How to Cover Old Bathroom Wall Tiles and other fix-ups on a budget

Our home was built by a bricklayer who loved to tile! Oh yes, there was tile in many places! Several years ago I convinced my handy husband to get rid of the half tiled wall in our main floor bathroom. It ended up to be a huge and messy job and he swore he would never do it again. He has stuck to that promise and I have continued to beg and plead to get rid of the same half tiled wall in the upstairs bathrooms. First of all he tried to make me happy by painting the bathroom. I chose a cheery yellow and it looked so bad with the tile and counter that he repainted it this taupe colour. When I begged some more to update it, he painted the old worn vanity with a fresh coat of white and added some new handles. Yes, that did look nice! Next we got new windows in the house, so that was another improvement and a new blind to go with it. That was it.

Then joyfully a couple of months ago he discovered this moisture resistant paneling that looks like wainscoting. Finally the day had come where I would be saying au revoir to that tile wall. Oh Happy Day!! I have posted all of the photos I took of the journey and my Husband has been kind enough to explain the process to you!

covering bathroom wall tile and replacing counters and painting vanity

upstairs bathroom update renovation

upstairs bathroom update renovation

bathroom renovation

upstairs bathroom update renovation

Our new countertop is granite but we bought a in stock counter at Home Depot. It is WAY cheaper than having a custom countertop made.

bathroom renovation

Here is my husband in his words;

The wall tile in this bathroom is not the most attractive. Removing it can be a difficult, messy project that creates a large amount of heavy (tile on dry wall) waste that needs to be disposed of. Instead, I’ll leave the tile on the wall and cover it with a moisture resistant paneling. I’ve chosen panelling that looks like wainscoting and it will be trimmed on the top with chair rail and with a regular baseboard on the bottom.

Removing several of the ceramic accessories (soap dishes, toilet paper holder & towel rack) left an uneven surface. I used a quick dry cement patching product to make a flat even surface. Since a new towel rack was going to be required I needed to  be able to put screws into the wall. Therefore I also removed the appropriate tiles where the towel rack would go and I used the same quick dry cement patching product to make a flat even surface.

Since the top row of tile came close to the bottom of the window trim, I didn’t have enough room for my wooden top trim to extend beyond the top of the existing tile. Therefore, I had to remove the top row of trim tile and fill some of the space with the same quick dry cement patch.

To adhere the panelling to the to the tile, I used the same adhesive that you would use to adhere a wall tile to a wall. On the wall, I used a 1/4″ square notches trowel. This is the adhesive we used. It is a premixed wall tile adhesive. (not one where you need to add water)

Custom Building Products 1 qt. AcrylPro Ceramic Tile Adhesive

2012 Bathroom renovation

After cutting to size, I used a 1/8 V-notched trowel to back-butter the panelling to ensure that the adhesive adheres each surface. 

2012 Bathroom renovation

Each panel is put in place. The top of the chair rail trim will come just over the line of where the old tile was, and also just below the top of the new paneling.

Because of the shape of the top trim, a bit of an air gap will exist. This allows me to not worry about making the edge of the quick dry cement patch perfect.

2012 Bathroom renovation

I also took the opportunity to replace the sink and countertop. The new unit has a backsplash that is a different height and the old tiles were butted up against the sink. This creates more need for the quick dry cement patch to create a flat surface for the new tile.

2012 Bathroom renovation

Unfortunately, there will be seams between different pieces of panels. A plastic strip made to cover the seam was used.

2012 Bathroom renovation

2012 Bathroom renovation

I pre-primed and painted all of the trim pieces before installation. To attach the top chair rail trim, I used a combination of a few finishing nails and a adhesive called No-More Nails. For the baseboard trim I used just No-More Nails (remember there is tile behind the paneling that makes nails not really possible).

A white bathroom caulking was applied to finish the following edges: between chair rail and wall, all the panel edges include the corner, between the baseboard and the panel, between the baseboard and the floor,and between the counter top and the panelling. Lastly the panels were painted. I used a semi-gloss to give it a harder finish but you could also use a bathroom paint.

Here are  photos of previous updates that were inexpensive and made a huge improvement!

Painting old vanities can sure be a big improvement and the flooring that we put down was leftover from another job! It just had to have a seam in the linen closet. The flooring looks like tile floor and the colour looks great and does not show off the dirt. (not that I have any! ha ha) Painting is also another easy fix.

bathroom renovation

bathroom renovation

bathroom renovation

I hope this helps some of you solve the issue of what to do with those ugly old out-dated wall tiles. 

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30 responses

  1. Looks great! My house had the same tiles all over the main bathroom half way up the walls, all around the shower and the sink counter top. They were pink with a green trim. Horrid looking! and we went with the same paneling as you. Now if I could just get the kitchen redone and get rid of the yellow, red, and green tiles in there! (My house was built in 1955 and I hear that the tiles were the in thing at the time)

    • It is hard to imagine all that tile being in style isn’t it? ha ha My husband took it down in our main floor bathroom and it was a nasty job! – he basically had to re drywall the room and start from scratch!

      • Thankfully our shower was more updated but you can buy shower panelling inserts (we did it in a previous house) that fits in right over your tub. It can come in one piece or 3 pieces that you glue on and then fill the cracks. It worked well.

    • We did not have tiles in our tub. We had a tub surround. I do not think you could use the specific paneling that we used in a tub.(it would not be waterproof) You can buy large plastic sheets for a tub, some are all one to fit or you can do it in 3 sheets. Your seams need to be watertight. We covered old tiles in our tub in our first home and that is what we used. Hope that helps!

  2. Can you tell me exactly what type of adhesive you used? I tried it with construction adhesive and it just didn’t stick.

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    • One year later the paneling was looking great and no warping. We have since moved away but we know the new homeowners and as far as I know, the paneling is great. I looked at your link and my ‘handy man husband’ says YES, that looks like what we used.
      We were really happy with this project. For YEARS I begged my husband to get rid of that tile so this was a big improvement!!

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  6. How did the panel board meet up the the door molding ? My ugly tile butts at the same level so the paneling would be raised. at the closet door and the bath entry. Guess I could replace the door trim with a thicker molding.

  7. Can you add ceramic tile over plastic tile in a shower enclosure without the mess of removing the original plastic tile?

    • Here is my husband’s reply when I shared your question, “Not sure, but it is unlikely that would work.
      I don’t think that the tile adhesive would stick to the plastic very well”.

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