How to Remove Backsplash Sheets

Backsplashes are an integral part of any kitchen design, providing an extra layer of protection for walls while also allowing for creative expression. However, over time, backsplash materials like tile and metal sheets can become damaged, outdated, or you may simply want to change your kitchen’s aesthetic. Removing backsplash sheets can be a tricky DIY project if you don’t know what you’re doing. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the entire process of safely and effectively removing backsplash sheets in your kitchen.

Choosing Your Removal Method

Before starting demolition, you’ll need to decide on the best method for removing your existing backsplash. Here are some of the most common options:

Prying Off the Sheets

This manual approach works best for metal sheets or tiles adhered with mastic. Use a pry bar or putty knife to pop the sheets off the wall one by one. Take care not to damage the underlying drywall in the process. This method allows for intact sheet removal and potential reuse or resale.

Scraping Away Adhesive

If the backsplash tiles or panels are well-stuck with adhesive, you may need to patiently scrape the glue off the wall after removing the sheets. Use a paint scraper, 5-in-1 tool, or putty knife. Chemical solvents can also help dissolve the adhesive. This helps prep the surface for new backsplash installation.

Full Sheets Over Old Backsplash

Rather than remove the old backsplash, some opt to install new, full backsplash sheets right over the existing one. This is the easiest option, but limits you to full sheets only and can cause buildup on the walls.

Smashing Out Tiles

For stubborn tile that won’t pry off, put on safety glasses and go at it carefully with a hammer. Wear heavy work gloves and watch out for sharp edges and flying debris. This demolition method is fast but messy.

Rotating Grinder with Diamond Blade

Using an angle grinder or Dremel tool with a diamond tile blade makes quick work of cutting through and removing tough adhesives, mortar beds, and ceramic tiles. It generates fine silica dust, so protect eyes, lungs, and skin.

Backsplash Removal Chemicals

Chemical solvents designed to dissolve mastic and mortar adhesives are available at hardware stores. Apply the stripper, let it work for the specified dwell time, then scrape off softened adhesive residue. Ensure proper ventilation.

Prepping for Removal

Once you’ve chosen your method, roll up your sleeves and get the space ready for demolition day. Follow these tips for safe and seamless backsplash removal:

  • Clear countertops and surfaces near the backsplash area so they don’t get damaged while working. Remove dishes, appliances, rugs, etc.
  • Cover nearby surfaces like countertops or floors with rosin paper or plastic sheeting to protect from debris.
  • Have a debris receptacle ready like a garbage bag, bucket, or wheeled trash bin to gather backsplash shards and adhesive residue as you work.
  • Wear safety goggles, gloves, and a dust mask or respirator to protect yourself from injury or breathing in silica dust and chemical fumes.
  • Turn off electrical and gas to appliances on the walls you’re working on like stoves, ovens, and overhead lighting.
  • Prepare your tools and materials like pry bars, hammers, scrapers, and chemicals so they’re handy when needed.
  • Remove any caulk sealing the top and bottom edges of the backsplash sheets. This frees the panels for easier prying and pulling off the wall.

Removing Backsplash Panels

Once fully prepped, it’s go time! Follow these key steps to safely pry off or demolish your existing backsplash sheets:

1. Loosen a Top Corner

Start by gently loosening one of the top corner sheets with your pry bar. Work the bar behind the panel and slowly twist it outward. Apply pressure horizontally, not vertically to avoid damaging the wall.

2. Work Across the Top Edge

Once you’ve freed one panel, move down the top edge prying off sheets going from one side to the other. This helps release the entire top portion so you can start pulling panels off.

3. Lift Panels Off Wall

With adequate loosening pressure applied, begin actually lifting sheets up and off the wall. Rise slowly and beware of potential sharp back edges. Discard removed panels into your debris bucket or bin.

4. Inspect Wall for Adhesive

After removing each panel, pause to inspect the newly exposed wall area. Check for any remaining adhesive, damage to drywall, or other issues needing addressing before continuing removal work.

5. Scrape Away Adhesive

Use your selected adhesive removal method to thoroughly scrape, dissolve, or grind away any glue, mortar, thinset, or mastic left on the wall after you’ve pulled off the backsplash. Wear eye and breathing protection.

6. Hammer Away Stuck Tiles

For stubborn sections not yielding to prying and scraping, grab your hammer and carefully smash tiles into breakaway pieces so you can detach them from the wall and pull off any clinging adhesive.

7. Remove Final Pieces

As you reach the last remaining pieces of backsplash material, take your time and gently work them loose. Scrape residual glue and ensure the wall surface is smooth and prepared for your new backsplash.

Disposing and Recycling Old Backsplash

With the tedious demolition work done, it’s time to properly handle the backsplash debris pile left over:

  • Separate broken sheets or tile from adhesive globs and debris for easier recycling or trash disposal.
  • Check if your removed sheets or tiles can be sold, reused, or recycled rather than sent to the landfill. Metal and some glass tiles have reuse potential.
  • Place old adhesives, mortar, and caulk in your general household trash receptacle. These typically can’t be recycled.
  • Bag up broken shards, dust, and debris from demolition and tie securely closed for disposal.
  • Review local regulations for proper disposal procedures of home renovation debris and hazardous chemical containers.
  • Consider renting a dumpster to gather and haul away large amounts of backsplash demolition debris all at once.

Preparing Walls for New Backsplash

Before you can install a stunning new backsplash, the wall surface needs proper prep work:

  • Clean off all adhesive residue, dust, grease, and demo debris from wall area until smooth, clean, and dry.
  • Fill any gouges, holes, or damaged spots in the wall from backsplash removal using drywall joint compound and sand smooth.
  • Prime and paint the now bare walls with latex primer then kitchen-bathroom appropriate paint. This creates a fresh base for your new backsplash.
  • Measure and map out the exact backsplash placement on the wall. Most range between 4-5 feet high starting above countertops.
  • Use painter’s tape to mark off the installation area and provide clean, straight lines and level surfaces for the backsplash sheets or tiles.
  • Apply fresh caulk along the top and bottom perimeter edges of the demarcated backsplash zone. Let dry fully.
  • Spread your selected mortar, adhesive, or mastic evenly across the installation area using a trowel or adhesive tubes.

Your kitchen is now prepped and ready for the exciting installation of your brand new backsplash design!

FAQs About Removing Backsplash Sheets:

What tools do I need to remove a kitchen backsplash?

Common tools used include pry bars, putty knives, scrapers, chisels, 5-in-1 tools, rotary grinders, hammers, diamond blades, caulk removal tools, chemical strippers, and personal safety equipment like goggles, masks, and gloves.

How do you remove backsplash tile sheets?

Start by prying up the corner and edge tiles or panels using gentle leverage. Slowly work your way across and down the installation, lifting tiles off the wall and scraping off lingering adhesive. Take care not to gouge into the drywall underneath.

Can you put new backsplash over existing?

It’s possible to install full backsplash sheets over an existing backsplash rather than demolishing it. But this can get thick and limit material options. Most prefer removing the old backsplash first for a smooth, clean wall surface to work on.

What chemical removes backsplash adhesive?

Specialty chemical solvents available at hardware stores can dissolve backsplash adhesives like mastic, mortar, thinset, and glue. Apply the stripper, let it work for 5-10 minutes, then scrape. Ensure proper ventilation when using caustic chemicals.

What’s the easiest way to remove kitchen backsplash?

The quickest and easiest backsplash removal method is installing new, full backsplash sheets directly over the existing ones. This avoids demolition but can cause uneven walls. For clean removal, prying off tiles or using a grinding tool is best.

How do I remove metal backsplash sheets?

Use a pry bar and gently work it behind the seams of metal backsplash panels. Slowly twist outward to release the adhesive. Take care not to warp the sheets if wanting to reuse them. Peel them off carefully and scrape remaining glue from wall.

Can I sell old backsplash tile?

It depends on the material, condition, and current style trends, but some old backsplash tile can be sold online or recycled. Vintage or unique types can be desirable. Just ensure no damage or remaining adhesive and clean well before reselling.

Final Thoughts

Removing outdated or damaged backsplash materials is an ambitious but worthwhile kitchen renovation undertaking. Armed with the proper tools, safety gear, and demolition techniques outlined here, you can successfully peel, pry, scrape, smash, or grind your way to a blank backsplash slate. Take your time, be thorough, and don’t gouge those drywall layers hiding behind thin tiles!

With the hard work done, you can then prep the wall surface and excitedly commence designing and installing the backsplash of your dreams. Just envision how beautifully your new metal, glass, or ceramic backsplash will upgrade your kitchen’s aesthetic. Your efforts removing the previous one will seem more than worth it in the end.