How to Demo Backsplash Tile


Demoing or removing existing backsplash tile is usually necessary when renovating or updating your kitchen or bathroom. While it may seem daunting, demoing backsplash tile is a straightforward DIY project that anyone can tackle with the right tools, materials, and techniques.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the entire process of demoing backsplash tile step-by-step, from gathering supplies and prepping the workspace to removing the old tile and cleaning up afterwards. We will cover proper safety precautions, tips for making the demolition as efficient as possible, and how to avoid common mistakes.

Whether you are undertaking a full kitchen or bathroom remodel or simply want to replace outdated backsplash tile, this guide has everything you need to successfully demo tile like a pro. Equipped with the information below, you will minimize hassles and be ready to install fresh, beautiful new backsplash tile that will upgrade your space.

Gather the Proper Supplies

Demolishing backsplash tile requires gathering certain supplies before getting started. Ensuring you have the right tools on hand will facilitate the whole process and allow you to safely and efficiently remove the tile.

Here are the recommended supplies for demoing backsplash tile:

  • Safety gear – Safety glasses, ear protection, dust mask, gloves
  • Drop cloths – Canvas, plastic, tarps to protect surrounding surfaces
  • Hammer – Preferably with a claw for prying up stubborn tiles
  • Cold chisel – To chip away at mortar between tiles
  • Pry bar – Small pry bar for wedging under tiles
  • Putty knife – For scraping off remaining tile adhesive
  • Utility knife – For scoring grout lines or cutting mesh backing
  • Trash bags/buckets – For removing tile debris and waste
  • Shop vacuum – For ongoing cleanup while demoing
  • Knee pads – To protect knees when kneeling on hard flooring

Acquiring all these supplies prior to starting demo will allow the project to go much more smoothly and safely. You certainly do not want to be halfway done only to realize you are missing an essential tool!

Prepare the Workspace

Before beginning demolition, you need to thoroughly prepare the tile backsplash area and surrounding workspace. Taking time to prep will make demo significantly easier while also protecting the rest of the kitchen or bathroom.

Here are some tips for prepping the workspace prior to demoing backsplash tile:

  • Clear countertops – Remove everything from countertops and store away or cover.
  • Protect surfaces – Cover countertops, floors, cabinets, and appliances with drop cloths.
  • Remove accessories – Take down any soap dispensers, mirrors, accent tiles, etc.
  • Cover vents/outlets – Prevent debris from entering HVAC vents or electrical boxes.
  • Photograph layout – Take before pictures of the tile layout to help with reinstallation.
  • Sweep area – Sweep up dust, dirt, and debris from the backsplash and floor.
  • Set up work zone – Have all tools/materials organized in the demo area for easy access.

Taking the time to comprehensively prepare the space in advance will allow you to focus solely on demolition once you begin and prevent damage to finishes.

Safety Tips for Demolition

When demoing backsplash tile, safety should always be the top priority. Tile often has sharp edges and removing it can generate significant debris and dust. Use the following safety tips when demolishing backsplash tile:

  • Use PPE – Wear safety glasses, dust mask, ear protection, gloves and knee pads at all times.
  • Work carefully – Take your time and don’t rush demolition to avoid mistakes or injuries.
  • Watch for wires – Be mindful not to damage any electrical wiring behind the tile.
  • Contain dust – Keep a shop vac running to contain airborne dust and particles.
  • Ventilate area – Open windows and use fans to keep air circulating and reduce dust.
  • Keep area clear – Frequently remove demolished tile pieces and debris to prevent slip/fall hazards.
  • Support body – Use a knee pad when kneeling and avoid staying in one position too long.
  • Stay hydrated – Drink enough water when doing this physically demanding work.

Prioritizing safety ensures the tile demo process goes smoothly for DIYers. Rushing leads to mistakes, so take it slow and use appropriate protection.

Effective Methods for Demolishing Tile

When ready to start demolition, use the following proven techniques to efficiently dismantle backsplash tile:

Pry Up Whole Tiles

If the tile is glued on with mastic, insert a pry bar or putty knife under the bottom edge and gently pry upwards. Apply force gradually until the entire tile releases.

Chip Away at Grout Lines

Use a hammer and cold chisel to chip vertically along grout lines. This will break the tile free from the mortar beneath.

Score and Snap Tile

Use a utility knife to score the mesh backing of mosaic sheets. Snap pieces off by hand once cut through.

Scrap Off Old Adhesive

For any adhesive remaining after tile removal, use a putty knife to gently scrape it from the wall surface.

Sweep Frequently

Constantly sweep up debris with a broom and dustpan to prevent accumulation.

By utilizing these methods, tile should lift off without too much effort. Work in small sections for easiest debris cleanup and to prevent damaging drywall.

Mistakes to Avoid When Demoing Tile

Demolishing backsplash tile has potential pitfalls. Be mindful to avoid these common mistakes DIYers often make:

  • Forgetting eye/ear protection – Flying debris can easily cause injuries without glasses and earmuffs.
  • No drop cloths – Protect floors, countertops and appliances to prevent costly damage from fallen tile pieces.
  • Hammering aggressively – Easy does it! Use minimal force so you don’t put holes in the wall.
  • Prying on uncut grout – Always score grout lines first so tiles come off cleaner.
  • Improper tool use – Putty knives can tear drywall and cold chisels can scratch tiles. Use the right tool for the task.
  • Leaving debris – Don’t let removed tile accumulate. Debris gets slippery fast underfoot.
  • Working too quickly – Rushing leads to accidental damage. Take your time demolishing tile.

Being aware of these common pitfalls will allow you to avoid them during your own backsplash tile demolition.

Removing Tile Backing and Adhesive

Once all whole tiles have been pried up, you will be left with areas of remaining tile backing and adhesive on the wall. These also need removal prior to installing new backsplash tile. Here is how to get rid of any remaining traces:

Tile Backing

If there is mesh backing left, simply peel it off by hand. Use a utility knife to score it into pieces if required.

Adhesive Residue

Use a putty knife to gently scrape off all adhesive down to the bare wall surface. Avoid gouging into drywall.

Remaining Grout

Mix up a grout removal product and spread on remaining grout residue. Allow time to work. Scrub off and rinse.

Mortar and Thinset

Use a chisel to chip away old thinset and mortar. Avoid damaging the wall in the process.

With the tile, backing, adhesive and grout removed, inspect the wall for any holes, cracks or remaining debris. Your backsplash area should now be blank and ready for new tile installation.

Disposing of Tiles and Debris

Once demolition is complete, properly dispense with the waste:

  • Place all tile pieces in sturdy contractor bags, cardboard boxes or buckets.
  • Remove debris frequently to avoid heavy overloaded bags.
  • Use broom and dustpan to sweep up remaining dust and shards.
  • Vacuum the area thoroughly to remove any last traces.
  • Dispose of tile waste according to your local regulations. Most can go out with regular trash pickup.
  • Make sure to wear gloves and mask when handling waste to avoid contact with debris and dust.

Safely removing all traces of tile demolition waste is the final step before you can move on to the exciting process of installing your fresh new backsplash!

FAQs About Demoing Backsplash Tile

What tools do I need to remove backsplash tile?

The essential tools for demolishing backsplash tile include a hammer, cold chisel, pry bar, putty knife, utility knife, safety gear, drop cloths, broom, and vacuum.

How long does it take to demo tile backsplash?

For a standard 10-15 sq. ft. backsplash area, demoing tile will take 2-4 hours for a DIYer working at a moderate pace. Rushing risks damaging the wall.

What is the easiest way to remove backsplash tile?

Scoring grout lines with a utility knife then prying up full tiles with a pry bar is the quickest, lowest-effort method. Chip away remaining mortar with chisel.

Can I demo tile backsplash myself?

Yes! With proper tools, safety precautions and the techniques above, anyone can tackle a DIY tile demolition. Go slowly and carefully.

What should I do before demoing backsplash tile?

Completely clear countertops, cover surfaces with drop cloths, remove accessories, photograph layout, sweep debris, and organize workspace before starting demo.

How do I protect walls when demoing tile?

Work carefully to avoid excessive force, use drop cloths to catch fallen debris, and keep a shop vac running to contain dust and prevent it settling into drywall.

What is the best way to get rid of old tile debris?

Place tile pieces in sturdy contractor bags or buckets during demolition. When finished, sweep up remaining dust and shards. Dispose of according to local regulations.

Is it hard to remove mesh tile backing?

No, mesh backing generally peels off easily by hand after tiles are pried up. Use a utility knife to score it first if it is stubborn.

Can I put new tile over existing backsplash?

It is not recommended. Existing tile must be fully removed to allow proper adhesion of new tile. Covering over may eventually lead to failure.


Demoing your outdated backsplash tile may sound intimidating, but as shown in this guide it can be tackled successfully as a DIY project with proper preparation and techniques. Always put safety first by wearing protective gear and working carefully. Gather all required tools and thoroughly prep the workspace in advance.

Use proven methods like prying, chipping, and scoring to dismantle tile while sweeping up debris frequently. Avoid common mistakes like failing to protect surfaces or rushing demolition. With patience and the right approach, the tile will come down cleanly. This leaves you ready to install a stunning new backsplash and transform your kitchen or bathroom.