How to Add Tile Over Paneling

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Wood paneling, commonly used as an alternative to painting walls or covering them with wallpaper, does not offer a suitable surface for tiling. Paneling is smooth and the thinset mortar would have a hard time sticking to the surface. Fortunately, if you want to install tile to create a backsplash, you can leave your paneling up and then place a backer board over it. This creative solution will let you tile over your paneling and leave the portion above the installed tile exposed.

Things You'll Need

  • Tape measure
  • Backer board
  • Utility knife
  • Drywall screws
  • Screwdriver
  • Tile saw
  • Thinset mortar
  • Trowel
  • 1/4-inch shims
  • Grout
  • Grout bag
  • Wet rag
  • Measure the area you plan to cover with tile and then transfer those measurements to the backer board. Cut the backer board to size with a utility knife.

  • Place the backer board over the paneling and then secure it to the studs in the wall with drywall screws and a screwdriver.

  • Test fit each piece of tile over the backer board and cut all necessary pieces to size with a tile saw. Pre-cutting the pieces will allow you to install the tiles after, which will waste less thinset mortar.

  • Place the thinset mortar over the backer board with a ¼-inch notched trowel. This will ensure you have the correct thickness of mortar for the task.

  • Place the first tie in the top left corner and place a ¼-inch shim to the right of the tile. Place the second tile against the shim. Repeat this as you work your way across the wall.

  • Place a ¼-inch shim under the bottom of each tile in the top row.

  • Place the second row and each additional row just as you placed the first row. Remove all of the shims once completed. Allow 24-hours for the thinset to dry.

  • Place grout in a grout bag and cut the corner of the bag with the utility knife. Squeeze the grout from the bag and into the spaces between the tiles.

  • Level the grout with your index finger and wipe off the excess grout with a wet rag. Allow 24 hours for the grout to dry.

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