How to Remove Backsplash from Kitchen Wall

Removing a kitchen backsplash can be a challenging DIY project, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be accomplished successfully. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to remove tile or glass backsplash from your kitchen wall.

Assessing the Backsplash and Wall

Before starting demo, assess the existing backsplash and wall underneath:

  • What material is the backsplash made of – ceramic tile, glass tile, metal, etc? This will determine the tools and techniques required.
  • What is the condition of the backsplash – are tiles loose, cracked, or still tightly bonded? Loose tiles will be easier to remove.
  • What is behind the backsplash – drywall, plaster, plywood? This will indicate how delicate the removal process needs to be.
  • Is the backsplash set in mortar, thinset, mastic or adhesive? Mortar and thinset require chiseling while mastic may allow prying.
  • Take note of any special patterns or accents in the backsplash. Photographing the backsplash can help with potential replacement.

Gathering Necessary Materials and Tools

Removal will require some combination of the following tools:

  • Safety gear – gloves, safety glasses, mask/respirator
  • Hammer or mini sledge to break tile and knock off mortar
  • Paint scraper for scraping off adhesive and residuals
  • Putty knife for prying up tiles
  • Utility knife for cutting mesh backing (if present)
  • Chisel and bolster for chipping mortar if tiles are set in it
  • Pry bar for removing whole sheets if possible
  • Shop vacuum to contain dust and debris

Start removal process by purchasing or rounding up tools you anticipate needing for your particular backsplash style.

Protecting Surrounding Areas

Before demo, prep the workspace to limit damage:

  • Clear countertops and protect surfaces with drop cloths
  • Tape painters plastic around edges of backsplash
  • Cover nearby appliances, sinks, and fixtures
  • Sweep and clean the backsplash area thoroughly

Containment and surface protection are key when removing a backsplash to keep the rest of the kitchen safe.

Removing the Backsplash

With prep work complete, start taking down the backsplash using these steps:

1. Score grout lines

Use a utility knife or oscillating tool to score along grout lines. This separates tiles for easier removal. Apply light pressure to avoid cutting into the wall behind.

2. Tap tiles to loosen

Use a hammer and bolster or mini-sledge to lightly tap tiles, working across the entire backsplash. This will help jar tiles from adhesion.

3. Chisel mortar (if present)

If set in mortar, use a chisel and hammer to chip away at mortar beneath tiles and behind joints. Knock off as much as possible.

4. Pry off tiles

Wedge a putty knife or pry bar under lifted tile edges and pry upwards. Work deliberately to avoid damaging the wall. Remove nails as encountered.

5. Scrape residual thinset or mastic

Use a paint scraper to scrape off any remaining thinset, mastic, mesh, or separators from the wall surface.

6. Clean wall surface

Once backsplash is removed, thoroughly clean the exposed wall area. Vacuum and wipe away all debris and dust.

7. Make wall repairs

Inspect wall for damage. Fill any gouges with spackle and sand smooth. Spot prime with Kilz before recoating.

Working carefully, most backsplashes can be removed successfully with common hand tools and patience. Make sure to repair and prep the wall for a replacement backsplash or new kitchen wall covering.

Removing Specific Backsplash Materials

Certain backsplash materials have some unique removal considerations:

Tile Backsplash

Score grout lines with utility knife before prying up tiles. Use hammer and chisel to knock off bulky mortar. Pry slowly to avoid wall damage.

Glass Tile Backsplash

Tap gently with rubber mallet to dislodge glass tiles. Wear gloves and goggles and pry carefully as broken glass is sharp. Remove any mesh intact.

Metal Backsplash

Use aviation snips to cut panels into sections for easier removal. Protect wall as edges can scratch surface when prying off.

Stone Backsplash

Score grout and use mini-sledge to crack stone into pieces. Chisel out thinset, working carefully around fragile areas.

Backsplash material influences removal approach, so adjust tools and techniques accordingly.

Removing Backsplash from Drywall vs. Plaster Walls

Wall composition is a major factor in removal process and potential repairs needed:

Drywall Walls

More delicate than plaster. Use light pressure and small tools to pry tiles to avoid ripping paper facing. Skim coat damaged areas.

Plaster Walls

Can chip if bruised from hammer blows or pried too forcefully. Take care around edges and seams which crumble easily.

Plaster requires gentler technique – use broader putty knife and glue solvents to loosen tiles when possible.

Understand the wall makeup to tailor force used and minimize repairs needed afterward.

How to Remove Backsplash without Damaging Walls

Here are some pro tips for getting backsplash off cleanly:

  • Light steady force is better than heavy hammer strikes.
  • Use sharper pry tools to minimize wall gouges.
  • Cut backsplash into sections for easier, safer removal.
  • Apply heat with a hair dryer or heat gun to soften mastics.
  • Use solvents like acetone on epoxy grouts to dissolve adhesion.
  • Keep tools flush against wall surface when prying or scraping.
  • Take care around fragile wall areas like seams, edges, and electrical cutouts.

With care and the right approach, it is possible to remove backsplash without excessive damage to walls underneath.

Prepping Walls for New Backsplash

Once existing backsplash is removed, prepare walls for a replacement:

  • Fill gouges and holes with lightweight spackle compound, allow to dry and sand smooth.
  • Spot prime any bare drywall or plaster with a stain-blocking primer like Kilz.
  • Skim coat larger damaged areas with joint compound and sand flat.
  • Clean surface thoroughly then prime entire wall with tile adhesive primer before installing new backsplash.

Proper prep and repair ensures walls are ready for new backsplash adhesive and installation.

Hiring a Pro for Removal

Removing backsplash can be challenging. For larger projects, consider hiring a professional to:

  • Handle hazardous material removal like asbestos or lead tile.
  • Access difficult areas like behind counters or around windows.
  • Match a complex patterned backsplash for potential reinstallation.
  • Ensure wall safety and minimize needed repairs.
  • Dispose of backsplash debris efficiently and properly.

Though costs more, hiring a qualified backsplash removal company can save headaches on big projects.

Safety Tips for Removing Backsplash

For safe and smooth demolition:

  • Wear safety goggles, gloves, and an N95 respirator to protect from debris.
  • Work carefully using deliberate motions, don’t rush.
  • Have someone assist to help pull off full tiles and sheets.
  • Handle broken tiles carefully as edges can be razor sharp.
  • Contain dust and debris cleanup as you go.
  • Dispose of backsplash materials properly based on composition.
  • Address any mold or asbestos discovered and hire abatement pros if needed.

Staying safe should be the top priority when taking on a backsplash removal project yourself.

FAQs About Removing Kitchen Backsplash

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How long does it take to remove a backsplash?

Removal time depends on size of backsplash, tile material, and adhesive used but can range from 2-6 hours for a simple 10 square foot ceramic tile backsplash.

What tools do I need to remove backsplash?

Common tools needed are a hammer, putty knife, utility knife, pry bar, oscillating tool, safety gear, vacuum, and containers for debris.

What is the easiest way to remove backsplash?

Scoring grout lines with a utility knife, heating mastic with a hair dryer, and slowly prying tiles off while scraping adhesive delivers easiest removal.

Can I put new backsplash over old?

It is not recommended. Old backsplash should be removed completely to allow new tiles to adhere properly to a clean, flat wall surface.

How do I remove stubborn backsplash adhesive?

Scraping tools can remove some. Adhesive remover solvents help dissolve remaining mastics and epoxy. Heat guns soften mastics for easier scraping too.

How do I repair drywall after removing backsplash?

Fill gouges with spackle compound once debris is cleaned off. Sand smooth then spot prime bare areas with stain-blocking primer before repainting.

Carefully removing a kitchen backsplash without damaging walls is very doable for a dedicated DIYer. Follow proper techniques for your backsplash material and wall type. Take time to prep the area and have necessary tools on hand. Keep safety a priority throughout the demolition process. With some perseverance and patience, you can remove backsplash to prepare the space for a new look.

how to remove backsplash from kitchen wall

Removing a backsplash from your kitchen walls can seem like a daunting task, but with the right approach and tools it can be accomplished successfully. Here are some tips on how to remove backsplash tiles or panels from your kitchen walls without causing too much damage:

Assess the Backsplash

  • Determine what type of material it is – ceramic tile, metal, glass, etc. as that affects removal method.
  • Examine the condition – are tiles/panels loose already or still firmly attached?
  • Figure out what adhesive was used to attach it – thinset mortar, construction adhesive, double-sided tile tape?
  • Look at the walls behind – drywall, plaster, plywood? Wall material influences how delicate you need to be.

Gather the Right Tools

  • Safety gear – gloves, eye protection, N95 mask
  • Hammer and chisel for knocking off mortar chunks
  • Putty knife for working under edges
  • Utility knife for scoring grout or cutting mesh
  • Pry bar for leverage and pulling off sections
  • Paint scraper for scraping off adhesive residue
  • Shop vacuum to contain dust and debris

Protect Surrounding Areas

  • Remove everything from counters and cover surfaces with drop cloths
  • Tape off countertop edges with painters tape
  • Cover nearby appliances, sinks, and fixtures to protect them
  • Sweep and clean the backsplash area well

Remove the Backsplash

  • Score grout lines with utility knife to separate tiles
  • Gently tap tiles/panels to loosen from adhesive
  • Chip away at mortar with chisel if tiles are set in it
  • Work putty knife under lifted edges and pry up and out
  • Use paint scraper to remove any remaining thinset or mastic
  • Vacuum up all debris and wipe wall surface clean
  • Fill any gouges in drywall with spackle; spot prime

Extra Tips for Specific Materials

Glass tiles – wear gloves and goggles, pry slowly to avoid shattering

Metal backsplash – use aviation snips to cut panels before prying

Stone backsplash – look for fragile spots, chip away thinset carefully

Drywall – use light pressure, small tools to avoid ripping paper

Plaster – go slowly, take care around edges and seams

Prep for New Backsplash

Once the old backsplash is down, prep the walls:

  • Fill holes and gouges with spackle, allow to dry and sand smooth
  • Prime any bare drywall or plaster spots with Kilz
  • Thoroughly clean the surface then apply tile adhesive primer

Proper prep ensures the wall is ready for the new backsplash!


  • Remove carefully, especially on fragile wall surfaces
  • Expect the process to take 2-6 hours depending on scope
  • Hire a pro for large or complicated removal jobs
  • Prioritize safety – eye protection, gloves, mask, go slowly

With the right tools and techniques, you can take down a backsplash without ruining the walls underneath. Just go slow and use care. Soon you’ll have a blank slate for your new kitchen backsplash design.