How to Remove Backsplash Tile from Kitchen

Removing backsplash tile from your kitchen can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be accomplished with minimal fuss. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to remove backsplash tile from your kitchen.

Assessing the Backsplash

Before starting demo, assess the backsplash tile and mortar. This will help determine the best method for removal.

  • What material is the tile? Ceramic and porcelain tiles will need a different removal process than glass, metal or stone.
  • What type of mortar was used? Cement-based mortar is more durable than organic mastic. Knowing the mortar type will guide the tools and techniques needed for removal.
  • How was the tile installed? Backsplashes installed with a mortar bed over cement board will be more labor intensive to remove than tiles adhered directly to drywall.
  • What is behind the tile? Make sure you know what the tile is adhering to. Drywall will be easier to fix than removing mortar dried on plaster walls.

Gather the Right Tools

Removing tile successfully means having the right tools for the job. Essential items include:

  • Safety gear – Glasses, mask, knee pads, ear protection
  • Hammer – A 3-lb sledge or 20-oz claw hammer
  • Cold chisel – 1″ flat edge chisel for scraping mortar
  • Putty knives – For scraping adhesive and cleaning up residue
  • Utility knife – Helpful for cleaning edges and around outlets
  • Pry bar – A long, flat pry bar to remove whole tiles
  • Grout scraper – V-notched tool to rake out grout between tiles
  • Dustpan and broom – For ongoing cleanup during demo
  • Shop vac – For containing dust; a HEPA filter model is recommended

Prepare the Workspace

  • Clear the countertops and remove items from walls around the backsplash area.
  • Cover nearby appliances, countertops and floors with drop cloths to protect from debris.
  • Turn off electricity to any outlets behind the backsplash and in the demolition zone.
  • Have a debris container, dustpan and garbage bags ready to facilitate ongoing cleanup.

Removing Tile and Mortar

With safety gear on and tools at the ready, you’re ready to start removing tile. Use these techniques for efficient demolition:

Scrape Out All Grout

  • Using a grout scraper or utility knife, rake out all the existing grout between tiles and around edges. This decompresses the tile and exposes the underlying mortar.

Start Removing Tiles

  • Using a pry bar inserted into grout lines, start prying off whole tiles. Work methodically in small sections.
  • Alternatively, tap tiles with a hammer to crack them; then pry pieces off. This may be needed for sturdier tiles.
  • Deposit removed tiles directly into a debris bucket or bag to contain dust.

Scrape Off Mortar

  • Use a cold chisel and hammer to chisel away remaining mortar. Hold chisel close to surface and parallel for best results.
  • Alternatively, an oscillator multi-tool with a scraper blade can be used to scrape off old thinset.
  • A putty knife is handy for scraping off adhesive residue in corners and along edges.

Clean the Surface

  • Once mortar is removed, sweep and vacuum the area thoroughly.
  • Inspect surface and use putty knife to remove any remaining debris or stubborn adhesive spots.
  • Fill any damaged drywall with joint compound and sand smooth.
  • Wipe down the area with a damp sponge to remove dust before priming or painting.

Tips for Easier Demo

  • Go slow and work in sections – Methodically removing tile in small sections is safest and cleanest.
  • Watch for wires – Take care not to damage any electrical wires behind walls during demo.
  • Use eye and ear protection – Flying debris and noise warrant safety gear during demolition.
  • Minimize dust – Have a vacuum running and contain debris to limit clean-up time.
  • Consider rental tools – If doing a large area, renting a demo hammer or oscillator tool can save time.

Preparing for New Backsplash

Once old tile and mortar are removed, minor repairs may be needed before installing a fresh backsplash:

  • Repair any damage to underlying drywall and sand smooth.
  • Prime bare drywall before applying new tile. Use an adhesive primer.
  • Check outlets – replace or re-secure any outlets removed during demo.
  • Make sure the area is smooth and clean before tiling. Remove any adhesive residue.
  • Plan proper moisture barriers between new tile and drywall as needed.

With the slate cleared of old backsplash tile, your kitchen is now ready for a new look! Follow best practices for prep and installation to ensure your new backsplash looks beautiful and lasts.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to remove backsplash tile?

Removing a full backsplash tile area will take 2-3 hours on average depending on tile size, mortar and installation method. Work carefully in small sections for best results.

What is the easiest way to remove backsplash tile?

Using an oscillating multi-tool with scraping and grinding attachments makes scraping out thinset mortar much easier than hammer and chisel methods.

Can I put new backsplash tile over old?

It is not recommended. Old tile needs to be removed completely before new installation for proper adhesion and best results.

What tools do I need to remove kitchen backsplash?

Essential tools include safety gear, hammer, chisel, pry bar, putty knives, utility knife, grout scraper, vacuum and dustpan. Oscillating tools also helpful.

How do I remove thinset mortar after tile removal?

Scraping with a chisel hammer or using an oscillating multi-tool are most effective ways to remove stubborn thinset after demo.

In Summary

While removing old backsplash tile takes time and elbow grease, the right tools and techniques make the job manageable for any DIYer. Always exercise safety during demolition. With debris contained and the area prepped properly, your kitchen will soon be tile-ready for a stunning new backsplash design.