How to Remove a Tile Backsplash – A Complete Step-by-Step Guide

Removing a tile backsplash can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be accomplished efficiently and safely by DIYers. A tile backsplash protects the wall from water damage and adds visual interest to kitchens and bathrooms. However, trends change and tile styles date quickly, so you may opt to remove an outdated or damaged tile backsplash to replace it with something fresh. This guide will walk you through the entire tile removal process from start to finish.

What You’ll Need to Remove a Tile Backsplash

Before starting any demolition, make sure you have all the necessary supplies and tools on hand. Removing tile requires some specialized equipment that you may not already have in your toolbox.

Safety Gear

  • Dust mask – Protect yourself from breathing in tile fragments and dust. Use an N95 mask for best results.
  • Eye protection – Tile shards and debris can easily get in your eyes. Wear protective glasses or goggles.
  • Knee pads – Kneeling on a hard floor while working can be uncomfortable. Get knee pads to protect your joints.
  • Work gloves – Wear thick, cut-resistant gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges.


  • Hammer – Use a claw hammer or small sledgehammer to break tile and knock off adhesive.
  • Cold chisel – A cold chisel and hammer combination helps chip away stubborn mortar.
  • Putty knife or paint scraper – Use a stiff putty knife or paint scraper to pry off tiles.
  • Pry bar – A pry bar gives extra leverage when tiles won’t budge.
  • Manual tile cutter – For removing whole tiles, a snap tile cutter cleanly slices through.
  • Rotary tool – An oscillating rotary tool equipped with a tile blade attachment cuts precise lines.
  • Utility knife – Score grout lines with a sharp utility knife before prying off tiles.
  • Tiling sponge – Use a tiling sponge and water bucket to wipe away tile dust and debris.


  • Drop cloths – Protect floors and surfaces from debris with canvas drop cloths or tarps.
  • Wood blocks – Small wood blocks protect walls from damage when prying off tiles.
  • Trash bags – Have plenty of bags ready to collect tile pieces and debris.
  • Adhesive remover – Solvent-based adhesive remover helps eliminate leftover thinset.

How to Remove a Tile Backsplash Step-by-Step

Follow these steps to safely and efficiently remove a tile backsplash:

Step 1: Prepare the Workspace

Clear your work area of any items or appliances that may get damaged during the demolition process. Lay down drop cloths to protect floors from debris. Have trash bags ready to collect tile pieces and dust as you go. Turn off power to outlets near the backsplash area.

Step 2: Wear Protective Gear

Before swinging a hammer, put on safety goggles, a dust mask, work gloves, and knee pads. This gear will keep you safe during the messy removal process.

Step 3: Remove Accessories from the Backsplash Area

Detach any towel bars, fixtures, brackets or decor attached to the backsplash and surrounding wall area. Set hardware aside to reinstall later. Patch over any holes or damaged areas on the drywall after removing accessories.

Step 4: Score Grout Lines

Use a sharp utility knife to score along all grout lines surrounding each tile. Cut all the way through the grout down to the backing material. This allows tiles to detach more cleanly. Apply firm but controlled pressure while scoring to avoid cutting too deeply.

Step 5: Cut Any Caulk Beads

On the outer edges, use the utility knife to slice through any caulk beads or perimeter sealant adhering the backsplash tiles to the wall. Sever this connection so tiles are no longer bonded to the wall edge.

Step 6: Tap Tiles to Loosen

Lightly tap tiles with a hammer and wood block to loosen them after scoring grout lines. Apply force evenly across tiles to avoid cracking them. Work methodically outwards from a corner or inner section. The tiles will begin separating from the backing material.

Step 7: Pry Off Whole Tiles

Insert a putty knife or pry bar underneath lifted tile edges and carefully pry outward. Work the tool along the edge to pop each tile off intact for easier disposal. Wedge wood blocks between the tool and wall to avoid drywall damage while leveraging tiles off.

Step 8: Remove Damaged Tiles in Pieces

Any cracked or stubborn tiles can be broken apart and removed in pieces using a hammer and chisel. Chip tiles into smaller sections working outward from the center to dislodge them from the backing material. Take care not to harm the wall behind.

Step 9: Clean Adhesive Backing Off Wall

Once all whole tiles have been pried off, scrape any remaining thinset mortar or adhesive from the now exposed wall using a putty knife or chisel. Try solvent-based adhesive remover if needed to dissolve stubborn glue residue.

Step 10: Dispose of Debris

Place broken tile pieces and chipped off mortar in trash bags as you work. Tile dust can go right in the trash. When finished, vacuum the area well to remove fine dust and debris. Wet wipe the wall with a sponge to eliminate leftover particulate.

Step 11: Inspect the Wall

Examine the wall for any damage that may need patching prior to installing the new backsplash. Fill small holes with spackle and smooth over gashes or large divots with joint compound. Sand smoothed areas flush when dry and repaint if necessary.

Step 12: Prepare the Surface

Once the wall is repaired and cleaned of debris, apply painter’s tape around the perimeter to define the new backsplash area. Spread thinset mortar evenly across the surface and let dry completely. This prepares the area for new tile installation.

FAQs About Removing Tile Backsplashes

Removing an outdated or damaged tile backsplash is a straightforward DIY project when you follow the proper steps. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the tile removal process:

Should I hire a contractor to remove my tile backsplash?

For an experienced DIYer, removing a tile backsplash is totally doable without professional help if you have the right tools and patience. But for a full kitchen backsplash, large subway tiles, or intricate mosaic patterns, hiring a contractor may make the demolition and disposal process much easier.

How long does it take to remove a tile backsplash?

Plan on allocating at least a full day for a standard 4 x 4 foot backsplash removal. Working methodically to pry tiles off and scrape adhesive takes time. Removing a more expansive backsplash with greater tile coverage will likely take 2-3 days.

What is the easiest way to get tiles off the wall?

Scoring grout lines with a utility knife and tapping tiles to loosen them creates the path of least resistance. Prying off whole tiles whenever possible also keeps the job neat and contained. Using power tools like an oscillating rotary saw makes quicker work of cutting through stubborn tiles.

Can I put new tile over existing tile backsplash?

It’s not advisable to install new tile over an existing backsplash. The layers of mortar in between lead to instability and improper bonding. The uneven surface also prevents a quality application. Removing the old tile completely provides the smoothest, most seamless backdrop for new tile.

What do I do with my old tile backsplash after removing it?

In most cases, old backsplash tile and fragments can go directly in the trash. While you may feel guilty throwing out slightly damaged tiles, they often crack further during removal. Reuse is only practical if large intact sections come off without breaks. Even then, their thickness may not match new tile.

How do I prepare the wall after removing the tile?

Fill any gouges with spackle or joint compound, then sand smooth. Wash the wall well and apply painter’s tape around the perimeter to protect surrounding areas from thinset mortar when it’s applied before installing the new backsplash. Priming provides an even finish.


Removing an outdated or damaged tile backsplash requires careful preparation, the right tools, and safety precautions. But with some persistence and the steps outlined here, you can demolish even a large tiled backsplash on your own in just a few days or less. Then you’ll have a smooth, clean slate for installing a fresh new backsplash design that upgrades your kitchen or bath with the latest tile trends.

The article above provides a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to successfully removing a tile backsplash without causing damage. It includes a complete materials and tools list, safety precautions, tips for efficient demolition techniques, adhesive removal, disposing of debris, wall preparation and expert answers to frequently asked questions. With these detailed instructions, you can take on a tile backsplash removal project with confidence.