Covering plastic wall tile

In the 50’s plastic wall tile was used in a lot of homes. If you want to get rid of it, you might be considering removing the tile. That probably isn’t the best idea. The adhesive that was used in a lot of these installations is very tough, and you might even find that it is still not completely cured behind the tile.

Plastic wall tile plastictile1500

A good option to address the old plastic wall tile is to cover it with decorative panels. Not necessarily panelling, but panels that are current and attractive.

Cover plastic tile with beadboard panels.

In our case, we used beadboard panels from Georgia Pacific (the brand name is PlyBead. The panels are 3/8″ thick and installed easily by using a construction adhesive along with some finish nails to hold in place until the adhesive set. We didn’t do anything to prepare the plastic tile other than cleaning the surface. Since the panels were only 3/8″ thick, we did not have to replace the window or door trim near the panels. In many cases, you can find decorative wall panels that are from 1/8″ to 3/8″.

Another nice product option is called “Styleline” (again from GP). There are many decorative options for this product such as a leather look, or a linen look. I know that Lowe’s carries the product but I am not sure about Home Depot. The cost can add up if you hare a large area to cover, but the time to complete the project will be short.


Your only other feasible option is probably going to be to tear out the existing plaster or drywall behind the tile. The adhesive isn’t going to want to come off cleanly, so a complete demo is probably called for. If you choose this option take the opportunity to update wiring, plumbing and to insulate the walls that you demolish.

Good luck.







35 responses to “Covering plastic wall tile”

  1. Administrator

    The cost of plybead is about $20 – $25 for a 4′ x 8′ sheet. The sheets are about 3/8 inch thick. The actual cost in the Buffalo area (at Len Co Lumber) is currently $22.49 a sheet.

  2. Tina

    Why would anyone want to remove or cover up those lovely plastic tiles – they are very easy to clean – look beautiful – bring back memories. They are rare and hard to find and some people sell them on eBay and some are actually having a hard time finding them, so if you have them, consider yourself lucky.

  3. robin

    I’m looking for those lovely tiles…6 actually in white, pink or grey pearlised. Anyone know where I can find them????

  4. Dear WNY Handyman: My wife and I just bought a house in Jamestown, NY, and are remodeling for retirement, next year. We have a bathroom that we are remodeling, at present and it is in excellent shape, but we have a slight problem. The vanity/sink was -in need of replacement. When I pulled it, theer were about 8 missing plastic tile and another 6 or so that were craked or broken. I don’t want to tear the remaining tile out, as they are all in good shape and very clean. However as I put new ceramic down, over the hardyboard the other day, it really looks good with the tile on the walls. Do you know of anyplace that I might be able to locate additional plastic 4×4 tile. The color is light green with swirl of white in it. As I’ve researched, it was a very common color…. Any help that you can be will be appreciated! Rich Best

    1. Administrator


      If I were in your shoes, here is what I would do. First, I would look around the house for similar tile hidden behind or under something else that is on the wall. Is there tile in a closet, or behind a cabinet. Check the rafters in the basement for an old box. If you don’t have any luck there, you will find that these tile were common. In fact, I probably threw out a few hundred of what you needed last summer.

      – Go to open houses in your area of houses for sale. Try to locate the tile there. If you are lucky, you might come across someone that has some extra.
      – Ask the realtor to keep their eyes open
      – Stop by any ‘handyman’ or renovation job of houses from the same time period. These items were common. Just keeping your eyes open should help. Ask the handyman to keep his/her eyes open and you should be able to locate some soon.
      – Post a ‘wanted’ listing on Ebay.

      Good luck. Patience should pay off.

  5. Robin J

    First, I am an interior designer and a house stager. I cannot believe anyone would actually want to retain and even repair these hideous abominations. I have them in both of the upstairs bathrooms of my 1917 colonial. I could just spit. Behind these little beauties is rock hard brown mastic. Anyone with any hope of selling their house in future should think twice about retaining these. They are ugly, make the space look dated, and are actually worse for prospective buyers to see than wallpaper. But hey, if you like plastic tiles, then vinyl or flocked wall paper must be high on your lists as well. Mine will be in a landfill by April.

  6. Denny

    Hi WNY Handyman,

    Not sure if you are still responding to posts, but if you are:

    I am determined to get rid of as much of the “lovely” aqua blue and black tile I have in my kitchen while we wait until we can afford to do our complete kitchen makeover. For our mini-makeover, we are not going to tear down the walls, but instead pop the tiles, leave the mastic (it is like cement) and just try to put some drywall compound over it and smooth it out.

    Once we have done that and primed it with Binz to hopefully seal in the mastic, we hope that we can somehow texturize the wall prior to painting. Does this sound like it will work? Not sure how great a textured wall will look, but anything will look better than those tiles! =-) Any input/suggestions would be appreciated!


    1. Administrator


      Pop a couple of tile in very inconspicuous areas. The mastic can be a bit nasty and might even be tacky.

      I did cover and skim for a project and it turned out great. Not sure if I would do an entire kitchen. In my case, I gave it a couple of weeks of additional drying time after removing tile (you’ll see what I mean when you pop the tile). After that, I coated with Kilz and then skim coated. Came out with a nice smooth surface. After the skim coat, I primed with Kilz again. Bled through the joint compound and concerned me that it wouldn’t cover, but one more coat of primer followed by 2 finish coats and it turned out terrific. Looked like a plaster wall.

      Good luck.

      WNY Handyman

      1. Vincent Low

        Hi WNY Handyman,
        Thanks for the post. Looking to do the same as you. A few questions:
        1) What kind of skim coat did you use? Sheet rock? Plaster?
        2) Was the mastic really hard? My adhesive is almost like a hard plastic at this point. Would it be okay to just cover it with some peel and stick vinyl tiles? Or would the gaps between the tile and adhesive have moisture issues?

        1. Vincent,

          1) If you are referring to the comment about skim coating, I simply used a high quality primer followed by all-purpose joint compound. However, this was way more work than justified and I would avoid removing the tile when possible. Simply covering them provides the best result.
          2) The mastic was odd. It was firm but a little pliable. I could put my fingernail into but it wasn’t sticky. Smelled horrible.

          Hope this helps a little. I would still recommend covering with panels.

  7. Susan

    I will have some 4×4 light green plastic tiles for sale. Interested?

  8. Susan

    I have 4×4’s and light green for sale.

  9. Betty

    We are moving into a 1950’s home that needs a few tiles replaced in the bathroom. They are black plastic and aqua plastic tiles. Some of the black tiles are broken. We would like to buy some if they could be found.

    1. Administrator

      Are there tile on the wall in the back of your vanity (sink). Often times, the back of the vanity is open and the tile will extend there. Those can often be utilized as replacement tile.

      You should also look around the basement (if there is one). Many times, you will find spare tile stored in a cabinet or on a ledge in the basement.

      If all else fails, I would keep my eyes peeled on the night before garbage is picked up. Look for houses that are of a similar age and have renovation work being done. If you are lucky, there might be someone looking to get rid of theirs.

      Good luck Betty.

  10. danny

    those ugly 50 year old pink plastic tiles have got to go, anybody know for sure
    if the mastic might have asbestas

  11. anne

    I totally agree. We have one main bathroom in our 1913 home, and it has the pink swirl pattern with black trim to go along with the black asbestos floor tiles. I just started removing the wall tile, what a mess – plaster and all coming off. Will have beadboard installed over the mess this leaves. Not going to pull up the tiles, too much hazardous material. Going to tile over with care and consideration. A neighbor actually wanted the tile should we remove it. God awful stuff.@Robin J

    1. Administrator

      It is a mess. I just purchased a double that was built around 1930. They added a bath along the way and the shower has these plastic tiles. That’s right, the SHOWER! Needless to say, they aren’t holding up well and aren’t exactly the most attractive. If you need more pink, I have a shower full of them.

  12. Faith Felisha

    Interested in purchasing plastic 4×4 wall tiles, light green with swirl of white in it.

  13. Faith Felisha

    urgently in need of plastic 4×4 wall tiles, light green with swirl of white in it.

    1. Administrator


      Have you checked There is a “wanted” section. I had success with an older exterior siding that I needed to match up in the past.

      You could also try posting at a site like GardenWeb. Here is an old post with your item.

      Good luck.

  14. Kim Hanson

    I have around 2,000 4 inch blue/green wall tiles with the light colored swirls. Is anyone interested in buying these?
    Thank you

    1. Administrator


      I would bet that someone could use those tile. Have you posted to Craigslist? Many contractors will use Craigslist as a site to find old items since there are homeowners trying to do green renovations and salvage what they can.

      Good luck.

  15. Jen

    The gross mint green and red tiles in my kitchen piss me off everyday. I was just told about a new paint that is especially for plastic. We can’t afford to demolish the kitchen just yet. So I may try and paint the tiles before I try to cover them up with bead board. But the tiles go up the wall more than 5′. It’s just weird…

    1. Administrator


      The height of the tile is unusual in some of these cases. Painting might not turn out too well. I have used bead board when faced with this (plybead). You will burn a lot of material since your height is above 4′ so I understand your issue. A higher style wall panel is common with a craftsman style home. You could consider something like this…. with a flat center panel divided/framed with 1x.,,1563982_1253698,00.html (images 7 and 8.)
      flat panel wainscoting

      The nice thing is you can try to paint, and if that doesn’t work out you can go ahaed and cover. Keep in mind, that the adhesive used for these plastic tile is not likely to come off your wall. Many times, it will still be tacky. Plastic has protected it from air for 50+ years.

      If you do decide to paint, you might consider an epoxy paint product. Very expensive, but it will create a solid coating on your wall.
      Homax 720773 Tub & Sink Brush-On One-Part Epoxy, 26-Ounce White

      Good luck!

  16. Administrator

    I received this note from a reader the other day. As I commented to him, it is funny how we get caught up in doing things via a particular method (demo and redo) that we overlook a simple solution.

    “Just wanted to say thank you for solving my dilemma. I googled “plastic tile” and your kitchen remodel picture and site came up and your advice about simply covering it with ply bead was something I truthfully never thought of. I’ve got a bathroom full off them, I did the tub/shower area but have been dreading the rest of the room because unlike the shower area, those tiles are stuck solid.. thanks again for saving me a lot of work!”

  17. Mary


    I’m redoing my mother’s 50s bathroom which has these plastic tiles with swirls. Hers are a medium blue color. Are yours aqua or blue? If the latter, I’m interested. Please contact me. I greatly appreciate your consideration of my request.

  18. Charlene Ann Langenfeld

    Several of the posts are a few years old. I was wondering if anyone knows if there is a paint the that will cover plastic tiles in the bathroom. We popped all of the plastic 4x 4s in the kitchen and had to use a heat gun to remove the decades old mastic!

    1. Charlene,

      If you aren’t covering them with a wall panel, then removing them to expose the mastic is just asking for trouble (as you undoubtedly found out). Not only does the mastic smell, but you can’t do much with it.

      There are some quality primer products that you might want to test. The key will be getting a good primer that will hold on the plastic tile. I would suggest going to a higher end paint store like Sherwin Williams and asking for a product recommendation. They might tell you to scuff up the plastic a bit to give a little more bite. In the past, we covered some with a “Gripper” primer from Glidden, let it cure for some time (maybe a week) and then covered with our top coat. This was in a low traffic area so I wasn’t too worried about scuffs and scrapes.

      Paint/primer is one of those items where the higher cost is worth it. I would avoid the high cost associated with a brand (like Ralph Lauren) and consider the “brand” of the paint company. The key is really to test what you use before you commit.

      Once your primer coat is set, your top coat should cover like just about any other. I really see the primer as the key here.

      Good luck.

  19. jenn kerwin

    I need to cover ugly tile in my bathroom as well, I have no knowledge of anything to do with remodeling…I am looking for a wall panel to cover the tile up, I looked at len co lumber online and dont see beadboard..I want something I can paint also, can you suggest a local place to buy panel, and what type that can be painted with acrylic paint? also if you can suggest what adhesive to use? any help is MUCH appreciated!

    1. Jenn,

      There are a number of options. Your choice will depend, in part, on how high up you need to cover. If you only need to go about 36″, you can use some smaller panels that are readily available at Home Depot or Lowe’s. They both have the beaded sheet material I mention in the post as well.

      Here is the LenCo product:

      Here are some options at Home Depot

      Take a look at these panels
      You can also ask about molding that is made to “lap” over the panel. In your case, it will be a little trickier since you will have to also fill the thickness of the tile. A small “cap” rail can often accomplish this. Take some pictures and head to Home Depot or Lowe’s and I am sure you will find some help.

      Hope this helps. Good luck!

      1. jenn kerwin

        thank you very much for your helpful reply. can you tell me specifically which adhesive you mentioned in an earlier post?

        1. Jenn, Missed that part. Just about any construction adhesive will do. Heck, even caulk will do. I would probably just use some polyseamseal adhesive caulk. Just about anything will do.

          Hope this helps.

  20. Jackie D

    Anyone looking for mid century building and/or renovation materials should reference

    This website offers tons of ideas and supply sources for preserving and remodeling our 1940, 50, 60s homes.

    1. Jackie,

      Thanks for the link. Normally, I would consider a link in the comments as spam, but this is a pretty good site for our audience. There is another company out of Rochester NY that has a TON or vintage/retro building materials. I am not going to drop a link here, but if anyone is looking for them, just search for ‘architectural salvage in Rochester NY’. I will often use the site as a “price guide” for a write off of donated fixtures from an old project.

      Thanks again.

  21. Laurie

    I will trade you the blue tiles for the FUGLY yellow ones in my kitchen… least I know I can paint over them thank god

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