How to Remove Glass Mosaic Backsplash

Removing a glass mosaic backsplash can be a tricky and tedious process, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be done successfully. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to remove a glass mosaic backsplash in your home.

Assess the Backsplash Installation Method

The first step is to inspect the backsplash and determine how it was installed. Glass mosaic tiles are typically adhered to the wall using one of two methods:

Thinset Mortar

If thinset mortar was used, the tiles will be firmly bonded to the wall. Thinset provides a very secure attachment, so removing the tiles can be labor-intensive.

Mastic Adhesive

With mastic adhesive, the tiles are a bit easier to remove. Mastic is a sticky paste that forms a weaker bond compared to thinset.

Identify which type of adhesive was used by looking closely at the grout lines. You may need to chip away a small section to see the adhesive behind the tile. This will tell you what you’re dealing with.

Gather the Proper Tools

Removing a glass mosaic backsplash requires having the right tools for the job. Here are the essential items you’ll need:

  • Safety glasses and gloves – for eye and hand protection.
  • Flat pry bar – for prying off tiles and scraping adhesive.
  • Hammer and chisel set – for chipping away stubborn sections.
  • Utility knife – for slicing through adhesive and grout.
  • Dust masks – for limiting dust inhalation.
  • Drop cloths – for protecting floors and surfaces from debris.
  • Trash bags – for containing tile pieces and adhesive as you work.

Make sure you have these tools on hand before starting the removal process.

Prepare the Workspace

To get set up for safe and streamlined tile removal:

  • Clear the area of any items that could get damaged, like utensils, décor, etc.
  • Cover nearby surfaces with drop cloths to catch falling debris.
  • Have a stepladder ready if needed to reach upper sections.
  • Sweep and vacuum the backsplash area to remove loose crumbs and dust.
  • Turn off power at the breaker box to be safe when working around outlets.

Taking these preparatory steps will create an organized workspace and prevent potential hazards.

Remove Grout from Tile Joints

Before attempting to pry off the tiles, you’ll need to clear out all the existing grout between them. This can be done by:

  • Using a sharp utility knife, slice into each grout joint and scrape out the grout.
  • For stubborn grout, use a grout saw or oscillating tool to gently loosen and vibrate it free.
  • Alternatively, you can use a grout removal bit on a rotary tool.
  • Be careful not to scratch or damage tile faces when clearing grout.

Removing the grout eliminates what anchors the tiles together. This will allow them to come off much easier.

Carefully Pry Off Tiles

With the grout removed, you can begin detaching the tiles from the wall:

  • Starting in an inconspicuous corner, insert the flat pry bar behind the tile and gently twist and pull until it pops off.
  • Continue prying off tiles, working in small sections across and down the backsplash.
  • For stubborn tiles, use a hammer and chisel to carefully chip the tile free. Position the chisel into the grout joint or adhesive and lightly tap.
  • Catch any broken tile pieces in a garbage bag as you go along.
  • With mastic adhesive, tiles should pry off fairly easily. Thinset will require patience and care.

Take your time during this step to avoid damaging the wall behind the tile.

Scrape Off Remaining Adhesive

Once all tiles have been pried off, you’ll be left with residual globs of adhesive on the wall:

  • Using a putty knife or paint scraper, scrape off as much of the adhesive as possible.
  • For thinset mortar, you may need to use the pry bar and hammer and chisel to chip off extra-stubborn sections.
  • Smooth the wall surface as much as possible to prep for new tile installation.
  • Be mindful of any wallboard damage that may occur during scraping and chipping.

Proper adhesive removal will leave you with a clean background for replacing the mosaic backsplash.

Clean and Dispose of Debris

With the backsplash removed, the final steps are to tidy up and get rid of the debris:

  • Sweep up all remaining grout, adhesive, and tile chunks from the floor.
  • Contain and dispose of the debris properly to avoid cuts from sharp tile edges.
  • Use denatured alcohol or adhesive remover to scrub any adhesive residue left on the wall.
  • Carefully wipe down the newly exposed wall to eliminate dust and prep for new backsplash.
  • Properly ventilate the room if chemical cleaning agents are used.

Leaving no trace of the previous backsplash will result in a fresh start for the new installation.

Call in Professionals if Needed

Removing a glass mosaic backsplash is a doable DIY project for many homeowners. However, for larger backsplash areas or intricate tile designs, consider hiring professional tile removal contractors. They have industrial tools and expertise to remove tiles efficiently with minimal damage.

The key is taking your time and exercising patience during the process. With the right approach and preparations, you can successfully tackle a glass mosaic backsplash removal in your home.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Glass Mosaic Backsplash

Removing a glass mosaic backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom is a big project that naturally raises many questions. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

How long does it take to remove a mosaic backsplash?

Factors like backsplash size, tile thickness, and adhesive choice impact removal time, but plan on 1 to 2 full days for an average-sized mosaic backsplash. Removing just a small section can take 2 to 5 hours.

What’s the easiest way to remove mosaic backsplash tiles?

The flat pry bar is the most effective basic tool for prying off mosaic tiles cleanly. For stubborn tiles, a hammer and chisel positioned carefully into grout joints helps provide extra leverage safely.

Can I just paint over an existing mosaic backsplash?

Painting over mosaic tile is not recommended. The grout lines and texture will still show through paint. Removing the mosaic properly prepares the wall for a fresh new backsplash or paint application.

What’s the safest way to remove mosaic backsplash around electrical outlets?

Turn off power at the main circuit breaker before starting. Then carefully pry tiles outward away from outlets to avoid damaging wiring. Use manual tools only near outlets.

Will I need to repair drywall after removing mosaic backsplash?

In most cases, the drywall underneath remains intact. But if excessive chipping or scraping occurs, drywall patching and smoothing may be needed before installing the new backsplash.

Can I salvage the glass mosaic tiles for reuse after removal?

Unfortunately, most mosaic tiles get damaged during prying and scraping. But if intact sheets come off carefully, you may be able to salvage mosaic tiles for small accent projects.

Is it better to remove or tile over an existing backsplash?

Removing is best for a fresh, smooth surface for the new tiles. Tiling over can lead to unevenness, and extra thickness can create issues around outlets. Completely removing the old backsplash is recommended.

What should I look out for during mosaic tile removal?

Watch for sharp tile edges and flying chips when prying. Also be cautious when working near electrical, plumbing, or gas lines hidden behind the tile. Turn off water supply lines if needed.

How do I dispose of old mosaic tiles and backsplash debris?

Place broken tiles, grout, adhesive, etc in heavy contractor bags or cardboard boxes. Most waste disposal centers will accept construction debris like old tile backsplash materials.


Removing a glass mosaic backsplash takes time, care, and the right technique. But with proper planning and the right tools, this project can be manages successfully as a DIY job. Focus on working methodically, using safe practices, and disposing of debris properly. Wall preparation is also key for excellent results installing your fresh new backsplash. With some perseverance and patience, that outdated mosaic backsplash can be a thing of the past.