Removing a laminate backsplash can seem daunting, but with the right tools and techniques, it is doable as a DIY project. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to remove backsplash from laminate countertops.
Laminate countertops with integrated backsplashes were hugely popular in kitchens from the 1970s through the 1990s. The backsplash and countertop were often created from the same laminate material to seamlessly join the two surfaces.
Over time, styles change and homeowners look to update their kitchens. Removing and replacing the dated laminate backsplash with a new backsplash can help give the kitchen a fresh, modern look. This project can be managed without having to replace the entire laminate countertop.
While care needs to be taken not to damage the laminate countertop when removing the backsplash, this is a project a motivated DIYer can successfully complete. Following proper techniques and using the right tools will allow you to remove your laminate backsplash successfully.
Gather Proper Materials and Tools
Removing a laminate backsplash requires minimal standard DIY tools along with a few specialty items. Be sure to have the following materials and supplies on hand before starting:
- Safety gear – gloves, safety glasses, dust mask
- Pry bar
- Putty knife
- Mineral spirits or paint thinner
- Adhesive remover or solvent
- Caulk and caulk gun
- New backsplash material
The key tools for this project are the pry bar, putty knife, and adhesive remover or solvent. The pry bar will help gently loosen the backsplash from the wall and countertop. The putty knife will help scrape off old caulk and adhesive. The adhesive remover/solvent will dissolve the laminate adhesive so the backsplash can be detached from the countertop.
Gather all your supplies and tools to have ready before you start removing the laminate backsplash.
Protect Surrounding Areas
Before starting demo work on the backsplash, properly protect the surrounding work areas. Cover the countertop next to the backsplash with cardboard or a drop cloth. Mask off the backsplash area on the countertops with painter’s tape. This will protect the countertop surface from damage during prying and scraping.
Clear out items stored on the countertops or backsplash area. Remove any dishes, appliances, decor items, etc. that are stored on the counters or back wall. This gets them safely out of the way for the project.
Sweep and clean debris off the countertops. Start with a clear, clean surface to work on. Now you are ready to start safely removing the old laminate backsplash.
Carefully Pry Away Backsplash
With your workspace prepped, it’s time to start detaching the backsplash from the countertop and wall. This is the most delicate part of the process, where you need to take care not to gouge or crack the laminate countertop.
Here are the steps for safely prying away the backsplash:
- Locate the seam where the backsplash meets the countertop. Look for any caulking line that demarcates the joint between the two laminate pieces. This is your starting point.
- Take your pry bar and gently insert the edge between the backsplash and countertop. Slowly apply pressure to loosen the backsplash away from the countertop.
- Once you create some separation, you can work a putty knife into the seam to continue releasing the backsplash. Apply steady outward pressure as you slide the putty knife down the length of the seam.
- Work slowly and patiently. If needed, use a hammer and gently tap the pry bar to help separate the two surfaces. Applying heat from a hair dryer or heat gun along the seam can also help release the bond.
- As you release the backsplash from the countertop, periodically stop to spray or apply adhesive remover or solvent. Let it sit for a minute before continuing to pry.
Take your time and do not force anything too quickly to avoid cracking the countertop or chipping the laminate. Steady progress separating the backsplash will eventually allow you to fully detach it from the countertop.
Remove Old Caulk and Adhesive
Once you’ve freed the backsplash from the countertop, you need to remove any remaining caulk, adhesive, or other residue from both surfaces. Here’s how to completely clean off the backsplash and countertop edges:
- Use a putty knife to scrape away all old caulk and adhesive. This may take some effort and patience to fully clear these areas.
- Spray or apply adhesive remover/solvent to help dissolve and loosen the caulk and laminate adhesive residue. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes before scraping again with the putty knife.
- For any remaining sticky residue, scrub with mineral spirits or paint thinner applied to a cloth or nylon scrub pad. Avoid abrasive scouring pads.
- Sand down the countertop edge and scrape/sand the backsplash edge to remove residue and roughness. Start with 60 grit sandpaper and smooth with 100 grit.
- Wipe down the backsplash wall area and countertop edges with a dry cloth once fully cleaned of old caulk and adhesive.
Thoroughly removing all traces of old caulk and adhesive will prep the surfaces for fresh caulk and your new backsplash.
Apply New Backsplash
With the old laminate backsplash removed and the countertop edges cleaned up, it’s time to install your new backsplash! Here are some tips for properly applying your new backsplash:
- Make sure the backsplash wall area is primed, smooth, and ready for installation of the new backsplash. Scrub off gloss, sand rough areas, vacuum away dust.
- Apply painter’s tape vertically along the edge of the countertop to protect the surface when installing the new backsplash.
- Dry fit your backsplash panels and make any cuts needed before adhering into place.
- Apply adhesive mortar, mastic, grout, or adhesive recommended for the backsplash product you are installing.
- Carefully press the backsplash panels into place against the wall, sliding down to adhere and fit snugly against the countertop edge.
- Allow adhesive to fully cure based on manufacturer directions before proceeding.
- Once installed, apply fresh caulk between the backsplash and countertop to neatly seal the joint line between the two surfaces.
- Wipe away any excess caulk and remove painter’s tape from the countertop edge once done.
With some patience and the right techniques, you can achieve a seamless join between your existing laminate countertop and brand new backsplash. Enjoy your updated kitchen look!
How can I soften old caulk and adhesive to remove it more easily?
Applying adhesive remover, mineral spirits, paint thinner, or even warm vinegar can help soften old caulk and adhesive residue. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes before scraping and wiping away.
What if part of the laminate tears off when removing the backsplash?
This may happen if the adhesive is very stubborn. If a small tear occurs, sand smooth and fill with caulk when installing the new backsplash. For a larger tear, you may want to consult a countertop repair professional.
Do I need to remove the entire laminate backsplash?
If only part of the backsplash is damaged, you can try just removing that affected section rather than the entire backsplash. But this will involve carefully patching to match the existing backsplash.
Can I use the same backsplash material that’s on my current laminate countertop?
You can try to source the same type of laminate to replace the backsplash with. But it will likely not be an exact color match due to fading and wear over time on the existing countertop.
Is there an easier option than removing the laminate backsplash?
You can install new backsplash tile or panels right over the existing laminate backsplash, adding a thin layer of adhesive between. This avoids removing the original backsplash.
Removing an outdated laminate backsplash can completely transform the look of your kitchen. While care needs to be taken around the laminate countertop edges, this is a project a motivated DIYer can take on. Using the proper tools and techniques will allow you to successfully remove the old backsplash and install an updated one. Just take your time and don’t force anything too quickly. With some perseverance, you can achieve a seamless join between the countertop and fresh new backsplash.