If your tiles are out of date and looking a little lacklustre, it can drain the atmosphere of your home. Most people dread retiling because it often means that you need to remove all the old tiles first. But this isn’t always the case. Instead of removing the old tiles, you can often update them by tiling over tiles. This essentially means laying a new layer of tiles over the old layer.
Don’t worry if you’re not sure how to go about tiling over old tiles, and we’re going to dive into a step by step process in this article. Then, if you’re not sure whether you want to tackle the project on your own, you can hire a professional tiler instead!
It’s also easy to plan out a budget for your tiling project with our handy tiling price guide. Learn about all the factors which could influence the cost of your tiling project.
Ceramic tile offers a durable high-end floor finish, and in many cases, it’s possible to install a tile new floor right over an old one. The condition of the existing tiles and the structural integrity of the floor joist system are important considerations when choosing to tear out the old tiles or to lay the new ones on top. Ironically, if the old floor is in good shape, you have a better chance of tiling over it successfully. Weigh the pros and cons carefully because there are benefits and detriments to both methods.
One of the most frequently asked questions during bathroom renovations is – Can you tile over existing bathroom floor tiles or wall tiles? – Well, technically, you can lay new tiles over existing tiles. However, this method of tiling highly depends on the condition of the existing tiles.
Tiling over tiles is a great way to update and modernise the design of any space without the expense and hassle of removing existing tiles.
Tiling over tiles is a much cheaper process than lifting existing tiles. It removes the need to hire specialist tools, machines or labour to remove existing tiles and adhesive.
However, while tiling over tiles is a great option to update the design of your space, it is not a solution for everyone.
Since you are renovating the floor tiles or wall tiles because they are worn out, damaged or out-dated, tiling over the existing tiles is generally not advisable. There are some conditions that exist that may prevent you from tiling over tiles. These include:
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If your old tiles are loose, drummy, lifting, uneven or damaged.
If your tiles are damaged or drummy, this means that any flooring or wall material placed on top of the existing tiles will have the same issues. Tiling over these inadequate tiles will just be covering the issues for a short period of time.
If the added height on top of the existing tiles impedes access or does not fit.
The height of new tiles on top of existing tiles can cause a height issue and possibly block doors or cupboards or result in a large step up from outside or into your wet areas. These issues can, however, be resolved by trimming doors, skirting and creating falls or ramps into areas that are of concern.
The adhesive for the new tiles may not stick as well to the existing tiles as concrete bedding because of the humidity, movement or condition of the existing floor or wall tiles.
Old Tile Removal
If the original floor contractor installed the floor correctly, the existing ceramic tiles could be a nightmare to remove. The thinset used to bed the tiles bonds with both the tiles and the underlayment. If you can’t scrape the hardened thin-set from the underlayment, the underlayment itself must be replaced. This requires sawing through grout joints and underlayment and prying both up together. The only way to find out if the thin-set or mortar is stubbornly bonded is to chisel away the grout around a single tile and break it out. If the thinset beneath is stuck to the underlayment, it might be simpler to fill in the spot where you removed the tile with thin-set and then install the new tile over the old.
Floor prep for tiling over old tiles involves grinding off high spots on the existing floor, removing loose tiles and filling voids with thin-set or floor-levelling compound. If the floor has numerous loose or missing tiles, it might be better to remove the old tiles because the weak bond beneath them could weaken the new tile floor. If you opt to remove the old tiles, scrape and grind away hardened thin-set to level the underlayment before laying the new tiles.
Ceramic tile floors are heavy, and two layers will place additional stress on a floor and the supporting structure beneath. If it’s a small area, like a bathroom, it might not make a big difference. If it’s a large floor, however, such as those found in expansive great rooms, the added weight could be detrimental. The only way to know for sure is to consult a structural engineer, who can examine the floor joist system to determine if it will safely support the additional weight.
Installing a new ceramic floor over an existing one raises the finished floor height anywhere from 3/8 inch to 1/2 inch. While this might not seem like a lot, it could affect the ease with which doors open and close, requiring door planning. If the new floor is adjacent to a lower existing floor, a 1/2-inch discrepancy could also create a tripping hazard.
Can I tile over old tiles?
The answer to this is simple: yes, but why would you? Tiling on top of old tiles means that any problems with the originals, such as becoming loose, will still be an issue with the new layer. At the same time, the extra thickness can also make it more difficult to install fixtures and fittings accurately. People worry about removing plaster from the wall when stripping old tiles, but re-skimming the plaster as a preparation for the new layer is part and parcel of achieving a good finish.
To determine if your floor or wall is a good candidate for retiling, you need to consider the state of the old tiles. Are they in relatively good shape or have they completely degraded over time? If the tiles are in good shape structurally and are mostly still intact, then your floor is an excellent candidate.
On the other hand, if your tiles are mostly chipped, broken, cracked or loose, you should remove them entirely. While it may seem counterintuitive to bother worrying about the old tiles when the goal is replacing them, the old layer is key to the project’s structural integrity.
No matter whether you are tiling over tiles on a floor or a wall, your new tiles will need a stable base. If the old tiles are in bad shape, the new tiles won’t adhere correctly. In the case of a floor, this could cause both layers of tiles to lift. If there are extensive chips and cracks, then the top layer of tiles might even weaken over time due to pressure from daily walking.
Why Should You Retile?
While the process might seem daunting, you shouldn’t avoid the retiling process. It is important to keep your tiles in top shape both for the sake of aesthetic and practicality. If you don’t tend to broken, chipped or uplifted tiles, it will not only be unsightly, but it could also lead to further damages later on.
For instance, if you leave a bathroom floor or bathroom walls, untended water damage could easily strike. Damaged tiles or tiles that are literally lifting off your floors or walls provide the perfect entry for water. Moisture and steam from your shower can easily creep behind these tiles. When this occurs, moisture will continue to build up threatening the plaster and dry lining which lies behind the tile. It could even lead to mould growth!
So, if you notice that your tiles are in need of repair, you should make this a top priority.
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Before you start
Special materials specifically designed for nontraditional surfaces are required when tiling over existing tiles.
If you are tiling over tiles that have a matt finish, then the best adhesive to use would be any non-slump, flexible tile adhesive that has a C2S2TE classification that can be installed in accordance with Australian Standard AS3958.1-2007.
If you are tiling over tiles that have a gloss finish, then the approach is just slightly different. Before installing the tiles, you will need to prime the existing surface of the tiles by using a specific tile primer that will need to be applied by a roller to the existing floor. Once the primer has dried, then a rubber-based modified adhesive can be applied.
It is critical that you properly inspect the condition of the existing bathroom floor tiles or bathroom wall tiles because they are the foundation of your new tiling job. Any tiling job needs to be properly sealed and bond with its base. If your existing bathroom tiles are well laid, there are no hollow gaps underneath or humidity issues, and then it should be okay to lay the new bathroom tiles.
To inspect and prepare the surface properly, you can check for cavities in the existing tiles by gently tapping on them with a rubber or wooden hammer to search for hollow sounds. These gaps or cavities are usually caused by the lack of adhesive between the existing tiles and the subflooring but can also be caused by movement in the surface.
Make sure that the floor tiles and wall tiles are levelled, any spots that are elevated should be ground down with a right angle grinder fixed with a masonry wheel.
Sand all the tiles with a belt or orbital sander to scratch out any surface glazes. This will create a rougher and more porous surface which will help the adhesive bond to the existing tiles.
Vacuum and clean the tiles with detergent and water to remove any grime, dirt, sealers and wax. Rinse the surface of the old tiles with clear water and let it dry.
After you have prepared the floor, all that is left is for you to glue your new tiles to the existing tiles in your bathroom floor and wall. Tilers recommend using a rubber based glue for this job. This will provide more flexibility as the ground, and existing tiles move slightly throughout the seasons.
Alternatives to tiling
Bathroom tiles are a popular choice for walls and floors and with good reason: They are hard-wearing, easy to clean and come in a range of colours, sizes, textures and shapes to match your décor perfectly.
However, you certainly don’t have to limit yourself to tiles when considering the type of wall and floor coverings you want in your bathroom.
If you’re searching for a more cost-effective alternative to tiles, and acrylic wall panel could the solution you’re looking for.
Designed to fit over tiles or almost any existing wall covering, wall panels can be quickly and easily cut to size and fitted in one go. This cuts down the time you’d require for tiling with no tricky grouting to contend with.
Shower wall panels
Available in a range of colours and designs, wall panels provide an almost seamless finish that is easy to clean. Plus, with no grout joins, there’s nowhere for mould to develop.
Check out the following ranges:
- Orchard Bathrooms acrylic wall panels
- Zeolite acrylic wall panels
- Multipanel acrylic wall panels
Tiles look great when used on bathroom floors, offering a solid surface that will easily withstand everything a busy bathroom has to throw at it. The only downside is the time it takes to fit and grout your tiles for a professional finish.
One neat alternative which could save you both time and money is vinyl flooring.
Krono Xonic vinyl flooring is a far cry from the lino style flooring you might imagine when thinking about vinyl. With a stunning range of wood effect finishes, they look every inch the elegant and beautiful floor, but the beauty is, you won’t need a professional to fit it. No messy grout or adhesives, lay each plank down and clip together.
Doing your tiling
Of course, we would always recommend hiring a fully qualified and experienced professional for anything to do with your bathroom. However, if you are competent at DIY, tiling is a job that you may want to attempt yourself.
Solved! Yes, You Can Tile Over Tile
Assess the existing tile.
Before you begin tiling over tile, conduct a thorough assessment of the base layer to pinpoint any surface irregularities, which can cause foundational problems down the road. Mildew and deep discolouration in the grout often signal an absorption issue–meaning that trapped water has damaged the grout and could thus rot the new tile from below. An absorption issue will fester and worsen when the tiles are covered up. Likewise, if the original tiles were not properly installed, the new overlaying tiles won’t lie flat or line up. If you do discover either of these issues, it’s better to start from scratch than to tile over the existing floor.
Prepare the surface for installation.
Tiling over an uneven surface will give you less-than-stellar results, so level out any globs of dried grout with a sander and secure loose tiles with fresh tile adhesive before beginning the project. Then, layout your new tiles and cut them to fit around the walls and fixtures, as necessary. Once all pieces of tile are cut to size, move them out of the way so that you can scrub down your base layer with a degreasing soap. Let the surface dry completely before you start taping off the edges of the project area with painter’s tape and laying out plastic sheets to protect surrounding surfaces.
Lay the groundwork for the new tile in stages.
Generally speaking, thin-set adhesive (also known as thin-set mortar) is great for setting tiles in areas subject to moisture, like bathrooms, while mastic adhesive is best for drier spaces, like kitchens. Scoop the adhesive of choice from its bucket with a trowel and apply a thin layer to a section of tiles only a few feet wide, for starters. Don’t attempt to cover a full floor or backsplash at once; since curing times may vary, you’ll want to set each tile before the bonding agent is too dry to do its job. Score the surface adhesive with the toothed edge of your trowel by drawing straight lines along the wet surface, as 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 these are in place, you can rotate through spreading adhesive, scoring, and laying tile until you’ve completely covered the space.
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Finally, seal off your work.
No matter what kind of adhesive you’ve used beneath the new layer of tiles, you’ll need to apply grout in the grooves between them. This step protects the entire surface from moisture creeping into the seams between each tile and leading to water damage or out-of-sight mildew growth. For the sake of speed, use premixed grout from the hardware store, and apply it quickly in a single round. Or you can choose to mix the grout yourself; be sure to use an application tube with an opening small enough to fit the troughs you’re filling.
So, in short, you can tile over tile as long as you’re working on a fairly sound surface. The surface of the existing tile should be free of mould and mildew, completely level (including grout), and without any warping or strangely-placed tiles that might otherwise interfere with a smooth new layer. Also, keep in mind that it’s best not to lay heavy new tile over existing tile floors unless the foundation beneath both is concrete. Otherwise, excess weight can cause structural issues. Now go forth and enjoy your new, easy-to-install tile surface!