How to Remove a Backsplash without Damaging the Wall

Removing a backsplash can freshen up the look of your kitchen or bathroom. However, tearing out the old backsplash improperly can damage the wall behind it. With some careful preparation and the right tools, you can remove tile, metal, or glass backsplash without harming the wall underneath.

Assess the Existing Backsplash

Before starting demo, take time to examine the backsplash material and installation method:

  • Tile: Check if it’s set in mortar or adhered with mastic. Mortar is more difficult to remove.
  • Metal or glass: See if it’s mechanically fastened or glued on. Mechanical fasteners require less demo work.
  • Full sheets: Removing large sections is easier than small individual tiles.
  • Note signs of moisture damage behind the backsplash. This can make the wall surface delicate.

Prepping correctly based on material type will ensure safe removal without wall damage.

Gather the Proper Tools

Having the right tools for the job will make backsplash removal much simpler. Essential items include:

  • Safety gear – gloves, eye protection, dust mask
  • Pry bar – to pull tiles off the wall
  • Hammer – to tap tiles or break apart mortar
  • Putty knife – useful for scraping off old adhesive
  • Utility knife – for cutting through caulk or mesh backing
  • Plastic sheeting – to protect counters and floors
  • Garbage bags – for collecting tile pieces and debris

With these basic tools on hand, you’ll be equipped for careful backsplash removal. Avoid makeshift tools that can damage the drywall.

Prepare the Work Area

It’s important to prep the backsplash area prior to starting demo:

  • Clear countertops and floors. Remove everything from counters, prep appliances, and cover floors with dropcloths.
  • Inspect electrical. Shut off power as needed and remove outlets or switches on the backsplash wall.
  • Cover vulnerable surfaces. Mask off countertops, cabinets, and adjacent walls with plastic sheeting.
  • Photograph before removing. Take pictures of tile patterns or backsplash layouts to replicate later.

Proper prep work keeps the demo contained and avoids damage beyond the backsplash area.

Remove the Backsplash Carefully

Once prepped, it’s time to start taking down the backsplash. Go slowly and follow these tips:

  • Break mortar bond first. For mortar-set tile, use a hammer and chisel to chip away mortar between tiles and free them from the wall.
  • Lever tiles off. Insert a pry bar under tile edges and gently lever side to side to pop tiles off.
  • Watch for wires. If electrically wired backsplash, carefully remove tiles around outlets and switches first.
  • Clean off adhesive. Use a putty knife to scrape off any mastic or adhesive residue left on the wall.
  • Inspect drywall. Check for tearing of paper or damage to wallboard and repair as needed.

With patience and the proper technique, the tiles should come off relatively easily without taking chunks of drywall with them.

Dispose and Recycle Appropriately

Once removed, dispose of backsplash debris correctly:

  • Separate hazardous waste like lead tile or asbestos mastic for proper disposal.
  • Recycle metal, glass, and porcelain pieces if possible based on composition.
  • Place broken tile pieces, grout, and adhesive in garbage bags for the landfill.
  • Sweep and vacuum the area thoroughly to remove all debris.

Proper cleanup and disposal makes way for your beautiful new backsplash!

FAQ About Removing Backsplash

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How do I remove backsplash glue?

Use a putty knife, chisel, or scraper to gently pry and scrape off old mastic or adhesive. Go slowly to avoid damaging the drywall underneath.

What tools do I need to take down tile backsplash?

At minimum, you’ll need safety gear, a pry bar, hammer, putty knife, and plastic sheeting. For mortar, a chisel and grout saw are also helpful.

What’s the easiest backsplash to remove?

Self-adhesive metal or plastic backsplashes come off the cleanest and easiest. Tile mortared on is the most difficult.

How do I remove backsplash without ruining walls?

Prepping the area, using the right tools, and taking your time Removes backsplash without wall damage. Repair any drywall tears immediately.

Can I put new backsplash over old?

It’s possible but not recommended. Irregularities in the old backsplash can show through the new. It’s best to remove completely.


Removing an outdated or damaged backsplash revitalizes your space with a fresh new look. By assessing your existing backsplash, gathering the proper tools, thoroughly prepping the workspace, carefully demoing, and cleaning up completely, you can take down tile, metal, glass or any backsplash without harming the underlying wall. Patience and the right technique will allow you to remove backsplash successfully.