Backsplashes protect your walls from water damage and splatters in kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas. While ceramic tile is a popular and durable backsplash material, many homeowners opt for removable backsplash panels made of materials like metal, plastic, or glass. Removing these backsplash panels allows you to change up the look of your space by installing a new backsplash with minimal demolition. Here is a step-by-step guide to safely remove backsplash panels.
Assessing Your Backsplash Panels
The first step is identifying what type of backsplash panels you have. This will determine the proper removal techniques.
Common removable backsplash panel materials include:
- Metal – Often made of tin, stainless steel, copper, or aluminum. Attached with screws, adhesive, or both.
- Plastic – Economical panels made of PVC, acrylic, or polystyrene. Mostly adhesive installation but sometimes use screws.
- Glass – Tempered glass panels attached with silicone adhesive.
- Composite – Panels made of mixed materials like aluminum and acrylic. Adhesive and screw installation.
Examine your backsplash panels closely. Look for any visible screws along the edges or corners. Check for adhesive residue on the walls behind the panels. Identify any caulking or sealant used between the panels and walls. This will give you an idea of how the panels were installed.
When removing any materials in your home, safety should be the top concern:
- Wear protective goggles, gloves, long sleeves and closed toe shoes.
- Work slowly and carefully, avoiding sudden prying movements that could lead to slips or injuries.
- Use tools properly and securely brace ladders if working from height.
- Follow all manufacturer instructions for safe use of any solvents or chemicals. Ensure adequate ventilation.
- Clean up debris and tools when finished to prevent slips and falls.
If your backsplash panels are held in place with visible screws, start by removing these with a drill or screwdriver.
Use a soft cloth between the drill bit and panel to prevent scratching or damaging the material. Slowly disengage each screw, catching the panel if it starts to come loose as screws are removed.
Have a helper support larger panels from below as you remove screws. Wear gloves as sheet metal or unfinished screw points can be sharp.
Set aside all hardware and screws. You may need them later for new backsplash installation. Clean out screw holes in the wall completely using a vacuum, compressed air or toothpicks.
Breaking Panel Adhesive Bonds
Many backsplash panels rely fully on adhesive for installation. Silicone, epoxy, double-sided tape or construction adhesive are common.
The goal is to break this adhesive bond carefully without gouging your walls. Never attempt to pry off panels by force. This can remove chunks of drywall or plaster.
Heating Plastic and Metal Panels
For plastic, acrylic or metal backsplashes attached with adhesive, gentle heating can help loosen the bond.
Use a heat gun or industrial blow dryer on a low/medium setting. Slowly sweep across the panel surface, holding the heat 6-10 inches away. As it warms, you should see the panel begin to pull slightly away from the wall.
Alternatively, run a hair dryer or hot towels over the adhesive to soften it gradually. The key is taking your time – abruptly prying off a warm panel can still damage walls.
Construction adhesive solvents can dissolve the bonds holding up panels. Products like Goo Gone, mineral spirits or denatured alcohol work on many adhesives.
Consult manufacturer instructions and test on a small area first. Apply a small amount to a cloth and rub gently along seams to soften adhesive. Reapply sparingly and scrape away residue.
Note: Solvents are flammable and can emit strong fumes. Follow all safety, ventilation and cleaning requirements.
For smaller backsplash panels like glass mosaics, dental tools are handy. These long, thin metal picks can gently release the adhesive grip when inserted carefully at panel edges and behind.
Work slowly around the entire mosaic, poking the tool into the adhesive layer. Apply steady, even force – jerking or twisting can crack panels. Keep the pick flush to the wall to prevent gouges.
Removing Back Panel Silicone Caulk
With glass, metal or other rigid back panels, silicone caulk is often used to seal all edges and gaps. Removing old caulk completely makes taking panels down easier.
Use a sharp utility knife or caulk removal tool to slice through the bead where it meets the panel and wall. Take care not to scratch surfaces.
Next, grip and pull away pieces of the cut caulk slowly and gently. Rub remaining adhesive residue off with isopropyl alcohol or adhesive remover on a soft cloth.
Now you can work the panel gently from side to side to break the hidden adhesive bonds behind. Warming panels or using dental picks also helps here.
Taking Down Panels
Once screws are removed, adhesive softened and caulk eliminated, you can start taking panels down. Always use extreme care as you handle panels to avoid cracking, bending or scratches.
Larger panels should always be removed with a helper. Use moving straps, suction cups or panel grips designed for the material to aid handling if needed.
Brace larger panels along the bottom edge as they are detached. Never let panel corners droop or bang into things which can lead to breaks.
Start From Above
Detach the uppermost panels first, taking care not to knock lower ones loose prematurely. Allow them to tilt out and down gently, keeping control over the movement.
Use a pick to probe behind panels and sever any remaining adhesive connections before taking them fully down.
Check Wall Condition
As you remove each panel, inspect the newly uncovered wall area closely. Look for any wall material or paint that peeled away with the adhesive.
Gently scrape off any residual wallboard or paint slivers using a plastic putty knife. Clean with isopropyl alcohol and let dry fully before new backsplash installation.
Cleaning and Recycling Panels
Once all backsplash panels are taken down, inspect them for any damage like cracks, chips or peeling finishes. Slight flaws may be repairable if you plan to reuse panels somewhere else.
Use a non-abrasive household cleaner and soft cloth to remove any grime, soap scum or grease from panel faces before storing. Rinse thoroughly.
Stack panels flat or stand upright resting on the long edge – never lean panels against walls long-term. Place protective padding between stacked panels to prevent scratching.
Most backsplash materials like aluminum, tempered glass or acrylic panels can be recycled. Search for local recyclers that accept these construction materials if disposing of old panels.
Preparing Walls for New Backsplash
With your backwall exposed, it’s time to prep for your beautiful new backsplash project!
Wash the uncovered wall area with an all-purpose cleaner and rinse thoroughly. This removes any lingering dirt, grease or residue.
Pay special attention to adhesive areas, using a scrub pad or scraper if needed to eliminate the glue layer completely. Allow walls to dry fully before continuing.
Repair Wall Damage
Examine the bare wall closely for any gouges, missing drywall or exposed plaster after removing panels.
Fill small holes or cracks with drywall joint compound. Use painter’s tape and joint compound for torn drywall edges. Sand bumps smooth when dry.
Larger damaged wall sections may need new drywall patching that is sealed and finished to match surroundings. Take time to repair properly before new backsplash installation.
Priming creates the ideal surface for your new backsplash to adhere properly. Use a thick, high-quality primer designed specifically for backsplash projects.
Apply an even coat with a brush or roller over the entire surface following label directions. Allow primer to dry fully before setting tile or panels.
Priming may require multiple coats on heavily damaged or repaired walls to ensure coverage. Inspect walls closely for any unevenness before applying new backsplash materials.
Enjoy Your Fresh New Look!
With some careful prep work, patience and proper tools, removing existing backsplash panels is totally doable as a DIY project. Take it slowly and follow safe procedures.
Soon you’ll have a smooth, clean back wall ready to install a stunning new backsplash design and transform the look of your space! Monitoring your progress and exercising caution will ensure fantastic results.
FAQ About Removing Backsplash Panels
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about taking down backsplash panels:
What tools do I need to remove a backsplash?
- Heat gun or blow dryer
- Utility knife
- Caulk removal tool
- Plastic putty knives
- Dental picks
- Soft cloths
- Isopropyl alcohol or adhesive solvent
How do I remove stubborn backsplash adhesive from walls?
- Warm the adhesive with a heat gun on low setting, then gently scrape away softened glue with a plastic putty knife. Be careful not to gouge drywall. Adhesive solvents can also help dissolve old adhesive layers.
Can I reuse backsplash panels?
- Ceramic and glass tiles or panels can often be reused if carefully removed intact. Other materials like metal or plastic may also be salvaged for other projects if they are not too badly damaged in removal.
What’s the easiest backsplash to remove?
- Self-adhesive plastic and acrylic backsplash panels usually come off the cleanest if you heat them gently to release the adhesive grip. Small glass mosaic sheets also come down well if you patiently slice caulk and use dental picks.
How do I get old caulk off a backsplash?
- Use a sharp utility knife or caulk removal tool to cut through the bead where it meets panels and walls. Then slowly pick and peel away the cut caulk sections. Adhesive remover or rubbing alcohol helps dissolve any residue.
Should I remove backsplash before installing new?
- Yes, old backsplash layers should be fully removed before installing replacements. New tiles or panels adhere best over primed wall surfaces free of adhesive residues. Crumbling grout can also damage new materials.
How do I prep my walls after removing backsplash panels?
- Clean with an all-purpose cleaner, make any necessary repairs, then apply a primer specifically formulated for backsplash projects. This provides the proper surface for your new backsplash materials to stick.
Can I DIY a backsplash removal?
- With care, patience and the proper tools, an experienced DIYer can tackle a backsplash removal project. Have help lifting large panels. Going slowly and not forcing panels prevents wall damage. Safety is paramount when using heat, solvents or sharp tools.
Removing existing backsplash panels allows you to refresh the look of your kitchen, bathroom or other space with a new backsplash design you’ll love. Carefully assess your current panels, use proper tools and safe procedures, and take your time to protect walls from damage. With some diligent prep work, you can achieve a smooth, clean slate for installing tile, glass or other backsplash materials. Taking down old backsplash panels is very doable as a DIY project and allows you to unleash your creativity with a gorgeous new backsplash installation.