Preparing for the Project
Before starting to remove the backsplash tiles, you need to do some prep work to make the process easier and minimize damage:
Gather the Necessary Tools and Materials
You will need:
- Safety gear – goggles, mask, gloves
- Putty knife
- Pry bar
- Dustpan and broom
- Grout saw
- Spackle or drywall joint compound
- Paint brushes
Clear the Counter Tops and Sink Area
Remove everything from the countertops and sink area so you have clear access to the backsplash. Disconnect any appliances or fixtures that are fixed to the backsplash tiles.
Protect Nearby Surfaces
Cover nearby surfaces like floors, countertops and appliances with drop cloths to protect from debris and damage. Tape plastic sheets along edges.
Take before pictures of the existing backsplash. This will help when it comes time to put up new backsplash tiles.
Removing the Backsplash Tiles
With the prep work completed, you can start taking down the backsplash tile:
Score Grout Lines with Grout Saw
Use a grout saw or oscillating multi-tool to score along the grout lines. This will make the tiles easier to dislodge.
Start at the Top and Work Down
Begin removing tiles from the top and work your way down. This prevents tiles from falling unexpectedly.
Use Hammer and Chisel for Stubborn Tiles
For tiles that won’t pry off, use a hammer and chisel to carefully chip away at them to dislodge them. Wedge the chisel under the tile and tap the top with the hammer.
Remove Remaining Grout
Once all tiles are removed, scrape off any remaining grout with a putty knife or chisel. Ensure the wall is free of any debris.
Clean and Smooth Damaged Drywall
Examine the exposed drywall for any damage or uneven spots. Fill holes and smooth areas with spackle or joint compound, let dry and sand smooth.
Wash and Prepare the Area
Give the whole area a thorough wash to remove all dust and debris. Let dry completely before moving to the next steps of replacing the backsplash.
Tips for Easier Tile Removal
- Heat tiles with a hair dryer or heat gun to soften mastic and make prying easier
- Apply painter’s tape along edges of tiles to prevent cracking
- Use a pry bar for leverage when tiles won’t budge
- Wear knee pads to avoid knee and back strain
- Work methodically in small sections
- Take frequent breaks to avoid fatigue
What to Do with the Removed Tiles
Once you’ve successfully taken down the existing backsplash tile, you need to properly deal with the waste:
- Broken tiles, grout and backerboard can go in the regular trash
- Intact tiles can be saved for future repairs or craft projects
- Larger intact sections may be reusable for another project
- Donate extra tiles to Habitat for Humanity or reuse stores
- Recycle broken tiles at specialty construction/tile recycling centers
Disposing of or recycling the tiles properly makes your project more eco-friendly.
Preparing the Area for New Backsplash
Before installing a fresh backsplash, prepare the area:
- Make any necessary repairs to drywall
- Sand and wipe surface to remove residue
- Seal surface and prime with primer
- Fill in anchor holes with spackle/compound
- Caulk along edges and seams
This will provide a smooth, clean surface for your new backsplash application.
Hiring a Professional
Removing backsplash tile has risks of damaging walls or countertops if not done properly. For those uneasy about DIY, consider hiring a professional remodeling contractor experienced in backsplash installation and removal. They have the right tools and skills to remove the tiles efficiently and safely.
Although hiring a pro costs more upfront, it can save headaches and expenses from any improper removal damages.
Removing existing backsplash tile gives you a fresh slate to create a whole new kitchen design. With the right planning and technique, you can tackle this project as a DIY homeowner. Just be sure to prep the area properly, work carefully, and dispose of waste responsibly. The end result will be a kitchen updated just the way you want it.