How to Remove Backsplash from Wall

Removing a backsplash from a wall can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be done successfully. Here is an in-depth guide on everything you need to know to remove tile, glass, metal, or stone backsplash from your wall.

Assessing Your Backsplash

Before starting demolition, assess the existing backsplash to determine the best method for removal. Consider the following:

Type of Material

Common backsplash materials include ceramic tile, glass tile, metal tile or sheets, and stone tile. Ceramic tiles can usually be chiseled off. Glass tiles require more care to prevent shattering. Metal and stone tiles need specialty tools for removal.

Installation Method

Backsplashes are commonly installed with mastic, mortar, grout, or adhesive. Mastic or adhesive-installed backsplashes come off easier than mortared materials. Grout holds tiles together but does not attach them to the wall.

Size of the Backsplash

A full wall backsplash covering a large surface area takes more time and effort to remove than a small, focused backsplash over a stove or sink. Consider how much demolition is needed for your project.

Condition of the Backsplash

Cracked, damaged, or deteriorating backsplashes detach easier than new installations in good condition. Check for problem areas that can aid removal.

Thoroughly inspecting the backsplash before starting allows you to plan the most efficient and effective method of removal.

Gather the Right Tools

Removing a backsplash requires several specialized tools to make the job easier and avoid wall damage:

  • Safety gear – Wear safety goggles, dust mask, work gloves, and long sleeves during demolition to protect yourself.
  • Hammer and chisel – Use a masonry chisel and hammer to chip away grout and pry off tiles. Choose a medium hammer weight (12-24 oz) for good lifting power.
  • Flat pry bar – A long, flat pry bar provides leverage for pulling off tile and scrape off adhesive or mastic.
  • Putty knives – Use flexible putty knives to scrape off old adhesive and grout residue after tile removal.
  • Utility knife – Score grout lines and cut adhesive with a sharp utility knife before prying off tiles.
  • Angle grinder – An angle grinder with a diamond blade makes quick work of cutting through tough backsplash materials like stone. Wear eye and face protection when using one.
  • Rubber mallet – A rubber mallet allows hammering to dislodge tiles without damaging the drywall behind. Helpful for glass tile removal.
  • Dustpan and shop vac – Clean up backsplash debris efficiently with a dustpan and wet/dry vac. Use vac attachments to reach corners.

Having the right demolition tools on hand makes removing a backsplash much easier and safer. Invest in quality tools meant for the backsplash material you are removing.

Prepare the Workspace

Before starting demolition, set up a safe and organized workspace:

  • Clear the area of appliances, cookware, utensils, and food items. Remove dish racks, kitchen tools, and small décor from counter areas.
  • Cover nearby surfaces like countertops with drop cloths to protect from debris and damage. Mask off edges with painter’s tape.
  • Have a step stool or small ladder ready if reaching higher areas. Use non-slip footwear when working from a height.
  • Sweep and/or vacuum the backsplash area to remove dust and loose debris.
  • Turn off electricity and gas to the work area at the breakers or valves. Shut off main water valves if removing near pipes.
  • Place a drop cloth on the floor and have a bucket ready to collect fallen tile pieces and debris.

A clean, empty, protected workspace helps demolition go smoothly and contain the mess. Working safely is also critical when demolishing with power tools, hammers, and pry bars.

Remove Existing Caulk or Grout

Removing existing caulk or grout between the backsplash tiles first makes prying off the tile easier:

Grout Removal

  • Use a carbide-tipped grout saw, oscillating multi-tool, or sharp utility knife to score along grout lines. Make multiple passes to cut all the way through the grout.
  • Tap tiles gently with a hammer and chisel to break the grout seal. Hold the chisel at a 45 degree angle to avoid damaging tiles.
  • Use a grout rake, putty knife, or oscillating multi-tool to rake out loose grout once chiseled through. Rake at a 45 degree angle or parallel to walls.
  • For thin grout lines, a sharp utility knife or putty knife may be sufficient for scraping out the grout without scoring.

Caulk Removal

  • Slice through caulk beads with a utility knife. Make close cuts parallel to the tile surface to avoid digging into the mastic beneath.
  • Use a putty knife, 5-in-1 tool, or rigid palette knife to scrape away cut caulk pieces down to the mastic layer. Go slowly to avoid gouging the wall.
  • For stubborn caulk, soften it first with a heat gun on low setting before scraping. Mineral spirits also help dissolve silicone caulk residues when wiped on.

Removing all grout and caulk first gives you a smooth, even surface behind tiles for prying them off next.

Tile Removal Process

With prep work done, the tile removal process can begin. Work in sections for easier access:

Pry Tiles Off

  • Position a flat pry bar about 1-2 inches below the backsplash ledge and gently pry upwards to detach full tiles or break off individual pieces.
  • Place scrap wood strips against the wall to protect from pry damage as you lift. Use a rubber mallet instead of a steel hammer if working with fragile tile.
  • Leverage the pry bar at the tile corners and edges to crack pieces off the mastic. Support the tile and ease it off; don’t simply rip it away.
  • For stubborn tiles, use a hammer and chisel to chip off smaller sections until you can get a pry bar underneath to lift off.

Remove Broken Pieces

  • Pick away any cracked tiles, loose shards, and tile remnants with pliers or a 5-in-1 tool once the majority is pried off.
  • Use a narrow putty knife, wall scraper, or oscillating multi-tool to get into corners and tight spaces around fixtures.
  • Prevent self-injury and eye damage by wearing thick work gloves and safety glasses during this messy process.

Scrape off Mastic

  • Use a combination of putty knives, 5-in-1 tool, paint scraper, and oscillating multi-tool to scrape any remaining mastic or adhesive coating off the wall.
  • Try to get it as smooth as possible, but don’t gouge into the drywall. Imperfections can get smoothed in the next step.
  • If the mastic is proving difficult to scrape off, soften it first with a heat gun on low setting or by spraying with adhesive solvent. Test solvents in an inconspicuous area first.

Scraping off all remnants of the backsplash leaves a blank slate for your new backsplash installation.

Smooth and Prep the Wall

Once the backsplash is removed, prep the wall for a new installation:

  • Sand away any residual grout or mastic with 100 grit sandpaper to get the wall smooth. Avoid over-sanding.
  • Fill any gouges, holes, cracks or uneven spots in the wall using drywall joint compound. Let dry completely and sand smooth.
  • If drywall is severely damaged from removal, cut away bad sections and replace with new drywall. Tape seams and finish to match existing.
  • Prime the bare wall with a stain-blocking primer to cover any lingering adhesive residue or mastic stains left behind.
  • Paint over the primed wall with a topcoat of interior latex wall paint if you plan to leave the backsplash area bare.

Your wall is now ready for you to install a beautiful new backsplash! Proper prep prevents future adhesion issues.

Safety Tips

Removal projects involve hazards like falling debris, sharp objects, fumes, and dust. Keep safety foremost:

  • Ventilate dust and fumes from the workspace during demolition. Take breaks to get fresh air.
  • Keep a first aid kit stocked and accessible in case of minor cuts or abrasions.
  • Handle broken tiles carefully. Wear thick gloves and eye protection during the entire process.
  • Use power tools cautiously and only as needed. Angle grinders should only be operated by experienced users.
  • Do not try to catch falling tiles or debris. Step back and let pieces fall onto the drop cloth.
  • Dispose of removed backsplash materials properly according to hazardous waste regulations in your area. Most can go in household waste receptacles.

With careful handling and the proper protective gear, your removal project can go off without injury.

Hiring a Professional

Removing backsplash tile presents hazards and requires specialized techniques. For large removal jobs or complex materials like natural stone or metal, consider hiring a professional demolition contractor for best results and safety:

Reasons to Hire a Pro

  • Have training and expertise in proper demolition techniques for all backsplash types
  • Possess commercial grade power tools that make the job faster
  • Can provide necessary protective gear and proper cleanup tools
  • Dispose of hazardous backsplash materials safely and legally offsite
  • Evaluate if wall structure is compromised and needs repair before new installation
  • Offer additional services like wall prep, stucco repair, retexturing, and more

Questions to Ask Prospective Contractors

  • Are you licensed, bonded, and insured for commercial demolition work?
  • Can you provide references from previous backsplash removal jobs?
  • Do you own and utilize dust containment systems during projects?
  • Will you thoroughly clean up debris and haul it away offsite?
  • Will you repair any necessary wall repairs before new backsplash installation?

Costs of Professional Removal

$3-$6 per square foot or $300-$700 for a full kitchen backsplash. Higher for difficult materials like natural stone or glass. Get at least 3 estimates.

Removing a backsplash professionally saves time and frustration while yielding quality results. Review several licensed contractors to get the best service at a fair price.

Disposing of Backsplash Debris

Proper disposal of backsplash debris keeps toxic chemicals and dust contained:

  • Place broken tiles, grout pieces, mastic, and construction debris into heavy duty contractor bags. Seal tightly.
  • Review local regulations for ceramic and tile disposal. Most can go in normal household waste receptacles.
  • Natural stone may require disposal at a specialty facility. Contact your local stone and masonry association for recommendations.
  • Glass tiles contain silica and other toxins. Seal carefully for disposal or look into glass recycling options in your area.
  • Metal backsplashes have recycling value. Contact local metal recycling centers to ask about drop off options. Earn cash for aluminum or copper tiles.
  • Wear a dust mask when handling debris. Wet debris down with a spray bottle to contain dust.

Dispose of backsplash waste properly to avoid toxic chemicals and lung irritants entering the environment. Handling with care protects your health too.


What is the easiest backsplash material to remove?

Self-adhesive, vinyl sticker backsplashes peel off the easiest, followed by metal backsplashes adhered with mastic. Tile mortared heavily to the wall is most difficult.

Can I simply paint over an existing backsplash?

Painting over a glossy backsplash rarely yields good results. The paint doesn’t adhere well and the bumps of the grout lines will show through. Removing the tile allows for proper wall prep and smooth results.

How do I remove stubborn mastic or adhesive from the wall?

Heat guns or chemical solvents like adhesive remover, mineral spirits, or denatured alcohol help soften old mastic for easier scraping. Always test chemicals in an inconspicuous spot first.

What’s the best way to chisel off sections of backsplash?

Use a masonry chisel and hammer to score grout lines and chip tiles. Hold the chisel at a 45 degree angle and avoid hammering too hard. Tap gently to fracture grout and materials without damaging walls.

Can I rent tools for a DIY backsplash removal?

Yes, many home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowes rent demolition tools like hammers, pry bars, oscillating multi-tools, and angle grinders perfect for backsplash removal. Shop around for best rental rates.


Removing an outdated or damaged backsplash thoroughly revitalizes your kitchen or bath at a fraction of full remodel cost. With some sweat equity, determination, and the right tools, you can chisel, pry, and scrape away every last bit of old tile and adhesive to reveal a clean slate for new waterproof backsplash materials like glass subway tiles or marble mosaics when you’re ready to upgrade your space. Or consider hiring a demolition pro to tackle the messy removal work so you can focus on the fun new design. With the helpful tips in this guide, you can confidently take on a backsplash removal project and learn proper techniques to get the job done right.