How to Remove and Replace Tile Backsplash

Removing and replacing a tile backsplash can seem like a daunting task, but with the right planning and tools it can be accomplished successfully as a DIY project. A new backsplash can entirely transform the look and feel of your kitchen.

When to Consider Replacing Your Tile Backsplash

There are a few key reasons you may want to remove and replace your existing tile backsplash:

  • The tiles are dated or damaged. Old, chipped tiles or a color scheme that’s no longer your style can make your whole kitchen feel stuck in the past. Replacing the backsplash is an easy way to update the look.
  • You’re renovating your kitchen. If you’re doing a major kitchen remodel, changing the backsplash is a great way to pull the new design together.
  • To change the style. Even if your current tile is in good shape, you may want to swap it out for a different material like marble, glass, or metal to get a more modern or custom look.
  • To make repairs. If the underlying wall behind the tile needs work, it’s an opportunity to upgrade your backsplash in the process.

How to Remove Tile Backsplash

Removing old tile is one of the toughest parts of this project. Take time to protect the walls and cabinets, then work slowly and carefully to pry off each tile. The key steps include:

Gather Supplies

You’ll need safety gear like gloves and eye protection, pry bars, a hammer, putty knives, and plastic sheeting to cover surfaces.

Prepare the Workspace

Clear countertops and cover appliances, walls, and floors with plastic sheeting to protect from debris.

Start Prying Tiles

Use a pry bar and hammer to gently pry up one corner of each tile, working in sections across the backsplash area. Pry slowly to avoid damaging the wall behind the tile.

Remove Adhesive

Use a putty knife to scrape off any remaining tile adhesive after removing the tiles. This will leave a smooth surface for the new backsplash.

Clean the Area

Sweep and wash the backsplash area to remove any debris and dirt. Fill any holes or damaged areas in the wall with spackle so the new tile will have a smooth surface for installation.

How to Replace a Tile Backsplash

Once the old backsplash is removed, putting up the new tile is a multi-step process. Proper preparation and using the right tools will lead to long-lasting results.

Select Your New Tile and Supplies

Pick a tile material (ceramic, marble, glass, etc.) and style that fits your budget and design vision. Buy extra tiles to account for breakage. Get adhesive, grout, grout sealer, and all required installation tools.

Prepare the Surface

The wall surface must be smooth, clean, and dry for the tiles to adhere properly. Seal porous surfaces with primer. Apply adhesive, using a notched trowel for even distribution.

Arrange Tiles and Begin Installing

Dry lay tiles on the countertop to map out placement and get the desired pattern. Install a starter row along the bottom using spacers for even lines. Work up the wall in rows.

Apply Grout and Seal

After tiles are firmly set, apply and wipe grout into the seams. Remove excess grout and seal to protect from stains and moisture once cured. Use caulk where the backsplash meets the countertop or cabinets.

Tips for a Successful Installation

  • Stagger tile rows in a brick pattern for more stability.
  • Cut border and accent tiles with a wet saw for clean edges.
  • Work slowly and carefully; don’t rush the installation.
  • Let adhesive and grout cure fully before using the backsplash.
  • Seal grout periodically to keep it looking new.

Removing Tile Backsplash FAQs

Still have questions about taking on a tile backsplash removal yourself? Here are some frequently asked questions with answers.

Is it hard to remove tile backsplash?

It can be a difficult DIY project, especially prying off the first few tiles intact. The adhesive is meant to hold them on permanently. Work slowly and patiently to avoid damaging the drywall behind the tile.

How do you remove old tile adhesive from a backsplash?

Scraping with a putty knife is the best way to remove old thinset mortar once the tiles are off. Adhesive remover solvent gel also helps soften and clear off residual thinset.

What tools do I need to remove tile backsplash?

At minimum, you need safety gloves and eye protection, pry bars, a putty knife, hammer, plastic sheeting, and a bucket of water. A multi-tool oscillator and reciprocating saw can also help with stubborn tiles.

How long does it take to remove tile backsplash?

Removal time varies based on the backsplash size and how easily the tiles pry off. Allocate at least 1-2 days for this portion of the project if tackling it solo. Removing 100 sq ft of tile could take 8 or more man hours.

Can I put new tile over existing backsplash?

It’s not recommended. The layers of old thinset and uneven tile surface underneath can prevent the new tile from properly adhering and cause cracks down the line. Removing the old backsplash completely is advised.

How do I remove backsplash near countertops?

Use a utility knife to cut the caulk bead where the backsplash meets the countertop before prying up any tiles. Take care not to nick or damage the countertop’s edges and surface while scraping off old adhesive.

What’s the easiest way to remove glass tile backsplash?

Glass mosaic tiles can be especially tricky. Heat tiles with a blow dryer or heat gun first to soften the adhesive before gently prying one corner and working across slowly. Wear protective gloves to avoid cuts.

Replacing Tile Backsplash FAQs

Want to ensure your new backsplash looks amazing and lasts? Get answers to common tile installation questions here.

What type of tile is best for backsplash?

Ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone like marble are top choices. Glass, metal, and mosaics also make an attractive and functional backsplash. Choose tiles rated for walls and wet areas.

How long does it take to install a new backsplash?

The entire install often takes 2-3 days: day 1 for surface prep and applying adhesive, day 2 for careful tile setting, and day 3 for grouting and sealing. Working alone expect it to take at least double the time versus pro help.

What color grout should I use with white subway tile?

White or light gray grout highlights and brightens up white tiles. Dark gray or contrasting grout can also create an eye-catching accent. Apply grout samples to select the right shade.

Should you seal tile before or after grouting?

Sealing prior helps prevent staining but can also make grouting more challenging. It’s generally best to apply grout first, clean, then seal tiles. Use a penetrating sealer made for grout once cured.

Can I install backsplash tile directly to drywall?

Yes, with proper adhesive and preparation. Ensure the drywall is moisture and mildew resistant. Priming provides extra protection. Check that the drywall is firmly secured to studs.

How do I cut tile around electrical outlets?

Use a rotary tool or oscillating multi-tool to cut L-shaped notches around outlets so tile slides neatly into place. Turn off power at the breaker before working around electrical.

How do you attach backsplash tile to wall?

Adhesive is the most important part. Use a notched trowel to spread a thinset mortar suitable for the tile material across the wall in even rows. Firmly press tiles into the tacky adhesive.


Upgrading your backsplash is an achievable DIY kitchen project that can completely transform the space. With proper planning, tools, safety precautions, and patience removing existing tile and installing a fresh new backsplash, you can save on installation costs and gain a stunning focal point. Carefully follow the preparation, tile setting, and grouting steps outlined here for success. Take time to review the FAQs and tile backsplash tips before tackling this project yourself. With the right approach, you can enjoy a brand new, contemporary backsplash in your kitchen.