How to Remove Backsplash Tiles

Removing old or damaged backsplash tiles can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it doesn’t have to be. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to remove backsplash tiles in your kitchen or bathroom.

Gather the Necessary Materials

Before starting demo, make sure you have all the necessary materials on hand:

  • Safety gear – This includes goggles, dust mask, ear protection and gloves to keep eyes, lungs and hands protected.
  • Pry bar – A pry bar is essential for loosening tiles and prying them off the wall. Opt for one with a flat edge.
  • Hammer – Use a claw hammer to knock tiles free after prying up an edge.
  • Putty knife – A stiff putty knife can help scrape off old mortar and adhesive.
  • Tile remover – Use a specialty tile remover solution to help soften old mastics.
  • Drop cloths – Protect floors and countertops with drop cloths during demo.
  • Garbage bags – Have plenty of bags on hand to discard broken tiles and debris.

Prep the Workspace

Before starting demo:

  • Clear countertops and remove anything breakable from backsplash area.
  • Cover surfaces below the backsplash with drop cloths.
  • Turn off electricity and gas to stove/range to prevent accidental firing.
  • Wear safety gear – goggles, mask, ear protection and gloves.

Removing the Tiles

With your materials gathered and workspace prepped, you’re ready to begin removing tiles:

1. Loosen Grout Lines

Use a sharp utility knife or oscillating tool to score along grout lines. This will make prying off tiles easier.

2. Apply Tile Remover (If Needed)

For tiles set in especially stubborn mastics, apply a tile remover solution along grout lines and let it sit for 10-15 minutes to soften adhesives.

3. Pry Off Tiles

Wedge the flat pry bar under the edge of a tile and gently pry it upwards. Work carefully to avoid breaking tiles.

4. Use Hammer to Remove Stubborn Tiles

For tiles that won’t pry up, use a hammer and tap lightly underneath to pop them off.

5. Clean Off Back of Tiles

Use a putty knife to scrape off any remaining mortar or adhesive from the back of the tiles.

6. Remove Thinsets on Wall Surface

Chisel or scrape away any thinsets remaining on the wall surface after tiles are removed.

Safely Discard Tiles and Debris

As you work, safely discard broken tiles and debris:

  • Wear safety glasses, mask and gloves when handling tile pieces. Broken tiles have sharp edges.
  • Place tile pieces and debris directly into heavy duty garbage bags.
  • Make sure to seal bags fully before disposing according to local regulations.

Clean the Wall Surface

Once all old tiles are removed, thoroughly clean the wall surface:

  • Use a wire brush to remove any remaining debris or old mortar.
  • Wipe the wall down with a damp sponge to remove dust.
  • Let it dry fully before applying new backsplash.

And that’s it! With the proper tools and safety precautions, removing old backsplash tiles can be a smooth, hassle-free process. Just take it slowly and carefully. Before you know it, you’ll have a clean blank slate for your new kitchen or bathroom backsplash design.

FAQs About Removing Backsplash Tiles

Should I remove backsplash before installing new backsplash?

Yes, it’s best to remove old backsplash completely before installing new tiles. Leaving original tiles underneath can create an uneven surface and prevent proper adhesion.

What tools do I need to remove tile backsplash?

Essential tools include a pry bar, hammer, putty knife, utility knife, tile remover solution and safety gear like goggles and gloves. Avoid using power tools which can shatter tiles.

What is the easiest way to remove backsplash tile?

Scoring grout lines with a utility knife before prying makes removal easier. For stubborn mastics, apply a tile remover solution to soften adhesives before prying up tiles. Work slowly and carefully.

How do I remove thinset mortar after backsplash demo?

Use a putty knife, chisel or oscillating multi-tool to scrape and chip away dried thinset mortar left on the wall after tile removal. Wipe the surface clean before installing new backsplash.

Can I put new backsplash over existing?

It’s not recommended. Leaving the original backsplash under new tiles can create bonding issues and lead to cracking. It’s best to remove old tile completely for proper adhesion.

How do I prep wall for new backsplash installation?

Once tiles are removed, clean the wall surface thoroughly with a wire brush, damp sponge and tile remover to eliminate debris, dust and adhesive. Let the wall dry completely before installing new backsplash.


Removing old or damaged backsplash tiles is a necessary first step before installing an updated backsplash. With some simple tools, safety gear and tile removal techniques, you can tackle this project successfully. Just work slowly and methodically. Be sure to thoroughly prep the wall afterward so your new tiles have a sound surface on which to adhere. In no time, you’ll have a fresh new backsplash to enjoy for years to come.