How hard is it to remove tile backsplash

Removing a tile backsplash can be a challenging DIY project, but with the right tools and techniques, it is certainly doable for the ambitious homeowner. Here is a comprehensive guide on how hard it is to remove tile backsplash and the steps involved.

What Makes Removing Tile Backsplash Difficult?

There are a few factors that contribute to the difficulty of removing tile backsplash:

  • The adhesive used – Modern backsplashes are often installed with mastic or thinset adhesive which is very stubborn and hard to scrape off. Older installations may use mortar which is also extremely difficult to remove.
  • Type of tile – Ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tiles are durable and strongly bonded. Glass, metal or plastic tiles may be slightly easier to pry off.
  • Area covered – A full wall backsplash is more tedious than just behind a stove. Tiles around outlets, corners and near cabinets add to the hassle.
  • Fragile drywall – Aggressive scraping can damage the drywall behind the tile. Extra care must be taken to avoid tearing the water-resistant backing.

Steps to Remove Tile Backsplash

Here are the key steps involved in how hard is it to remove tile backsplash:

Gather the Right Tools

Proper tools will make the job much easier:

  • Safety gear – glasses, mask, knee pads, gloves
  • Hammer and chisel – to chip away grout and break tile bonds
  • Putty knife or scraper – helps pry off tiles
  • Utility knife – cut through stubborn adhesives
  • Pry bar – extra leverage for stubborn tiles
  • Razor blades – scrape off thinset residue

Prepare the Workspace

  • Clear countertops and remove items from backsplash area
  • Spread drop cloths to catch falling debris and tiles
  • Have a vacuum ready to frequently clean up the messy rubble
  • Work in sections for easier handling and to avoid damaging entire drywall

Demo Tile and Adhesive

  • Score grout lines with utility knife then chip out with hammer and chisel
  • Start prying tiles off gently with putty knife working top to bottom
  • Use pry bar if tiles don’t release – be patient and go slowly
  • Once tile is off, scrape residual thinset with razor blade
  • Avoid gouging into drywall – stop scraping if it starts to tear

Clean and Finish the Wall

  • Once all tiles are off, vacuum and wipe away any remaining debris
  • Fill holes or uneven spots in drywall with joint compound
  • Sand until smooth and prime before applying new backsplash
  • Properly dispose of old tiles and adhesive

Common Challenges and Solutions

Removing tile backsplash can present some frustrating hurdles:

Broken tiles – Try to pry up in one piece. If tiles crack, remove shards before scraping adhesive.

Thinset won’t scrape off – Try a paint stripper chemical. Test on small area first before applying to wall.

Drywall damage – Use drywall joint compound and mesh tape to patch holes or tears.

Outlets in the way – Turn off circuit breaker before removing outlet covers. Take care around electrical.

What to do with debris – Old tiles and adhesives need proper disposal. Check local regulations.

Hiring a Professional

How hard is it to remove tile backsplash yourself? While ambitious DIY-ers can certainly take it on, there’s no shame in hiring help:

  • Saves time – Pros work rapidly and efficiently. No learning curve for beginners.
  • Avoids frustration – No need to struggle with stubborn adhesives or broken tiles.
  • Prevents drywall damage – Experts know how to remove tile without tearing up walls.
  • Proper disposal – Contractors take care of debris removal and recycling.

At the end of the day, removing backsplash tile is a tiring, tedious, messy endeavor. Hiring a general contractor or professional tile removal service may be worth the cost if you value time and want to ensure it’s done right.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to remove tile backsplash?

For an average 10 sq. ft. backsplash, it may take 2-3 hours for an experienced DIYer. Professionals can complete it in 1-2 hours. Larger backsplash areas will increase time significantly.

What is the easiest way to remove backsplash tile?

Using a utility knife to score grout lines makes prying off tiles easier. Heat guns or infrared removers can soften stubborn mastic adhesives. Professionals have chemicals and power tools that speed up the process.

Can I put new tile over existing backsplash?

It’s not recommended to install new tile over old backsplash. The layers of adhesive and grout make it uneven and unstable for new tile. Removing the old tile completely is best.

What tools do I need to remove kitchen backsplash?

Essential tools are a hammer, putty knives, pry bar, razor blades, utility knife, chisel and grout saw. Safety gear like goggles, mask and gloves are also a must.

Should I remove backsplash before listing my home?

Realtors advise updating backsplash before selling a home. Buyers prefer newer surfaces. Removing dated or damaged backsplash makes the kitchen more attractive to potential buyers.


How hard is it to remove tile backsplash? There’s no sugarcoating – it’s a tough, messy, labor intensive project. With perseverance, the right tools and techniques, it can certainly be DIY-ed by an ambitious and patient homeowner. For those who value their time and walls, hiring a professional may be money well spent. Whatever route you choose, take all necessary safety precautions and do it right the first time. The end result will be worth the effort and expense.