Changing your countertops can give your kitchen a whole new look and feel. However, if you have a backsplash, changing the countertops without damaging the backsplash can be tricky. This comprehensive guide will walk you through everything you need to know about changing countertops with an existing backsplash.
Overview of Countertops and Backsplashes
Before diving into changing countertops with a backsplash, let’s go over some key information on countertops and backsplashes.
Countertops are the horizontal work surfaces in kitchens and bathrooms. They provide space for food preparation, cooking, and more. Popular countertop materials include granite, quartz, marble, laminate, solid surface, tile, concrete, and wood.
Backsplashes are vertical surfaces along countertops on the walls. They protect the walls from water, oil, grease, and food splatter. Backsplashes are typically made of ceramic tile, metal, glass, and stone.
The countertop and backsplash work together as an integrated system. Replacing the countertop without considering the backsplash can lead to a poor aesthetic or create functional issues.
Can You Change Countertops With an Existing Backsplash?
Yes, you can change countertops while keeping the existing backsplash in place. However, special care must be taken during the countertop replacement process to avoid damaging the backsplash.
There are a few different scenarios when changing countertops with an existing backsplash:
- Same footprint, same height – If the new countertop is the same size and height as the old one, the backsplash should remain undamaged during replacement. This is the simplest scenario.
- Different footprint, same height – If the new countertop changes shape or width, but remains the same height, extra caution must be used when removing the old countertop to avoid cracking tiles in the backsplash.
- Same footprint, different height – If the new countertop stays the same shape but changes thickness, affecting the overall height, the backsplash may need to be detached and reattached.
- Different footprint and height – If both the size and height change, the backsplash will definitely need removal and reinstallation. In some cases, the backsplash may even need to be altered or replaced altogether.
Risks of Damaging the Backsplash
When undertaking a countertop replacement with an existing backsplash, there are a few key risks of damaging the backsplash in the process:
- Cracking tiles – Old caulk and mortar can stick the backsplash tightly to the countertop. Attempting to separate them by force can cause tiles to crack.
- Chipping the edges – If old countertop material chips away unevenly at the seam with the backsplash, jagged edges can crack into the backsplash tiles.
- Screws through tiles – Care must be taken when detaching and reattaching the backsplash to avoid accidentally driving screws through the tiles.
- Unsightly gaps or unevenness – If proper care isn’t taken to keep an even seam between the new countertop and old backsplash, it can look sloppy.
- Backsplash detachment – Attempting to remove an old countertop without properly detaching the backsplash first can pull off sections of the backsplash.
How to Change Countertops Without Damaging Backsplash
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to change countertops while avoiding backsplash damage:
1. Prepare the Installation Space
Clear everything off the existing countertops and clean the space thoroughly. Have all tools and new countertop materials ready and accessible.
2. Protect the Backsplash
Cover the backsplash with plastic sheeting, painter’s tape, or masking film to prevent scratching and marking during the process. Cover nearby walls, floors, and appliances as well.
3. Detach Backsplash (If Necessary)
If the new countertop is a different height or footprint than the existing, the backsplash will need to be detached completely before removing the countertop. Scrape off old caulk or grout with a utility knife. Remove screws, nails, or adhesive holding it in place. Use a pry bar and hammer if needed.
4. Remove Old Countertop
With the backsplash protected or detached, now the old countertop can be removed safely. Use a hammer and pry bar to lift it off, being careful about old adhesive or caulk residue.
5. Prepare New Countertop
Dry fit the new countertop and make any adjustments needed to the sizing or cutouts. Attach the sink and cooktop if pre-drilled. Seal or smooth any rough edges that would contact the backsplash.
6. Install New Countertop
Set the new countertop in place on its base or supports. Double check for levelness and make any final adjustments. Connect joints or seams if it is a modular countertop.
7. Reinstall Backsplash (If Necessary)
For backsplashes that were completely detached, now is the time to reattach them. Use adhesive, grout, caulk, screws, or clips to re-adhere the backsplash tiles or sheets tightly to the new countertop.
8. Seal Countertop & Backsplash Seam
Once secured, seal the seam between the backsplash and new countertop with a waterproof silicone caulk that matches the color. Tool the caulk into the gap evenly and smoothly. Wipe away excess.
9. Clean Up & Verify Success
Remove all protective coverings and clean the new countertop and backsplash fully. Verify that the backsplash sustained no damages in the process by checking thoroughly for cracks, chips, unevenness, or gaps.
FAQs About Changing Countertops With Existing Backsplash
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about changing countertops with an existing backsplash:
Can you put new countertops in without removing the backsplash?
It is possible to install new countertops without removing the backsplash if the countertop keeps the exact same footprint and height as the previous one. If either of those change, the backsplash will need to come off first.
Do you have to replace the backsplash when replacing countertops?
You do not necessarily have to replace the backsplash when replacing countertops if you are very careful during the installation process not to damage it. However, sometimes it is easier to replace the backsplash altogether.
Can you put new countertops in front of an existing tile backsplash?
It is not recommended to install new countertops directly in front of an existing backsplash because it will create visual disunity and a poor seam. It is best to remove the backsplash and make a clean transition between your new countertop and wall surface.
What problems can occur from installing new countertops without removing the existing backsplash?
Leaving an existing backsplash in place with new countertops can potentially lead to cracking, chipping, gaps, height differences, caulking issues, lack of support, and overall poor aesthetics.
How do you attach a backsplash to new countertops?
To adhere a backsplash to new countertops, use a high-quality flexible adhesive designed for tile and stone materials. Grout can also attach tiles. Silicone caulking seals the seam. Screws, nails, or clips can provide extra reinforcement if needed.
How much does it cost to remove and replace backsplash when replacing countertops?
Removing and replacing a backsplash when replacing countertops typically costs $4-$8 per square foot for labor, in addition to material costs for the new backsplash. The total cost depends on the size of the backsplash area.
Tips for Preventing Backsplash Damage During Countertop Replacement
Here are some helpful tips to keep your backsplash pristine when undertaking a countertop replacement project:
- Cover the backsplash area thoroughly with plastic, tape, or old blankets during the whole process.
- Detach the backsplash fully from the countertop rather than trying to work around it.
- Use painter’s tape rather than regular tape which could leave residue on tiles.
- Always use a pry bar and hammer gently instead of brute force.
- Smooth or pad any sharp corners or edges on the new countertop that contacts the backsplash.
- Be very careful when reattaching the backsplash and don’t over-tighten screws.
- Take time to properly seal the new seam and make it even and smooth.
- Have a tile repair kit ready for minor cracks or chips that may occur.
Following these tips carefully will help ensure no damage comes to the backsplash when installing a beautiful new countertop. Take it slow and be cautious for best results.
Professional Installation Recommended
While it is possible for DIYers to change countertops with a backsplash, professional installation is often recommended. Experienced countertop installers have specialized tools and knowledge to complete the job with no backsplash damage.
Pros ensure proper handling of the backsplash, efficient removal and reinstallation, expert seam restoration, and fixes for any minor issues immediately. If aiming for a seamless look, pros can also replace the backsplash or alter it to match the new countertop.
The small additional cost of professional installation gives peace of mind your beautiful backsplash will remain untouched. Some countertop companies even include backsplash installation services.
Changing countertops without ruining an existing backsplash is possible with careful preparation and work. Detaching the backsplash fully before countertop removal is safest. Reattaching the backsplash to the new countertop and sealing the seam completes the job. Patience and precaution prevents cracking, chipping, gaps, and other damage. While DIYers can tackle it, pros may be worth hiring for guaranteed quality results. With the right approach, you can upgrade your countertops with zero harm to the backsplash.