How to Remove Formica Backsplash from Wall

Removing a formica backsplash from your kitchen or bathroom wall is a project that can be done yourself with some time and effort. Formica is a heat-resistant laminate product that was very popular for countertops and backsplashes from the 1950s-1980s. While durable, formica can become damaged over time. Replacing a formica backsplash allows you to update the look of your kitchen or bath. With some simple tools and techniques, you can remove the existing formica backsplash without damaging your walls.

What You’ll Need

  • Hammer
  • Putty knife or paint scraper
  • Pry bar
  • Dust mask
  • Gloves
  • Drop cloths
  • Sandpaper
  • Spackle
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Caulk and caulk gun

Step 1: Prepare the Workspace

The first step is to prepare your workspace by protecting nearby surfaces from damage. Lay down drop cloths on the countertops, floors, and stove below the formica backsplash area. It’s also a good idea to remove items from nearby shelves and drawers to prevent them from getting covered in dust and debris. Wearing gloves, a dust mask, and eye protection can help minimize exposure to potentially irritating particles.

Step 2: Score the Formica

Using a utility knife or sharp razor, score the formica surface. Make cuts in a crosshatch pattern spaced 2-3 inches apart. This will help the formica break apart more easily when pried off the wall. Be sure to score down to the adhesive but not so deep that you cut into the drywall behind it.

Step 3: Loosen the Formica

After scoring, take a putty knife and start working it under the edges of the formica. You can also use a paint scraper or pry bar for extra leverage. Gently pry up the formica, working the tools underneath to break the seal of the adhesive. Work slowly around the edges, loosening the formica bit by bit. The scored lines will help guide where it breaks apart.

Step 4: Remove the Formica in Sections

Once you’ve pried up the outer edges, you can start removing the formica in larger sections. Find an edge that is lifted and slowly peel it off the wall. Use your pry bar as needed to lift the formica up and pull it away. Remove screws or nails as you encounter them. Try to pull off pieces intact to minimize adhesive left behind on the wall.

Step 5: Clean Up Adhesive Residue

With the formica removed, you’ll be left with some remaining adhesive on the drywall. Use a combination of mineral spirits and a putty knife to gently scrub away the leftover adhesive. Avoid damaging the paper surface of the drywall. Be sure to use mineral spirits in a well-ventilated area. Wipe the wall with a damp cloth once done to remove residue.

Step 6: Make Drywall Repairs

Examine the drywall for any damage that may need patching. Use spackle to fill any gouges or holes where you removed nails or screws. Allow the spackle to dry completely before sanding smooth. Wipe away dust with a dry cloth after sanding before painting. Spot prime repaired areas with drywall primer before painting.

Step 7: Prepare the Wall for Paint/Backsplash

Lightly sand and clean the walls to prepare for painting or installing a new backsplash. For painting, apply primer to the sanded drywall and then apply two coats of latex paint in your desired color. For a new backsplash, ensure the wall surface is smooth and dry before applying thinset mortar and installing tile or other backsplash materials.

Step 8: Caulk and Seal the Gaps

Once your new backsplash is installed or the wall is painted, finish up by caulking along the edges and seams. Use a flexible silicone caulk to seal anywhere the countertop meets the wall or around fixtures. Wipe away excess caulk with a damp cloth for a neat finish.

Removing a formica backsplash takes some elbow grease but eliminates the dated look of old formica. With some simple tools and these steps, you can tackle this project yourself. Be sure to use proper safety gear and work slowly to get clean edges on the formica for less patching. In no time you’ll be ready to paint or install a modern, maintenance-free backsplash.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Formica Backsplash

What tools do I need to remove a formica backsplash?

You’ll need a hammer or pry bar, putty knife or paint scraper, utility knife, dust mask, gloves, and drop cloths. Basic tools like a caulk gun, spackle, sandpaper, primer, and paint are needed for repainting the wall afterward.

What’s the easiest way to get the formica off the wall?

Scoring the surface first in a crosshatch pattern will allow the formica to break apart easier. Use a sharp utility knife to cut through the top layer. Then work a putty knife under the edges and slowly pry up and peel off intact pieces.

How do I remove stubborn formica adhesive from the wall?

Hot soapy water can help soften adhesive residue. For heavier buildup, use a combination of mineral spirits applied lightly with a Scotch-Brite pad, followed by wiping with a damp cloth. Avoid damaging the drywall paper surface.

Should I repair drywall damage before painting or installing a new backsplash?

Yes, drywall repairs and priming should be done to ensure the wall surface is smooth before painting or installing backsplash materials. Use spackle to fill gouges and prime with a drywall primer.

What kind of paint or backsplash can I apply over the existing wall?

For painting, a good latex primer and paint are ideal for drywall surfaces. For a backsplash, ceramic tile, marble, or other materials can be applied using thinset mortar. Be sure the wall is cleaned and prepared properly first.


Removing an outdated or damaged formica backsplash is a manageable DIY project. With some simple tools and materials, you can eliminate the dated formica and either paint or install a new backsplash with modern style. Just be sure to take safety precautions against dust and debris. Work methodically to pry off the formica carefully and minimize wall damage underneath. With some Patching, priming, and prep, the wall can soon be ready for its new look. Doing the removal yourself allows you to upgrade your kitchen or bath on your schedule and budget.