Can You Remove Backsplash Without Damaging Drywall?

Removing a tile backsplash without damaging the drywall behind it is possible, but it requires careful work. With the right tools and techniques, you can remove backsplash tiles cleanly and avoid tearing up the wallboard. Here is a detailed guide on how to remove backsplash without ruining drywall.

What You Need to Remove Backsplash Without Wall Damage

To remove backsplash tiles without tearing up drywall, you need to have the proper tools and materials on hand. Here is a list of what you’ll need:

  • Flat pry bar – A long, flat pry bar allows you to get leverage under tiles to pop them off. Look for one at least 24 inches long.
  • Hammer – For tapping tiles to break adhesive loose. Use a small claw hammer.
  • Putty knives – Use wide 6-inch putty knives to help pry up tiles.
  • Goggles – For eye protection when chiseling.
  • Dust mask – To avoid breathing tile dust.
  • Knee pads – For kneeling on hard floors during removal.
  • Drop cloths – For protecting floors and countertops from debris.
  • Tile adhesive solvent – Helps soften old adhesive for easier removal.
  • Utility knife – For scraping off old thinset and cutting mesh.
  • Needle-nose pliers – For pulling out backsplash nails or staples.
  • Sandpaper – For smoothing rough areas after tile removal.
  • Drywall mud and tools – For patching holes or gouges in drywall.
  • Primer and paint – To match existing wall color after repairs.

Getting the proper tools and protective gear will make it much easier to remove backsplash without damaging walls. Investing in quality tools also helps the job go faster and reduces frustration.

How to Remove Backsplash Tile Without Drywall Damage

With the right supplies on hand, you can start removing backsplash tiles without harming the wallboard behind. Follow these steps:

1. Prepare the Workspace

  • Clear countertops and remove anything breakable from the backsplash area.
  • Cover nearby surfaces with drop cloths to catch falling debris.
  • Have a garbage bag ready to discard broken tiles and fragments.
  • Sweep or vacuum the backsplash to remove loose dirt and dust.

Preparing the room will create a cleaner workspace and prevent damage to counters or floors.

2. Loosen Grout Lines

  • Use a utility knife to score along grout lines surrounding each tile.
  • Cut any existing caulk between the backsplash and countertop.
  • Apply tile adhesive solvent along grout to help soften it up.

Scoring grout and applying solvent will weaken the grout holds and make tiles easier to pry off.

3. Start Prying Off Tiles

  • Wedge flat pry bar under bottom edge of a tile and gently pry upward.
  • Tap gently underneath with hammer if needed to jar tile loose.
  • Once loosened, use putty knives to continue prying tile off the wall.
  • Remove any nails, screws or backsplash clips.
  • Work methodically outwards from bottom corners.

Go slow when prying to avoid cracking tiles or gouging into drywall behind. Removing bottom rows first prevents damage.

4. Scrape Off Remaining Thinset

  • Use a sharpened putty knife to scrape off leftover thinset adhesive.
  • Take care not to dig into the paper facing on drywall.
  • Avoid using excessive force during scraping.

Scraping off old mortar thoroughly prepares the wall for fresh tile or new backsplash. But go gently to avoid drywall damage.

5. Clean Up Walls

  • Lightly sand any bumps or rough spots on drywall.
  • Wipe away all dust and debris with a damp sponge or cloth.
  • Fill any gouges or holes with drywall joint compound and let dry.
  • Prime and paint repaired areas to match existing wall color.

Properly cleaning and touching up walls provides a fresh surface ready for the next backsplash project.

6. Dispose of Old Tiles and Materials

  • Place all broken tiles, grout fragments, thinset, and debris into garbage bags.
  • Make sure to wear a dust mask when sweeping up any remaining dust.
  • Discard all waste according to local regulations. Recycle materials if possible.

Properly disposing of the waste keeps the workspace clean and avoids health hazards.

Tips for Preventing Drywall Damage

Removing backsplash without damaging drywall takes patience and the right techniques. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Go slowly and apply steady force when prying – avoid jerking or pulling violently.
  • Only pry up one tile at a time to prevent cracking surrounding ones.
  • Cut any caulk between backsplash and countertop to break the seal.
  • Keep pry bar close to wall at a low angle to minimize leverage force.
  • Use wider 6-inch putty knives to help protect wallboard.
  • Follow the adhesive manufacturer’s directions for solvent use.
  • Immediately stop if you see tears or gouges forming in paper facing.

Rushing the job or using excessive force is what leads to unnecessary drywall damage. Focus on controlled, methodical removal.

What If Drywall Gets Damaged During Removal?

If you do accidentally gouge or tear into the drywall during backsplash removal, the damage can still be repaired relatively easily:

  • For small holes and gashes, use drywall joint compound to fill and smooth.
  • Cut away loose flaps of facing paper and reattach with compound.
  • For larger holes, cut and screw in small drywall patches to fill.
  • Sand repairs smooth when dry then prime and paint.

With the proper fillers and tools, even moderate drywall damage can be patched up seamlessly. Just take care to match original texture and wall color.

Major damage may require calling in drywall repair pros or replacing whole sheets. But small holes, dents and tears are DIY-friendly fixes.

Hiring a Pro to Remove Backsplash Without Wall Damage

Removing backsplash tile yourself has the lowest cost but highest risk of drywall damage. Hiring a professional provides experience:

Benefits of pro backsplash removal:

  • Access to commercial-grade tools that minimize wall damage.
  • Knowledge of techniques to pop tiles off cleanly.
  • Skills for proper disposal and minimal dust.
  • Ability to prep the wall for new backsplash installation.

While DIY removal can be done safely, pros have specialized tools and practice working on many projects. Their skills make drywall damage during removal less likely.

Cost to hire a backsplash removal contractor:

  • $200 – $400 for a typical 10-15 sq. ft. backsplash area.
  • $3 – $5 per sq. ft. for larger backsplash removals.
  • Add $100 – $200 for new tile installation.
  • Regional labor rates cause prices to vary.

Removing existing backsplash tile requires patience and the proper methods. But with care, the right tools, and these techniques, you can eliminate your outdated backsplash without damaging the wall behind it. Just focus on working slowly, controlling force applied, and making repairs if needed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Backsplash Without Drywall Damage

Can I remove backsplash without taking out drywall?

Yes, it is possible to remove tile backsplash without damaging the drywall behind it. The key is using the proper tools and techniques to pry tiles off carefully. With patience and care, the backsplash can be taken out while leaving drywall intact.

What tools do I need to remove backsplash from drywall?

Recommended tools include a long pry bar, hammer, putty knives, utility knife, pliers, drop cloths, adhesive solvent, safety gear, and drywall repair materials. Quality tools allow you to pop tiles off without tearing at the wallboard.

How do you separate backsplash from drywall?

First, cut any caulk between the backsplash and countertop. Then score grout lines with a utility knife before applying adhesive solvent. Start prying tiles off from the bottom up using gentle pressure. Finally, scrape off remaining thinset adhesive without gouging the drywall.

Can I remove mastic from drywall?

Yes, tile mastic adhesive can be scraped off drywall using a sharpened putty knife. Take care not to dig into the paper facing. Any residual mastic can be cleaned off using adhesive remover or denatured alcohol. Avoid abrasive pads or excessive scraping.

What’s the easiest way to remove backsplash?

The easiest method is to score grout lines, loosen tiles starting from the bottom, and pry off gently with putty knives. Take it slow and steady. Using solvents to soften old adhesive also makes removal easier. Rushing the job risks cracking tiles and damaging drywall.

How do you prep drywall for new backsplash?

After removing old backsplash, fill any gouges with joint compound, sand smooth, clean away dust, prime repaired spots, and paint to match existing wall color. This preps the surface for new backsplash tile to stick properly.


Removing an outdated backsplash doesn’t have to mean tearing up the drywall behind it. Armed with the proper pry bar, putty knives, solvents and other tools, you can eliminate the old tile cleanly. Focus on working methodically from the bottom up, applying steady pressure, and controlling prying motion. Repair any accidental damage before applying fresh paint. With care and patience, it’s completely possible to remove backsplash without harming your walls. Just take it slow and make safety and precision your priorities.