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Can You Tile over Tile? How?

tile over tile 1

Thinking about re-tiling your floor but dreading the thought of removing the old tiles first? The big question: Is it feasible to simply layer new tiles over the old ones?

Whenever renovations come into play, this query often pops up. After all, if there’s already a sea of tiles laid out, is it imperative to dive in and start from scratch?

More often than not, a fresh start is your best bet. This guarantees your tiles will look fantastic and last longer, in both form and function. But, on rare occasions, laying new tiles over the existing ones might just work.

We also have the articles about Tile Installation: Depth Guide to Installing Ceramic Tile on Walls and How to Install Roof Tiles.

Table of Contents

Why Is Tiling over Tile Not a Good Idea?

Imperfect Grip on Old Tiles

Tiles already in place don’t offer the ideal foundation for the new ones. The adhesive’s bond with the tile is pivotal for a lasting tiling job. A leveled wall or base ensures that adhesive uniformly connects to the tile’s underside.

However, with irregularities, like the texture from a zellige-style tile or dips from old grout lines, the adhesive struggles to bond effectively with new tiles. This compromises the integrity, leading to potential tile lifting post-installation or even water seeping in, resulting in damage and decay.

grips on tiles

Adhesive Limitations with Tiles

Not every adhesive is designed to bind tile to tile. A lot of thinsets and tile mortars are formulated for pairing with a backerboard or substrate and the underside of a tile. But when it comes to the surfaces of glazed ceramic or polished glass tiles, these adhesives might falter.

While such tiles come with special backings for optimal grip at the base, it doesn’t automatically qualify them as prime candidates for layering additional tiles.

Height and Weight Issues

Adding another layer of tiles isn’t just an aesthetic choice—it affects the structure too. Wall tiles are usually lightweight, designed to stick to plaster or drywall without strain. Doubling tiles doubles the weight, which could harm the wall.

For floors, there’s a practical side. Tiles need clearance for doors, appliances, and furniture. An extra tile layer can alter this balance, possibly leading to sticking doors or misfitting appliances.

The Perils of Gaps or Pores in Tiling

Laying tiles might seem straightforward, but the surface beneath can make or break the outcome. Ideal surfaces are clean and smooth. Even tiny imperfections like dust, debris, or minor gaps can become problematic. These flaws can allow moisture to seep in, potentially causing tiles to move or even crack post-installation.

Gaps or Pores in Tiling

It’s not just about appearance; it’s the longevity of your tiling work at stake. A single oversight can lead to costly repairs and rework. So, before diving in, ensure your surface is pristine. Sometimes, starting fresh by removing the old tiles is more than just beneficial—it’s a therapeutic process. So, gear up, and let the tile demolition begin!

When and How Can You Tile over Tile?

Certain situations allow for the removal of old tiles, or even the entire backerboard, to initiate a fresh start. While seeking advice from a contractor or builder for a durable, code-compliant installation is advisable, here are some pointers to determine if tiling over existing tiles is a feasible option.

Step 1: Evaluate the Current Tile Situation

Before diving into a tile-over-tile project, thoroughly inspect the existing layer. Look for surface inconsistencies that could become bigger issues later.

Grout discoloration or mildew often indicates water absorption problems, hinting at potential damage underneath. If your base tiles have any such problems or weren’t installed right, your new tiles might not sit perfectly. In such cases, it’s wiser to start anew rather than layering over the old.

Step 2: Prepping the Base for New Tiles

A flawless finish requires a smooth base. Even out any protruding grout using a sander and reaffix any loose tiles with adhesive. After sizing and cutting your new tiles to fit, ensure the base is pristine. Clean it with degreasing soap and let it dry. Once dry, use painter’s tape to mark off your work area and lay down protective plastic sheets on adjacent surfaces.

Use a level to ensure your base tile is as flat of a surface as possible
Use a level to make sure your starting tile is as flat as possible

Step 3: Setting the Foundation for New Tiles

It’s essential to pick the right adhesive for the job. Thin-set adhesive, often called thin-set mortar, is ideal for moisture-prone areas like bathrooms. In contrast, mastic adhesive suits drier places like kitchens. Begin by scooping a small amount of your selected adhesive with a trowel and spread it over a few feet of tiles.

Don’t rush—cover small sections at a time to ensure the adhesive remains workable. Then, use the toothed edge of your trowel to create grooves in the adhesive, enhancing its drying and bonding capabilities.

Step 4: Laying Tiles with Precision

Start laying tiles on the freshly grooved adhesive, pressing them firmly. Continue this process, alternating between applying adhesive, scoring, and setting tiles, until your area is fully covered.

Quick Tip: For a quicker approach, apply adhesive to your new tiles directly. This is ideal for when the base tile is pristine, and you’re seeking a short-term solution before a more thorough renovation.

Step 5: Secure and Seal Your Work

Grouting is crucial, irrespective of your adhesive choice. It seals the gaps between tiles, shielding against moisture that can sneak into the seams. To speed things up, opt for premixed grout. If you’re going the DIY route, ensure the grout applicator tip is narrow enough for the spaces you’re filling. This helps avoid moisture ingress, potential water damage, and unseen mildew growth.

seal your tile

Step 6: Revel in Your Achievement!

Kudos on reaching the finish line! You’ve successfully navigated the intricacies of tiling over tile. Take a moment to admire your handiwork. As you bask in the glow of your accomplishment, remember: if you’re considering heavier tiles over existing ones, ensure the foundation underneath is solid concrete. This will prevent any unwanted structural hiccups down the road. For now, relax and let your revamped space do the talking!

Key Points

  • Tiling over existing tiles offers a cost-effective and time-efficient renovation solution, provided the underlying floor is in good condition.
  • Conduct a thorough examination of the surface, checking for signs of mildew, irregular tiles, or misaligned placements. Ensure the base can bear the weight of an additional tile layer.

  • A significant concern, the elevated floor height, can be addressed by accurately measuring and adjusting door and furniture bases accordingly.

  • With meticulous measurements, a thorough evaluation of your current flooring, and fundamental DIY skills, overlaying tiles shouldn’t pose any challenges.

FAQs

What tools and materials do I need for this project?

Tools:

  1. Trowel
  2. Tile Cutter
  3. Grout Float
  4. Level
  5. Sponge
  6. Sander
  7. Tile Spacers
  8. Notched Trowel
  9. Measuring Tape
  10. Pencil

Materials:

  1. Thin-Set Adhesive or Mastic
  2. New Tiles
  3. Grout
  4. Painter’s Tape
  5. Plastic Sheets
  6. Degreasing Soap
  7. Tile Primer
  8. Tile Sealer
  9. Tile Nippers
  10. Safety Gear (Gloves, Goggles)

How can I assess if my existing tiles are suitable for tiling over?

Carefully inspect the existing tiles for cracks, chips, or looseness. These issues can compromise the new tile’s stability. Additionally, ensure the surface is clean and free from dust, grease, or any mold/mildew growth. Level any uneven tiles or grout lines to create a smooth foundation for the new tiles. If the existing tiles show signs of significant damage or the surface is severely uneven, it’s advisable to remove them before tiling over.

Can I tile over tile on both walls and floors?

Yes, you can tile over existing tiles on both walls and floors. However, consider the specific requirements for each surface.

For walls, ensure that the existing tiles are clean and firmly adhered.  For floors, in addition to the adhesive, account for the added thickness when planning for doors, appliances, and furniture clearance. This will help you avoid any practical challenges after tiling.

Are there specific types of tiles that are better for tiling over?

Tiles with a smooth and clean surface, such as ceramic or porcelain tiles, tend to provide a more suitable base for tiling over. These tiles allow for better adhesion of the new tiles and minimize the risk of irregularities. On the other hand, tiles with rough or heavily textured surfaces can pose challenges, as the new tiles might not bond securely, resulting in potential lifting or shifting over time.

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