How to Remove Glass Tile Backsplash

Glass tile backsplashes can add a beautiful, modern touch to any kitchen. However, there may come a time when you decide you want to remove or replace your glass tile backsplash. Removing glass tile can be a tricky process, but it’s doable with the right tools, patience, and technique. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to safely and effectively remove a glass tile backsplash.

Assessing the Tile Installation

Before starting demo, take some time to examine the tile installation and determine how it was put up. This will help you understand how best to take it down.

  • Is the tile mounted on a substrate like cement board or directly on the wall? Cement board will need to be removed. Tile applied directly to drywall can potentially remain.
  • What type of mastic or mortar was used? A mesh backing or paper-faced mastic will be easier to remove than a mortar bed.
  • Are the tiles mounted close together or is there grout between them? Grout allows you to pop tiles off one by one.
  • Are the edges sealed with caulk? Caulk will need to be sliced through before removing tile.

Thoroughly inspecting the installation before starting demo work allows you to plan and prepare the needed tools and materials.

Gather the Right Tools

Removing glass wall tile takes time and care. Having the proper tools on hand will make the process safer and easier. Recommended tools include:

  • Safety gear – Safety glasses, work gloves, dust mask
  • Hammer – A small sledge or tile removal hammer
  • Cold chisel – To wedge between tiles and break adhesive’s bond
  • Flat pry bar – Helps lift and pry off tile pieces
  • Utility knife – For slicing through caulk or mesh backing
  • Paint scraper – Helpful for scraping adhesive off the wall
  • Sandpaper – For smoothing rough areas on drywall after demo
  • Shop vacuum – To manage debris and keep workspace clean

It’s better to have these tools on hand and not need them than to start a project and realize you don’t have something you require. Being well prepared makes tile removal much more manageable.

Protect Surrounding Areas

Glass tile demolition can get messy. Tiny shards and dust particles will inevitably spread beyond the immediate backsplash area. Before starting demo, take steps to protect other parts of the kitchen:

  • Cover countertops with rosin paper or cardboard
  • Tape plastic sheeting over cabinet fronts
  • Place drop cloths on the floor
  • Seal off doorways/other rooms with plastic sheeting

Properly covering surfaces and flooring ensures that mess stays contained. It also makes post-demo cleanup faster and easier.

Prepare the Tile Surface

To help loosen the tile and adhesive, some prep work should be done before attempting removal:

  • Remove grout – Use a grout removal tool, Dremel, or oscillating multi-tool to clear grout from tile joints. Eliminating grout reduces the surface area adhered.
  • Cut caulk seals – Use a sharp utility knife to slice any caulk along countertops, edges, or around fixtures. This allows tiles to release.
  • Heat the surface – Warming tiles and mastic with a heat gun softens adhesives to make prying off easier. Apply heat evenly without overheating.

Proper prep work lets you systematically take the tile off row-by-row or sheet-by-sheet depending on installation type. Prepping first prevents having to pry each individual tile off forcefully.

Start Tile Removal

With the right tools prepped and workspace protected, you’re ready to begin safely removing the glass mosaic backsplash:

Pry Off Whole Sheets if Possible

If installed on a mesh sheet, aim to remove large sections as one intact piece:

  • Wedge pry bar under lifted corner or along cut caulk line
  • Slowly work bar sideways to lift a whole panel off the wall
  • Peel sheet down, supporting the weight as you descend
  • Bend the sheet to crack tiles and make removing individual ones easier

Removing sheets together speeds up the process and minimizes tile breakage versus prying off one-by-one.

Focus on One Tile at a Time

For tiles mounted close together with grout joints, work in a systematic fashion:

  • Chip away remaining grout with hammer and chisel
  • Starting in a corner, wedge pry bar under tile edge and lift up
  • Tilt tile side-to-side to break adhesive bond
  • Place removed tiles glass-side down on drop cloth to contain shards
  • Work row-by-row or using columns across the whole surface

Focusing on one tile at a time protects the surrounding tiles from premature cracking or breaking.

Use Hammer and Chisel to Break Up Mortar

If set on a mortar bed or thick mastic, using a hammer and chisel is often needed:

  • Chisel along grout lines to isolate each tile
  • Firmly tap chisel with hammer to fracture mortar
  • Switch to pry bar and heat gun to lift individual tiles off

This combination of chiseling then prying frees the tile safely. Wear safety glasses to protect eyes from mortar shards.

Scrape Off Any Remaining Adhesive

Once all whole tiles are removed, scrape off remaining adhesive:

  • Use a paint scraper to peel off paper or mesh backing
  • For thinset mortar, scrape in direction of trowel lines
  • Take caution to not gouge into the wallboard behind
  • Avoid scraping too aggressively in one spot to prevent damage

Scraping should remove the residual adhesive adequately without harming the underlying wall.

Remove Substrate Material If Present

In some cases, glass tile may be installed over cement board or a special water-resistant substrate. This underlying layer will also need removal:

  • Cement board – Score all seams with utility knife then break sheets off with hammer. Scrape off any remaining thinset mortar after removal.
  • Fiberglass sheet – Similar to cement board, slice seams with utility knife then pry off each sheet. Use putty knife to scrape off adhesive residue.
  • Plastic substrate – Use utility knife or oscillating tool to cut board into sections for easy tear off. Scrape adhesive with putty knife.

Removing the subsurface allows you to prep the wall directly for new backsplash tile installation.

Clean and Patch the Wall Surface

Once demo is complete, the wall will likely need some patching and cleaning:

  • Wipe off dust and debris with damp rag
  • Sand any bumps or rough adhesive areas using fine grit sandpaper
  • Fill small holes or gouges with spackling paste and smooth once dry
  • Use painter’s tape and joint compound for larger cracked spots on drywall
  • Prime and paint if extensive drywall repairs are needed

Proper cleanup leaves a smooth, even surface ready for your new backsplash installation.

Dispose of Debris Safely

Glass tile demolition produces buckets full of debris. These materials should be disposed of carefully:

  • Wear gloves, protective eyewear and mask when handling trash
  • Sweep up and contain any loose shards, grout or tile pieces first
  • Place contained debris in sturdy buckets or cardboard boxes for transport
  • Glass tiles are not recyclable curbside in most municipalities
  • Check for construction debris recycling facilities to dispose of properly
  • Otherwise pack carefully and bring to general landfill or waste disposal site

Removing and containing hazardous sharp debris prevents injury. Discarding at approved sites ensures environmental responsibility.

Tips for Easier Removal

Removing a glass tile backsplash takes some determination. Keep these tips in mind to help the demolition go smoother:

  • Work in small sections – Tackling one 3-4 foot area at a time prevents feeling overwhelmed
  • Take breaks – Glass tiles can be stubborn. Take frequent short breaks to recharge motivation.
  • Let tiles soak – For really stubborn thinset mortar, misting tiles with water allows soaking for easier removal later.
  • Use plastic putty knife – Less chance of gouging into wallboard compared to metal scraper.
  • Consider tile overlay – If existing tile is well-adhered across most of the area, applying new tile over it may be easier.

With the right approach and tools, removing glass backsplash tile is a doable DIY project. Just tackle it in manageable phases. Soon you’ll have that gorgeous new backsplash installed.


Here are some frequently asked questions about removing glass tile backsplash:

What is the easiest way to remove glass tile?

The easiest removal method is taking sheets of mesh-backed tile off in whole sections if installed that way. For grouted tiles, using a pry bar and hammer/chisel combination works best to break the tile free from mastic or mortar.

How do you remove stubborn glass tile?

For really stuck-on tile, softening the adhesive first makes removal easier. Try heating with a heat gun, misting water under sheets, or covering in plastic to let soak overnight. Gently pry up a corner, then work a pry bar from side-to-side.

Can I grind glass tiles off with an angle grinder?

It’s not recommended. The grinding discs will shatter the tile, making airborne silica dust. The uneven surface left behind would also require extensive wall repairs. Use manual prying techniques instead for safety.

What solvent removes mastic?

Mastic softens with heat or water for easier scraping. Using chemical solvents is typically not recommended, as they can generate toxic fumes and damage underlying wall materials. Hot soapy water can help residue cleanup.

What’s the best way to remove thinset mortar?

For thinset removal, first chisel or scrape off any loose material. Then use a paint scraper, putty knife, or oscillating multi-tool to gently scrape residue off in direction of trowel lines without gouging the wall.

Can I put new tile right over glass mosaic?

In some cases it may be possible, but adhesion could be an issue long-term, especially if the existing tile is not fully secured. Completely removing the original tile allows preparing the wall fully for proper new tile bonding.

What safety gear should I use?

Wear protective glasses to shield eyes, work gloves to protect hands from sharp debris, and an N95-rated dust mask to avoid inhaling glass or silica particles. Have all necessary gear on before beginning demo.

How do I dispose of demo debris?

Carefully sweep and contain shards, broken tiles, grout, and backer board/substrate pieces first. Place securely in sturdy buckets or cardboard boxes, then transport to a waste management or recycling facility approved for construction debris.


Removing glass tile backsplashes can be intimidating for DIYers due to concerns about breaking the delicate material. However, with the proper planning, safety precautions, tools, and techniques, it is very feasible to demolish an existing glass tile installation successfully. Focus on working methodically in small sections, prepping the surface first, and having the right pry bars, chisels, and scrapers on hand. Protecting yourself and your home from shard and dust debris is also critical for any glass tile removal project. With ample time, care, and patience, that outdated glass mosaic backsplash can be cleared away, letting you update and refresh your kitchen in style.