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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