How to Remove 4 Inch Formica Backsplash

Removing a 4 inch formica backsplash can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be accomplished successfully as a DIY project. Formica is a tough laminate material that has been used for countertops and backsplashes for decades, so removing it takes some work and care. By following the step-by-step instructions provided, you can remove your 4 inch formica backsplash efficiently.

Gather the Necessary Materials

Before starting demolition of the formica, be sure to gather all the tools and materials needed to remove it properly:

  • Pry bar – A sturdy pry bar is essential for loosening the formica from the walls and cabinets. Look for one approximately 18 inches long to allow for good leverage.
  • Hammer – A claw hammer helps knock loose stubborn areas of formica.
  • Safety gear – Wear safety goggles, work gloves, long sleeves and a dust mask/respirator to protect yourself during removal.
  • Garbage bags – Have plenty of heavy duty garbage bags on hand to contain the formica pieces as you break them apart.
  • Painter’s tape – Use tape to section off the area you’re working on.
  • Replacement materials – Have your new backsplash materials purchased and ready to go for a streamlined installation process.

Prepare the Workspace

Before demolition can begin, you need to prep the area surrounding the formica backsplash:

  • Clear countertops and remove anything on walls within 1-2 feet of the backsplash area.
  • Use painter’s tape to seal off a perimeter around the backsplash. This helps minimize dust spread.
  • Cover nearby surfaces like floors or appliances with a drop cloth or plastic sheeting to protect from debris.
  • Turn off any kitchen appliances, switches or receptacles located within the workspace.
  • Have a stepladder ready if needed to reach any of the upper portions of the backsplash.

Score the Formica Surface

Scoring the formica surface is an important first step in backsplash removal. This involves using the pry bar and hammer to carve out cut lines that penetrate the outer layer of the formica:

  • Work in sections, starting in an upper corner and scoring vertically down the backsplash surface. Make initial score lines about 4-6 inches apart.
  • Move horizontally and continue making vertical score lines until the entire backsplash area has been carved up.
  • Go over the scored sections again, this time horizontally, to create a crosshatch pattern.
  • Focus on scoring along any caulk lines, corners, outlets and edges where the formica meets cabinets or walls. Cutting through the caulk will make prying off chunks much easier later on.

Scoring requires force, so apply pressure gradually and avoid striking too aggressively, which can damage the underlying walls. The scored cuts should just penetrate the formica laminate layer.

Pry Off the Formica Pieces

With scored lines carved over the entire backsplash, you can now start prying off chunks of the formica:

  • Begin in a top corner and wedge the flat pry bar into one of the horizontal and vertical score seams.
  • Slowly pry back, working the formica piece loose while applying even pressure.
  • Once detached from the wall, grab the piece with pliers or pry further until it fully releases and can be removed.
  • Continue prying off pieces methodically by working downwards and across the backsplash sections within your scored grid pattern.
  • As you remove pieces, place them immediately into garbage bags to contain debris.
  • Use the claw hammer to knock or pry at any stubborn areas refusing to come off the wall. Strike just hard enough to loosen the formica’s bond.
  • Around electrical boxes or edge seams, patiently work the pry bar to detach the formica from outlets, cabinetry and any adhesive. Caulk score lines help here.

Take care when prying near drywall to avoid unnecessary wall damage. Work deliberately but steadily to dislodge all the formica chunks until the walls are fully exposed.

Clean Up the Walls

Once all the formica pieces have been pried off and disposed of properly, inspect the exposed wall for any leftover adhesive or uneven areas:

  • Use a scraper tool to remove any excess adhesive or caulk residue remaining on the walls. This prep ensures a smooth surface for the new backsplash.
  • Sand down or cut off any leftover formica bits using a utility knife or rotary tool with a sanding attachment.
  • Fill any gouges, holes or cracks in the drywall with the appropriate patching compound and let dry completely.
  • Carefully scrape away any peeled drywall paper and spot treat it with joint compound. Sand smooth.
  • Wipe away all dust with a dry cloth followed by a damp sponge. Let walls dry fully before applying new backsplash.

Thoroughly prepping and smoothing the exposed wall surface helps the new backsplash adhere properly.

What Type of Backsplash Should You Use?

With the formica removed, it’s time to choose your new replacement backsplash! Here are some popular modern options:

Tile Backsplash

Ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tile provides a durable and stylish new backsplash. Pick tile material, color, finish and pattern based on the look you want to achieve. Mix and match tiles for more unique designs.

Glass Tile Backsplash

Glass mosaic tiles are colorful, easy to clean and resistant to moisture. Their luminous sheen lends a contemporary vibe. Accent with metal or stone tiles.

Stainless Steel Backsplash

For a sleek, modern look, stainless steel backsplashes are tough and stylish. Durable steel stands up to heat and stains. Great for professional kitchens.

Faux Stone Panels

Faux stone panels give the natural look of quarried stone in lighter weight engineered materials. Realistic stone finishes available like granite, marble or travertine.

Shiplap Wood Planks

Rustic shiplap wood planks provide warmth and texture. Use weathered barn wood or distressed pine planks for a homey, farmhouse appeal. Paint or stain to suit your style.

Prep and Install the New Backsplash

Once you’ve chosen your new backsplash materials, proper installation is key to creating a finished look:

Calculate Square Footage

  • Carefully measure the backsplash area length and height to determine total square footage.
  • Add a 10% overage to ensure you purchase enough material – it’s better to have leftovers than not enough.

Gather Supplies

  • Pick up all required adhesives, grout, sealants and tools needed for your particular backsplash. Consult manufacturer guidelines.
  • For tile, have tile spacers, grout float, mixing paddles and foam installation blocks on hand.

Dry Lay First

  • Do a test layout by placing tiles or backsplash panels on the countertop first before installation to ensure you have the desired fit.

Apply Adhesive

  • Spread the appropriate adhesive evenly over the wall area using a notched trowel according to tile or panel specs.
  • Follow open times carefully so adhesive does not dry before setting materials.

Set Backsplash

  • Place tiles or panels gently but firmly onto the adhesive, using spacers or shims to align.
  • Press or lightly tap pieces into the adhesive to secure, while adjusting alignment as needed.

Grout and Seal

  • Once materials adhere properly, apply grout between tile or panel joints using a grout float.
  • Wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge in diagonal motions.
  • Apply any necessary sealants as a finishing step to protect surfaces according to manufacturer guidelines.

The end result should be a quality-installed, long-lasting backsplash that upgrades your kitchen style and functionality!

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Formica Backsplash

Removing a formica backsplash in your kitchen takes work but is doable as a DIY project. Here are some common questions people have about the process:

Does Heat Help Loosen Formica?

Yes, heat from a blow dryer or heat gun can help soften caulk and adhesives to loosen formica pieces for removal. Apply heat evenly across formica and avoid too much concentration in one spot.

What Is the Best Way to Remove Caulk?

Scoring through caulk lines when making cuts into the formica will help break the seal. You can also use a utility knife or oscillating tool to slice caulk beads before prying up formica. Avoid excessive prying force near caulked edges to prevent wall damage.

How Do You Remove Leftover Adhesive?

Scraping tools and sandpaper work well to remove adhesive residue left behind on walls after the formica comes off. Adhesive remover sprays or solvents can also work for stubborn glue remnants. Rinse walls thoroughly after cleaning off adhesive.

Does Wall Have to Be in Good Condition Underneath?

The better the drywall condition underneath, the easier your new backsplash can be installed. Any gouges or voids must be filled and leveled using patching compounds before applying the new backsplash. Scrape off loose paper and smooth uneven areas.

Can I Put New Backsplash Over Existing One?

It’s not advised to install a new backsplash directly over formica or other existing materials. Removing the old backsplash completely provides the most stable, long-lasting surface for proper adhesion of tile, panels or other new backsplash materials.


Eliminating a dated or damaged formica backsplash provides the perfect opportunity to upgrade your kitchen’s style with a gorgeous new backsplash design. With the right prep work, tools and techniques, this is a DIY project any motivated homeowner can tackle successfully. Always exercise caution and patience during the demolition process to keep the underlying walls protected. Completing the removal cleanly paves the way for an eye-catching backsplash installation that will enhance your home’s value and your enjoyment of the kitchen for years to come.