining the tile surface.
  • Allow adequate drying and curing times for thinset, grout and sealers for best results.
  • Carefully remove existing wall-mounted items like towel bars before tiling around them. Fill any holes.
  • Start tiling in the center and work outward for the most evenly spaced layout.
  • Clean up spills, splatters and excess grout promptly before it dries using a damp sponge.
  • Use painters tape along wall edges for clean installed lines. Remove tape before grouting.

With patience and proper technique, your new backsplash installed over tile can look fantastic and add real value.

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing Backsplash Over Tile

Many homeowners have additional questions when it comes to installing a new backsplash over existing tile. Here are answers to some of the most common questions:

Can I put a backsplash directly over painted drywall?

No, tile should never be placed directly onto drywall alone. Fiber cement backerboard must be installed over drywall first to provide a waterproof, stable surface for the tile.

What about existing backsplash – should it be removed first?

In most cases it is fine to tile over an existing backsplash as long as the tiles are solid and well adhered. Be sure to roughen and clean the surface first.

How do I prep glossy existing tile for installing a backsplash over it?

Lightly sanding followed by a thorough cleaning using an ammonia based cleaner will prep a glossy tile surface for maximum adhesion.

Should I use white or gray thinset mortar when tiling over existing tile?

This depends on the color of your grout. Use white thinset for white grout. Use gray thinset for darker grout colors to prevent show through.

Can I use regular sanded grout for a backsplash installation?

It is recommended to use non-sanded grout for backsplash installations. Sanded grout can scratch glossy tile and is hard to work with for thin grout lines.

Is it okay to get the tiles wet when cleaning grout off the surface?

Yes, you need to thoroughly clean and rinse the tiles when wiping off excess grout. Just don’t oversaturate the area when cleaning.

How long should I wait to use the backsplash after installing?

It is best to avoid direct contact with the backsplash for at least 72 hours after installation to allow all materials to fully dry and cure first.


Installing a backsplash over existing tile can upgrade the whole look of your kitchen or bathroom. With the right prep and materials, this is a DIY friendly project that can completely transform the space. Be sure to properly assess the existing tile, prep the surface, allow adequate drying times, and seamlessly grout and seal the new backsplash. Pay close attention to all product instructions. Ask a tile professional if you have any concerns. With some patience and care, you can achieve a beautiful new backsplash installation over your existing tile.

How to Put Backsplash Over Tile


Installing a backsplash is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to update the look of a kitchen or bathroom. If your existing walls are tiled, you may be wondering if it’s possible to install a backsplash right over your existing tile. The answer is yes—you can absolutely put a backsplash over existing tile!

By tiling over the existing backsplash instead of removing it, you can save yourself a ton of time and trouble. However, there are some important steps to follow in order for the installation to be successful. In this article, we will cover everything you need to know in order to put a backsplash over tile.

Assess the Existing Tile

The first step is to thoroughly examine the existing tile backsplash and make sure it will be suitable for tiling over. Check for any of the following issues:

  • Cracked, damaged, or missing tiles
  • Loose tiles that are detached from the wall
  • Tiles that are not flat and level
  • Dirty grout lines
  • Grease, grime, or soap scum on the tiles

Any damaged, uneven, or dirty tiles need to be repaired or cleaned before moving forward. If the existing tile is generally in good shape, you can proceed.

Prepare the Tile Surface

To ensure the new backsplash bonds properly, the existing tile surface needs to be prepared:

  • Clean tiles and grout thoroughly with a degreasing cleaner. Rinse well.
  • Sand tiles lightly with 100-grit sandpaper to roughen the surface.
  • Wipe away all dust with a damp sponge. Let the surface dry completely.
  • Apply a primer meant for tile to further prepare the surface.

This process helps the new thinset mortar adhere tightly.

Gather Supplies

You will need the following supplies for the project:

  • Backsplash tiles and tile adhesive
  • Notched trowel, grout float, and grout sponge
  • Tile spacers and silicone caulk
  • Grout and grout sealer
  • Safety gear: gloves, goggles, knee pads

Ensure you have all necessary items before starting.

Set the New Tile

Once prepped, you can move onto setting the new backsplash tile:

  • Apply a thin layer of tile adhesive using the notched trowel. Just cover a small area at a time.
  • Firmly press tiles into the adhesive using spacers to maintain even grout lines.
  • Cut any border tiles as needed using a tile cutter.
  • Allow the tile adhesive to fully cure for 24-48 hours.

Carefully installing the tiles is key for proper adhesion.

Apply Grout and Seal

After the prescribed cure time has passed:

  • Apply grout over the tiles using a rubber grout float. Let cure slightly.
  • Clean excess grout with a damp sponge in circular motions.
  • Apply grout sealer and buff off any haze once dry for a protected finish.

Sealing the grout will prevent staining and damage.

And that’s it! Properly prepping the existing tile and taking your time with application are the keys to success. With the right techniques, your new backsplash over tile can look fantastic.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if my existing tile has gaps or uneven grout lines?

You will need to regrout the existing tile first to create an even surface for tiling over. Remove any old grout, clean the grout lines, apply new grout, and let cure completely.

Should I sand the tiles smooth again after sanding?

No, the roughed up texture left by sanding helps the adhesive bond properly. Just wipe away all dust before applying the new tile.

Can I apply tile adhesive directly over painted drywall?

Never apply tile over drywall alone. You must first install cement backerboard over the drywall to create a waterproof surface for tiling.

How long should I wait before using my new backsplash?

It’s best to avoid use for at least 72 hours after installation to allow all adhesive, grout, and sealers to fully cure first.

What’s the best way to cut tiles for outlet holes and corners?

Use a rotary tool with a tile cutting attachment. Take your time for clean cuts. Finish cuts with a file if needed.


Installing a backsplash over existing tile can give your kitchen or bathroom a brand new look while saving time and money. With proper prep and care taken during application, you can end up with a beautiful, seamless finish. Be sure to address any underlying issues first, thoroughly clean and rough up the tile, apply with care, and let all materials fully cure.

How to Put Backsplash Over Tile

Putting a new backsplash over existing tile can be a great way to update the look of your kitchen or bathroom without removing the existing tile. With proper preparation and installation, you can achieve a seamless finish. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to put backsplash over tile:

Assess the Existing Tile

Before installing over existing tile, carefully inspect it to ensure it is in good condition. Check for:

  • Cracks or damage – Damaged tiles must be removed and replaced.
  • Loose tiles – All tiles must be securely adhered. Re-attach any loose tiles.
  • Cleanliness – Tile must be clean and grease-free for proper adhesion.
  • Flat surface – Address any uneven tile with filler before installing over.

If the existing tile is generally in good shape, you can move forward.

Prepare the Tile Surface

Proper surface preparation is crucial for the new backsplash to adhere correctly.

  • Clean thoroughly using a degreasing cleaner to remove any dirt or residue.
  • Lightly sand the tile and grout using 100 grit sandpaper to roughen it up.
  • Wipe away all debris and dust with a damp cloth. Let the surface fully dry.
  • Apply a primer meant for tile and stone to ready it for bonding.

This provides the right surface texture and chemistry for the new thinset mortar to stick to.

Gather Your Materials

You will need the following supplies:

  • Backsplash tiles
  • Thinset mortar
  • Notched trowel
  • Grout and grout sealer
  • Tile spacers, grout float, sponges
  • Safety gear – gloves, goggles, knee pads

Make sure you have everything gathered and ready before installation day.

Install the New Tile

Follow these steps for proper installation:

  • Apply a thin layer of thinset mortar with the notched trowel. Just cover a small area at one time.
  • Firmly press tiles into the mortar using spacers to maintain consistent grout line spacing.
  • Cut border and accent tiles as needed with a tile cutter. Use nibblers for small edges.
  • Allow the thinset to fully cure for 24-48 hours before grouting.