How to Remove and Install Backsplash


Upgrading your kitchen backsplash can entirely transform the look and feel of your cooking space. However, removing and installing a new backsplash requires careful planning and preparation. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the complete process of removing your existing backsplash and installing a beautiful new one. We will cover planning considerations, materials needed, step-by-step removal and installation instructions, and tips for a smooth project from start to finish. With the right information and tools, you can tackle this project yourself and save the high cost of professional installation. Let’s get started!

Planning Your New Backsplash

Before removing your old backsplash, you’ll want to choose the new material and layout. Popular backsplash materials include:

  • Tile (ceramic, porcelain, glass, stone)
  • Metal backsplashes (stainless steel, copper, tin)
  • Stone slabs (marble, granite, slate)
  • Glass tiles or sheets
  • Mirrors
  • Stone composite materials

Consider the color, texture, and style you want. Visit home improvement stores to view material samples in person. Think about factors like water-resistance, ease of cleaning, durability, and cost. Plan the new backsplash design – do you want an accent wall, geometric pattern, mosaic style, or minimalist look?

Measure the backsplash area dimensions to determine the materials needed. For tile, measure from counter to cabinet and across the length of the counter area. Leave an extra 10% margin of error. Make sure to get extras in case of breakage.

For a smooth installation, remove appliances, cooktop, and sinks that sit in front of the backsplash. Empty the cabinets so you can remove them temporarily if needed. Protect floors, countertops, and surrounding areas from damage.

Gather all necessary tools and materials before starting demo. These may include:

  • Drop cloths, plastic sheeting, painters tape
  • Safety gear – gloves, goggles, mask/respirator
  • Pry bar, hammer, putty knives
  • Utility knife, oscillating cutter, or rotary tool
  • Scraper, steel wool, cleaning solutions
  • Tile cutter, grout float, mixing paddles
  • Tile spacers, grout sealer, caulk/silicone

Step-by-Step Backsplash Removal

Removing the old backsplash completely is an important first step for proper installation of the new materials. Follow these steps to safely demo the existing backsplash:

1. Protect Surrounding Areas

Cover countertops, floors, and cabinets with drop cloths. Use painter’s tape on the edges of countertops and cabinets to prevent damage. Remove items from cabinets and drawers.

2. Inspect and Prepare the Backsplash Area

Look for potential problem spots like layers of grout or caulking that will be difficult to penetrate. Identify the type of backsplash material so you know what tools will be required. Porcelain, ceramic tile, or stone will likely need a hammer and pry bar while vinyl or plastic panels can often be moved with just a utility knife.

For tile, use a utility knife to score along all grout lines to help break the tile free.

3. Start Removing Tiles

Begin at the top corner and work down. Place a pry bar under the edge of the tile and gently tap the tile at the grout line with a hammer. Apply steady pressure rather than pounding too hard. Continue to the next tile, working in columns from top to bottom.

4. Remove Adhesive and Backing

Once tiles are removed, scrape off any remaining grout, mortar, or adhesive from the drywall using a putty knife or oscillating power tool. Prevent drywall damage by working slowly and carefully. Clean the area fully in preparation for new backsplash materials.

5. Remove Fixtures or Cabinets if Needed

Some backsplash installations may require removing sink faucets, cooktops, or upper cabinets temporarily to access the entire area. Consult appliance manuals for proper removal techniques. For cabinets, empty contents then detach them from the wall by unscrewing mounting braces or screws.

6. Clean and Prepare the Surface

Clean off dust, debris, and remaining adhesive from the backsplash area. Repair any holes or imperfections in the drywall so the surface is ready for the new backsplash installation.

How to Install a New Backsplash

Once the old backsplash is removed, use these tips for proper installation of the new backsplash:

1. Choose Your Backsplash Application Method

Tile backsplashes are often adhered using mastic or thinset mortar. Read product specifications to choose the appropriate adhesive for your tile material.

For backsplashes like metal, glass, or plastic panels, apply with screws, construction adhesive, or double-sided tape depending on the manufacturer’s guidelines.

2. Prepare the Surface

The surface must be clean and smooth for proper adhesion. For drywall, seal any raw areas with primer. Apply painter’s tape around the outer edges to keep adhesive off surrounding surfaces.

3. Plan Your Layout

Dry lay your tiles across the backsplash area as a test run for the design. Adjust boxes of tile to get an even layout. Balance cut sizes on outer edges. Use spacers to get straight grout lines and prevent uneven tile spacing.

4. Mix and Apply the Adhesive

Prepare the mastic, mortar, or adhesive according to package directions. Use a grout float or trowel to spread an even layer across the backsplash area. Apply only enough that can be covered with tile within the adhesive’s open time.

5. Set the Tiles

Press tiles gently but firmly into the adhesive starting at the bottom edge. Use spacers between tiles to get consistent spacing. Work in columns moving upwards and outwards. Check tiles are level and aligned as you go back periodically and make adjustments.

6. Cut Edge Tiles as Needed

Measure and mark tiles that need cutting for the edges and around outlets or fixtures. Score the marks with a cutter then snap the tile. Smooth rough edges with sandpaper or a tile stone. Fit cut tiles into position.

7. Let Adhesive Cure

Allow the installed tiles to set undisturbed for at least 24 hours. Check that all tiles are still properly aligned and press down any raised edges.

8. Grouting Tile Joints

Mix grout just before use and apply diagonally across the tile joints using a rubber grout float. Clean excess grout with a damp sponge and buff surface. Allow grout to cure fully before sealing.

9. Seal and Finish

For grouted tile, apply grout sealer once cured for water protection and easier cleaning. Use caulk around perimeter edges and between counter/faucet gaps. Remove painter’s tape. Re-install cabinets or fixtures.

Tips for a Successful Installation

Follow these tips to help your backsplash removal and installation go smoothly:

  • Carefully remove existing backsplash and prep the surface to avoid damaging walls
  • Read all manufacturer instructions thoroughly before starting
  • Gather all necessary materials and tools ahead of time
  • Wear safety gear like gloves and eye protection during demo
  • Dry lay tile design before installing to plan aesthetic layout
  • Work methodically in sections for easiest application
  • Ensure backsplash area is clean and dry before applying adhesive
  • Spread adhesive evenly across entire surface to prevent voids
  • Use spacers between tiles to keep everything aligned
  • Clean excess adhesive/grout immediately before drying
  • Allow adhesive and grout to fully cure before sealing
  • Lastly, protect newly installed backsplash from other construction messes

With proper planning and preparation, you can achieve a successful DIY backsplash installation. The end result will modernize your kitchen with stylish new tile, glass, or metal materials.

FAQ About Removing and Installing Backsplash

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about removing and installing backsplash tile:

How do I remove stubborn old tile adhesive?

For very stubborn adhesive residue, use a multi-tool or oscillating scraper. Slowly scrape in different directions to remove adhesive layers without gouging the drywall. Solvents or adhesive remover solutions may also help soften old mastic.

What tools do I need for removing and installing backsplash?

Common tools needed are a pry bar, putty knives, hammer, utility knife, caulk gun, grout float, tile cutter, mixing paddle, buckets, sponges, and safety gear like gloves and eye protection.

How long does backsplash tile adhesive take to cure?

Tile mastic or thinset mortar generally takes 24-48 hours to fully cure. Avoid walking on tiles during this time. Grout between joints takes about 24-72 hours to fully cure before sealing.

Should my backsplash go all the way to the ceiling?

It depends on your design preference, but typically backsplashes extend 4-6 inches above the countertop to protect the wall from splashes. Full height backsplashes are popular for more modern looks.

Can I install a new backsplash over the old one?

It is not recommended to install tile or panels over an existing backsplash. Irregular surfaces and old adhesive can prevent proper bonding and alignment. Fully removing the old backsplash provides the best results.

How do I cut metal or glass backsplash sheets?

Use a plastic tile cutter with a new diamond wheel. Mark the cut line with painter’s tape to prevent chips, then score along the line evenly 2-3 times with firm pressure. Snap piece downward to break along the cut.

How do I prep drywall for a backsplash installation?

Fill any holes or imperfections with drywall spackle. Sand smooth once dry. Wipe away dust then apply painter’s tape around borders. Prime raw drywall and let primer fully cure before applying adhesive.

How do I remove backsplash without damaging drywall?

Work slowly and carefully to prevent gouges in drywall. Use a pry bar gently tapped under tile edges rather than forcefully pounding. Stop if tiles won’t release easily and reevaluate removal strategy.

Can I install tile backsplash directly over existing tile?

Directly tiling over existing tiles is not recommended, as irregularities below can cause cracking of top layers over time. It’s best to remove old tile completely for a smooth surface.


Upgrading your backsplash can revive your kitchen’s style, but removing and installing backsplash tile requires careful prep and execution. Now that you know what materials to use, steps to follow, tools required, and tips to avoid issues, you can confidently take on a DIY backsplash project. Pay close attention to properly removing the old backsplash and prepping the surface before installation. Follow all product instructions and allow proper cure times. Your new backsplash can then provide a stunning focal point in your kitchen for years to come.