How to Remove Backsplash without Ruining Drywall


Installing a backsplash is a great way to add visual interest and protection to your kitchen walls. However, trends change and backsplashes may start to look dated over time. When it comes time to remove your existing backsplash, doing it properly is key to avoiding damage to your drywall underneath. Removing a backsplash without ruining the drywall takes patience, the right tools and techniques.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through all the steps needed to safely remove tile, metal, glass, and other backsplash materials from your wall with minimal impact to your drywall. With the right approach, you can eliminate your outdated backsplash and prep the wall for a new backsplash installation.

Assessing Your Backsplash

Before starting demo, take time to assess your existing backsplash. Determine what material it is made of — ceramic tile, metal, glass, stone, etc. This will impact the tools and techniques required for removal.

Also take note of how it was installed. Is it mounted directly to drywall or is there another layer like cement board underneath? How thick is the backsplash material? How large are the pieces? Understanding your backsplash construction will help guide your removal process.

Inspect the grout lines and look for any cracks or weak points in the materials. Take photos of the backsplash for reference later. Identify areas like corners where extra care will be needed to avoid wall damage.

Gather the Right Tools

Removing a backsplash requires the following tools:

  • Putty knife or oscillating multi-tool – for scraping grout lines and prying material off wall
  • Hammer – for tapping material to dislodge from wall
  • Grout saw or angle grinder – for cutting backsplash materials
  • Eye protection, gloves, and dust mask – for safety when sawing and scraping
  • Drop cloths – for protecting nearby surfaces from debris

For a tile backsplash, a putty knife is efficient at scraping out grout lines. For stone, metal or glass, an oscillating multi-tool with a scraper blade gently separates the material from drywall.

When dealing with a durable material adhered tightly to the wall, an angle grinder or grout removal saw safely cuts through it. Eye and ear protection are a must when using power tools.

Choose tools suited to your backsplash material and installation method. Avoid excessive pounding and leverage that can damage drywall.

Prepping the Workspace

To contain the mess created during backsplash removal, properly prep your workspace:

  • Remove anything underneath like countertops or appliances that could get damaged.
  • Cover nearby surfaces with drop cloths.
  • Have a vacuum ready to frequently clean up debris.
  • Cover vents and outlets to prevent dust infiltration.
  • Sweep and clean the backsplash surface.

Proper prep prevents damage and extra cleanup work.

Removing Grout

For tile backsplashes, eliminating the grout between tiles first makes prying them off easier.

Use a putty knife, oscillating tool, or grout saw to scrape, grind, or saw through grout lines. Apply light pressure as you scrape to avoid digging into the drywall. Clean grout debris often while working.

Take extra care around grout near corners or outlets to avoid crumbling the edges of surrounding tiles. Remove all grout before attempting to pry off tiles.

Detaching Backsplash Pieces

With grout lines cleared out, you can begin detaching the backsplash pieces. Careful prying and wiggling should separate full pieces intact for less wall repair later.

For tile: Wedge the putty knife into a corner or grout line gap. Apply gentle prying pressure or light taps with a hammer to dislodge the tile. Work the putty knife around the edges to detach it.

For glass, metal, or stone: Run an oscillating scraper attachment behind the material to separate it from drywall. Apply steady pressure and work the scraper evenly around edges.

Persistent pieces may need cutting through before successfully prying off. Go slowly and reposition tools to avoid gouging drywall. Prevent cracks from spreading on surrounding materials.

Cutting Backsplash Pieces

Backsplash pieces that resist removal may need cutting to successfully detach without wall damage:

  • Mark cut lines on the surface. Make multiple small cuts if needed versus one long one.
  • For straight cuts, score the line evenly with a utility knife then snap piece along line.
  • For curved cuts, use an angle grinder or rotary tool with a small diamond blade.
  • For glass, run a glass cutter firmly along the line before snapping.
  • Minimize pressure and overcutting to avoid hitting drywall underneath.
  • Make finishing cuts directly against walls extra gentle.

Cutting through stubborn backsplash pieces takes finesse. Let tools do the work without pushing too hard against the wall.

Removing Wall Anchors

Finally, with the backsplash surface cleared, remove any remaining wall anchors or screws.

For thinset tile, scrape or grind away excess mortar. Clean off residual tile fragments still attached to the wall.

Use pliers or a screwdriver to remove any screws or plastic anchors left behind.REMOVING A BACKSPLASH

Carefully pull them straight out to avoid tearing bigger holes in drywall. Do not wiggle excessively if resistance is met.

Patch any gouges or cracks wider than a hairline with drywall joint compound before priming the wall for a new backsplash.

Cleaning and Patching the Wall

Once backsplash removal is complete, cleaning and prep remains:

  • Sweep and vacuum all debris from the countertops, floor and walls.
  • Wipe down the wall surface to clear dust and residue.
  • Inspect for any holes, nicks and gouges wider than a hairline.
  • Fill damage spots with drywall joint compound, let dry and sand smooth.
  • Address any impacted corners or edges with compound as needed.
  • Remove drop cloths and cover vents and outlets removed earlier.
  • Prime and paint the exposed wall area to match the rest of the kitchen.

Proper cleanup and damage repair restores the wall for new backsplash installation.

Tips for Preventing Drywall Damage

Removing a backsplash without harming drywall involves patience and care. Here are extra tips to minimize wall damage:

  • Go slowly and don’t force tools too hard against the wall.
  • Make many small cuts rather than long slices to reduce cracking.
  • Keep scraping and prying tools constantly flush with the surface.
  • Avoid excessive hammering or banging which can fracture drywall.
  • Relocate stubborn pieces before making cuts to limit wall pressure.
  • Follow up sanding or grinding with a light vacuum touch.
  • Let patching compound fully cure before sanding to prevent excess removal.

Take your time and be cautious to protect the integrity of the drywall underneath.

Hiring a Pro for Backsplash Removal

For DIYers uncomfortable tackling the precision work involved with backsplash removal, consider hiring a professional:

  • It avoids the cost of purchasing specialty removal tools.
  • They have expertise minimizing damage through careful technique.
  • Professionals properly dispose of old backsplash materials.
  • Saves you time and effort for your other kitchen remodel tasks.
  • Provides expert drywall repairs if any damage still occurs.

Pros make eliminating your outdated backsplash fast while keeping your kitchen walls intact.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Backsplash

Here are answers to some common questions about backsplash removal:

How long does it take to remove a backsplash?

Removal time depends on the backsplash size, materials, and installation method. Allow at least 1-3 hours for a simple process up to 1-2 days for a larger or more complicated backsplash.

What’s the easiest backsplash to remove?

Self-adhesive plastic and metal sheets or foam panels can be sliced through and peeled off pretty easily. Tile and glass adhered with mastic comes off cleaner than mortared materials.

Can I sell or recycle old backsplash materials?

Salvaged vintage tile and decorative or stained glass may sell online. Scrap metal or granite are recyclable. Reuse undamaged materials for other projects. Confirm options for hazardous waste disposal if needed.

What’s the hardest backsplash to remove?

Natural stone, porcelain, mosaic, and metal tile set tightly with thinset mortar adhesion resists removal the most. Caution is required to prevent crumbling and extensive wall damage.

How do I remove thinset mortar after taking down tile?

Scraping tools and grinding attachments remove leftover dried thinset relatively smoothly. Idle a wet oscillating scraper against the surface without too much downward pressure.


Removing an existing backsplash provides a fresh slate in your kitchen for a stylish new backsplash design. With proper tools, careful technique, and taking your time, it is possible to eliminate the old backsplash without damaging the integrity of your wall underneath.

Correctly prepping the workspace, methodically detaching pieces, making strategic cuts, and properly finishing the wall ensures your backsplash removal project is a success. Now that unsightly outdated backsplash is gone and your kitchen is ready for a backsplash makeover.