How to Add Tile Over Paneling

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

Step 1

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.

Step 2

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

Step 3

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.

Step 4

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.

Step 5

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.

Step 6

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

Step 7

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.

Step 8

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.

Step 9

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.

References & Resources