How to Remove Ceramic Tile Backsplash from Wall

Removing a ceramic tile backsplash from your kitchen or bathroom wall is a project that requires time and care. Ceramic tiles are durable and strongly adhered to the wall, so removing them can be challenging. With the right tools and techniques, you can remove the tiles successfully without damaging your walls.

Supplies Needed

  • Hammer
  • Chisel and flat pry bar
  • Putty knife
  • Gloves and eye protection
  • Dust mask
  • Tile removal bit for rotary tool
  • Spackle or joint compound
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer and paint

Prepare the Workspace

Before starting demolition, prepare the workspace to minimize dust and debris.

  • Clear countertops and cover appliances, furniture, and floors with drop cloths.
  • Turn off electricity to outlets near the backsplash area.
  • Have a trash can or bag ready to collect tile pieces and debris.
  • Wear safety goggles, gloves, and a dust mask to protect yourself.

Removing the Grout

The first step is removing the grout between the tiles. This allows you to pop the tiles off easier.

  • Use a carbide-tipped grout saw or rotary tool with a tile removal bit to cut through the grout lines. Take care not to scratch the drywall behind.
  • Alternatively, use a hammer and chisel positioned at a 45° angle to carefully chisel out the grout.
  • Sweep away all grit and dust with a broom or vacuum when finished.

Prying Off the Tiles

Once the grout is removed, work on prying the tiles away from the wall.

  • Start at the top corner of the backsplash and insert a putty knife or flat pry bar between the tile and drywall.
  • Gently twist the tool to break the tile free. Apply pressure slowly to avoid damaging the wall.
  • Work horizontally across the top row before moving down.
  • For stubborn tiles, use a hammer and chisel to carefully tap underneath and dislodge.
  • Use pliers to remove any remaining tile pieces or screws.

Removing Adhesive off the Wall

With the tiles removed, scrape off any remaining thinset adhesive or backing.

  • Use a chisel, putty knife, or oscillating multi-tool to scrape off remnants of old adhesive.
  • Avoid digging into the drywall and causing damage.
  • Thoroughly clean the area of all debris when finished.

Prepping and Refinishing the Wall

With the backsplash removed, some wall repair is required to get it looking smooth again.

  • Fill any gouges, holes, or uneven spots with spackle or drywall joint compound. Allow to dry completely.
  • Sand the repairs smooth and wipe away dust.
  • Prime the entire wall and allow to dry. This provides an even surface for painting.
  • Paint with at least 2 coats of interior latex paint in your desired color.

And that’s it! With some time and elbow grease, you can successfully remove an outdated or damaged ceramic tile backsplash. Be sure to protect yourself and work carefully to avoid damaging the walls. With preparation and patience, you can give your kitchen or bathroom a fresh new look.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Ceramic Tile Backsplash

How long does it take to remove a ceramic tile backsplash?

It usually takes 2-4 hours to remove a typical backsplash of around 4ft x 1ft. Larger backsplash areas or heavily adhesive tiles may take longer. Much depends on the tools used and how easily the tiles come off.

What’s the easiest way to remove backsplash tile?

The rotary tool with a tile removal bit makes the job much easier. It quickly cuts through grout lines and behind tiles. For most DIYers, the rotary tool method is faster with less strain than manual hammer and chisel work.

Can I put new tile over old backsplash?

It’s not recommended to install new tiles directly over old ones. The layers of old adhesive and grout make it difficult for new tiles to adhere properly. Removing the old backsplash completely provides the smoothest, most stable surface for new tile.

What tool is best for scraping adhesive off the wall?

A combination of tools works best. Use a putty knife or chisel first to scrape off bulky adhesive chunks and layers. Then smooth the residual thinset off with an oscillating multi-tool. Be careful not to gouge into the drywall.

How do I prep the wall for new backsplash tile?

After removing the old tile, fill any gouges in the wall with spackle. Sand smooth, then apply primer to create an even finish. Check that the wall is plumb and flat. Finally, apply your tile adhesive and new tiles.


Removing an outdated ceramic tile backsplash takes some work, but it can totally transform the look of your kitchen or bath. With the proper tools and safety gear, take your time to carefully pry the tiles off and clean the wall adhesive. Prep and refinish the wall with spackle, sanding, and fresh paint for a revitalized space. Your new backsplash can then be installed with a smooth, strong surface to adhere to.