A backsplash is a protective coating on the wall behind a sink, stove, or other wet area in kitchens, bathrooms, and utility spaces. Backsplashes are commonly made of ceramic tiles, metal sheets, glass tiles, stone slabs, or other water-resistant materials.
While a backsplash serves an important function, you may eventually want to remove or replace it without damaging the underlying wall. Removing a backsplash can modernize the look of your space or allow you to repair damaged areas behind it. With proper tools and techniques, it is possible to remove backsplashes carefully to avoid wall damage.
This comprehensive guide covers how to remove different types of backsplash materials from drywall, plaster, concrete, brick, and other wall surfaces without causing harm. We will discuss preparation, tools, techniques, adhesives, safety tips, and wall repair to help your backsplash removal project go as smoothly as possible.
Gather Supplies and Take Safety Precautions
Before starting demo on a backsplash, you need to gather the proper tools and gear up with safety equipment. Having the right tools for the material you are removing will help the process go faster and safer. Safety comes first, so suit up in protective clothing and equip the workspace properly.
- Eye protection – Safety glasses or goggles
- Ear protection – Ear plugs or muffs
- Dust mask – N95 particulate respirator
- Gloves – Leather, cut-resistant, work gloves
- Kneepads – For kneeling on hard surfaces
- Tools – Hammers, pry bars, putty knives, screwdrivers, oscillating multi-tool
- Drop cloths – Canvas, plastic sheets to cover floor
- Waste bags – For debris removal
- Adhesive remover – Solvent for glue or mastic
- Wall patch compounds – Joint compound, spackle
- Sandpaper – Various grits for smoothing
- Painter’s tape – For masking off edges
- Sponges and buckets – For washing the wall area
- Tarp – For larger debris collection
- Turn off power at the breaker before starting.
- Clear surrounding countertops and cover appliances.
- Wear eye protection from debris.
- Use ear protection from noisy demolition.
- Wear an N95 respirator to prevent breathing dust.
- Cover floor with drop cloths to collect fallen pieces.
- Have a first aid kit available in case of cuts.
- Work carefully to avoid contact with exposed wires or pipes.
- Use gloves and long sleeves to prevent skin irritation.
- Follow all manufacturer safety instructions for tools.
- Dispose of debris properly according to regulations.
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby just in case.
- Work in a well-ventilated area to allow fresh air circulation.
Prep the Work Area
Before swinging a hammer, you need to completely prep the workspace. Clearing countertops, appliances, and breakable items from the backsplash area will allow free access and prevent accidental damage. Turn off electricity to outlets nearby to prevent getting shocked. Cover the floor to collect fallen debris and have a garbage bag ready to frequently clear it away.
Start by clearing off all countertops and removing small appliances, cookware, and other items that may get in the way during demo. Cover the countertop nearest the backsplash with a drop cloth for extra protection. Tape plastic sheeting over the front edges of cabinets and appliances to shield from dust and debris. For long spans of backsplashes, roll out canvas drop cloths across the entire floor area underneath.
Shut off power to any outlets, switches, or fixtures in the backsplash area to prevent dangerous contact with live wires during removal. Turn off the main breaker if you need to remove sections near receptacles. Use painter’s tape to mask off clean borders along the ceiling, cabinets, and walls where the backsplash meets. This helps protect the surrounding surfaces from damage during prying and pulling off material.
Have a stepladder ready for reaching higher areas. A tall flashlight can illuminate behind the backsplash to inspect for wires, adhesive, or fasteners. Provide adequate ventilation by opening windows or turning on exhaust fans to allow airflow. Your workspace is now prepped and ready for backsplash removal to begin!
Removing Ceramic Tile Backsplashes
Ceramic tile is one of the most common backsplash materials, so many homeowners need to know how to remove it properly. With the right approach, ceramic backsplashes can be taken down without wreaking havoc on walls underneath. Here is a step-by-step guide to removing ceramic tile backsplashes effectively.
- Safety gear – gloves, eye protection, knee pads
- Hammer or mallet
- Putty knives and chisels
- Pry bar or crowbar
- Dust mask and drop cloths
- Bucket of water and sponges
- Grout saw or oscillating multi-tool
- Clear countertops and cover appliances, floors.
- Turn off electricity to area and mask off clean borders.
- Inspect tile for fasteners or adhesive used.
- Start heating water and prepare bucket and sponges.
- Use a grout saw or oscillating multi-tool to cut along grout lines.
- Angle blade against grout and slowly grind it out.
- Take care not to dig into the drywall behind grout lines.
- Smooth any remaining grout off with a putty knife.
Prying Off Tiles
- Cover tiles completely with drop cloths to prevent flying debris.
- Grip tiles along an edge or seam and lift slightly.
- Tap wedge of putty knife into gap and twist gently to pry tile.
- Apply more water as needed to soak adhesive behind tiles.
- Remove tiles carefully and avoid gouging into the wallboard.
Scrape Off Adhesive
- Use putty knife to gently scrape residual thinset mortar or adhesive.
- Take care not to dig into drywall and only scrape off adhesive.
- Soak very stubborn adhesive residue with water and wait 5-10 minutes before scraping again.
- Use drop cloths to collect fallen adhesive pieces and debris.
Inspect and Clean the Wall
- Thoroughly inspect wall for any remaining tile pieces or adhesive chunks.
- Use putty knife to gently scrape off any final adhesive residue.
- Wipe down entire wall area with a sponge and clean water.
- Let wall fully dry before applying any patching compound or new backsplash.
With this process, you should be able to remove a ceramic tile backsplash without damaging the underlying drywall or plaster wall. Just take things slowly and carefully.
How to Remove Glass Tile Backsplashes
Glass tile provides an eye-catching, modern finish for kitchen or bathroom backsplashes. However, their smooth glazed surface can actually make glass tiles more difficult to pry off walls during removal. With care and preparation, you can remove a glass tile backsplash without breaking tiles or harming the wall.
Steps to Remove Glass Backsplash Tiles
- Put on leather gloves and eye protection for safety.
- Cover surrounding countertops, floors with canvas and plastic.
- Turn off power to prevent electric shock risk.
- Inspect joins between tiles and note adhesive used.
- Use a utility knife to score the grout line between tiles.
- Start heating water to mix into removal solution if needed.
- Make a solution of water and adhesive remover if required.
- Use a putty knife to gently pry up corner of tile and spray solution behind.
- Allow solution to soak behind tiles to loosen adhesive bonds.
- Slowly pry tiles off the wall while avoiding damage to the drywall.
- Take extra care with glass tiles as broken shards are sharp!
- Remove any remaining adhesive with putty knife, avoid gouging drywall.
- Rinse wall with clean water and sponge once tiles are fully removed.
- Let dry fully before priming wall or adding new backsplash.
With patience, care, and the proper solvent solution if needed, glass tile backsplashes can be taken down without wall damage or broken tiles. Just work cautiously and remove tiles fully before starting demolition on surrounding grout areas.
Techniques for Removing Stone Tile Backsplashes
Natural stone tiles like marble, granite, and slate make an elegant choice for kitchen or bathroom backsplashes. Their weight and durability means removing stone backsplashes requires extra brute force and prying power. Follow these methods to remove a stone tile backsplash without taking chunks of wall with it.
Remove Grout First
- Use an oscillating multi-tool or grout saw blade to cut along grout lines.
- Angle blade against grout and slowly grind it out avoiding the wall.
- Fully remove as much grout as possible before attempting to pry tiles.
Generously Apply Removal Solution
- Mix a solution of water and adhesive remover in a bucket.
- Dip old towels or rags in the solution and fully saturate behind tiles.
- Let solution soak for 10-15 minutes to penetrate adhesive.
- Reapply solution and keep tiles wet while prying.
Start Prying Tiles with Caution
- Wedge pry bar under bottom corner of tile and gently lift up.
- Place strips of wood behind tile to prevent gouging wall.
- Slowly work around entire tile, spraying more solution as needed.
- Pry up gradually, applying force in different directions.
Scrape Off Remaining Adhesive
- Use a putty knife to gently scrape residual thinset mortar or adhesive.
- Take extra care not to dig into the drywall or damage its paper surface.
- Soak very stubborn adhesive with remover solution before scraping again.
Inspect and Clean Wall
- Thoroughly inspect wall for any remaining tile pieces or adhesive residue.
- Use putty knife to gently scrape off any last adhesive chunks.
- Wipe down entire wall area with clean water and sponges.
- Let fully dry for 2 days before new backsplash installation.
With heavy stone tiles, having the right pry tools, solution remover, patience, and care will allow removal without wall damage. Take things slowly to avoid gouging into the wall.
How to Remove Metal Backsplashes
Metal provides a sleek, reflective surface for backsplashes in contemporary kitchens. Metal backsplashes made from stainless steel, copper, or aluminum sheets typically have thinner, more flexible properties than ceramic or stone. Use these tips to safely take down a metal backsplash wall treatment.
Pry Off Moldings First
- Use a flat pry tool to pop any end cap moldings off the metal sheets.
- Slowly lift molding upwards while working down its length.
- Take care not to bend the moldings if you wish to reuse them.
Locate Mounting Hardware
- Inspect along edges for screw or nail points holding metal to the wall.
- You may need to cut away small sections to find fastener locations.
- Use a screwdriver or pliers to remove any screws or bent nails.
Work Slowly Releasing One Side
- Start peeling away metal sheets from top corner down.
- Keep sheets flat against wall as you pull to avoid bending.
- Spray adhesive solvent behind if needed while pulling down.
- Support released sheet parts to prevent creasing metal.
Remove Any Glue Residue
- Check wall for any remaining double-sided tape or adhesive strips.
- Use putty knife to gently scrape off adhesive without damaging drywall.
- Rub down wall with remover solvent and cleaning rags.
Fill Holes and Repair Wall
- Fill any small holes left from mounting hardware with spackle.
- Sand and smooth wall area in preparation for new backsplash.
With thin sheets, metal backsplashes can be peeled off relatively easily. Just take care not to bend metal or gouge into the wall surface when prying off pieces.
Technique for Removing Backsplash From Plaster Walls
Plaster walls require extra care during backsplash removal to avoid cracking or crumbling the delicate plaster surface. Take a gentle approach with the proper tools to remove backsplashes from plaster successfully.
- Clear area and cover flooring with drop cloths.
- Inspect type of backsplash material to be removed.
- Note screws or adhesive used for mounting.
- Mask off clean borders with painter’s tape.
Cut Any Grout Lines
- Use a utility knife to cut any grout lines between tiles.
- Angle blade to avoid digging into plaster behind grout.
Loosen Any Screws
- Locate any backsplash screws and loosen them with a screwdriver.
- Remove any metal trim pieces screwed into plaster.
Apply Remover Solution Behind
- Mix solution of warm water and adhesive remover.
- Dip towels into solution and apply behind backsplash.
- Let soak 10-15 minutes to penetrate adhesive.
Pry Up Slowly in Sections
- Start prying up backsplash corner with putty knife.
- Work in smaller sections across the surface.
- Apply solution and seep behind materials as you go.
- Take extra care to pry materials straight off, not scraping along plaster.
Remove Residual Adhesive
- Inspect for any remaining mastic or adhesive blobs.
- Gently scrape to remove adhesive without digging into plaster.
- Frequently rewet stubborn adhesive spots before scraping.
Clean and Patch Plaster
- Wipe area with clean, damp rags to remove dust.
- Use lightweight spackle to patch any small holes or cracks.
- Avoid heavy sanding and let patch fully cure before priming.
With a gentle approach, plaster walls can withstand backsplash removal. Just work slowly with remover solutions to avoid cracking this delicate surface.
How to Remove Backsplash from Drywall
Drywall is a very common wall material in many homes and kitchens. Removing backsplashes from drywall does require care and the right technique. But drywall’s gypsum and paper surface makes it more forgiving than delicate plaster. Follow these guidelines for taking down backsplashes from drywall properly.
- Drop cloths
- Adhesive remover solution
- Putty knives
- Pry bar
- Utility knife
- Painter’s tape
- Sanding block
- Drywall joint compound
- Lay drop cloths and mask off clean borders.
- Inspect backsplash for any screws to remove.
- Cut any grout lines with utility knife before prying.
- Mix removal solution and apply behind backsplash. Let soak in.
- Start prying slowly in corner with putty knife.
- Work horizontally while applying more solution.
- Pry tiles/materials directly off to avoid scraping drywall surface.
- Fully remove any adhesive with remover solution and putty knife.
- Wash wall with clean water to remove dust.
- Fill any gouges or holes with lightweight joint compound. Let cure fully.
- Sand smooth and wipe away dust before priming.
With proper materials and techniques, backsplashes can be safely removed from drywall without major damage or repairs needed. Just avoid scraping directly on the paper surface.
How to Remove Backsplash Adhesive from Walls
After prying off the tile, metal, or other backsplash material, there is still the sticky issue of removing any remaining adhesive from walls. Backsplash adhesive residue needs proper cleaning solutions and techniques to remove without harming drywall or plaster underneath. Here is how to remove adhesive properly after taking down backsplash materials:
- Start adhesive removal quickly before it has time to fully cure and harden.
- Fresh adhesive scrapes off much easier than dried, stubborn residue.
Avoid Abrasive Scraping
- Never use sharp tools or vigorous scraping motions on walls.
- Harsh scraping can gouge and damage wallboard.
Use Remover Chemicals
- Solvent-based removers help dissolve adhesive bonds.
- Squirt remover solution right onto adhesive and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
Try Heat Application
- A heat gun can soften some adhesive for easier scraping removal.
- Use lowest setting and keep heat moving to avoid burning walls.
Remove Residue Gently
- Use plastic putty knife to gently scrape softened adhesive.
- Take care not to dig into the wallpaper or sheetrock.
- Rinse wallboard with clean water after removing residue.
Prime and Paint
- Once adhesive is fully removed, allow wall to dry completely.
- Apply primer coat to seal surface.
- Paint final coats with desired sheen and color.
Removing adhesive takes the right chemical solvents, gentle techniques, and prep for repainting. With care, walls can be cleaned without lingering glue or damage after backsplash demolition.
Tips for Removing Backsplash Without Damaging Walls
Removing a backsplash without harming walls calls for careful techniques and the right tools. Here are pro tips for taking down backsplashes from all wall materials safely:
- Always wear eye and hand protection along with an N95 mask.
- Cover floors and mask off edges with tape to control debris.
- Turn off power and inspect behind backsplash for wires before prying.
- Identify adhesive or mounting method used before starting demo.
- Cut any grout lines before attempting to pry off materials.
- Pry slowly and lightly, working material off instead of scraping along wall.
- Use remover solution to penetrate adhesive bonds before prying.
- Take care when scraping off adhesive not to dig into wallboard.