How to End a Mosaic Tile Backsplash

Installing a mosaic tile backsplash can add a beautiful, artistic touch to your kitchen or bathroom. However, eventually you may decide it’s time for an update. Ending a mosaic tile backsplash isn’t difficult, but does require some planning and effort to remove the tiles properly. Here’s a step-by-step guide to ending a mosaic tile backsplash in your home.

Gather the Proper Materials

Before starting demo on the backsplash, you’ll need to gather the right tools and materials to protect the rest of the space and safely remove the tile. Be sure you have:

  • Safety gear – glasses, mask, gloves
  • Drop cloths
  • Pry bar
  • Hammer
  • Putty knives
  • Utility knife
  • Dustpan and broom
  • Bucket
  • Tile adhesive remover
  • Grout saw
  • Sponge

Getting the proper materials together ahead of time will make the process smoother.

Protect Surrounding Areas

Since tile removal can get messy, you’ll want to cover nearby surfaces. Spread drop cloths over the countertops, stove, and floor around the backsplash area. Use painter’s tape to secure them so they stay in place. This will provide an easier clean-up later.

You may also want to disconnect and remove items like light fixtures that are on the backsplash to prevent damage. Carefully detach them and set aside until the tiling is complete.

Score Grout Lines

Most mosaic tile backsplashes have grout holding them together. Scoring along these grout lines will help loosen the tiles for removal. Use a utility knife or grout saw to gently cut into the grout all around the tiles.

Be careful not to scratch the surrounding surfaces as you score along the grout. The tile should now be ready to pry off.

Remove Tiles

After scoring the grout, you can begin gently prying off tiles. Start from the top and work your way down, removing tiles one by one.

Place a pry bar under the tile edge and carefully lift up and out. Tap lightly with a hammer if needed to help loosen. Keep prying and removing tiles until they are all gone.

Clean Backer Board

Once all mosaic tiles are removed, inspect the backer board behind them. Use a putty knife, utility knife, or chisel to scrape off any remaining tile adhesive or thinset mortar.

Get it as smooth as possible to prep the backsplash area for new tile. Vacuum up debris and wipe with a damp sponge.

Remove Adhesive

If thicker layers of adhesive remain on the backer board, you may need an adhesive remover product. Spread a layer over the sticky areas, allowing it to penetrate for several minutes.

Use a putty knife to scrape off softened adhesive. Wipe the backer board clean when done. Rinse the surface and let it fully dry.

Inspect and Repair Backer Board

Examine the backer board and make any necessary repairs before retiling. Look for gaps, cracks, and damage.

Use joint compound or spackle to patch small holes. Cut out and replace sections for larger damaged spots.

Sand any rough areas. The backer board needs to be in good condition to support new tile.

Renew Grout Lines

For the finishing touch, go over all the grout lines with new grout. This helps create a smooth, even base for the next backsplash.

Mix up grout with a latex additive and apply it carefully over the joints, smoothing with a finger. Let it cure fully before moving on.

Enjoy Your Fresh Start

Once the backer board is repaired and grout lines filled in, the backsplash is prepped for a brand new look. Ending a mosaic tile backsplash takes some work, but opens up many exciting design options to change up your space.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ending a Mosaic Tile Backsplash

Here are answers to some common questions about removing an existing mosaic tile backsplash:

What tools do I need to remove mosaic tile?
The main tools needed are a hammer, pry bar, putty knives, utility knife, grout saw, sponges, drop cloths, gloves, and safety glasses. Adhesive remover, joint compound, and grout may also be needed.

How do I remove thinset mortar?
To remove thinset adhesive behind the tile, you’ll need to scrape and chip away at it with a putty knife or chisel. An adhesive remover product can also help soften and dissolve the thinset for easier removal.

Can I put new tile over an existing backsplash?
It’s not recommended to install new tile over an existing backsplash. The layers of old adhesive and grout limit adhesion and increase the chance of the new tiles becoming loose over time.

What’s the easiest way to remove mosaic sheets?
The best approach is to score grout lines with a utility knife before prying up the sheets. Go slowly and be careful not to bend or warp the mosaic tile mats as you remove them.

How do I prep the backsplash area once tiles are off?
After removing all old tiles, scrape off remaining adhesive, vacuum up debris, wipe the backer board clean, fill any gaps or holes, sand rough areas, and regrout the joints in preparation for the new backsplash.

Can I salvage removed mosaic tiles?
You may be able to clean and reuse intact mosaic tiles. However, it can be tricky to get them off the backing sheets without breaking. New tile is recommended for best results.


Ending a mosaic tile backsplash requires step-by-step demolition and prep work, but it opens up new design possibilities for your kitchen or bath. With the right materials and safety precautions, you can safely remove existing tile and adhesive. Carefully pry off each tile, scrape away adhesive, repair the backer board, and regrout joints before installing a fresh new backsplash you’ll love. Take your time and make sure to protect surrounding surfaces during this messy but rewarding project.