Removing a countertop backsplash can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be done successfully by DIYers. Taking out a backsplash allows you to replace it with an updated look or access the wall behind it for repairs. Careful prying and scraping can help you take it out efficiently.
Reasons to Remove a Countertop Backsplash
There are several reasons you may need to remove your existing backsplash:
- Updating the look – Often when remodeling a kitchen, the backsplash looks dated and needs a fresh style. Taking it out allows you to install a new trendy backsplash that matches your updated cabinets and countertops.
- Damaged from water – Over time, moisture can damage a backsplash, causing cracked grout and tile. Removing it provides an opportunity to repair any water damage on the wall behind it.
- Preparing wall for backsplash – Sometimes you need access to the wall under the backsplash to repair drywall or plumbing before installing the new backsplash. Taking off the old one allows you to do this work.
- Changing countertops – If you’re replacing the countertop with a new material like quartz or granite, the new countertop may not fit correctly over an existing backsplash. Removing it provides a flush surface for the new countertop.
- Accessing electrical – Electrical outlets are often installed on the wall behind backsplashes. Taking it off creates needed access to electrical for upgrades or repairs.
Prep Work Before Removing Backsplash
Proper prep work makes removing a backsplash much easier and reduces the risk of damage. Here are some tips:
- Remove everything from countertops and clear the area. Appliances or décor items can get damaged if they’re left out.
- Cover countertops with protective material like cardboard or towels. This prevents scratching or chipping during the removal process.
- Have necessary tools assembled and ready to go, such as pry bar, hammer, chisel, razor scraper, and screwdriver.
- Turn off electricity and shut off water supply if removing near outlets, switches, or plumbing.
- Wear safety glasses and gloves to protect yourself from sharp edges and flying debris.
- Apply painter’s tape along the seam between the backsplash and wall. This identifies the drywall edge so you avoid scraping too far.
- Score along any caulked seams with a utility knife. This allows you to break the caulk seal more easily with the pry bar.
Tools Needed to Remove a Backsplash
Having the right tools makes taking out a backsplash much easier. Here are the most helpful tools to gather:
A pry bar is essential for wedging behind the backsplash to pop it off the wall. Look for one with a flattened end to prevent damaging the wall behind it. Apply steady force at the top edge to lift off the backsplash.
Use quick hammer taps to break up old caulk or grout holding the backsplash in place. Softer taps work better than hard pounding.
Putty Knife or Chisel
Slide a putty knife or chisel into seams and use it as a lever to separate the backsplash from the wall. The narrow size allows controlled lifting.
Utility Knife or Razor Scraper
Use a sharp utility knife or razor scraper to slice through caulk and scrape off any remaining residue after removal.
A regular or Phillips head screwdriver helps remove any screws holding the backsplash in place, such as at the bottom or sides.
Safety Glasses and Gloves
Wear eye and hand protection when prying, scraping, and handling broken tile or sharp tools. Safety first.
Step-by-Step Process for Removal
With prep work and tools ready, follow these key steps to safely and effectively remove a countertop backsplash:
1. Score all caulk lines
Use a utility knife or razor to cut along all caulk lines between the backsplash and countertop and between the backsplash and wall. This allows the backsplash to separate cleanly from the surfaces.
2. Look for any screws to remove
Examine the backsplash, especially in corners or the bottom, for any screws holding it in place. Remove these with a screwdriver to detach the backsplash.
3. Wedge pry bar under top edge
Slide the flattened pry bar end between the backsplash and wall at the very top. Applying steady pressure, begin wedging it upwards.
4. Work along top edge to lift off
Continue running the pry bar along the top edge, lifting up a small section at a time. Work side to side to gradually detach the entire top part.
5. Detach bottom last
With the top freed, the bottom should detach more easily using the pry bar and hammer taps as needed. Removing the top first helps avoid cracking tiles.
6. Remove caulk residues
Use a scraper and utility knife to remove any remaining caulk or thinset mortar from the wall and countertop edges after detached.
7. Inspect wall and make repairs
Examine the now-exposed wall for any needed repairs to drywall, paint, or plumbing before installing the new backsplash.
Helpful Removal Techniques
Here are some extra techniques to help the process go smoothly:
- Go slowly and apply controlled pressure with tools to avoid damaging the countertop or wall. Rushing can cause harm. Patience pays off here.
- Try heating old caulk with a hair dryer or heat gun before scraping to soften it and allow easier removal.
- Twist the pry bar slightly as you wedge it behind the backsplash to break the caulk seal.
- Wear kneepads to protect knees when kneeling on hard flooring during removal. Comfort helps you work longer.
- Keep a utility knife handy while prying to cut away any stubborn caulk sections.
- Wipe dust and debris frequently using wet rags to keep the workspace clean.
- Apply painter’s tape along the countertop edge too for an extra buffer to prevent damage.
Avoiding Potential Issues
Watch out for these possible issues when undertaking a backsplash removal:
Use care when prying and scraping to avoid tearing up the drywall behind the backsplash. Take repairs into account when planning your project timeline.
Too much forceful prying can result in cracked tiles. Ease pressure off if you hear cracking sounds. Cracked tiles are sharp, so sweep carefully.
Laying protective covering helps protect the countertop, but keep tools away from the countertop edge to avoid scratching.
If removing around sinks or fixtures, take care not to stress any supply lines or drains which could lead to leaks.
Use extreme caution when working near outlets and switches. Turn off electricity supply before starting removal to be safe.
Removing Specific Backsplash Materials
Approach differs slightly depending on the backsplash material:
Use a hammer and chisel to carefully chip away grout and break the tile bond. Pry between tiles rather than through them to avoid cracks.
Look for screws to remove first. Use flat pry bar to gently bend the metal off its adhesive. Don’t torque it too aggressively.
Warm adhesive with a heat gun to loosen panels. Pry gradually and hold panels gently to prevent shattering the glass.
Score along top caulk line to separate from wall. Hammer and chisel out existing thinset, then pry up gradually. Support heavy pieces.
Molded Plastic Backsplash
These light backsplashes usually have few screws or adhesive strips. Utility knives easily cut the caulk beads for removal.
Disposal and Cleanup
Properly disposing of the old backsplash debris and doing final cleanup helps complete the process:
- Wear gloves and safety glasses when handling broken tile, glass, or metal pieces. Sweep carefully.
- Place all debris into bags, boxes or bins for transport to your nearest waste disposal facility.
- Wipe down the full countertop, wall area, and floor with wet rags to remove dust and debris.
- Fill any chips, cracks, or gouges in the wall with spackle compound and sand smooth when dried.
- Touch up wall paint if needed so it looks fresh for the new backsplash installation.
- Carefully gather all tools and cover exposed wall area before installing the new backsplash.
When to Call a Professional
While DIY removal is possible in many cases, consider calling a professional for:
- Large backsplash areas requiring more demo manpower to complete efficiently
- Backsplashes using complex tile patterns, specialty grouts, or delicate materials
- Situations where the backsplash was installed professionally using robust adhesives or anchoring
- If you’ll be keeping any part of the existing backsplash and need careful partial removal
- When lack of time prevents you from taking on a lengthy removal DIY project
- If you don’t feel fully comfortable taking on the precision required for a clean removal result
FAQs About Removing Backsplashes
What tools do I need to remove a backsplash?
Key tools include a pry bar, putty knife, utility knife, hammer, screwdriver, safety gloves and glasses. Avoid power tools which can easily damage walls or countertops.
How long does it take to remove a backsplash?
Removal for a 10 foot single-row backsplash could take 2-3 hours. Larger or tiled backsplashes could take 5 hours or longer, depending on materials. Patience is critical.
Can I remove a backsplash without damaging drywall?
Careful, controlled prying and scraping can preserve drywall underneath, but some minor damage is common. Plan on spackling and repainting affected areas.
What is the easiest backsplash material to remove?
Thin plastic backsplash panels remove quickest with minimal tools. Tiled or stone backsplashes require the most time and prying technique to detach intact.
How do I remove old backsplash adhesive from countertops?
Heat guns and razor scrapers work well to soften and gently peel up adhesive. Clean residue with denatured alcohol or adhesive remover.
- Proper prep like covering counters and taping off walls saves time and prevents damage during removal.
- Invest time upfront gathering all necessary tools, including pry bar, hammer, utility knife, and screwdriver.
- Carefully score all caulk lines before attempting to pry off backsplash panels.
- Work methodically from top corner to bottom and side-to-side for best results.
- Apply controlled force and twist pry tools to break adhesive seal without cracking tiles.
- Smooth any wall damage with spackle and paint touch ups once backsplash is removed.
- Consider hiring a pro for big or complex backsplash removal jobs.
- Focus on safety throughout the process, wearing gloves and eye protection.
With patience, the right tools and techniques, you can take on a DIY backsplash removal successfully. Just allow enough time for careful prying and scraping to get the job done without damage. In no time you’ll have the blank canvas needed for your exciting new backsplash design.