How to Remove Backsplash Tile from Drywall

Removing a backsplash tile from drywall can be a tricky process, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be accomplished successfully. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to remove backsplash tile from drywall.

Assess the Tile and Adhesive

The first step is to assess the tile and adhesive used. This will determine the level of difficulty and the best methods for removal.

  • Tile material – Ceramic and porcelain tiles are more durable and difficult to remove than glass, metal or stone tiles.
  • Adhesive type – Cement-based adhesives are thicker and stronger than mastic adhesives. Mastic is water-soluble while cement is not.
  • Tile size – Smaller tiles usually have more grout between them meaning more surface area adhered to the wall. Larger tiles are easier to pry off.
  • Time installed – The longer the tile has been installed, the more adhered it will be. Newer installations are easier to remove.

Once you’ve determined the specifics of the installation, you can decide on the proper tools and techniques for removal.

Gather the Proper Tools

Removing tile from drywall requires having the right tools on hand. Here are some recommended tools to gather ahead of time:

  • Flat pry bar – This is essential for wedging behind tiles and prying them off the wall. Get one with at least a 12-inch length.
  • Grout rake – A carbide-tipped grout saw/rake helps break up grout lines between tiles.
  • Hammer – Useful for lightly tapping tiles to break adhesive loose. Get a small trim hammer or stubby hammer.
  • Putty knives – These help scrape off old thinset and mastic. Have a few different sizes on hand.
  • Gloves & eye protection – Wear these for safety when scraping, prying, and handling broken tiles.
  • Knee pads – Kneeling on hard floors can be uncomfortable during extended removal jobs. Knee pads help.
  • Drop cloths – Lay these down to catch fallen tiles and debris. Sheet plastic or canvas works well.
  • Utility knife – For cutting away drywall paper or scoring grout lines if needed.
  • Plastic scraper – Helpful for scraping off really stubborn thinset or mastic.
  • Dust mask – Protects against inhaling tile dust and fibers.

Having the right assortment of tools close at hand will make the removal process much easier.

Prepare the Workspace

Before starting demo, take a little time to set up a safe and organized workspace:

  • Clear the area of any items or furnishings that may get in the way or damaged.
  • Sweep and/or vacuum the floor area well to remove dust and debris.
  • Cover nearby surfaces like countertops with drop cloths or plastic sheeting.
  • Have a strong light source handy if the lighting in the area is poor.
  • Turn off power to any outlets that may be exposed or interfered with during the job.
  • Lay down drop cloths below the tile work to catch fallen debris. Overlap seams.
  • Place a bucket or bins nearby to collect tile pieces and trash as you work.
  • Have clean up supplies on hand like trash bags, dustpan and broom.
  • Wear safety glasses and gloves at all times during demo.

Taking a little time to prep protects your furnishings, avoids safety hazards, and speeds up the clean-up process later.

Start Removing Tiles

Once fully equipped and set up, you can begin tackling tile removal:

1. Score all grout lines

Use the grout rake/saw to score along all grout lines surrounding each tile. This helps break the grout seal. Apply firm but controlled pressure as you score – don’t scratch the drywall.

2. Tap tiles to break adhesive grip

Lightly tap tiles with a hammer and block to break them free of the mastic or mortar. Work outward from a corner or edge.

3. Pry up the first tile

Insert the pry bar into the gap behind the first loosened tile. Twist the bar gently to wedge it behind the tile. Carefully pry the tile away from the wall.

4. Remove remaining tiles

Once the first tile is off, the rest should come off easier using the pry bar. Be patient and methodical in prying each tile free.

5. Clean off old adhesive

Use a putty knife, plastic scraper or chisel to remove any remaining thinset mortar or mastic from the drywall. Take care not to gouge the paper face.

6. Finish surface preparation

Lightly sand any uneven areas on the drywall face. Fill any gouges with joint compound and let dry completely before recoating or retiling.

Working methodically from one end to the other helps avoid leaving random missing tiles. Always wear gloves when handling broken tiles and eye protection during demolition.

Clean Up and Dispose of Debris

Once all tile is removed, proper clean up and disposal is recommended:

  • Sweep the floor well to remove all fallen debris and tile pieces. Vacuum up any remaining dust.
  • Remove any tiles still clinging to the floor thinset using a chisel or pry bar.
  • Check for any tiles that may have popped off and fallen behind cabinets or appliances. Retrieve any found.
  • Place all tile pieces, broken tiles, tools and debris into trash bags or buckets for disposal.
  • Remove and neatly fold up any drop cloths for reuse later. Wipe down other protected surfaces.
  • Dispose of demolition waste properly according to local regulations. Most can go out with regular trash pickup.
  • Lastly, thoroughly wash your hands and arms after cleanup to remove dust, debris and adhesive residue.

Leaving behind any tile pieces or debris can interfere with installation of new backsplash. Carefully cleaning up fully prepares the space for new tile.

FAQs About Removing Backsplash Tile from Drywall

How do you removestubborn backsplash tile?

For really stubborn tiles adhered with cement-based mortar, use a chisel and hammer to carefully chip away at edges until you can get a pry bar inserted behind it. Penetrating behind the tile is key to breaking the strong bond.

What solvent removes mastic?

For mastic adhesive, denatured alcohol or adhesive remover solvents help soften and dissolve the sticky residue for easier removal. Always test solvents in an inconspicuous spot first.

Can I put new tile over existingbacksplash?

It’s not recommended. Any irregularities in the existing tile can prevent the new tile from adhering properly or laying flat, causing cracking or loosening down the road. Best to fully remove old backsplash first.

What is the easiest way totake down tile backsplash?

Scoring grout lines with a grout saw first, then lightly tapping tiles to break adhesive grip makes removal much easier than forcefully prying or chiseling. Patience and working methodically provide the easiest backsplash removal.

How do I repair drywall afterremoving tile?

Fill any gouges in drywall paper or substrate with drying-type joint compound. Allow to fully cure then sand smooth. Skim coat entire surface with thin layer joint compound for smooth finish. Prime before retiling.

Can I put new backsplashdirectly over painted drywall?

No, tile should only be applied over cement backerboard when installed directly on drywall. The gypsum core can deteriorate from moisture exposure. Paint also seals the surface preventing proper adhesion.


Removing backsplash tile from your kitchen or bathroom takes some work but it can be accomplished DIY-style with the proper tools, preparation and techniques. Always start by evaluating your tile type, adhesive and installation timeframe. Carefully score grout lines, pry off tiles, then thoroughly clean the wall surface before applying new tile or backsplash. Wear protective gear throughout the process and dispose of debris safely. With some perseverance and patience, those outdated tiles can be taken down and replaced with a beautiful new backsplash design.