How to Remove Backsplash from Drywall

Removing a backsplash from drywall can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be done successfully. Here we will provide a step-by-step guide to help you remove your existing backsplash while minimizing damage to the underlying drywall.

Assessing the Backsplash and Drywall

Before starting demolition, take some time to assess the backsplash and drywall.

  • What material is the backsplash made of? Ceramic tile, metal, glass, and other materials will need different removal approaches.
  • What condition is the drywall in? Look for signs of water damage or other deterioration that could make the drywall prone to crumbling.
  • How is the backsplash attached? Is it set in mortar, mastic,thinset, or grout? This will impact how difficult removal will be.
  • What tools will be needed? Common tools used are a pry bar, hammer, putty knife, chisel, utility knife, heat gun, and a scraper.

Understanding what you are working with will make the process smoother.

Protecting the Work Area

Once assessed, prep the work area to limit damage.

  • Clear countertops and remove anything breakable from the backsplash area.
  • Cover countertops, floors, and appliances with drop cloths to catch falling debris.
  • Wear safety goggles and a dust mask to protect yourself during demolition.
  • Have a shop vacuum ready to frequently clean up dust and debris.

Proper protection will save clean-up time later.

Removing the Backsplash

With precautionary steps taken, it’s time to start removal.

Breaking Grout Lines

Use a utility knife or oscillating tool to cut any grout lines between backsplash tiles. This breaks the grid and releases individual tiles.

Lifting Tiles

Work in small sections. Using a pry bar, hammer and chisel, or putty knife, begin prying tiles off the wall. Apply force at the bottom edge and work upwards. Be patient and methodical in removal.

Scrape Off Adhesive

As tiles are removed, use a scraper or putty knife to scrape off any remaining thinset mortar, mastic, or tile adhesive from the drywall. Try to get it as smooth as possible.

Employ Heat

For stubborn areas, apply heat using a heat gun to soften mastic or thinset before scraping. This makes removal easier. Work in sections and take care not to scorch drywall.

Sand Away Stray Grout

Use 40-60 grit sandpaper to sand away any leftover grout nubs or lines. A random orbital sander can help smooth larger areas. Sand until the drywall surface is clean.

Prevent Drywall Damage

Work slowly and carefully during scraping and sanding to avoid gouging or tearing the drywall paper. Limiting damage will reduce needed drywall repairs later.

Repairing Drywall

Once the backsplash is removed, inspect the drywall for any damage that needs repair prior to installing the new backsplash.

Fill Holes

Use drywall joint compound to fill any gouges, holes, or gaps created during removal. Let dry completely and sand smooth.

Resecure Loose Paper

For areas where the paper face is torn but still attached, gently smooth the paper back in place and secure with joint compound. Feather and blend edges.

Patch Sections

Cut away any sections that are too badly damaged to repair. Replace with new drywall pieces secured with drywall screws. Tape seams with joint tape and compound.

Prime the Surface

Once repairs are complete and dry, apply an oil-based primer across the entire surface. This unifies texture and ensures proper adhesion for the new backsplash.

Preparing for New Backsplash

With the old backsplash gone and drywall repairs made, the surface is now ready for a new backsplash installation.


Think about backsplash layout, materials, style, and budget. Shop for your new backsplash and any needed tools and supplies.

Clean Thoroughly

Clean the entire backsplash area with TSP substitute to remove any grease, dirt, or dust. This allows for ideal adhesion.

Make Plumb and Level

Check walls for level and plumb. Correct any issues. Use shims if needed to ensure the new backsplash will align properly.

Follow Installation Instructions

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when installing the new backsplash. Take time to do it right.

With some perseverance and care, those outdated or damaged backsplash tiles can come down and your walls can be prepped for a fresh new look. Take a methodical approach, protect your work area, and repair any drywall damage for a smooth removal and replacement process.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Backsplash from Drywall

What tools do I need to remove a backsplash?

Common tools used are a pry bar, hammer, putty knife, chisel, utility knife, heat gun, and a scraper. Have safety items like goggles, gloves, and a dust mask as well.

How do I avoid damaging the drywall underneath?

Work slowly and carefully, especially when scraping. Don’t gouge or dig into the drywall. Use heat to soften adhesives and limit sanding.

What’s the best way to get rid of old tile mastic?

Scraping off what you can and then applying heat with a heat gun or hair dryer softens mastic for easier removal. Chemical solvents can also help break down old adhesives.

Should I repair drywall before installing the new backsplash?

Yes, take care of any repairs needed to holes, gouges, paper tears, etc. before installing the new backsplash. This provides an intact surface.

How do I prepare the wall after old backsplash removal?

Prime the drywall with an oil-based primer after repairs to unify texture. Clean thoroughly with TSP substitute. Check for level and plumb.

Can I install the new backsplash right over the old one?

It is not recommended. Removing the old backsplash allows you to inspect for damage, make repairs, and start fresh with the proper wall surface for ideal adhesion.

What’s the easiest backsplash to install myself?

Self-adhesive tile, peel-and-stick vinyl tiles, and tile sheets with pre-applied adhesive are very easy, peel-and-stick backsplash options.

Should I hire a contractor to remove and replace backsplash?

If you are comfortable doing demolition work and drywall repairs, a DIY backsplash removal and replacement is very feasible. Know your limits.


Removing an existing backsplash takes some diligence and labor, but restoring walls in preparation for a new backsplash is very satisfying. With the right approach and tools, taking down tile, stone, or metal backsplash can be accomplished without too much hassle. Focus on protecting the work area, methodically removing the backsplash, properly repairing drywall, and prep for success with the new backsplash installation. With a little time and effort, you can have that new dream backsplash shining on your wall!