How to Remove a Single Tile from Backsplash


Removing and replacing a single damaged or outdated tile from your backsplash can give your kitchen a quick facelift without undertaking a full backsplash remodeling project. With some careful tile removal, surface preparation, precise tile cutting, and grouting, you can seamlessly blend in a new backsplash tile while keeping your existing tile design intact.

Replacing just one tile may seem like a simple DIY task, but it does require proper techniques and tools to avoid damaging surrounding tiles or the drywall behind it. By following step-by-step instructions, you can successfully refresh your backsplash accent wall without taking on a major renovation.

Gather Materials Needed for Removing and Replacing One Backsplash Tile

Before starting the tile removal process, make sure you have the following materials on hand:


  • Grout removal tool – Carbide grout saw or oscillating multi-tool with grout removal blade
  • Hammer and chisel set
  • Utility knife
  • Tile nippers
  • Dust mask
  • Safety goggles
  • Knee pads


  • New tile to match existing backsplash tile design
  • Tile adhesive mortar
  • Grout to match existing grout color
  • Grout sealer
  • Painter’s tape
  • Drop cloths

Other Essential Supplies

  • Mini pry bar
  • Sponges
  • Bucket
  • Rags
  • Tarp or cardboard to protect surfaces
  • Vacuum

Step-by-Step Instructions

Follow these key steps to successfully remove and replace a single backsplash tile:

1. Protect Surrounding Surface Area

Cover the countertops, stove, and floor around the backsplash area with drop cloths, cardboard, or a plastic tarp. This will protect the surfaces from damage during the tile removal process. Wear safety goggles and a dust mask to protect yourself from debris.

2. Mark the Tile to Be Removed

Clearly identify the damaged, cracked, or outdated backsplash tile that needs replacing. Use painter’s tape to mark the top and sides of the tile on the grout joints so you know exactly which one to remove.

3. Cut Along Grout Lines with Utility Knife

Take a new, sharp utility knife and cut along the grout joints surrounding the marked tile. Don’t try cutting through the middle of the tile itself. Just focus on slicing through the grout around all sides of the tile you want to remove. Apply firm pressure and run the knife along the grout line 2-3 times to fully cut through the grout.

4. Cut Any Adhesive Under Tile

After cutting the grout lines, insert the utility knife under the bottom edge of the tile. Slide the blade back and forth to slice through any adhesive or mortar under the tile. Rotate the knife parallel to the wall and make additional slices under the tile to ensure all adhering material is separated.

5. Use Grout Saw to Clear Grout

Next, take a carbide-tipped grout removal saw or oscillating multi-tool with a grout-cutting blade. Hold it at a 45° angle and plunge it into each grout joint to scrape away remaining grout around the tile. Remove any grout still clinging to the edges so the tile is completely free.

6. Pry Tile Off Wall

Wearing safety goggles, position a pry bar, putty knife, or chisel under the bottom edge of the tile. Carefully pry the tile outward from the wall while tapping the top edge with a hammer. Apply steady force to work the tile free and avoid damaging adjacent tiles. Remove any remaining adhesive from the tile back or wall.

7. Clean Tile Surface and Surrounding Area

Use a grout brush and sponge to scrub away any remaining debris or old grout on the exposed tile edges and wall area. Rinse thoroughly and let it fully dry before moving to the next step. Vacuum up any dust or residue from the countertops, stove, and floor.

8. Measure Tile Gap and Transfer Dimensions

Measure the width and height of the open tile area so you can transfer exact dimensions to the new replacement tile. Make sure to note the grout joint width as well. Hold the new tile up to the opening and double-check that it will fit properly.

9. Mark and Score New Tile

Place the replacement tile on a flat work surface and lay the measurement guide on top, aligned with the tile edges. Use a straightedge and utility knife to score perfect cut lines on the front of the tile based on your gap dimensions.

10. Cut New Tile to Fit Gap

Put on safety goggles and cut the new tile to size using a wet tile saw or manual tile cutter. Follow the scored cut lines to get a clean, precision fit. Smooth any rough edges with an abrasive stone. Test the tile in the wall opening and recut if needed.

11. Apply New Tile Adhesive and Insert Tile

Prepare a modified thinset mortar adhesive according to package directions. Use a notched trowel to spread it evenly over the back wall area where the tile will be installed. Carefully insert the new tile into place, twisting it slightly and applying pressure to secure its adhesion.

12. Allow Adhesive to Cure

Let the tile adhesive fully cure according to manufacturer guidelines, usually 24-48 hours. Keep the area dry during the curing time. Do not grout or wipe the new tile yet. Proper curing helps prevent cracks or tiles popping off later on.

13. Mix and Apply New Grout

Prepare grout to match your existing grout color. Apply it carefully over the grout joints surrounding the new tile using a rubber grout float. Push it into the joints keeping the tile faces clean. Let the grout cure per package instructions, then polish and clean off residue with a damp sponge.

14. Seal Grout

Once grout has fully cured, apply a penetrating grout sealer using a small foam brush. This will prevent staining and make grout easier to clean. Allow sealer to soak in and cure completely.

15. Remove Painter’s Tape and Drop Cloths

Finally, peel off any painter’s tape and remove all drop cloths, tarps, and cardboard. Wipe down the entire backsplash with a damp microfiber cloth to remove any remaining dust or residue.

Tips for Removing and Replacing Backsplash Tile

Follow these tips for best results when removing and replacing a single backsplash tile:

  • Take time marking, cutting, and prepping so tile comes off easily.
  • Ensure you have matching replacement tiles before starting.
  • Cut new tile slightly smaller if gap is uneven for flush fit.
  • Use proper modified thinset mortar and allow full curing time.
  • Always apply grout sealer to freshly grouted joints.
  • Clean up dust and debris as you work to keep area contained.
  • Have a separate tile and grout sponge to avoid cross-contamination.

With careful work and the right techniques, you can successfully refresh your backsplash by removing and replacing just a single tile that needs it. Patience and precision are key for this DIY backsplash project.

Frequently Asked Questions

What tools do I need to remove and replace a backsplash tile?

You’ll need a grout saw, carbide scraper, or oscillating multi-tool to cut out grout. A hammer and chisel help pry off the tile. Have a utility knife, tile cutter/wet saw, trowels, sponges, and safety gear like goggles and gloves.

How do I get a replacement backsplash tile to match?

Bring your old tile to the home improvement store to find an identical or close match. Tile samples help you compare color, texture, dimensions, and gloss. Order extras in case you need to replace more tiles later.

What’s the easiest way to cut a replacement backsplash tile?

A wet tile saw gives clean, precise tile cuts with no chipping. You can also use a manual tile cutter with a carbide scoring wheel and tile nippers to follow a scored line. Use safety goggles and cut slowly.

Can I use leftover grout when replacing a backsplash tile?

It’s best to use fresh grout so it will bond properly as it cures. But you can use leftover grout if it hasn’t cured yet and the color still matches the existing grout.

How long does tile adhesive take to cure?

Tile mortar adhesive usually fully cures in 24-48 hours. Don’t grout, wipe, or wash the new tile until the recommended curing time is complete. This helps ensure a strong bond to the wall.

How can I get the new tile to blend with the rest of the backsplash?

Use the same tile, grout color, grout width, and sheen to get a uniform look. Cut and install the tile precisely flush with surrounding tiles. Wipe off excess grout before it dries for clean grout lines.

What’s the best way to protect a countertop when removing backsplash tile?

Cover countertops with cardboard, plastic sheeting, or drop cloths secured with painter’s tape. This prevents damage from falling tile shards or dust. Use removable adhesive shelf liner on the stove.

Can I use an oscillating tool instead of a grout saw?

Yes, an oscillating multi-tool with a grout removal blade attachment can effectively cut through grout just like a dedicated grout saw. Just be cautious not to scratch tile when cleaning out grout.

How can I remove thinset adhesive residue from the wall?

Use a methylated spirits solvent or an all-purpose cleaner and scrub with a stiff nylon brush to remove dried thinset. Rinse the area thoroughly. Sand stubborn residue off gently before regrouting.


Replacing a single backsplash tile is totally doable as a DIY project if you follow the proper tile removal and installation techniques. Have the right tools on hand, take safety precautions, thoroughly prep the area, measure twice and cut once, and allow materials to fully cure. With some patience and care, you can refresh your backsplash accent wall and make it look like new again.