How to Remove Ceramic Tile Backsplash

Removing a ceramic tile backsplash can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be accomplished by DIYers. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to remove ceramic tile from your backsplash.

Gather Your Materials

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

  • Safety gear – glasses, dust mask, gloves
  • Pry bar or putty knife
  • Hammer
  • Dustpan and broom
  • Trash bags
  • Spackle or joint compound
  • Drop cloths

Safety should always come first during a tile removal project. Be sure to wear protective glasses, a dust mask, and gloves throughout the process. Have plenty of trash bags on hand to collect debris, and use drop cloths to protect nearby surfaces from damage.

Prepare the Workspace

To get started, you’ll need to clear the area around the backsplash. Remove everything from the counters and walls so you have ample working room. Cover nearby surfaces with drop cloths to prevent scratching or debris buildup.

Sweep the backsplash tiles thoroughly to remove any dust or loose crumbs. This helps prevent debris from getting into your eyes while working. Turn off power to any outlets located behind the backsplash to stay safe during demolition.

Remove Accessories First

If your backsplash has any mounted accessories like a soap dispenser, towel bar, or light fixture, detach those first. This allows you to demolish the tile behind them. Use a screwdriver to remove any screws or wall anchors holding the accessories in place.

Set accessories aside carefully to reinstall after the new backsplash goes up. Make sure no electrical wires are left exposed after removing lights or outlets. Cap or tape wires as needed for safety.

Pry Tiles Off Starting at Top

With your workspace prepped, it’s time to start prying tiles off. Begin working from the top down rather than the bottom up.

Place your pry bar under the top row of tiles and gently lift up and out to detach them from the wall. Start at an outside corner if possible for best leverage. Work your way across the row, knocking tiles off into a trash bag as you go.

Tip: Dip your pry bar in water periodically to keep tile shards from sticking to it.

Continue Down the Wall

After removing the top row of tile, continue working your way down the backsplash from top to bottom. Knock off each row of tiles using your pry bar and hammer.

Aim to remove whole tiles if possible to minimize damage to the wall behind. Be prepared for some stubborn tiles that won’t want to come off. Keep prying and tapping carefully until they pop off.

Warning: Use caution when handling broken tiles, as the edges can be razor sharp.

Clean Up Adhesive

As you remove the tile, you’ll expose the adhesive used to attach it. Scrape off as much of the adhesive as possible using your pry bar or putty knife.

Getting down to the bare wall will make prep work and installation of the new backsplash much easier. Be careful not to gouge too deeply into the drywall.

For stubborn adhesive, try softening it first with a heat gun or chemical adhesive remover. Goo-Gone also works well. Just spray and let it sit before scraping.

Dispose of Debris

Work carefully to contain debris and prevent it from scattering everywhere. Hold a trash bag or bucket right under the area you’re demolishing to catch fallen shards and adhesive scraps.

Sweep or vacuum after each work session to keep the space clean. Bag up debris immediately rather than letting it accumulate. Protect your hands by wearing gloves when handling broken tiles.

Repair Drywall Damage

Once all tile and adhesive have been removed, inspect the exposed drywall for any gouges, holes, or missing sections. Use spackle or drywall joint compound to skim coat any imperfections for a smooth surface.

Let repairs dry fully before sanding for a seamless finish. Now the wall is prepped and ready for your beautiful new backsplash!

Safety Tips

Here are some important safety pointers to remember during the demolition process:

  • Wear eye protection at all times. Shards can fly as tiles crack.
  • Use thick work gloves to protect hands from sharp edges. Leather gloves work well.
  • A dust mask helps avoid inhaling fine debris and adhesive particulates.
  • Work slowly and carefully. Don’t rush or force tiles off aggressively.
  • Keep a first aid kit nearby in case of cuts.
  • Disconnect electrical outlets before starting. Retain wire caps.

FAQs About Removing Tile Backsplash

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about removing an existing ceramic tile backsplash:

Should I remove drywall too or just the tile?

In most cases, you can leave the drywall intact and just remove the tile itself. As long as the wall is in good shape with minimal damage, new tile can be installed right over it.

What if some tiles won’t come off the wall?

Stubborn tiles can sometimes be loosened by heating them with a blow dryer or scoring through the glaze with a carbide scraper. Be gentle yet firm in prying. Damaging the drywall is better than leaving tiles stuck on.

How should I dispose of old tile and backsplash debris?

The best option is to contain debris in heavy garbage bags and dispose at the dump. You can also look into construction debris removal services that will haul it away for you. Do not put collapsed tiles down a garbage disposal.

Is it better to demo the entire backsplash at once?

It’s generally easiest and less messy to do the demolition all in one go. However, if needed, you can carefully remove it in sections. Just be sure to prep and prime any exposed drywall in phases.

What’s the easiest way to remove old grout?

A grout removal tool, rotary tool, or even an oscillating multi-tool with a grout blade makes quick work of old grout lines. Be sure to protect eyes and wear a mask when grout starts flying.


Removing an outdated or damaged ceramic tile backsplash takes some elbow grease but can be managed as a DIY project. Carefully follow safety precautions and use the proper tools and techniques for efficient removal. Take your time to prep the wall for new tile installation. Soon you’ll have the backsplash of your dreams revitalizing your kitchen or bath.