Removing a kitchen backsplash can refresh the look of your kitchen or allow you to update to a new style. With some careful planning and the right tools, it’s possible for many homeowners to DIY a backsplash removal. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to remove a backsplash in your kitchen.
Assess the Existing Backsplash
Before starting demolition, take time to assess the current backsplash. This will help you understand what needs to be done for removal.
- What material is it made of? Ceramic tile, metal, glass, and other materials each have their own removal considerations.
- What does it look like behind the backsplash? Is there damage, mold, or anything else that needs addressing before installing a new backsplash?
- How is it installed? Thin backsplashes may be installed right over drywall, while tile or stone may require a cement board underneath. Knowing the underlayment will guide the removal process.
- How large of an area needs to be removed? A full wall or just a small section?
- Are there any special considerations like outlets, switches or plumbing fixtures? These will need to be worked around.
Once you’ve assessed the space, assemble the necessary supplies and tools for removal.
Gather Backsplash Removal Supplies
These common items will help with safe and effective backsplash removal:
- Safety gear – gloves, eye protection, dust mask
- Hammer or pry bar
- Putty knife or oscillating multi-tool
- Utility knife or razor blades
- Plastic sheets or tarps
- Garbage bags
- Shop vacuum
For tile, stone, or cement board, you may also need:
- Chisel and mallet
- Tile cutter
- Reciprocating saw
Gather supplies ahead of time to make the process smooth.
Protect Surrounding Areas
Before demolition, protect countertops, floors, appliances and other areas from damage during the removal process.
- Clear counters and cover with plastic sheets.
- Remove any dishes, food items or small appliances from nearby counters.
- Cover the floor with tarps or plastic sheeting.
- Tape plastic over nearby cabinets and appliances.
- Have vacuum handy to regularly clean up debris.
Proper protection will make clean up much easier.
Turn Off Electricity and Water
Any plumbing fixtures, outlets or switches in the backsplash area will need to be shut off prior to removal.
- Turn off the water supply valves for any faucets or fixtures in the backsplash zone.
- Shut off electricity to any outlets, switches or under-cabinet lighting in the backsplash area.
- Turn off power to appliances like garbage disposals or instant hot systems if necessary.
This prevents safety hazards and allows the backsplash to be safely removed.
Remove Entire Sheets First
If the backsplash was installed in large sheets, such as stainless steel or plastic panels, start by removing these full sections first.
- Find any caulking or adhesive and cut through it with a utility knife.
- Pry the sheets off the wall carefully using a pry bar.
- Slowly work your way along the edges.
- If needed, use a reciprocating saw to cut through nails, screws or other fasteners.
Removing whole sheets first leaves a smooth surface to then remove any remaining underlayment.
Detach Underlayment from Wall
For ceramic tile, stone, or cement board backsplashes, a more detailed removal process is required.
- Using a chisel and mallet, hammer carefully along all grout lines to loosen the tile.
- Break tiles into smaller sections using tile nippers. Remove broken shards.
- Scrape off all remaining grout with a putty knife or chisel until only the bare underlayment remains.
- Pry the underlayment like cement board off the walls using a pry bar.
- Take care around any outlets, switches or plumbing.
The underlayment often needs to be removed down to the drywall or studs.
Clean Up Backsplash Area
Once the backsplash material is fully removed, thoroughly clean the now exposed wall area.
- Pull out any remaining nails, screws or backsplash debris.
- Vacuum the full space using a shop vac.
- Wipe with a damp cloth to remove all dust and residue.
- Fill any holes or damaged drywall with spackle and let dry.
- Sand any bumps for a smooth surface.
- Prime and paint if needed.
Proper cleanup leaves the area smooth and ready for a new backsplash.
Remove Adhesive and Prep the Area
If adhesive remains after old backsplash removal, take steps to remove for best results.
- Scrape off any chunks of old adhesive foam with a putty knife.
- Apply adhesive remover and let it sit for the recommended time.
- Scrub with a tough scrub pad or brush to remove softened adhesive.
- Wash the area with soapy water and dry thoroughly.
Remove all residue so new backsplash adheres properly.
Make Any Necessary Repairs
With the old backsplash removed, it’s easier to spot any hidden damage or issues.
- Repair any water damage or mold on walls prior to new backsplash.
- Patch holes, dents or imperfections in the drywall.
- Replace outlets or under-cabinet lighting fixtures if needed.
- Address any plumbing leaks or damage around faucets.
Deal with repairs now so that the new backsplash installation goes smoothly.
Safety Tips for Removal
For safe and effective DIY backsplash removal:
- Wear proper safety gear like goggles, gloves and a mask.
- Work slowly and carefully when prying or scraping.
- Be aware of electrical, plumbing and gas lines hidden behind.
- Support heavy underlayment sheets so they don’t crack tiles.
- Never use power tools around live electric lines.
- Dispose of debris safely by bagging it securely.
Stay safe throughout the removal process.
Hiring a Pro for Removal
Removing a backsplash professionally can make the process faster and easier.
- Pros have commercial tools to remove backsplash materials.
- They know how to handle tricky spots like outlets and fixtures.
- Professionals can dispose of old backsplash correctly.
- Experienced contractors can address any hidden issues.
- May be required for asbestos tile or intricate design backsplashes.
Get bids from contractors if unsure about DIY removal.
Removing an outdated or damaged kitchen backsplash allows for a fresh look with new tile, metal, glass or other materials. With the right tools and safety precautions, many homeowners can take on this project themselves. If the existing backsplash has complications or proves too difficult, hiring a professional can save time and hassle. With some diligent work, you can soon have a kitchen backsplash that gives your space a beautiful new look.
Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Kitchen Backsplash
How do I remove glass tile backsplash?
Carefully break up the grout between glass tiles using a grout removal tool, then gently pry off each tile. Use care not to shatter the glass. Any glass shards must be cleaned up.
What is the easiest backsplash to remove?
Self-adhesive plastic backsplashes come off most easily by slicing through the caulk and peeling the sheets off. Tile or stone backsplashes require breaking up grout and prying off each tile.
How do I remove tile backsplash without damaging drywall?
Work slowly to pry tiles off and use a putty knife to scrape remaining thin-set mortar. Be gentle enough not to gouge the drywall. Any damage can be patched.
Can I put new backsplash over old?
It’s best to remove the old backsplash completely for proper adhesion and to fix any hidden issues. Covering over may lead to moisture problems or the new tiles detaching.
How much does it cost to have a contractor remove backsplash?
Backsplash removal costs $2-$6 per square foot on average. Simple plastic panels may be $2-3 per square foot, while tile or stone backsplashes run $4-6 per square foot for professional removal.