Can You Install Tile Over Existing Tile?

Can You Install Tile Over Existing Tile?

Tile is a beautiful addition to any home. It offers a high-end, durable finish with a myriad of versatile applications for your flooring, in the shower, for use as a backsplash, etc. While it can last throughout the years with proper care, there may come a time when you want to update the design with new colors, patterns, etc. This leads to a common question: Can I tile over existing tile? 

We put together this article to answer that question and provide an easy guide on the next steps to help you decide on how to best approach your tile project

Can I Tile Over My Existing Tile? 

The answer is, maybe! Whether placing new tile directly over your current tile would work for your needs or if removing the old tile first before you install new tile would be the better option depends on a few key factors. Many experts don't recommend tiling over existing tile. That's because tiling on a clean slate will give your new tiles longer life. 

Many variables need to be considered. For example: What is the current condition of the existing tile? Is it easy or tough to remove? Let's dive into the pros and cons! 

Why Shouldn't I Install New Tile Over Existing Tile? 

Maybe, you are doing a complete home renovation or just want to update the bathroom. Whatever the case might be, laying your new tile over the old may seem like the easiest, quickest, and cheapest way. 

However, a majority of the time, it can turn out to be the opposite. In most cases, taking the time to remove the old tile can save you time, energy, and money in the long run. 

Below are important things to consider in placing tile over current tile.

It is not the ideal surface  

Installing tile over existing tile doesn't provide a completely smooth surface for the new layer of tile. There is a chance that there will be gaps in the grout lines on the bottom layer that must be covered. The unevenness can affect the integrity of the top layer of tile and cause cracks, breaks, or water damage down the road. 

Not all adhesives are made for tiling over existing tile

Many tile bonding agents like thinset and mortar are not designed to bond to the top portion of glazed ceramic or polished glass tile. When you attempt to install new tile over existing tile with these special backer boards or substrates, the end result is that it will not make a firm grip and will not adhere properly. Since a tile is made to endure humidity and absorb the least amount of water possible, you will find that most adhesives won't work as well as you envisioned. 

Double the tiles equals added height and weight

Tiles need to be as thin and light as possible. When you tile over existing tiles, it also doubles up on its height and weight. When extra height is added to floor tiles, there might not be enough clearance between the tile and door openings, appliances, furniture, etc. 

The extra weight and height can cause issues like:

  • Not adhering to plaster or drywall 
  • Damage to walls
  • Fittings to jam or doors to stick 

It may cause gaps and pores after the new tile is installed

The base surface you tile over needs to be appropriately prepared for the best results. Pay special attention to ensure there are no gaps, dust, cracks, or other kinds of debris on the surface. These can potentially cause large pores in the tile which allow moisture to enter, creating an environment in which the tile can begin to shift or settle after installation is complete. It can also risk your newly installed tiles in becoming cracked or not sitting level on the surface. 

When Will Tiling Over Existing Tiles Work? 

First, you need to inspect your current tiles thoroughly. The instances in which you will be able to successfully tile over existing tile include the following conditions: 

  • Existing tiles must be smaller and thinner so the wall can endure the weight of the second layer of tile.
  • When the adhesive type is conducive to be absorbed by the tile.
  • When you can make a smooth aesthetic transition between types of flooring.
  • When the tiles are in good condition with no cracks, mold, or mildew and are not appearing to retain moisture.

How to Install Tile over Existing Tile 

If tiling over your existing tile is the best option for your project, there are a few steps you should follow for the best results. 

Get the surface ready for installation

As stated above, tiling over an uneven surface will leave a less than desirable outcome. Before beginning the project, be sure to smooth out dried grout using a sander and secure any loose tiles with fresh tile adhesive. 

Next, lay out your new tiles to see where you need to cut them to fit. Once all tile pieces are cut to size, move them to the side and scrub down the base layer with a degreasing soap. The surface will need to be completely dry before taping off and moving forward to the next steps. 

Work in stages to install new tile 

Since curing times may vary, it's better to work in sections. You'll want to set each tile before the bonding agent is too dry for it to do its job. Score the surface adhesive with the toothed edge of your trowel by drawing straight lines along the wet surface. These grooves aid in the drying and adhesion process.

Position the tile as you go

Set each tile atop the adhesive you've scored and firmly press it into place. Once in place, you can rotate through spreading adhesive, scoring, and laying tile until you've completely covered the space.

Seal off your work

The final step in your tile over tile installation is to be sure to apply grout in the grooves between the two tiles. This will protect the surface and seams from moisture that can lead to water damage and mildew growth. Check out our easy-to-follow guide if you’re looking how to grout tile correctly!

In Conclusion

Tiling over existing tile is possible if the current tile is in sound shape and provides an excellent base. When in doubt, we always recommend contacting a contractor for a professional opinion.