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How do you update kitchen tiles without removing them?

Updating the look of your kitchen tiles can completely transform the feel of your kitchen. But ripping up and replacing tile floors and walls is messy, time-consuming, and expensive. Luckily, there are several creative ways to update your existing kitchen tile without going through the hassle of removing it.

Painting Over Kitchen Tiles

One of the easiest and most affordable ways to update your kitchen tile is to simply paint over it. With the right type of paint and proper preparation, you can give your tiles a brand new look for a fraction of the cost of new tile.

When painting over kitchen tiles, the key is using a durable paint designed specifically for tile. Look for high-quality epoxy or ceramic tile paints, as they will adhere best to the tile surface. Make sure to select a paint rated for use in high-traffic and moisture-prone areas like kitchens.

Before starting to paint, thoroughly clean and lightly sand the tiles to help the paint adhere. Apply a tile primer first, then apply at least two coats of paint for full coverage. Use a small paintbrush to paint the grout between tiles a contrasting color.

Painting tile allows you to choose any new color you like for your kitchen. And it saves you the mess and demolition of tearing out your old tile!

Applying Tile Stickers

Tile stickers, also called tile transfers or decals, provide another easy update option. These vinyl stickers come in a wide range of colors, patterns, and textures. They simply stick on top of your existing tile to give it a fresh new look.

Find tile sticker sheets designed for kitchen use. Carefully measure your backsplash or floor before ordering so you know how many stickers you need. When they arrive, make sure your tiles are clean before applying the stickers.

Follow all the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, you peel off each sticker backing and press it firmly into place. Use a tool like a squeegee or credit card to smooth down the edges and remove any air bubbles.

Tile stickers can totally transform plain white or aging tiles. And you can easily remove or replace them whenever you want a different look.

Tile Sticker Pros Tile Sticker Cons
– Quick and easy to apply – Can peel or lift over time
– Many colors and patterns available – Not as durable as new tile
– Non-permanent – Grout lines may still show through

Refinishing Existing Tiles

For a longer-lasting update than paint or stickers, consider refinishing your existing kitchen tiles. Tile refinishing involves applying a reinforcing epoxy coating over your tiles.

A professional tile refinisher will start by cleaning and lightly etching the tile. They then apply several layers of a clear epoxy, which can be tinted any color. The finish restores the tile while providing protection from stains, chips, and moisture damage.

Tile refinishing costs around $3-6 per square foot. The process takes 1-2 days and does not require any removal or replacement of your tiles. It can restore and transform cracked or dated tile floors, walls, and countertops.

Regrouting Kitchen Tiles

While painting, stickers, or refinishing update the actual tiles, you can also upgrade your kitchen tile by simply regrouting.

Replacing old, discolored grout with new grout instantly freshens up your kitchen. It also seals and protects your tile from moisture. While white grout is common, choosing a contrasting grout color can accent your tiles.

First, use a grout removal tool or rotary tool to clear out the old grout at least 1/8″ deep. Vacuum out all debris. Apply new grout with a rubber grout float, pressing it firmly into the open grout lines. Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge.

Regrouting is an affordable project you can DIY in a weekend. But be prepared for it to be messy and labor intensive as you scrape out all the old grout.

Wallpaper Over Tiles

Applying removable wallpaper over your kitchen backsplash is a peel-and-stick option for refreshing your tile. Choose a waterproof, peelable wallpaper designed not to leave residue behind when removed.

Thoroughly clean the backsplash and let it dry completely before applying the adhesive wallpaper. Measure the area and cut the wallpaper to size. Start with the corner edges, remove the backing, press into place, and smooth with a squeegee.

From floral, to geometric, to metallic designs, wallpaper offers limitless possibilities to update your backsplash without grout. If you later want to remove it, the wallpaper can peel off easily.

Installing Trim Over Existing Tiles

Installing new trim over existing kitchen tiles allows you to revamp the look without replacing the tile. Try updating your tile backsplash by applying wood trim for a rustic cottage style. Or go for sleek metal or glass trim for an ultra-modern feel.

Use trim designed for walls rather than flooring. Carefully measure and cut the trim to fit your backsplash area. You can use construction adhesive to attach the trim pieces directly over the tile. Just make sure the new trim is properly supported.

Trim adds decorative detail and covers up outdated tile borders. Installing trim over your existing backsplash can give your kitchen tiles a fresh new frame.

Trim Material Options Cost Estimate
Wood $5-10 per linear foot
PVC/Vinyl $2-5 per linear foot
Metal $10-25 per linear foot
Glass $20-50 per linear foot

Installing New Tile Over Old

While it is possible to install new tile over your existing kitchen tile, this is the most involved and expensive option. The new tile must be firmly bonded to prevent cracking or peeling up.

Start by thoroughly cleaning the old tile and sanding to roughen the surface. Apply a concrete backer board or fiber cement underlayment over the tile. Then properly prepare and apply tile mortar and your new tiles.

New floor tile can sometimes be installed over old, but the floor may need reinforcing. For walls, the old tile should be stable and well-bonded.

This doubles the weight of the tiling and requires expertise. While covering over tile takes more work, it still saves on fully removing the old tile first.


Upgrading kitchen tiles without replacing them is cost-effective and convenient. Paint, stickers, regrouting, and trim are quick and achievable DIY options. Refinishing or installing new tile requires hiring a tile professional.

Consider how much of an overhaul you want and your budget. Any of these creative alternatives allow you to update your kitchen tile look without the mess and expense of a total tile replacement.