How to Remove Backsplash from Kitchen


Kitchen backsplashes protect walls from stains and splatters while adding visual interest to your cooking space. However, there are times when you may want to remove or replace an outdated or damaged backsplash. Removing a backsplash can be a straightforward DIY project, but it does require some planning and effort to do it properly.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the complete process of removing different types of backsplashes, including ceramic tile, metal, glass, and stone. We will cover essential steps like preparing the workspace, necessary tools and materials, safely removing the backsplash, cleaning and preparing the wall for new backsplash, and proper disposal. With the right information and proper precautions, you can successfully tackle a backsplash removal.

Assessing the Backsplash and Planning the Removal Process

Before starting demolition, assess your backsplash material, area size, construction method and layout. This will help determine the tools, time and effort needed to remove it. Here are some planning tips:

  • Identify the backsplash material – Ceramic, metal, glass and stone backsplashes require different removal techniques. Identify yours to plan accordingly.
  • Measure the size – Measure the height and length of the backsplash area to estimate the workspace, tools, and time required.
  • Check installation method – Backsplashes may be installed with mastic, mortar, grout or adhesive. Knowing this helps determine the removal method.
  • Take photos – Photograph the existing layout and color patterns. This provides a reference for the new design.
  • Clear the area – Remove items on walls or countertops that may get damaged during the demolition process.
  • Gather supplies – Accumulate all necessary tools, materials and safety equipment before starting work.
  • Protect surfaces – Cover countertops, floors, appliances and other areas from damage with tarps and painter’s tape.

With the prep work done, it’s time to start removing the old backsplash.

Removing a Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Ceramic tiles are one of the most popular backsplash choices. Here are the steps to safely remove a ceramic tiled backsplash:

Materials and Tools Needed

  • Hammer
  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask
  • Ear protection
  • Gloves
  • Flat pry bar
  • Putty knife
  • Utility knife
  • Bucket
  • Trash bags
  • Tarp/drop cloth
  • Painter’s tape
  • Spackle or joint compound
  • Sandpaper

Removing the Tile

  1. Wear safety gear – Wear safety glasses, dust mask, ear protection and gloves to protect yourself from debris.
  2. Score grout lines – Use a utility knife to score along the grout lines surrounding each tile. This breaks the tile free from the grout.
  3. Carefully pry tiles – Starting from the top, insert the flat pry bar under each tile and gently twist and pull downward to pop it off.
  4. Remove remaining grout – Use a hammer and putty knife to chisel away any remaining grout from the wall surface.
  5. Dispose debris safely – Carefully place tile pieces and grout chunks in a bucket or directly in trash bags to minimize dust.

With the tiles removed, inspect the wall for any remaining adhesive or uneven surfaces that require smoothing before installing the new backsplash.

Preparing the Wall Surface

  1. Clean the wall – Use a damp cloth to wipe away any remaining debris or old mastic.
  2. Sand uneven areas – Lightly sand any bumps or uneven areas using fine grit sandpaper.
  3. Fill holes and gaps – Use spackle or drywall joint compound to patch holes, cracks or gaps in the wall surface. Allow it to fully dry.
  4. Prime the wall – Apply primer to the entire wall area to improve adhesion for the new backsplash application.

The wall is now ready for the installation of the new backsplash tile.

Removing a Metal Backsplash

Metal backsplashes like tin, stainless steel, or copper make a bold style statement. Here’s how to remove a metal backsplash:

Materials and Tools Needed

  • Tin snips
  • Putty knife
  • Utility knife
  • Safety goggles
  • Work gloves
  • Masking tape
  • Garbage bags
  • Sandpaper
  • Spackle/joint compound
  • Primer
  • Protective cloth

Removing the Metal Backsplash

  1. Wear gloves and goggles – Sharp edges make gloves and eye protection essential.
  2. Locate fasteners – Find all screws, nails or adhesive strips attaching the metal to the wall.
  3. Cut metal sheets – Use tin snips to cut the metal sheets into manageable pieces for removal.
  4. Pry metal off – Insert putty knife under metal edge and carefully pry pieces off of the wall.
  5. Scrape off adhesive – Utilize a putty knife to gently scrape away any remaining adhesive or mortar.
  6. Sand the wall – Lightly sand the wall to smooth any uneven areas.
  7. Discard metal properly – Place metal pieces in garbage bags or take them to a metal recycling facility.

Preparing the Wall for New Backsplash

Follow the same process described above in the tile backsplash section to fill holes, apply joint compound, prime, and prepare the surface for new backsplash installation.

Removing a Glass Tile Backsplash

Glass tile backsplashes add brilliant color effects and shine. But removing them requires extra care. Here are the steps involved:

Materials and Tools Needed

  • Hammer
  • Safety goggles
  • Work gloves
  • Flat pry bar
  • Grout saw
  • Putty knife
  • Dust mask
  • Utility knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Joint compound
  • Spackle
  • Drop cloths
  • Garbage bags
  • Painter’s tape

Removing the Glass Tile

  1. Take safety precautions – Wear safety goggles and gloves when handling glass tile to prevent cuts.
  2. Score grout lines – Use a utility knife to cut any grout between tiles. This allows the tiles to come off easier.
  3. Apply heat – Use a hair dryer or heat gun to warm the tiles and soften the adhesive behind them.
  4. Carefully pry tiles – Starting at the top, gently insert a pry bar under each tile and pull downward to remove it.
  5. Remove remaining grout – Utilize a grout saw and hammer to carefully chisel away any residual thinset or mastic.
  6. Discard tiles carefully – Wrap tiles in cloth before placing them in garbage bags to prevent shattered glass.

Once all glass tiles are removed, follow the same steps to prepare the bare wall for new backsplash installation.

Removing a Stone Backsplash

Natural stone backsplashes like marble, travertine, or granite provide timeless elegance. But removing them takes strategic steps:

Materials and Tools Needed

  • Hammer
  • Safety goggles
  • Work gloves
  • Respirator mask
  • Flat pry bar
  • Cold chisel
  • Putty knife
  • Utility knife
  • Drop cloths
  • Trash bags
  • Spackle
  • Joint compound
  • Sandpaper

Removing the Stone Backsplash

  1. Put on safety gear – Wear goggles, work gloves, and a respirator mask to protect from stone chips and dust.
  2. Score grout lines – Use a utility knife to cut any grout between stone tiles.
  3. Pry tiles – Starting at the top, insert a pry bar under stone tiles and twist to pop them off the wall.
  4. Chisel adhesive – Utilize a cold chisel and hammer to carefully chisel away any thinset mortar or mastic.
  5. Smooth uneven areas – Use a putty knife to scrape any remaining debris. Sand any bumps.
  6. Discard stone pieces – Carefully place stone chunks in trash bags to prevent damage.

Follow the rest of the process described above to make the wall ready for new backsplash installation.

Cleaning and Preparing the Wall for a New Backsplash

Once you have removed the old backsplash completely, proper wall preparation is crucial before putting up the new backsplash. Here is a quick summary of those essential steps:

  • Thoroughly clean the entire wall area with water and mild detergent to remove any remaining dirt, debris, grease or soap scum. Rinse well and let dry completely.
  • Use a putty knife to scrape off any leftover thinset mortar, mastic, grout or adhesive residue.
  • Sand irregular areas until smooth. Avoid exposing the brown paper facing of drywall.
  • Fill any cracks, holes, and gaps wider than 1/8 inch with spackle or drywall joint compound. Let dry and sand smooth.
  • Cover all exposed drywall with skim coat joint compound for improved adhesion. Feather out edges and let dry completely.
  • Lightly sand any dried compound with fine grit sandpaper. Carefully vacuum up all dust.
  • Prime the entire wall area with an appropriate primer before applying mastic and installing the new backsplash.

Proper prep work ensures long-lasting adhesion and avoids future problems with the new backsplash installation.

Safe and Proper Disposal of Backsplash Materials

Removing an old backsplash produces piles of demolition debris that need proper disposal. Here are some tips:

  • Place tile, stone, metal and glass pieces in sturdy garbage bags or cardboard boxes to prevent injury from broken shards or chips.
  • Consider donating reusable backsplash materials like mirrors or metal sheets to organizations like Habitat for Humanity.
  • Take metal backsplashes to a metal recycling center. Many areas have recycling programs for various construction materials.
  • Rent a covered dumpster or trailer to securely contain all waste if your project will generate more than normal household trash.
  • Schedule a special debris pick-up with your waste management company for larger loads. Fees may apply.
  • Review hazardous waste disposal options offered by your city or town for safe handling of broken glass, lead-based materials, asbestos, etc.
  • Never dump hazardous waste in municipal landfills. This can contaminate groundwater, soil, and air which harms the environment and health.

Proper backsplash demolition and disposal prevents injury, minimizes environmental impact, and keeps the project area clean and safe.

FAQs About Removing Kitchen Backsplash

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about removing an existing kitchen backsplash:

How long does it take to remove a kitchen backsplash?

Removing a typical 8×4 foot backsplash can take 2 to 5 hours depending on the material and installation method. Ceramic tiles come down quickest while natural stone is more labor-intensive.

What tools do I need to remove backsplash?

Common tools needed are a hammer, putty knife, utility knife, pry bar, scraper, safety gear, buckets, and a spackle or grout saw for stubborn areas.

Should I remove the drywall behind the backsplash?

Removing the entire drywall layer is usually not necessary. Just take down the backsplash, then clean and skim coat the area to prep it for the new backsplash.

How do I remove adhesive or mortar from the wall?

Use a putty knife, scraper, or sandpaper to gently remove mastic or mortar residue. Avoid damaging the drywall facing paper. Fill deep gouges with joint compound.

Can I put up the new backsplash right after removing the old one?

It’s best to clean, spackle, sand, prime and prepare the wall surface first for proper adhesion and smoothing out imperfections.

How do I get rid of old backsplash debris?

Carefully place debris into sturdy trash bags and boxes. Rent a dumpster or schedule a special pick-up for larger amounts. Recycle metal and take hazardous waste to designated disposal sites.


Removing an outdated or damaged backsplash is a manageable project for most DIY-ers. The key is having the right tools and taking appropriate safety precautions based on your backsplash material. Always wear protective gear to avoid injury from debris. Thoroughly prepare the exposed wall by cleaning, repairing imperfections, priming and creating a smooth surface for the new backsplash installation. With proper planning, materials, and precautions, you can take on a backsplash removal and renovation successfully.