How to Remove and Replace Kitchen Backsplash

Removing and replacing your kitchen backsplash can completely transform the look and feel of your kitchen. With some planning, the right materials, and a bit of time, you can upgrade your backsplash into a stunning focal point for your kitchen. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the entire process of removing your existing backsplash and installing a new one with detailed steps and expert tips.


The backsplash is one of the most visible and used parts of any kitchen. Over time, backsplashes can become outdated, damaged, or stained. Replacing your backsplash is an impactful yet achievable DIY project that can modernize the entire kitchen. With proper planning and preparation, you can remove the existing backsplash and install a new one that matches your taste and style.

A new backsplash can entirely change the look of your kitchen from drab to fab. From sleek glass mosaics to handmade artistic tiles, backsplash options today are virtually endless. Just make sure your new backsplash complements your cabinetry, counters, appliances and overall kitchen decor.

This step-by-step guide will walk you through the whole process covering everything you need to know. We’ll include crucial steps like selecting the right backsplash materials, preparing the surface, removing the old backsplash, applying adhesive and installing the new tiles. With the right tools and techniques, you can remove and replace your outdated or damaged kitchen backsplash with a gorgeous new one all by yourself.

Overview of the Backsplash Replacement Process

Here is a quick overview of the key steps involved in replacing a kitchen backsplash:

  • Select new backsplash tiles/materials – Browse options like ceramic, glass, metal, stone; decide on size, texture, color
  • Prepare the surface – Clean the area thoroughly, remove existing backsplash completely
  • Apply adhesive – Spread tile adhesive evenly over the surface using a notched trowel
  • Install the new backsplash – Cut tiles if needed, apply properly against adhesive and grout the joints
  • Seal and finish – Wipe tiles clean, apply sealer and caulk where needed

While the process involves some physical labor and tiling skill, it is definitely doable as a DIY project. Having the right tools like a tile cutter, grout float and sponge makes the installation much easier. Now let’s explore each step of the backsplash replacement process in greater detail.

Step 1: Select the New Backsplash Tiles or Materials

The first step is choosing your new backsplash tiles, slabs or panels. The options available today include:

Ceramic or Porcelain Tile

A timeless classic, ceramic and porcelain tiles come in every color, texture, shape and size imaginable. Glazed ceramic adds a shiny surface, while porcelain is denser and more durable.

Glass Tile

Small glass tiles or mosaic sheets create a shimmering, reflective surface. Glass tile comes in different colors, shapes and levels of opacity.

Metal Tile

Metal backsplashes lend an contemporary, industrial vibe, especially when using tin, stainless steel or copper tiles. They have a sleek, modern and durable surface.

Stone Tile

Backsplashes made from marble, granite or other stones have an elegant and natural look. Stone surface may require more sealing than ceramic or glass.


Pre-fabricated backsplash panels made of metal, acrylic, glass or laminates snap or slide right into place for quick installation.

Choose materials that match your kitchen’s existing cabinetry, counters, flooring and decor. Contrasting colors can help the backsplash pop while matching tones create flow. Also decide on the size, texture, finish and aesthetic you prefer. Plan the backsplash layout if using decorative patterns.

Make sure to purchase about 10-15% extra tiles to account for cuts, cracks and leftovers. For glass or stone, ask about additional installation tools and sealants recommended. Have all your backsplash materials and supplies ready before starting demo.

Step 2: Prepare the Surface Area

Once you have the new backsplash materials picked out, the next key step is proper preparation of the backsplash area. Here are the main tasks involved:

Clear the Area

Remove everything from the backsplash space including small appliances, kitchenware and decor items. This gives you open access to the wall for demo and installation.

Clean Thoroughly

Use an all-purpose cleaner or degreaser to scrub the existing backsplash and surrounding surfaces. Remove any built-up grime, grease or residue. This allows the new tiles to properly adhere.

Remove Old Backsplash

With the area cleared and cleaned, now carefully remove the old backsplash completely. Use a hammer and putty knife to chisel off ceramic or porcelain tiles. For glass, plastic or metal, use a utility knife or razor blade.

Take care not to damage the drywall behind the old backsplash when prying it off. Wear eye and breathing protection during demolition.

Go slowly and double check that any adhesive, staples or tile backing materials are also fully removed down to the bare drywall. Sand or scrape down the surface as needed.

Prep the Bare Wall

Once stripped down to the drywall, you may need to do some patching or evening out of the surface for proper adhesion. Fill any gouges or uneven areas with drywall joint compound. Sand bumps smooth.

Prime and paint the sanded surface so the bare drywall does not show through the new tiles. Let the paint fully dry before moving to the next step.

Plan Backsplash Layout

Use a level and measuring tape to map out the backsplash installation. Note the overall dimensions and mark any outlets, stove vent or other openings that will need tile cutting.

Plan the tile layout for the best visual alignment and minimal cuts. Dry laying tiles on the ground first can help with layout.

With the surface cleared, cleaned, patched and painted, you are now ready for installation of the new backsplash.

Step 3: Spread the Adhesive on the Wall

To firmly adhere the new tiles, you’ll need to apply a layer of tile mastic or thinset adhesive. Follow these tips:

Choose the Right Adhesive

For ceramic, porcelain or glass tile, use premixed mastic which is easier to spread. Some mastics are formulated specifically for glass tiles.

Use fortified thinset mortar for heavy stone tiles. Latex or polymer modified thinset provides stronger adhesion.

Make sure the adhesive is suitable for wall installation and the tile material you are using.

Apply With Notched Trowel

Spread a thin layer of adhesive evenly across the surface using a notched trowel held at a 45 degree angle. This creates ridge lines for tile placement.

Follow Coverage Guidelines

Apply only 1/4 to 3/8 inches thickness of adhesive. Check manufacturer’s instructions for coverage guidelines per square foot for the specific tile and trowel notch size used.

Let Adhesive Slightly Cure

After spreading the mastic, allow it 5-10 minutes to become tacky. This allows the ridges to hold their shape for tile pressing.

The wall surface should now have straight, even adhesive ridges ready for the new tiles to be pressed into place.

Step 4: Install the New Backsplash Tiles

Once your surface is prepped and adhesive applied, it’s time for the satisfying step of installing the new backsplash tiles. Follow these tips for proper placement:

Dry Lay Tiles

Do a dry run by placing the tiles on the countertop or floor to determine optimal layout and identify any tiles that need cutting.

Cut to Fit

Use a wet saw tile cutter to trim tiles to fit around edges, openings and endpoints. Wear protective goggles when cutting. Cut edges should be smooth for proper grouting.

Apply Tiles to Adhesive

Firmly press tiles into the ridges of adhesive one by one using a slight twisting motion. Use tile spacers between them for consistent spacing and straight grout lines.

Check Levels and Alignment

As you go, use a level and measuring tape to verify tiles are aligned and evenly spaced. Adjust as needed before adhesive dries. The first row is most crucial for overall straightness.

Completely Fill Surface

Continue tiling until the entire planned surface is filled, leaving uniform gaps for grout lines. Allow tiles to set overnight before grouting. Remove any spacers once dried.

Take care when installing to keep the tile spacing and levels even and consistent. This creates the clean finished look you want for the new backsplash.

Step 5: Grout and Finish the Tiled Backsplash

The final major steps are adding grout and applying any protective sealers or finishers:

Grout the Joints

Mix up your grout according to instructions and apply over the joints using a rubber grout float. Spread it across the surface pushing into crevices. Let it begin to harden.

Clean Excess Grout

Wipe any excess grout off the tile surface using a damp sponge in circular motions. Rinse the sponge frequently to remove residue. Allow grout to fully cure for 72 hours.

Seal and Polish

Apply grout sealer using a small paint brush and let it penetrate the grout lines. Polish the tiles with a soft, dry cloth once sealed.

Use Caulk as Needed

Fill any gaps around edges or joints with flexible silicone caulk. Allow caulk to dry fully before using the backsplash.

Once properly cleaned, sealed and grouted, your new backsplash is ready to use and enjoy for many years! Just keep it protected and avoid abrasive cleansers which can damage the tile surfaces and grout over time.

FAQs on Removing and Replacing a Backsplash

Some common questions that arise when taking on a kitchen backsplash replacement project:

How difficult is it to remove an existing backsplash?

Removing an old ceramic, porcelain or glass backsplash is generally straightforward with some patience and manual labor. Use a hammer and putty knife to carefully pry off the tiles one by one. Go slowly to avoid damaging the drywall behind. Wear eye and breathing protection when demolishing.

For plastic laminate panels, use a utility knife or razor blade to score the caulk beads before prying off. Remove any remaining adhesive or panel residue to expose the bare wall for new tile installation.

What tools do I need to install a new backsplash?

Handy tools for installing backsplash tiles include: tile cutter, notched trowel, tile spacers, rubber grout float, sponges, mixing bucket, caulk gun. You may also need a drill, hole saw, level, painter’s tape and safety gear like gloves and eye protection. Renting a tile saw is a good option if you don’t want to purchase one.

How do I cut the tiles?

Use a wet saw tile cutter with a diamond blade for accurate cuts without cracking the tiles. Measure and mark tiles to be cut using a square or ruler. Make a few practice cuts first on scrap tiles. Go slowly and hold the tile firmly when cutting. Wear goggles for safety. Use a tile nipper for small angled finish cuts if needed.

Can I install tile over existing backsplash?

It is not generally recommended to tile over an existing backsplash. The layers of old adhesive and tile backing can prevent proper bonding of new tiles. It’s best to remove the old backsplash completely down to the bare wall before retiling. Scrape off every bit of adhesive for maximum adherence.

How long does backsplash tile installation take?

The installation time can range from 1-3 days depending on the scope of your project. Allow proper drying times for adhesive, grout and caulk. The more detailed the tile layout, the longer the meticulous tiling work may take. Be patient and don’t rush the drying times between steps.


Installing a new backsplash in your kitchen adds visual pop, updates the style and protects the walls. By following good preparation, measurement, tile cutting, adhesive application, grouting and sealing techniques, you can achieve a backsplash with crisp, clean results. While removing and replacing the backsplash takes some work, the transformative effect it has on your kitchen is well worth the effort.

The project is very doable as a DIY weekend upgrade. Just be sure to gather all the recommended tools and materials and carefully follow each step of the process. Safety gear like gloves and goggles are a must during the demolition and tile cutting phases. With some patience and persistence, your outdated or lackluster backsplash can become a stunning showpiece that infuses your kitchen with fresh, contemporary style.