How to Remove Glass Mosaic Tile Backsplash

Removing a glass mosaic tile backsplash can be a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be accomplished successfully. A glass mosaic tile backsplash can truly elevate the design of a kitchen or bathroom, but trends change and tastes evolve. Knowing how to remove tile properly prevents damage to the wall behind it and allows for a smooth installation of a new backsplash. With some time and effort, you can rid your space of an outdated glass mosaic tile backsplash.

Gather the Necessary Materials

Removing a tile backsplash is a messy process, so make sure to protect the surrounding surfaces. Lay down drop cloths and tape plastic sheeting over cabinets, countertops and fixtures. Wear safety goggles and gloves to protect yourself from debris. You’ll need the following materials on hand:

  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Putty knife
  • Pry bar
  • Screwdriver
  • Dust mask
  • Shop vacuum

Also have ready:

  • Garbage bags
  • Bucket for tile pieces
  • Rags

Optional but helpful materials:

  • Oscillating multi-tool
  • Flat pry bar

Ensure you have all equipment and supplies needed before beginning demolition.

Prepare the Tile Surface

Inspect the grout lines and use the screwdriver to remove any existing caulk or loose grout. Removing as much as possible first makes prying the tile off easier later on.

Use the shop vacuum to thoroughly clean out the grout lines. This removes any dust or debris that could hinder removal.

For stubborn grout, use a grout removal tool or oscillating multi-tool with a grout removal blade to loosen any remaining material in the joints.

Carefully Pry the Tiles Off

With the grout lines cleared out, you can begin gently prying the tiles off. Take care not to damage the drywall behind the tile.

Start by tapping tiles in less visible areas, like behind appliances or upper corners, using the hammer and chisel. This will reveal how easily the tiles release from the mastic.

Insert the flat pry bar into the crevice behind the tile and slowly twist the tool. Apply even pressure as you work the tile off. Use the hammer lightly if needed to help loosen the bond.

For tiles in more visible areas, use the oscillating multi-tool. Removing tiles with this tool reduces the likelihood of damaging the drywall. Carefully insert the scraper blade attachment behind a tile and slowly run the tool to loosen the tile.

Stack the removed tile pieces in a bucket to transport them outside to the garbage. Take your time and carefully pry off each tile. Rushing increases the chance of wall damage.

Deal with Any Remaining Mastic

Once you have pried off all of the tiles, examine the wall to see if any old adhesive remains. Mastic on walls appears as yellowed residue or glue globs.

Use a putty knife to gently scrape off any mastic. Take care not to gouge into the drywall surface. Avoid scraping too hard.

If you have difficulty removing the mastic, soften it first by warming the adhesive using a heat gun on a low setting. Then press the flat putty knife against the wall and scrape in smooth, even strokes. The heat allows the mastic to release.

An oscillating multi-tool also works for removing stubborn mastic residue. Fit the scraper blade and gently guide it along the surface of the wall. Be sure to wear a mask to avoid inhaling any fumes.

Proper ventilation is also key when dealing with adhesive. Open windows and use fans to circulate air.

Clean and Patch the Wall

With the tile and mastic removed, thoroughly wash the entire wall surface. Use a sponge and warm, soapy water to eliminate dust and debris. Rinse well and allow the wall to fully dry.

Examine for any gouges, holes or residual mastic. Use drywall joint compound to patch small holes and smooth over imperfections for a fresh surface. Allow patches to dry completely.

Lightly sand any areas you patched and wipe clean. Now you have a clean slate for your new backsplash!

Dispose of Tiles and Supplies Properly

Be sure to properly dispose of the tiles, worn tools, and other demolition debris. Check your local codes for proper disposal methods.

Many municipalities allow you to place broken tiles and mosaic sheets into normal rubbish bags. Just make sure to double bag any sharp tile pieces and pack the bags tightly.

Sweep the area to ensure no stray tiled or debris gets left behind. Discard drop cloths and plastic sheeting as well.

For a safe and smooth install of your new backsplash, remove all traces of the old tile. Your kitchen or bath will look revived with a contemporary backsplash design!

Factors to Consider Before Removal

Removing glass mosaic tile does require careful planning and preparation. Keep the following factors in mind before you being demolition:

Difficulty Level

Removing tile from a wall is generally straightforward. But a glass mosaic tile backsplash can prove more tricky because of:

  • Small size of tiles
  • Mesh backing
  • Thinset mortar below tiles

Plan to work slowly and methodically when prying off glass mosaic sheets. Patience prevents damage.


Can you reach the entire backsplash comfortably? Working above a countertop or reaching high areas makes removing tile more challenging.

Use a sturdy ladder or scaffolding to access hard-to-reach sections. Good visibility ensures you can detach the tile properly.


A basic subway tile pattern is simplest to demolish. But glass mosaics often have special designs. Wavy lines, geometric shapes and inset medallions can complicate tile removal.

Focus on one mosaic section at a time. Document the layout first if you ever want to replicate it. Removing an intricate design needs extra care.

Type of Mastic

Over time, adhesives dry out and strengthen their bond. Older mastic proves harder to remove from walls.

Heat and chemical solvents help detach aged adhesive residue. Plan extra time if dealing with a long-cured mastic.

Sheets or Pieces

Small glass tiles in sheet form come off quicker than individually adhered pieces. The mesh backing makes prying off a sheet simpler.

But be prepared for greater wall damage if sheets were installed over a mortar bed. Removing each tiny tile square by square takes patience.

Considering these factors will make your removal process go smoothly. Now onto techniques and tools!

Tools Needed to Remove Mosaic Tile Backsplash

Removing a glass mosaic tile backsplash requires having the proper equipment on hand. Some standard construction tools combined with specialty tile removal tools make demolition safe and successful.

Here are the must-have tools for dismantling a mosaic backsplash:

Hammers and Chisels

A hammer and chisel set allows you to chip away at mortar and break tile pieces loose. Look for smaller hand chisels about 1-inch wide maximum. Large chisels risk cracking tiles before you intend to.

Tip: A 4-ounce masonry hammer is ideal for tile removal. The small size gives you more leverage in tight areas.

Putty Knives

These slim knives with flexible steel blades make scraping off old mastic simple. A 2- or 3-inch putty knife is best for maneuvering behind small mosaic tiles.

Pro Tip: Heat putty knives using a heat gun before scraping to slice through adhesive even faster.

Pry Bars

Pry bars provide the force you need to gradually pop tiles off of the wall. A medium-size pry bar about 12 inches works well. Look for pry bars with beveled edges.

For glass mosaics, a 4- or 6-inch pry bar lets you better isolate individual tiles to remove.

Oscillating Multi-Tools

These powered tools with interchangeable blades vibrate from side to side. The oscillating action helps demolish tile and detach old mortar.

Special grout removal and scraper attachments make multi-tools valuable for removing glass mosaics with minimal wall damage.

Grout Removal Tools

Sometimes called “grout saws,” these hand tools feature small tungsten carbide teeth for scraping out old grout effectively. Great for preparing mosaic sheets for removal.

Consider a grout removal bit for an oscillating multi-tool. The powered blades pulverize grout rapidly.

Having these items on hand will make dismantling a glass mosaic backsplash much easier. Now let’s look at removal techniques.

Techniques for Removing Glass Mosaic Backsplash

From prying methodically to using heat, follow these proven techniques when taking on the task of removing a glass mosaic tile backsplash:

1. Break Up Mortar First

The mortar holding mosaic sheets on the wall needs removing first. Use a grout removal tool or carbide scraper to break up as much mortar as possible.

Chip away at obviously loose sections first with a hammer and chisel. Take out any remaining mortar using an oscillating tool with a grout removal blade.

2. Start in Corners or Obscured Areas

Always begin removing tiles in the least visible spots of a backsplash. Inside corners or behind appliances are ideal starting points.

This allows you to get the feel for how easily the tiles detach before moving onto more visible sections. Limit possible damage in exposed areas.

3. Apply Low Heat if Needed

For tiles firmly adhered with long-cured mastic, apply low heat to help release the bond. Wave a heat gun across tiles for 30-60 seconds before prying.

Avoid aiming heat guns directly at one spot for too long. Take care not to scorch or burn the wall behind the tile.

4. Pry Tiles Out Slowly

Regardless of the tool used – whether a small pry bar, putty knife, or oscillating scraper – always work slowly and cautiously.

Attempting to hurriedly pry off tiles often leads to gouging the wall or breaking tiles unnecessarily. Gentle but firm force is key.

5. Remove Backing Mesh in Sections

On mosaic sheets, work to remove the mesh backing in smaller sections rather than ripping off entire rows at once.

Try to peel the mesh off in pieces about 6 to 12 inches wide. Less force needed to detach smaller sections minimizes wall damage.

6. Dispose of Shards Safely

Broken tile and glass shards are razor-sharp. Make sure to carefully sweep up any debris. Discard in heavy garbage bags sealed tightly.

Wear thick work gloves when handling broken mosaic tile pieces. Never toss unbagged shards into household trash bins or receptacles.

Follow these techniques to safely and successfully dismantle a glass mosaic tile backsplash. Next, let’s review pros and cons of removal methods.

Manual Removal vs. Power Tools

When taking on a tile removal project, you can either utilize manual hand tools or power tools. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages.

Manual Removal

Using simple hand tools like hammers, chisels and pry bars gives you greater precision and control. The physical exertion helps break the tile free.


  • Lower cost
  • Precise control over force
  • Minimal risk of damage


  • Requires more physical effort
  • Time consuming

Power Tools

Oscillating multi-tools, grinders and heat guns take less physical work but do come with some risk. Improper use can harm walls.


  • Faster removal process
  • Helpful for stubborn tiles
  • Requires less physical exertion


  • Potential for wall damage if overheated
  • Higher cost to purchase or rent
  • Can crack tiles unintentionally

Evaluate the size of your project and your own do-it-yourself skills. In most cases, a combination of both manual and power tools works best.

Common Problems Encountered

Even if carefully planned out, a tile removal project can still hit a few snags. Foresee and overcome these common problems encountered:

Damaged Drywall

Prying tiles off too hastily almost always leads to torn wallboard or ripped facing paper. Prevent this by working deliberately and only increasing force gradually.

Use an oscillating tool to limit prying force. Patch holes properly so walls are ready for new tile.

Remaining Grout Residue

Failing to fully clean out all old grout from a glass mosaic before removal leaves stubborn deposits behind. Use a carbide grout saw and vacuum before prying.

An oscillating multi-tool also quickly pulverizes mortar when outfitted with a grout removal blade.

Stuck Mastic

Old tile mastic can turn to concrete-like glue over time. Use heat from a heat gun or hair dryer to soften stuck adhesive residue before scraping.

Chemical solvents are another option but require proper ventilation and safe handling.

Broken Tiles

The nature of prying tiles off walls means some breakage will occur. Minimize damage by starting in hidden areas and working cautiously with wood chisels.

Wear gloves and safety glasses when handling shattered tiles. Bag shards before placing in trash receptacles.

Knowing these common issues ahead of time allows you to plan solutions. Keeping problems to a minimum results in a smooth removal process.

Safety Tips

Demolishing a tile backsplash creates debris, dust and hazards. Follow these tips to stay safe throughout the removal process:

  • Wear eye protection like safety glasses at all times.
  • Don heavy work gloves to avoid hand injuries.
  • Use a face mask or respirator when scraping up adhesive or grout.
  • Cover floors completely and tape plastic sheeting on countertops.
  • Work carefully on ladders or scaffolds to avoid falling.
  • Handle broken shards carefully and bag them for disposal.
  • Keep children and pets away from the workspace.
  • Utilize proper ventilation when using chemical solvents.
  • Avoid using power tools near water pipes or electric lines.
  • Take your time and don’t rush through any steps.

Remain conscious of safety from the initial preparations through the final cleanup. Prioritize your personal protection throughout the demolition process.

DIY vs Professional Removal

Is removing a glass mosaic tile backsplash a DIY project or best left to professionals? Consider the following:

DIY Approach

If you’re handy and have basics like a pry bar, putty knife, and safety equipment, a DIY removal is totally feasible.


  • Smaller backsplash area
  • Basic subway tile pattern
  • Sheets installed on mastic

Hire a Pro

For large backsplash demolitions or tricky designs, consider hiring a contractor to ensure proper removal.


  • Intricate or expensive custom mosaics
  • Individual tile pieces versus sheets
  • Mortared installation

Factors like accessibility, complexity, and your skill level should steer your decision. For DIYers with the right tools and patience, removing most any mosaic backsplash is possible.

Step-By-Step Removal Process

Ready to tackle that outdated or damaged mosaic backsplash? Follow this comprehensive step-by-step process:

1. Gather Equipment and Pre-Treat Surface

Put on safety gear and have all necessary tools nearby. Cover surfaces below. Use a grout removal blade to clear out existing grout.

2. Chip Away First Tiles

Start removal in an obscure area. Use a masonry hammer and chisel to chip off the first whole tiles.

3. Insert Pry Bar and Twist

Wedge the flat pry bar into the crevice behind tiles and slowly twist it to break the tile free.

4. Heat Tiles If Needed

For stubborn tiles, use a heat gun on a low setting to warm tiles for 30-60 seconds before prying.

5. Remove Exposed Mesh Backing

Peel off any exposed fiberglass mesh in sections about 6 to 12 inches wide using pliers.

6. Vacuum and Scape Off Residual Mastic

Use a shop vacuum to remove all debris between steps. Scrape up any left over mastic with a putty knife.

7. Patch and Prep the Wall Surface

Once all tile is removed, wash the wall, patch holes, sand, and clean again.

8. Haul Away Debris

Properly dispose of broken tiles and other demolition debris accordingly.

Follow these steps closely and you can successfully rid your space of that outdated glass mosaic backsplash!


For those tackling their first mosaic tile removal project, here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

What are some signs my glass mosaic tile backsplash needs replacing?

  • Broken, cracked, or missing tiles
  • Discoloration from moisture or age
  • A dated color palette or style
  • Damaged grout lines
  • Areas no longer properly adhered

How do I know if I have backer board or drywall behind tiles?

  • Drywall has paper facing. Backer board feels hard and looks like concrete.
  • Tap a tile – drywall sounds hollow while backer board is a dull thud.
  • Check walls in unfinished sections like inside of closets.

Should I hire a contractor for removal?

Hiring a professional tiling company is advisable for larger backsplash areas over 30 square feet or for intricate custom mosaic designs. For basic glass mosaic sheets in good condition, DIY removal is often feasible.

What can I do with the old tiles?

If the glass mosaics are still in decent shape with no broken or missing tiles, consider selling sheets online or donating to a reused building materials store. Broken shards must be safely bagged and discarded.

How long does it take to remove a glass mosaic backsplash?

Removal time depends on the backsplash size and installation method. As a guideline:

  • 15-30 minutes per square foot for mosaics installed in sheets
  • 45 minutes to 1 hour per square foot for individual tile pieces

Work slowly and carefully. Rushing increases the chances of damaging the wall or breaking tiles unnecessarily.


Removing an existing glass mosaic tile backsplash takes time, patience and the proper tools. But with the right preparation and safe techniques, you can achieve