How Much to Remove Tile Backsplash

Removing a tile backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it doesn’t have to be. Here is a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about removing tile backsplashes, including how much it costs, what tools are required, steps for removal, prep work, hiring a contractor vs DIY, disposal of old tiles, and tips to make the process go smoothly.


A backsplash not only protects your walls from water damage and stains, but serves as a decorative focal point in your kitchen or bathroom. Over time, backsplash tiles can become outdated, damaged, or you may just be ready for a new look. Removing and replacing a backsplash is one of the easiest ways to update the style and feel of your space.

While it may seem simpler to cover up old tiles with new ones, this is not usually recommended. The multiple layers of tile can cause adhesion issues for the new tiles and create an uneven surface. Removing the old backsplash completely provides the ideal blank canvas for new tile installation.

Below you will find all the details on backsplash removal, including step-by-step instructions, so you can take on this project with confidence.

Cost to Remove Tile Backsplash

The cost to remove a tile backsplash professionally can range from $3 to $7 per square foot depending on your geographic location and the specific complexities of the job.

For a 10 square foot backsplash, you can expect to pay $30 to $70 for removal labor only. This does not account for costs to purchase new tile and materials or installation of the new backsplash.

Factors that influence removal costs:

  • Size of the backsplash area – Larger backsplashes take more time and labor.
  • Tile material – Ceramic or porcelain tiles are easier to remove than natural stone.
  • Condition of existing tile – Severely damaged tiles take longer to pry up and scrape adhesive.
  • Accessibility – Tiles behind appliances or in corners require extra work.
  • Disposal fees – Hauling away debris can add costs if not DIY.

To keep costs down, carefully remove tiles yourself and properly prep the wall for new tile. However, if multiple layers of tiles exist or the area is greater than 15-20 square feet, hiring a pro can save time and ensure proper adhesive removal.

Tools and Materials Needed

Removing a tile backsplash is mostly a demo project requiring minimal specialty tools. Having the right equipment makes the process faster and easier.

Essential Tools:

  • Safety gear – gloves, eye protection, mask
  • Pry bar or putty knives
  • Hammer
  • Tile chisel
  • Scrapers for adhesive residue
  • Shovel and dust pan
  • Shop vac

Additional Supplies:

  • Drop cloths
  • Bucket for tile pieces
  • Rags
  • Painter’s tape
  • Mineral spirits for cleaned finished surfaces

For natural stone tiles, a stone chisel and masonry blades on a circular saw can also help with removal. Renting power tools is recommended if you don’t have your own.

Gather all necessary demolition tools and safety equipment before beginning the project. The right tools allow you to carefully pry tiles off instead of aggressively hammering and damaging drywall.

Step-by-Step Guide for Removing Tile Backsplash

Follow these key steps to safely and effectively remove a tile backsplash:

1. Prepare the Workspace

Clear the countertops and protect surfaces surrounding the backsplash area. Use drop cloths and securely tape off any areas you want to keep tile-free. Remove appliances or fixtures directly against the backsplash to allow for easier access.

Turn off electricity and water supply lines running behind the wall tiles prior to removal. Empty lower cabinets to prevent items from getting damaged by falling tiles and debris.

2. Score Grout Lines and Break Tile Adhesion

Using a sharp utility knife or grout removal tool, score along existing grout lines. This scoring weakens grout and breaks the seal between the tiles.

Gently tap tiles with a hammer and tile chisel to begin breaking the tile free from the adhesive behind it. Work in small sections across the entire backsplash surface.

3. Pop Off Tiles

Once grout and adhesive is loosened, carefully pry tiles off the wall using a putty knife or pry bar. Try to keep tiles as intact as possible to prevent breaking them into small pieces. Wear thick gloves to avoid sharp tile edges cutting hands.

Place removed full tiles in a bucket to keep work area clean. Use a dust pan and shop vac to regularly clear out broken tile shards and debris.

4. Scrape Away Adhesive

After all whole tiles are pried off, you will be left with a layer of old adhesive on the drywall. Using a scraper, thoroughly scrape adhesive down to the bare wall surface. This may take some time and elbow grease for stubborn adhesives.

Be cautious using sharp scrapers on drywall to avoid gouging and damaging the wall. Once adhesive is removed, carefully wash the backsplash area with an all-purpose cleaner and rinse well. Let dry fully before applying any new backsplash.

5. Dispose of Tiles and Adhesive Debris

Sweep up all remaining bits of tile, grout, and adhesive residue. Contain and dispose of debris properly according to local regulations. Porcelain or ceramic tiles can go in your regular trash.

Natural stone often requires special disposal. Many haul away services can properly get rid of old backsplash materials if you choose not to handle it yourself.

6. Prep the Surface for New Tile

Before installing the new backsplash, fill any gouges in the drywall with spackle and sand smooth. Wipe away dust and ensure the surface is clean and ready for your backsplash refresh!

Key Prep Work for Easier Removal

Taking time on proper prep work makes the removal process faster with less frustration. Keep these key tips in mind:

  • Remove any appliances or fixtures against the backsplash before starting demolition. Detach items from electrical and plumbing if needed.
  • Score grout lines with a utility knife prior to tapping with a hammer. This weakens the grout for easier breakage when prying tiles off.
  • Start tile removal in the least visible corner. This allows you to get the hang of techniques before moving to more noticeable central areas.
  • Apply painter’s tape around the outer edges of the backsplash perimeter before prying tiles off. This helps protect the surrounding walls.
  • Wear gloves, goggles and a mask to avoid injury from sharp tiles and lung irritation from adhesive dust.
  • Work in small sections when scraping off stubborn adhesive residues to prevent exhausting yourself.
  • Take your time with prep and removal to get the wall in proper shape for new backsplash application.

Hiring a Professional vs DIY Removal

Deciding between DIY backsplash removal or hiring a professional comes down to your skill level, budget, and time constraints.

Benefits of DIY tile removal:

  • Saves money on labor costs
  • Works around your schedule
  • Allows you to personally prepare the wall surface

Benefits of hiring a pro:

  • Jobs with multiple tile layers or natural stone
  • Accessibility issues behind appliances
  • Allows focus on new tile purchasing and design
  • Ensures proper adhesive removal
  • No disposal or cleanup responsibilities

Consider your specific backsplash project, and whether you can tackle the demolition work yourself or would benefit from hiring help. Some tile professionals will include removal costs in the total price for new backsplash installation.

Get upfront pricing from tile contractors to compare with your DIY estimated costs before deciding. Carefully evaluate if your DIY skills are up for the task before taking it on solo.

How to Dispose of Old Tile Backsplash

Before starting demolition, make sure you have a plan in place for disposing of the old tile debris properly. Ceramic, porcelain, or glass tiles can be thrown away in your regular household garbage.

For natural stone tile, check with your local municipality hazardous waste requirements. Often stone tiles require special disposal for recycling or to avoid contamination risks.

If transporting and disposing large amounts of tile, consider these disposal options:

  • Rent a dumpster – Convenient for large backsplash projects but can get pricey. Ensure tile debris is allowed.
  • Hire haul away services – Many junk removal companies can dispose of construction and tile debris for a reasonable fee.
  • Take tiles to a recycling center – Some facilities accept broken tiles and stone for recycling. Call ahead about limitations and costs.
  • Dispose in household trash bins – For small DIY jobs, contain shards and slowly place with regular garbage over a few weeks.

Removing old grout and adhesive from tiles prior to disposal allows more waste diversion opportunities. Never dump hazardous backsplash materials illegally.

Tips for Smooth Tile Removal Process

Removing and replacing a backsplash brings a major change to your kitchen or bath. Keep these tips in mind for a successful project from demolition to installation:

  • Carefully pry tiles off in whole pieces when possible to prevent shattered shards from flying. Wear protective eye gear.
  • Go slowly when scraping off stubborn adhesive residue to avoid gouging or damaging the drywall behind it.
  • Take time to clean and smooth the exposed wall so it is ready for new backsplash application.
  • Factor in additional costs for backsplash supplies like mortar, tile spacers, and grout when budgeting the full project.
  • Have a game plan for appliances that need to be temporarily disconnected and moved away from the backsplash area before starting.
  • Take detailed photos of tile layout, plumbing, and electrical before demolition to assist with re-installation.
  • Keep the work area contained and tidy to minimize damage to surrounding areas in your kitchen or bath.

With the right prep work and tools, you can feel confident removing your existing backsplash efficiently. Follow the step-by-step guidance above for successful tile demolition and wall readiness for stunning new backsplash tile.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you remove stubborn old tile adhesive?

For very stubborn adhesive residue, try letting a heat gun or hair dryer run over the adhesive to soften it, then scrape again. Chemical solvents like mineral spirits can also help dissolve old mastic. Be cautious using chemicals and heat on drywall.

How do you remove backsplash tile around outlets?

Use a utility knife to gently detach grout around outlet plates and cut through caulking. Once the tile is loosened, very carefully pry the tile away from the outlet so as not to damage any electrical wiring. Turn power off to outlets before attempting removal.

What tool removes grout effectively?

A carbide-tipped grout saw or oscillating tool with grout removal blade are the most effective and quickest options. These tools allow you to score along grout lines smoothly without damaging tile. Always wear eye protection.

Can you put new tile over existing backsplash?

This is not advisable. Old tile needs to be removed completely down the studs or bare wall surface. New mortar and tile will not adhere properly over multiple layers. Removing the old backsplash fully allows inspection of the wall condition.

Is it cheaper to remove tile or go over it?

Going over existing tile with a skim coat or new backsplash can initially seem cheaper by avoiding demo costs. However, this often leads to problems down the road like tile adhesion failure. Doing it right by removing old tile fully costs more upfront yet prevents future headaches.


Removing your outdated or damaged tile backsplash is achievable for many DIYers with the right guidance. Carefully follow the process of scoring grout, prying tiles, scraping adhesive, and disposing debris. Allow enough time for thorough prep and wall smoothing for optimal new tile application.

Hiring a professional for natural stone backsplash removal or particularly stubborn projects can give homeowners peace of mind. Use the cost estimates above to budget appropriately for your backsplash installation project.

With some sweat equity and the proper tools, you can demolish the old backsplash and gain a fresh blank slate for your kitchen or bathroom. Just look forward to the satisfaction of tiling a beautifully prepared wall and seeing your gorgeous new backsplash come to life.