How to Remove and Replace Backsplash

A backsplash is an integral design element in any kitchen. Not only does it serve a functional purpose by protecting the walls from splashes and spills, it can also make a huge visual impact in the kitchen. Over time, backsplashes can become outdated, damaged, or you may just be ready for a fresh new look. Knowing how to properly remove and replace a backsplash is important to achieving the kitchen of your dreams. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the entire process from start to finish.

Gather Supplies and Prepare the Area

Before starting demolition, be sure to gather all the necessary supplies and tools:

  • Safety gear – gloves, eye protection, mask/respirator
  • Hammer
  • Putty knife
  • Pry bar
  • Screwdriver
  • Utility knife
  • Trash bags
  • Drop cloths
  • Replacement backsplash tiles/materials
  • Adhesive removal solvent
  • Grout removal tool
  • Sponges
  • Rags
  • Bucket
  • Dustpan

Clear the counter tops and remove anything on the walls around the backsplash area. Cover nearby surfaces with drop cloths to protect from dust and debris. Have trash bags ready for disposal of the old backsplash pieces. Make sure to turn off the water supply to the sink and any appliances before beginning.

Remove Accessories and Prep the Surface

Start by detaching any accessories or fixtures attached to the backsplash such as towel bars, soap dispensers, outlet covers, light fixtures, etc. Use a screwdriver to remove any screws securing them in place. Set aside accessories to reinstall later.

Examine how the existing backsplash was installed. Tile backsplashes are often adhered to a layer of cement board rather than directly on the drywall. Identify what materials need to be removed.

Use a putty knife, utility knife or oscillating tool to score along the bottom edge of the backsplash to break the seal of caulk or adhesive. You want to separate it from the surface behind. Go slowly and be careful not to gouge the wall surface.

Demolish the Backsplash

With your safety gear on, start knocking out pieces of the backsplash with a hammer and pry bar. Take care not to damage the wall behind it. Work in sections starting at the top and moving horizontally across.

As you remove pieces, double check behind that no fasteners, wires or plumbing are hidden. Remove any screws or remaining adhesive with screw driver or putty knife.

For ceramic tile, use a grout removal tool to scrape out old grout lines as you go. Use a utility knife to cut through caulk along the perimeter edges.

Dispose of debris directly into prepared trash bags. Be sure to protect floors and surfaces from dust and falling pieces. Thoroughly clean exposed surface with sponges, warm water and rags once backsplash is fully removed.

Prepare the Wall for New Backsplash

With the wall exposed, take time to make any repairs needed on the drywall or cement board substrate. Fill holes, smooth uneven areas with joint compound, seal seams and prime. This helps create a level surface for your new backsplash installation.

Make sure the wall area is clean, dry and ready for the new backsplash material. Follow manufacturer’s instructions for proper preparation steps. This may include applying a sealer, adhesive primers or mortar base depending on the backsplash specified.

Measure the target area and make any layout markings on the wall as guidelines for your tile setting. Use a level to ensure your lines are straight.

Install the New Backsplash

Apply adhesive mortar or mastic to the back side of your new backsplash tiles or sheets with a trowel. Press firmly against the wall in the desired position. Use spacers between tiles to achieve consistent grout lines.

For large format tile panels, use screws to support until the adhesive cures. Make sure tiles are aligned and evenly spaced as you work in rows.

Allow adhesive to fully cure based on manufacturer guidelines before continuing. Typically this is about 24 hours. Use this time to also allow mastic to set up behind tile edges applied to the perimeter.

Once cured, mix grout according to package directions and apply it over the tiles to fill in seams. Allow proper drying time before polishing off excess. Protect newly grouted tiles while curing.

Seal and finish the grout lines with a sealing product once fully set. Remove any remaining debris and caulk perimeter edges for a clean finish.

Re-Install Accessories and Complete the Job

With your new backsplash installed, put back any fixtures or accessories that were removed initially. Re-mount them correctly within the new tile area utilizing silicone or adhesive.

Reconnect plumbing supply lines and restore power to appliances and fixtures. Check for any leaks after water supply is back on.

Lastly, clean your new backsplash well using a soft, damp cloth. Use grout sealer if needed. Step back and admire your handiwork in choosing the perfect backsplash to refresh your space!

Selecting the Right Backsplash for Your Kitchen

Choosing a new backsplash for your kitchen remodel or upgrade can seem overwhelming given the endless options today. Follow this advice to narrow in on the right backsplash style, material and design for your space.

Consider the Purpose

A kitchen backsplash serves some very important functions. Be sure to select a material that can stand up to oils, heat, moisture and potential staining. The backsplash takes a beating behind a cooktop or sink area. Durability and ease of cleaning should be priorities.

Also think about potential noise. Materials like metal or ceramic tile can amplify sounds from pots, pans and running water. For a quieter kitchen, consider softer materials that absorb sound.

Complement the Design Aesthetic

Your new backsplash should integrate seamlessly with the overall kitchen design plan. Coordinate colors and materials with cabinetry, countertops, sinks and hardware finishes to flow nicely together.

For example, a marble mosaic tile backsplash pairs elegantly with natural wood cabinets and granite counters. While stainless steel tiles complement a contemporary space with sleek surfaces.

The backsplash is also a key element in setting the tone of your kitchen’s decor. It can establish a style be it modern, rustic, elegant or homey. So let it reflect your personal taste.

Assess the Options

With numerous types of materials to consider, assess what will work best for your kitchen:

Ceramic or Porcelain Tile – Classic, durable, affordable option offering tons of colors, shapes, patterns and finishes. Easy to clean. Can be prone to chipping or cracking.

Natural Stone – Elegant types like marble, travertine, granite or slate. Provide a high-end custom look but can be expensive. Require sealing.

Stainless Steel – Sleek, modern and industrial feel. Resists heat, water, stains. Can show fingerprints. Lacks texture.

Glass – Sophisticated style great for a contemporary kitchen. Available in wide range of hues, finishes and even with recycled glass. prone to shattering.

Metal Tile – Great alternative to stainless with options like copper, tin, nickel and more. Provide shine but can dent. Needs sealing.

Mosaics – Artistic option using small tiles set in decorative patterns. Large variety of materials from glass to ceramic available.

No matter which you choose, be sure it’s easy to maintain and fits within your budget. Weigh the pros and cons for your kitchen.

Incorporate Visual Interest

While the backsplash serves a practical purpose, it also offers an opportunity to embellish your kitchen with visual flair. There are numerous ways to make it a focal point.

  • Varying tile sizes, exaggerated grout lines and mosaic patterns add overall texture.
  • Bold colors or metallics establish drama and sophistication.
  • Custom shapes can accentuate stove and sink areas.
  • Frame designs with an alternating border or decorative listello tiles.
  • Mix different textures like combining glass and stone.

The details in your backsplash make a statement. Have fun with choices that reflect your own style.

Step-by-Step Backsplash Installation

Installing a kitchen backsplash is an attainable DIY project that can completely transform the look and feel of your cooking space. Follow this process for proper backsplash installation:

Gather Supplies

  • Tiles, mosaic sheets, metal panels or other backsplash materials
  • Tile adhesive mortar, thinset, mastic
  • Grout
  • Trowels, buckets, sponges, towels
  • Tile spacers
  • Tile cutting tools

Prepare the Surface

Ensure the target wall area is cleaned, smoothed, primed and ready for installation. Fill any holes or imperfections with spackle and sand smooth. Consider applying a primer.

Use painter’s tape and a level to mark layout lines guiding the positioning of the backsplash. Measure space and determine starting point.

Apply Adhesive

Mix the thinset, mastic or adhesive mortar according to manufacturer’s instructions. Apply to the back of tiles using notched edge of trowel held at 45-degree angle to get adequate coverage.

Spread additional mortar on the wall surface and use the flat edge of trowel to flatten for a uniform installation base.

Set the Tiles

Beginning at your layout starting point, press tiles firmly into the adhesive mortar. Push in a downward motion while wiggling side-to-side to set it properly. Use spacers between tiles or mosaic sheets.

Continue setting tiles one by one working in rows, pathways or sections based on your planned design. Be sure tiles are level and evenly spaced. Cut border tiles as needed to fit edges and contours.

Let Set Before Grouting

Allow tile mortar to cure completely which typically takes 24 hours. This helps tiles adhere properly so grout application does not disturb placement. Honor manufacturer adhesive set times.

Gently remove any spacer tabs between tiles prior to grouting. Do not walk on tiles yet. Cover with plastic sheeting overnight if needed.

Mix and Apply Grout

Prepare grout mix using sanded grout for joints wider than 1/8 inch or unsanded for thinner mosaic sheets. Work in manageable sections applying grout over tiles.

Use a rubber grout float or squeegee to spread grout pressing into joints. Hold tool at 45-degree angle scraping diagonally across tiles to pack joints. Remove excess grout with edge of float.

Clean Up and Seal

Wipe diagonally across tiles with a damp sponge to clean grout haze as you work. Rinse sponge frequently allowing grout to cure 10-15 mins first. Avoid smearing.

Once all grout is applied, polish the tiles with a soft towel to prevent staining and haziness as it cures fully. Follow with a grout sealer for added protection.

Proper prep, precise application and ample drying times result in a stunning finished backsplash! Enjoy the process.

Backsplash Styles to Consider

The style of backsplash you choose can define the overall aesthetic of your kitchen. From sleek contemporary to homey and rustic, different materials set different tones. Consider these popular options:

Subway Tile

The iconic rectangular 3 x 6 inch glazed ceramic tile laid in an offset brick pattern. Available in multitude of colors. Provides clean, classic look.

Marble & Stone

Elegant slabs or mosaics of natural stone like marble, travertine, limestone and slate. Can be polished or tumbled finish. High-end luxury design.

Metal & Stainless Steel

Sleek metal backsplashes add modern industrial feel. Stainless steel provides brilliant shine. Copper and brass offer warmth. Great durability.

Glass Tile

Rows of transparent, opaque or colored glass tile. Reflective surface with tile that can be etched, frosted or stained to artistic effect.

Geometric Patterns

Thin brick, herringbone and chevron designs create visual interest. Great in metallics, two-tone or mosaic materials. Provides artistic flair.

Rustic & Textural

Mix of reclaimed woods, pebbles, cracked tiles, corrugated metals and scatterings of mosaic create an earthy, organic look. Provides rustic charm.

Bold Colors & Graphics

Make a statement with vibrant solid colored tiles or custom mural. Great for a playful, retro or artsy kitchen space.

The options are endless. Choose a look that showcases your unique style and complements the overall kitchen aesthetic you desire.

Care and Maintenance of Backsplashes

Investing in a backsplash helps elevate your kitchen’s design. Like any surface, proper care and maintenance is key to keeping it looking its best over time. Follow these tips specific to your backsplash material:

Ceramic Tile

  • Seal grout lines periodically to prevent staining and damage in those vulnerable areas.
  • Clean with mild dish soap and water. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Re-apply grout into any cracked or missing areas to keep joints sealed.

Natural Stone

  • Seal the stone on initial install and yearly as needed.
  • Use pH neutral stone cleaners instead of acidic products like vinegar.
  • Apply a poultice to remove deep oil stains.

Glass Tile

  • Use soft cloths only to avoid scratching the glass surface.
  • Clean with non-abrasive glass cleaner or mild soap and water.
  • Avoid letting soap residue dry on surface which can leave film.

Stainless Steel

  • Remove hard water spots, finger prints, grease using a stainless steel cleaner and microfiber cloths.
  • Use non-chloride cleanser to avoid corrosion and pitting.
  • Apply mineral oil occasionally to rejuvenate shine.

Metal Tile

  • Use mild, pH balanced soap and soft cloth only.
  • Avoid abrasive cleaners, pads or sponges.
  • Apply metal polishing wax to restore sheen.

Wood Backsplash

  • Clean with barely damp soft cloth. Avoid excessive moisture.
  • Periodically re-seal wood treatments to protect finish.
  • Refinish or spot treat scratches to match stain.

With proper care, your backsplash will maintain its beauty and function for many years. Always refer to manufacturer cleaning guidelines too.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplashes

Get answers to common questions about backsplash installation, care and more:

How is backsplash typically installed?

Backsplash tile is adhered to the wall using either a mortar-based thinset adhesive for cement board or mastic adhesive for drywall. The tile is cut to fit, set and then grouted into place once cured. Perimeter edges are caulked and sealed.

Do backsplashes need to be sealed?

Porous natural stone backsplashes should be sealed to prevent staining and damage. Most ceramic, porcelain, metal, glass and composite materials do not require sealing. Always check manufacturer guidelines.

How much does a backsplash installation cost?

The average cost to install a backsplash ranges from $800 – $2000 depending on the size of the space and materials selected. More intricate tile patterns, natural stone and glass typically cost more.

Can I install a backsplash over existing tile?

It’s possible but not always advised as the extra layers of tile can cause a thickness issue. The old tile must be tightly adhered, flat, grease-free and require minimal built up. Consult a tile pro.

How long does it take to install a backsplash?

A typical backsplash installation takes 2-3 days from start to finish. Day 1 involves surface prep. Day 2 is laying tile. Day 3 is applying grout and cleanup. Drying and curing times affect overall timeline.

Can I DIY my backsplash install?

With proper planning and patience, installing a backsplash is definitely a DIY-friendly project. Be sure to follow all preparation, measuring, adhesive and grouting steps precisely. Ask for help handling heavy material.

How do I cut tile around outlets and switches?

Use a rotary tool with a diamond blade to carefully score and cut notches in tiles edges to fit snug around outlets, switches, pipes and fixtures. Angle grinder is another option. Go slowly.

How soon can I use the sink after installing backsplash?

Adhesive mortars typically require a full 24 hours to fully cure before grouting. Wait at least that long before using sinks or appliances against new tile work. This prevents shifting, damage.

Research thoroughly and take it slow for a successful do-it-yourself backsplash project. The results are well worth the effort and investment.


Installing a fresh new backsplash provides the opportunity to transform the look of your kitchen in an impactful yet affordable way. With proper planning, careful prep and by following the steps outlined above, you can achieve a backsplash makeover with stunning results. Always enlist the help of an experienced tile professional for any concerns regarding structural repairs, plumbing or electrical work prior to starting. With some sweat equity and patience, that dream backsplash can realized, injecting new life into your cherished kitchen space.