How to Remove Counter Backsplash

A kitchen backsplash protects the walls behind a sink, stove, or countertops from water damage, stains, and splashes. Backsplashes come in a variety of materials like ceramic tile, metal, glass, and stone.

Kitchen trends change over time, so you may decide to remove an outdated backsplash to give your kitchen a fresh new look. Replacing a backsplash involves carefully removing the old material and preparing the surface for new tiles or panels. With some time and effort, you can remove and replace a stubborn backsplash.

Assessing the Existing Backsplash

Before removing your old backsplash, you’ll need to assess what type of material it is made from. Common backsplash materials include:

  • Ceramic, porcelain or glass tile
  • Metal tin or stainless steel
  • Stone such as granite, marble or slate
  • Painted drywall
  • Wood panels
  • Plastic laminate

Inspect your existing backsplash closely. Tap on it gently to hear if it sounds hollow (drywall) or solid (tile or metal). Check for grout lines between tiles or seams where panels meet. Understanding what the current backsplash is made of will help determine the best way to remove it.

It’s also important to see how the existing backsplash was installed. Is it applied directly to drywall or is there a cement board behind it? Cement board provides an extra moisture barrier and requires different removal techniques.

Examine the area beneath the backsplash. Look for screws, adhesive, caulking or other elements fastening it to the wall. Make note of these attachment methods to prepare for detaching the backsplash during removal.

Finally, inspect for problem areas like cracks, stains or missing grout. Take pictures to document the current state of the backsplash. Careful assessment now makes the removal process smoother.

Gather Necessary Materials and Tools

Removing a backsplash requires having the right materials and tools on hand. Gather these items before starting demo:

Safety equipment

  • Safety goggles to protect eyes from debris
  • Dust mask to prevent inhaling particles
  • Work gloves for handling sharp or rough edges

Demo tools

  • Flat pry bar for removing tiles
  • Putty knife for scraping off adhesives or caulk
  • Utility knife for cutting through caulk or panel seams
  • Hammer for tapping tiles to dislodge from adhesive
  • Power drill with carbide and tile drill bits (for removing screws or drilling out grout)

Cleaning supplies

  • Rags for cleaning off dirt and debris
  • Spray bottle of water for rinsing tiles
  • Tile cleaner for scrubbing off adhesive residue
  • Shop vacuum to contain dust and particles


  • Plastic sheeting for covering countertops or appliances
  • Garbage bags for removing tile pieces and disposal
  • Painter’s tape for securing plastic sheeting or masking off edges

With these supplies ready, you can start the backsplash removal process confidently.

Protect Surrounding Surfaces

Before demolition, protect any surfaces around the backsplash area. Cover countertops with plastic sheeting and secure with painter’s tape. Tape off edges between the backsplash and walls or cabinets.

Pull the stove and refrigerator away from the backsplash area and unplug them. This prevents damage from vibrations during removal. Cover front surfaces of appliances with plastic for further protection.

Check that any dishes, food items or small appliances are removed from surrounding countertops. Remove any décor or fragile items from nearby walls. Relocate waste bins and cleaning supplies out of the workspace.

Proper surface protection keeps the rest of the kitchen safe during backsplash removal.

Remove Accessories and Prep the Backsplash Surface

With the workspace prepped, now prepare the backsplash itself:

First, detach any accessories on the backsplash, like towel bars/rings, cutting boards, or utensil racks. Removing these now provides easier access to the backsplash surface.

For a tile backsplash, heat the grout lines with a hair dryer or heat gun. This softens the grout so it is easier to dig out. Use a utility knife or grout rake tool to carefully scrape out grout.

If caulking seals the backsplash edges, slice through it with a utility knife. Breaking the caulk seal here allows you to pry off tiles more easily.

For tin, stainless steel or plastic laminate, find any screws securing the backsplash. Remove screws using a drill or screwdriver. Pry off any trim caps or end pieces with a flat bar.

Prepping and access make backsplash removal much simpler. Now it’s time to start taking it down.

Carefully Remove Backsplash Pieces

With prep work complete, carefully detach and pry off the backsplash pieces using these techniques:

Tile backsplash:

  • Wedge the flat pry bar into the grout lines to pop tiles off row by row. Apply force gradually.
  • Drill into stubborn grout lines with a carbide drill bit so the pry bar can penetrate underneath.
  • Start from the bottom and work upwards to avoid tiles crashing down.
  • Twist and rock tiles back and forth to break the adhesive bond underneath.
  • Wrap removed tiles in cardboard or bubble wrap to prevent breakage.

Metal backsplash:

  • Find any remaining screws securing metal panels and unscrew them.
  • Insert flat pry bar under edges and corners to pop free from adhesive.
  • Slowly bend panels away from the wall while applying pressure.
  • Avoid creasing or denting thin metal as you pry it off.

Stone backsplash:

  • Score along the top edge with a carbide utility knife.
  • Drill holes through stone if necessary so pry bar can gain leverage.
  • Work the pry bar down behind the stone to break adhesive bond.
  • Take care when handling heavy stone pieces – get help moving them!

Drywall or laminate:

  • Use a utility knife to score through any caulking bead or trim piece edges.
  • Cut through the drywall or laminate with a circular saw set to the proper depth.
  • Pry off pieces and pull away laminate sheets. Scrape off any remaining adhesive.

Work cautiously to remove backsplash pieces whole and undamaged as much as possible.

Clean the Wall Surface

With the backsplash fully removed, now prep the bare wall for new backsplash installation.

First, pull off any remaining drywall facing or cement board. Scrape off all old adhesive, using a putty knife or chisel if needed. Scrub with tile cleaner and rinse the area to remove residues.

Next, strip out any screws, nails or hardware left in the wall. Fill any holes or uneven spots with spackle and let dry completely.

Sand the area smooth. Wipe away all dust with tack cloths. Wash the bare wall with mild detergent and rinse thoroughly.

Let the surface dry entirely before applying primer. Priming helps the new backsplash adhere properly.

Thoroughly cleaning and prepping the wall provides the ideal blank slate for your new backsplash!

Dispose of the Old Backsplash Properly

With demolition done, properly contain and dispose of the backsplash debris:

  • Sweep smaller shards and particles into dust pans using a broom. Avoid dry sweeping, which scatters dust around.
  • Carefully gather broken tiles, metal or drywall pieces. Deposit them directly into garbage bags.
  • Vacuum up any remaining debris using a shop vacuum. Change or empty vacuum filters afterward.
  • Seal garbage bags containing backsplash waste tightly. Transport directly outside to avoid spreading mess.
  • Check if the old backsplash contains asbestos or lead. Special disposal is required if it does.
  • Research if recycled disposal options exist in your area for certain materials like metal or natural stone.

Proper cleanup and disposal makes for a successful backsplash removal process!

Hiring a Professional for Removal

Removing a backsplash yourself provides a cost savings and sense of DIY accomplishment. However, some situations may warrant hiring a professional:

Consider professional help if:

  • The backsplash covers a very large surface area.
  • It is made of heavy material like natural stone.
  • The installation surface is cement board instead of drywall.
  • Attaching hardware like nails or tacks prove very difficult to remove.
  • Plumbing or electrical work is involved.
  • Pre-existing wall damage needs repair.
  • You wish to preserve intact backsplash pieces for recycling or reuse.
  • Asbestos, mold or other hazards are discovered.

Professional removers have advantages like:

  • Proper equipment for safety and efficiency.
  • Knowledge of different backsplash materials.
  • Training in safe demolition techniques.
  • Correct handling of dangerous waste disposal.
  • Skills to repair underlying wall damage.
  • Licenses and insurance for liability protection.

Removing a backsplash takes time, effort and care. If the scale of the project feels daunting or hazardous materials are discovered, hiring a professional can give needed expertise and peace of mind!

Preparing for New Backsplash Installation

Once the former backsplash is removed, properly prepare for your new backsplash installation:

  • Select your backsplash materials – tile, metal, stone, etc. Get extras for breakage.
  • Read installation guides fully and watch tutorial videos.
  • Determine if you need backerboard, spacers, or edge trim.
  • Purchase quality grout, thinset and sealing products.
  • Rent tools like tile cutters if needed.
  • Schedule installation allowing several days for completion and drying time.

Proper prep makes installing the new backsplash much smoother. Carefully planning removal and installation together results in a stunning backsplash transformation!

FAQs About Removing Counter Backsplash

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about backsplash removal:

How do I remove stubborn tile adhesive from my wall?

Heat residue adhesive with a heat gun to soften it, then scrape off with a putty knife. Apply adhesive remover chemicals and let sit before scrubbing clean. Use a rough sponge or brass wire brush for extra scraping power.

What tools do I need to take down a metal tin backsplash?

Start with an electric drill to remove any screws, then use a flat pry bar and hammer to pop the metal panes off the adhesive. A utility knife helps cut through any caulking.

What’s the easiest backsplash to remove?

Self-adhesive plastic laminate sheets can be sliced through with a utility knife and peeled off. Use a heat gun on stubborn areas and scrape off leftover adhesive. Removing paint or wallpaper is also fairly simple.

Can I pry off stone backsplash pieces to keep for reuse?

It is possible, especially with a professional’s help, but may require extra preparation and care to avoid cracking the heavy stone. Tape pieces before prying off and detach top edge first.

Is it OK to demo my backsplash all the way down to the drywall?

Yes, remove backsplash entirely down to studs or drywall to provide the proper surface for new installation. Repair and smooth wall as needed afterward.

How should I dispose of backsplash debris?

Sweep shards and dust into trash bags. Research if your tile or stone contains asbestos and follow proper hazardous waste disposal procedures if so. Otherwise, standard construction debris disposal is fine.

Will I need to reapply primer before installing the new backsplash?

Yes, apply primer specifically suited for backsplash materials to the freshly cleaned wall. This helps adhesion and prevents stains from bleeding through.


Removing an outdated or damaged backsplash provides the chance to give your kitchen a fresh facelift. By assessing your existing backsplash material, prepping your workspace, carefully prying off pieces, thoroughly cleaning the wall surface, and disposing of debris properly, you can demolish your old backsplash successfully. Pay attention to safety and consider hiring a professional if the project scope feels overwhelming. With proper planning and preparation, you’ll gain the blank canvas needed to install a stunning new backsplash focal point in your kitchen.

So breathe new life into your kitchen by learning how to remove counter backsplash properly! With the right approach and tools, you can demolish and replace your backsplash efficiently.