Can You Install Tile Over Tile?

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Can you install new tile directly over older, possibly faded or discolored tile? The short answer is yes, you can! The long answer, however, is that it can be a bit of a complicated and work-intensive process that only produces quality results if certain conditions are met. Read on to learn more about how to install fresh tile over existing tile without needing to tear out the old tile.

Will Tile-on-Tile Work in Your Space?

First of all, you need to inspect the existing tile to figure out if the space is a good candidate for tile on tile installation. The first thing that should be considered is the strength of the bond between the existing tile and the subflooring. This is very important, as the new tile will be bonded to the old tile and poor adhesion to the subflooring could result in a real disaster.

Check the whole floor for broken, shifted, or missing tiles. Also, check for tiles that have come loose from the subflooring. If the vast majority are in solid condition and well-adhered to the subflooring, you can always re-attach the few that have come loose due to damage or age. You can also remove them and fill the space with mortar. If there seems to be a proliferation of loose tiles, this could be an indication of an issue with the subflooring. Instead of tiling over the old tile, the older tile should be removed and the subflooring replaced if needed.

If the tiling is well-attached, the second thing you’ll need to do is take a lot of measurements. Even though it’s likely only 1/10 to 1/4 of an inch thick, that new layer of tile is going to impact how well doors and cabinets open. You’re going to need to make sure there is adequate clearance for the full path of the open and close swings for any doors or cabinets in the space you’re considering tiling. Add a bit of a buffer for the grout that will attach the new layer of tile, too. The flange of the toilet should be even with or just above where the new flooring falls. Provided that you have the space (or the ability and willingness to adjust any doors and transitions that need corrections to work with the extra height), you should be ready to get to planning.

The Basic Process of Tile-on-Tile Installation

As with any construction process, always measure twice and cut once. Make sure that you have exact measurements or outlines for pieces of tile that have to be trimmed to accommodate the toilet, bathtub, or the island in the kitchen. Once all the pieces that have to be cut or trimmed are ready, you should sweep and mop the existing tile to have a clean starting point.

You’ll want to purchase and then prepare some thin set mortar, which will be applied in a skim coat over the old tile and grout. You want an even, smooth application to provide a smooth base. Once it has dried, you will make a line that will mark your starting place, so that the tile application is even. Following the line, apply freshly mixed thin set mortar to the old tile, using a notched trowel. Spread the mortar with the flat side of the trowel, and then drag the trowel back over the smooth patch of mortar, leaving notches. Carefully place individual tiles onto the fresh mortar, twisting or pressing them to achieve a strong bond. Repeat over a small area, until you have covered the floor with the new tile. Allow the mortar to set at least 24 hours.

Next, you will mix the grout as instructed by the packaging and apply it using a grout float. Force grout into all the joins between tiles and then wipe off the excess with the flat side of the grout float like a squeegee. Follow this with a damp sponge, to ensure all grout is removed from the surface of the fresh tile. When the grout has partially set (appears hazy), wash any tile surfaces with grout with fresh water. Allow the grout to dry before buffing any areas that need it with a clean, dry towel.

How Much Work Is Tile-on-Tile Installation?

While many people do try to install tile, on fresh subflooring or over old tile, on their own, tile installation can be an exhausting, exacting, back-breaking process. Many homeowners lack the manual skill and patience to install tiling in a manner that appears professional and attractive. Tile projects, especially installation of new tile over older tile, are home repair projects that are often best left to the experts. If you want that perfect finish in your kitchen, bathroom, pool house, or other tiled space, your best bet is the work of those with countless hours of experience, not your own untried DIY skills.

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