How to Remove Bathroom Tile Backsplash

Removing a bathroom tile backsplash can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be accomplished successfully as a DIY project. A tile backsplash helps protect the walls from moisture and splashes, but over time it can become outdated, damaged, or you may just want a fresh new look. Knowing what’s involved before you begin can help make the process go as smoothly as possible.

Gather the Necessary Materials

Before starting demolition, be sure you have all the necessary materials on hand. This will include:

  • Safety gear – Safety glasses, dust mask, work gloves, knee pads
  • Hammer
  • Chisel and putty knife
  • Pry bar
  • Tile cutter or angle grinder with diamond blade (for cutting tile if necessary)
  • Shovel and dustpan
  • Shop vacuum
  • Bucket or spray bottle of water
  • Grout rake
  • Scraper
  • Drywall patching compound and mesh tape
  • Primer and paint

Having these supplies ready will allow you to remove the old backsplash efficiently and be prepared for patching and painting the wall underneath.

Protect Surrounding Areas

Removal work can get messy, so you’ll want to cover nearby surfaces. Use painter’s tape and plastic sheeting to protect countertops, floors, and cabinets. Remove anything mounted on the walls like towel bars, mirrors, or light fixtures prior to starting demolition. Turn off power to any outlets in the backsplash area. Clearing and preparing the space will make the subsequent steps much cleaner.

Prepare for Tile Removal

Before tearing into the backsplash, you’ll need to clear away any surface obstacles. Removing the grout between tiles first can make prying them off easier.

Use a grout rake or putty knife to scrape out all the old grout, working in small sections across the entire backsplash surface. Apply pressure at a 45° angle to dig into the grout lines. Scoop or vacuum up the dried grout as you go until all joints are cleared out.

Spray or apply water to moisten any remaining thin grout layers. Let it soak in for 15-20 minutes. This will further soften the grout to make chiseling and prying easier.

Carefully Chisel Off Tiles

With the grout removed, you can now work to pry the tiles off one-by-one. Take care to work slowly and avoid damaging the wall.

Position the chisel or putty knife into one corner of a tile at a 45° angle. Firmly tap the end with a hammer, applying controlled force to pop the edge loose. Re-position the blade and repeat this along the edges to dislodge the tile.

Alternate between chiseling and spraying water to moisten the adhesive behind. The tile will eventually release. Pry off gently with your hands or use a pry bar for stubborn spots.

Remove all tiles systematically across the entire surface. Stack tiles neatly onto a piece of cardboard as you go for easy cleanup later.

Remove Any Remaining Adhesive

Once all tiles are pried off, inspect the wall for any remaining thinset mortar or adhesive. Making the surface smooth will help new backsplash installation later.

Use a chisel, putty knife, or tile scraper to chip and scrape off dried glue blobs. For very thin residue, a wire brush attachment on an angle grinder can help remove adhesive buildup. Wipe the wall down thoroughly with a damp sponge when finished.

Let it dry completely before moving to the next step. Address any damage to the drywall now with joint compound and tape.

Dispose of Debris

With the backsplash demolished, carefully contain tile pieces and rubble for disposal. Sweep up small shards and crumbs with a dustpan and brush. Place larger chunks in a covered bucket to transport.

Be sure to wear a safety mask when sweeping up fine particulate debris. Contain and dispose of at your local waste facility. Now you can ready the bare wall for a fresh new backsplash tile installation.

FAQ About Removing Bathroom Tile Backsplash

Removing and replacing a backsplash in your bathroom can seem like an overwhelming project, but breaking it down into manageable steps will set you up for success. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How long does it take to remove a tile backsplash?

Plan for the demolition process to take anywhere from 2-4 hours for a typical sized backsplash of 20-30 sq. ft. Having another person to help will expedite the tile removal.

What tools do I need to take down backsplash tile?

A hammer, putty knives, pry bar, safety gear, buckets, and shovels are necessities. A grout rake, chisel, tile cutter, vacuum, and scraper can also be very useful.

Should I remove the drywall too or just tiles?

In most cases, the existing drywall can remain if it’s in good condition with minimal water damage or mold. Scrape off all adhesive residue before installing new tile.

How do I remove stubborn thinset mortar after tiles?

Try scraping with an angle grinder, then wiping the surface clean. Apply an adhesive remover product if residue still persists. Sanders or chemical strippers provide other options.

What’s the easiest way to take off ceramic wall tiles?

Clear grout first, then spray water to moisten adhesive. Carefully pry tiles off with chisel and putty knife. Take it slowly to avoid wall damage.

Can I put new tile over existing backsplash?

It’s not recommended. Removing the old tile allows inspection of the wall condition and proper surface prep for new tile. Covering old with new risks trapping moisture and future failure.

How do I repair drywall after taking down backsplash?

Inspect for any cracks, holes, or water damage. Seal affected areas with joint compound. Use mesh tape on seams for reinforcement. Sand smooth when dry then prime and paint.

What should I do with old tile pieces after removal?

Carefully contain tile shards and debris, then transport to your local waste management facility. Wear protective gear when handling broken tile pieces.

Tips for a Successful Tile Removal Process

Removing a tile backsplash takes patience and care, but a few tips can help it go smoothly:

  • Shut off electricity and water supply lines in the backsplash area before starting demolition. This prevents accidental shocks or leaks.
  • Wear safety goggles, mask, and gloves at all times to protect yourself from debris, sharp edges, and dust.
  • Work systematically in sections across the entire backsplash surface area. Don’t focus on just one section too long.
  • Apply painter’s tape around the outer edges of the backsplash perimeter before prying tiles off. This helps contain debris and prevents wall damage.
  • Use a pry bar for extra leverage when tiles are firmly adhered. Don’t force tiles too aggressively with a hammer or chisel alone.
  • Moisten lingering thinset or adhesive with water to soften. Let it soak in for 10-15 minutes before trying to scrape off.
  • Pick a day with dry weather to demo the backsplash. Damp surfaces won’t allow adhesives and thinset to dry out fully before disposing.
  • Discard broken tiles and debris carefully. Wear gloves and goggles when handling sharp broken pieces during cleanup.
  • Fill any wall cracks or holes with joint compound, let dry completely, then sand smooth.

Following these tips as you work systematically will allow you to remove bathroom wall tiles successfully with less frustration and mess. Just take your time and exercise care at each stage.


Removing an outdated or damaged tile backsplash in your bathroom doesn’t need to be an insurmountable challenge. Armed with the right tools and techniques, you can tackle this project systematically on your own. Focus on safety and precision demolition to avoid wall damage. Allow time for cleaning up debris and properly preparing the surface for your new backsplash installation. With some patience and persistence, you can achieve a revamped bathroom look and enjoy your stylish new backsplash in no time.