Assess the Countertop Installation
The first step is to inspect how the existing countertop was installed.
- Look to see if it is resting on top of the backsplash tile, or if the backsplash tile was installed after and abuts the countertop.
- Determine if the countertop is adhered to the cabinet with screws from underneath or construction adhesive.
- Check if caulk was used between the countertop and tile backsplash and along the walls.
Understanding how the countertop and backsplash were assembled will allow you to take steps to remove the countertop without disturbing the tile.
Protect the Backsplash Tile
Before attempting countertop removal, you’ll want to take precautions to avoid damaging the backsplash tile. Here are some tips:
- Cover the backsplash tile with painters tape, duct tape, or masking film to prevent scratching from tools.
- Stuff backsplash openings like around outlets with cardboard or rags to prevent debris from falling down.
- Place drop cloths along the counter edges and cabinets to catch debris.
- Have spare tile on hand in case a piece gets broken so it can be quickly replaced.
Taking these protective steps will help keep the backsplash tile unharmed during countertop removal.
Disconnect Countertop Attachments
The countertop will likely have plumbing, electrical, and other fixtures attached to it. These need to be disconnected prior to attempting countertop removal:
- Turn off water supply lines for sinks and other plumbing fixtures.
- Disconnect drain pipes and supply lines from fixtures.
- Unplug appliances like instant hot water dispensers.
- Turn off power and disconnect wiring for outlets, lights, etc.
Detaching all attachments eliminates potential hazards and allows the countertop to be removed cleanly.
Remove Countertop Fasteners
With the perimeter protected and attachments disconnected, you can begin releasing the countertop from the base cabinets. This typically requires:
- Removing screws from underneath countertop overhangs and along walls. Use a drill or screwdriver.
- Breaking construction adhesive by gently wedging a pry bar between the countertop and cabinets. Take care not to pry against the backsplash.
- Cutting caulk between the countertop and backsplash or walls using a utility knife.
Work systematically around the perimeter, releasing any screws, adhesive, or sealant holding the countertop in place.
Lift Countertop Out
With the fasteners disconnected, you can now lift the countertop free:
- Have an assistant help support the countertop when lifting it. Slide it forward to release any remaining adhesive before attempting to lift.
- Lift gently and straight up to avoid bumping the backsplash. Tape can help catch any broken tile edges.
- Remove any remaining caulk or construction adhesive so the new countertop can be installed cleanly.
- Carefully detach any tiles that came loose and prepare them for reinstallation.
Take care when lifting out the countertop to avoid damaging the surrounding tile backsplash.
Install New Countertop
Once the old countertop is removed, installation of the new one can begin:
- Thoroughly clean the base cabinets to remove debris, grease, and old caulk.
- Make cutouts for the sink and fixtures on the new countertop before installing.
- Dry fit the countertop and check for proper fit around the backsplash before final placement.
- Reconnect fixtures and plumbing to the countertop before adhering in place.
- Apply adhesive or fasteners per the manufacturer instructions without disturbing the backsplash.
Taking precise measurements and dry fitting will ensure the new countertop fits perfectly without impacting the tile backsplash.
Pointers for Protecting Tile Backsplash
Here are some additional tips to keep in mind through the process:
- Work slowly and carefully when prying or lifting near the backsplash.
- Keep pry bars, hammers, and other demolition tools away from direct contact with tile.
- Avoid bumping or dragging the countertop against the backsplash when lifting out.
- Be prepared to replace any cracked or damaged tile as needed.
- Remove all old caulk and adhesive to get a clean installation of the new counter.
- Take photographs before removal in case tile needs to be put back in the same place.
Exercising caution and patience will help ensure the tile backsplash comes through the countertop replacement undamaged.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I remove caulk from between the countertop and backsplash?
Use a sharp utility knife to cut through the caulk seal. Then pull up the severed caulk gently with a putty knife. Avoid prying directly against the tile. Any remaining caulk can be scraped off or removed with caulk remover.
What if the countertop overlaps the backsplash tile?
If the countertop sits on top of the backsplash tile, take extra care when prying it loose to avoid cracking the tile edges. Use protectants like tape over the seam. The countertop may lift off cleanly if no adhesive was used between it and the tile.
Should I remove the backsplash when replacing the countertop?
Removing the backsplash tile is not necessary usually. As long as care is taken to protect it and lift the countertop straight up, the backsplash can stay in place. Only remove tile if it gets damaged or if you plan to install a new backsplash.
What’s the easiest countertop material to remove?
Laminate and wood countertops are the easiest to remove. Just disconnect from walls and lift out. Solid surface, stone, and tile are more difficult since they are usually adhered. Always check for screws or caulk under edges regardless of material.
Can I salvage the backsplash tile if damaged?
If a few backsplash tiles crack or get damaged, you can likely patch by replacing only those affected tiles. Have extra tiles handy that match the existing backsplash. Take photos before removal to assist with matching up grout lines when patching.
Removing countertops without harming the surrounding backsplash tile is achievable by making preparations, taking precautions, and using proper techniques. Key steps include disconnecting fixtures, protecting the tile, methodically releasing any adhering agents, and lifting the countertop gently straight up and out. Careful prying and lifting combined with adequate protectants will allow the backsplash tile to come through unscathed. With some patience and care, you can successfully remove your countertop without damaging the beautiful tile backsplash.