For most tiling projects, you need to start from a fresh surface, so re-tiling your floor requires removing the old ones first, which is a challenging and time-consuming process. If your floor needs an update, you may have asked yourself, “Can you tile over tile and save time and effort?” The short answer is yes, it is possible, as long as your floor meets specific conditions such as no cracks or other damage. Use our tips to update your room’s tiling without undergoing a lengthy tile removal process.
Why Tile over Tile? The Pros and Cons
Tiling over tiles is an alternative to removing old tiling and starting over. However, this option comes with pros and cons.
Pros of tiling over tiles
The most significant advantage of tiling over tiles is the amount of time and effort you’ll save. Replacing a tiled floor is a lengthy project requiring you to remove the old tiles, clean the subfloor, install the new tiles, and, finally, prep and clean the freshly laid tiles. If you choose to tile over tile instead, you skip directly to installing the new tiles. Another benefit of tiling over tiles is its cost-effectiveness. You can easily purchase all the essential tools and complete a tile-over-tile job entirely by yourself. This tiling method is not only DIY-friendly but an excellent way to give your flooring a personal touch.
Cons of tiling over tiles
Not all floors are suitable for tiling over tiles. The old flooring must be even and in sufficiently good condition to support the new adhesive and tiles. Tiling over a well-worn or damaged floor creates additional complications, potentially resulting in costly repairs. Fortunately, you can conduct the floor assessment yourself with a set of simple tools. Tiling over tile increases the height of your floor. You must ensure the new tiles do not interfere with your doors and furniture like cupboard or appliance doors. If they do, tiling over tiles may not be an option. Tiling over tile also adds additional weight to your floor. Depending on the surface area you plan on tiling, the subfloor may be unable to support the extra weight of tiles and mortar, leading to structural damage and premature wear and tear.
Assess the Condition of Your Floor
Before starting your tile-over-tile project, it is vital to inspect your flooring and check the condition of your old tiles. Remove all furniture from the room so you have unobstructed access to every tile. Once your room is clear, follow these steps:
- Visually inspect every tile for signs of damage, such as splits or cracks.
- Check the grout between each tile for signs of mildew, discoloration, or degradation, which may indicate a moisture-retention issue.
- Use a wood or rubber tile-tapping mallet to conduct what professional tilers call the hammer test. Lightly tap each tile and carefully listen to the sound they make. If a tap produces a hollow sound, it means the tile is loose.
If more than 5% of your tiles are loose or broken or if you have a significant amount of moldy or discolored grout, you should not start a tile-over-tile project and instead consider a standard tile flooring replacement job.
Get the Right Tools for the Job
When you’re ready to start tiling over tile, here is the equipment you’ll need:
- Personal protective equipment (PPE): dust mask, safety glasses, knee pads, cut-resistant gloves
- 4-foot level
- Dry-cut angle grinder with a masonry blade
- Sander with a sandpaper disc (80-grit or 100-grit)
- Grouting tools: grout scraper, grout float, multiple grout sponges
- Trowels: notched trowel (Square-notch or U-notch), bucket trowel
- Thinset mortar powder
- Grout: either premixed or powdered to mix yourself
- Portable mixer
- Tile cutter: either a wet saw or snap cutter
- Accessories: tile leveling spacers, buckets (one for cleaning, one for mortar, and one for grout)
- Cleaning tools: water, mild detergent, vacuum, cheesecloth
- Shop vac if needed for cleaning up debris
Prep and Clean the Floor Before Starting
Preparing your floor before you start laying the new tiles is essential for two reasons: It ensures the tiles are as even as possible, and it significantly reduces the risk of mold and mildew developing under your new tile layer. Place the 4-foot level on your old tile flooring, taking note of any high spots. Then put on your PPE and use your angle grinder to remove excess tiling material until your floor is flat and even.
Most ceramic tiles are finished with a layer of glazing, which is intended to enhance the look of tile. However, the glaze layer is a poor surface for thinset adhesive, so you’ll need to remove it before continuing. Use a sander fitted with a sandpaper disc (80-grit or 100-grit) to deglaze your tiles, leaving a smooth, flat ceramic surface with no additional layers. If you’ve noticed any loose, discolored, or moldy grout, use a grout scraper to remove it. After you’ve prepared the floor, use your shop vac to remove as much dust and small debris as possible, and then clean it with water and detergent. Rinse the floor with water and let it dry.
Mix Your Thinset
Once your old floor has been prepared and cleaned, you can lay the new layer of tiles. Prepare your thinset mix by following these steps:
- Pour cold water into your bucket.
- Pour your thinset powder into the water.
- Mix using a handheld mixer at slow speed (300-500 RPM) for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Wait 10 minutes to allow the powder to absorb the moisture and thicken. This process is called slaking.
- Mix again for 3 to 5 minutes.
- Your thinset is now ready for application.
Make sure to apply your thinset quickly before it dries, and don’t make too much at once, as it may dry and harden inside your bucket before you can use all of it. If your bag features a recommended water-thinset ratio, follow it. Otherwise, add small quantities of water and thinset and experiment with your water-thinset mix until it reaches an optimal consistency. Your thinset has the right consistency when it is roughly equivalent to that of peanut butter, as it will be easy to work with but sufficiently sticky to adhere to your working surface. If your thinset doesn’t stick enough to your surface or trowel, it may be too dry. If your thinset looks runny or drips off your trowel’s notches, it is too wet and needs more thinset powder.
Apply Your Thinset and Set Your Tiles
Pour your thinset onto the old tiling with your bucket trowel, and then spread it over 3-4 sq ft at a time, using the flat part of your notched trowel. Comb the thinset with one of the notched edges in long, straight strokes. The grooves formed while combing should be relatively even; avoid swirling or using circular movements. Once the thinset is on your old tiling, apply your new tiles as you go, pressing down firmly on each tile to spread the adhesive onto the underside. Repeat the process as many times as necessary until all of them are in place.
As you progress, you may need to cut or reshape some tiles to match the edges and corners of your room. Use your tile saw or your snap cutter before applying your thinset. Ensure your tiles are correctly set with tile leveling spacers. It will be important to know how to use tile spacers, as you will need at least four spacers for each tile, one for each corner. The spacers ensure your tiles remain flat and even while your thinset dries and cures.Once you have covered your entire working surface with your new tiling, your thinset will need time to cure and dry before you can start grouting. Your new tiles must not be displaced, stepped on, or disturbed, to avoid misalignment.
The general rule is to wait at least 24 hours before reentering the room, during which your thinset will cure and dry. However, the actual time needed depends on multiple factors, including the ambient temperature, the amount of thinset applied, and the humidity level. If your room is relatively large or if the current weather is cold and humid, you may need to wait up to 48 hours.
Seal Your Tiles with Grout
After giving your thinset enough drying time, you can start sealing your new tiles with grout. You have two options to choose from: using premixed grout or mixing it yourself.
Premixed vs. home mixed grout
The fastest way to grout your tiles is to use premixed grout, as it’s immediately ready to use. All you need to do is to pour it into a bucket and get started. The main disadvantage of premixed grout is the cost; pound-per-pound, premixed is slightly more expensive than powdered. If you need to cover a large surface, mixing grout yourself is a more cost-effective solution, although it is more time-consuming. Like thinset mortar, mixing your own grout requires finding the proper grout powder and water ratio, which the manufacturer may not always provide. However, it lets you use your preferred ingredients and custom grout colors, which can be advantageous if you have a specific aesthetic in mind.
Grouting your tiles
Once your grout is prepared in a bucket and ready for application, you can start grouting your tiles. Scoop a small quantity of grout with the top side of your grout float, and then press it down between your tiles using the bottom side by holding your float at a roughly 45° angle. Work small areas at a time instead of trying to grout your entire floor at once. Repeat the process of scooping, applying, and pressing the grout down as many times as necessary to cover your new tile floor. Once you have grouted your entire floor, wait for 15 to 30 minutes for the grout to finish setting.
Cleaning and Finishing
Grouting tiles is messy, and your tiles will look dirty and smudged by the time you’re done. All that’s left to do is clean your tiles, and your new floor will be ready to use.Grout cleaning can be divided into three stages: two passes of wiping the excess grout with grout sponges, and then a final clean-up.
Removing the excess grout
Get a bucket of warm water and soak one of your grout sponges in it, and then divide your flooring into sections. Use the grout sponge to wipe any smudges and excesses on your tiles or outside of your grout lines. Rinse and re-soak your sponge as often as you need to avoid displacing the excess grout back onto your tiles, and work your way through each tile of your designated section. Switch to a new, unused sponge before starting a new floor section, and then repeat until you’ve wiped your entire floor. After wiping your floor, let it sit undisturbed for three hours, and then repeat the wiping process once more until your entire floor has been wiped twice. Then leave your flooring to dry overnight.
When you return to check on your floor, you may notice that some dried grout residue remains on your tiles, dulling the colors with a cloudy layer. This residue is called grout haze. Although it is a normal by-product of a grouting job, you may still want to remove it to give your tiles the best appearance possible. You can use dedicated products, such as grout haze remover, or make your own by mixing 1 part of white vinegar with 4 parts of water in a bucket. Dip a piece of cheesecloth into your cleaning mix, wring it until it’s damp, and then wipe your tiles to restore their shine.
Buy the Best Tile and Masonry Tools at Contractors Direct
Contractors Direct is the leading online supplier of high quality tile tools, concrete and masonry tools, and a great deal of equipment and accessories ideal for contractors, DIY enthusiasts, and small retailers. We have offered the best tools and premium-quality service since 1993, and our facilities in Utah and Connecticut allow us to deliver anywhere in the United States in three business days or less.
For a quote, advice, or more information on our products, call us at 1-800-709-0002.
True Touch Lifestyle/Shutterstock.com