Does Peel and Stick Tile Look Real?

Peel and stick tile? We have answers. Find out whether it is as attractive as real tile

Peel and stick tile is easy to install — but how impressive is it to look at?

If you’d like to change the look of your kitchen or bathroom with new tile, quickly and affordably, and want to DIY it without calling in a professional, peel and stick tile offers a budget-friendly solution.

It can also provide an easy upgrade for your home, as a peel and stick tile backsplash takes just hours to complete, making this a perfect weekend-warrior project.

But will peel and stick tile really deliver an affordable, custom look, or is it just another tacky gimmick? Let’s explore whether peel and stick tile actually looks real, and whether it’s an option you’d want to consider for your home.


Traditionally, peel and stick tile has gotten a bad rap — and for good reason! Made from flimsy, thinly constructed vinyl in a limited variety of colors and patterns, peel and stick tile most closely resembled the flooring you’d find in a grade school classroom. Old-school peel and stick tiles were also only designed for floors, as the large, oversized squares were much too large for a kitchen backsplash. And, since they relied on adhesive to bind them to floors, peel and stick tiles became susceptible to the effects of humidity, muddy rain boots, and heavy traffic, and would eventually begin to lift. All in all, peel and stick tiles of the past were ugly, lacked durability, and certainly weren’t considered an upgrade for the home.

Fortunately, both large manufacturers and newer, smaller companies recognized the desire of homeowners to have an easy, DIY option that offers durability while still projecting a professionally installed appearance.

Today, peel and stick tiles are designed to mimic the look of a variety of stones and minerals, and come in a large assortment of colors and styles.


When selecting a peel and stick tile, consider the material from which it’s made, as its substance will determine the overall appearance. Vinyl, which tends to be the cheapest option, is the classic peel and stick tile material, and offers the least realistic look. Vinyl starts at $8 for eight peel and stick tile panels.


Stone peel and stick tiles are designed to mimic the look of slate, which gives your bathroom a modern, spa-like appearance. This clean-lined, fresh peel and stick option will run you about $15 per square foot.


If you’d like your backsplash to match your stainless-steel appliances, you may want to install metal panels. Thin, lightweight aluminum tiles with adhesive backing are another peel and stick option that typically costs around $16 per square foot.


Glass tiles provide a glamorous, glossy appearance with a mirror-like shine and are great for kitchens and bathrooms alike. Glass tiles start at about $20 per square foot.


Since they’re thin and flat, most peel and stick tiles are designed to stick only to bare walls. But what if you’ve got an existing backsplash, and are just tired of its look? In order to install flat peel and stick panels, you’d first need to remove all existing tile, then sand and smooth the wall prior to installation.

But if you prefer to keep your DIY projects clean and hassle-free, you’re in luck, as now there exists gel peel and stick tiles. These panels are made from a gel-like substance and aren’t flat, but rather, three dimensional, which allows them to be installed over an existing tile backsplash. They also provide depth, which other peel and stick tiles lack, for the ultimate realistic appearance.

A downside to gel, as you probably guessed, is it tends to be the costliest of all peel and stick tiles. Gel products, such as Smart Tiles, are often sold on a “per tile” rather than as square foot panels. The gel manufacturers generally offer calculators on their websites which estimate the number of tiles you’ll need, but it can still be more difficult to plan and budget for this type of project.


Peel and stick tiles offer the perfect cost-conscious solution to quickly and easily transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom. Whether you ultimately choose vinyl, metal, glass, stone, or gel, peel and stick tiles offer a myriad of options carefully designed to mimic any type of look you’d like to achieve, while still adhering to your budget.

Resources— Realtor, The Family Handyman, Smart Tiles