How to Remove Glued Backsplash


Removing a glued backsplash can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be done successfully. A glued backsplash often uses mastic or thinset mortar to adhere it to the wall. This adhesive is strong and can be difficult to remove. However, with some effort and patience, you can remove the entire backsplash without damaging the drywall behind it.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the whole process of removing a glued backsplash step-by-step. We will cover the necessary preparations, tools required, tips for safe removal, how to clean off leftover adhesive, and how to repair the wall afterwards. With the information provided here, you will have the knowledge to take on this project and restore your kitchen walls.

Step-by-Step Process for Removal

Gather the Proper Tools and Materials

Removing a glued backsplash requires having the right tools for the job. Here are the recommended tools and materials you will need:

  • Safety gear – gloves, safety goggles, dust mask
  • Pry bar or putty knife
  • Hammer
  • Heat gun or hair dryer
  • Scraper
  • Sandpaper
  • Adhesive remover or solvent
  • Spackle
  • Sanding block
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Drop cloths

Make sure to have all these items on hand before starting the removal process. The right tools will make the job much easier.

Prepare the Workspace

Before beginning removal, you will need to prep the area around the backsplash. Here are a few tips:

  • Clear the countertops and remove anything hanging on the walls.
  • Cover nearby surfaces like countertops with drop cloths.
  • Have a trash bag ready to collect debris.
  • Make sure the area is well-ventilated.
  • Turn off power outlets near the backsplash area.

Properly preparing the workspace will allow you to work safely and efficiently while removing the backsplash.

Score the Adhesive

Scoring the adhesive is an important first step. This involves using a utility knife to cut into the mastic or thinset mortar between the backsplash tiles and wall.

  • Start in a corner and cut diagonally from tile corners to the center.
  • Create a crosshatch pattern by making cuts across the initial diagonal lines.
  • Repeat this scoring method over the entire backsplash area.

Scoring breaks the adhesive seal and weakens the bond between the backsplash and wall. This makes removal much simpler.

Heat up the Adhesive

After scoring, you can further weaken the adhesive using controlled heat. Carefully use a heat gun or blow dryer to warm up the mastic or thinset. Apply heat until the adhesive softens up and emits an odor.

  • Move the heat source continuously to prevent overheating in one spot.
  • Take precautions to protect walls, backsplash tiles, countertops and appliances during this step.
  • Turn the heat gun off promptly once adhesive has loosened.

Heating the adhesive makes it release its grip on the tiles so they can start to come off.

Start Removing Tiles

With prep work complete, you can now start carefully prying off tiles. Work methodically and patiently.

  • Start peeling off tiles in the corner where you scored the adhesive. Insert the pry bar and gently twist to pop them off.
  • Gradually work outwards from the corners to remove tiles across the backsplash.
  • Collect removed tiles and debris into a trash bag as you go.
  • Take care not to damage drywall underneath.

Removing tiles can sometimes pop off chunks of drywall if the adhesive bond is very strong. Go slowly to prevent excess wall damage.

Scrape off Leftover Adhesive

Once tiles have been pried off, there will still be some stubborn mastic or thinset stuck to the wall. Scraping and sanding will be required to eliminate any remaining residue.

  • Use a scraper or putty knife to gently work off leftover adhesive.
  • Avoid gouging into the drywall surface while scraping.
  • Be patient and methodical for best results. Difficult spots can be heated again with a hairdryer to soften adhesive.
  • Wipe debris away with a damp cloth.
  • Switch to finer sandpaper or sanding sponge for a smooth finish.

Proper scraping and sanding will leave you with a clean surface ready for repainting.

Clean with Solvent-Soaked Rags

For very stubborn leftover adhesive residue, use adhesive remover or solvent to help clean the area. Mineral spirits, denatured alcohol and citrus-based adhesive removers can all be effective.

  • Soak clean rags in the solvent of choice and lay them onto affected areas.
  • Let the solvent sit for 10-15 minutes so it can penetrate.
  • Wipe in a circular motion to scrub off any remaining residue.

Solvents break down and dissolve adhesives for easier removal. Follow manufacturer safety directions closely.

Repair Damaged Drywall Areas

Some tile removal may cause chips or divots in the underlying drywall that will need patching up. Here’s how to make repairs:

  • Inspect for any sections of torn drywall or missing paper coating.
  • Use joint compound and a putty knife to fill small holes or uneven spots.
  • For larger damaged areas, cut away loose drywall and replace with a fitted drywall patch.
  • Let compound dry completely before sanding smooth.

Proper drywall repair is important to give walls a smooth look for replacing the backsplash.

Prepare and Prime the Wall

Once all adhesive has been removed and drywall damage repaired, the wall needs to be prepped for fresh paint or backsplash.

  • Lightly sand the entire area to be painted for better primer adhesion.
  • Clean away all dust with tack cloth.
  • Apply a stain-blocking primer coat and let dry completely.
  • Add a second coat of primer for optimal coverage.

Priming ensures paint adheres properly and creates a blank backdrop for your new backsplash.

Tips for Safe and Effective Removal

Removing a glued backsplash takes time and care. Keep these tips in mind:

  • Work slowly to avoid damaging drywall or tile pieces you wish to save for reuse.
  • Keep a pry bar, hammer and putty knife handy for removing stubborn tiles.
  • Apply heat carefully to avoid burns or fire hazards.
  • Allow solvents time to dissolve adhesive before wiping away.
  • Wear eye protection and gloves when using harsh chemicals.
  • Open windows and use fans to ventilate the area well.
  • Look out for hidden electrical wires behind walls when prying at tiles.
  • Have someone assist with removal for complicated or physically demanding tasks.

Using caution and the proper techniques will lead to safe and smooth backsplash removal.

What Kind of Adhesive is Used for Backsplashes?

Backsplashes are generally adhered using one of two common types of adhesive:

Thinset Mortar

Thinset is a cement-based powder that is mixed with water to create a heavy-duty tile adhesive. It creates a strong mechanical and chemical bond between the tiles and substrate. Thinset contains Portland cement along with silica sand and other ingredients. It is water-resistant and provide a long-lasting bond. Thinset mortar is commonly used to adhere backsplashes in kitchens and bathrooms.

Construction Adhesive or Mastic

Mastic adhesive is a pre-mixed, sticky adhesive paste used to glue down backsplashes. It is available in caulk tubes, buckets or cans ready for application. Most mastics contain vinyl or acrylic along with fillers and latex. Mastic creates a solid bond when applied between backsplash tiles and drywall. It is water-resistant once fully cured. Mastic is also referred to as construction adhesive.

Both thinset mortar and mastic adhesive provide durable bonds. Knowing your backsplash type can help determine the proper solvent or removal technique.

What to Consider When Replacing a Backsplash

Once your old backsplash has been taken down, you’ll need to decide on a replacement. Here are some factors to consider:


  • Ceramic or porcelain tile
  • Natural or engineered stone
  • Glass, metal or other materials
  • Consider durability, water-resistance, ease of cleaning


  • Tile vs. full backsplash sheets
  • Natural stone vs. man-made materials
  • Labor for professional installation


  • Grout needs sealing over time
  • Some materials stain more easily
  • Cleaning requirements may vary


  • Sleek and modern or traditionally elegant
  • Match or contrast with cabinetry
  • Coordinate with countertops
  • Accent colors that pop or seamless patterns


  • Standard subway tile patterns
  • Decorative mosaics, herringbone or stacked designs
  • Full sheets for minimal grout lines
  • Mix patterns and textures

Doing some planning for your new backsplash will ensure it complements your kitchen beautifully.

FAQs About Removing Glued Backsplash

Below are some commonly asked questions about taking down glued backsplash:

What is the easiest way to remove backsplash tile?

Heating the adhesive with a heat gun or hairdryer is the easiest method. Once warmed and softened, tiles should peel off easily with minimal prying. Go slowly and be careful not to damage the walls.

Can I remove backsplash without damaging drywall?

Yes, it’s possible by taking a careful approach. Score adhesive layers before prying, go slowly, use solvents to soften mastic, and avoid hacking at drywall to minimize damage. Some minor wall repair may still be needed.

What solvent removes tile adhesive from drywall?

Adhesive remover, denatured alcohol, mineral spirits or citrus-based solvents can all dissolve and remove leftover tile mastic. Always test solvents in an inconspicuous spot first.

How do I remove thinset mortar from walls?

Scoring, heating, and gently prying tiles is effective for thinset removal. A smoothing blade or oscillating multi-tool can also help scrape off stubborn thinset residue after tile removal. Use solvents sparingly.

Can I put new backsplash over old?

It’s not recommended. Old adhesive can prevent proper bonding and cause tiles to eventually loosen or crack. Removing the old backsplash fully provides the best surface for a long-lasting new installation.

How long does backsplash tile adhesive take to cure?

Curing times vary by product, but mastic adhesive usually fully cures within 24-48 hours. Cement-based thinset mortar typically takes longer, up to 7-14 days to fully cure and strengthen.

Is backsplash tile mastic waterproof?

Mastic is water-resistant once fully cured, providing a waterproof adhesive layer behind backsplashes. However, plain mastic should not be used alone on wet surfaces like shower walls, where thinset mortar or special waterproofing membranes are required.


Removing a glued-on backsplash can be successfully accomplished with the right preparation and methods. Carefully scoring adhesive, heating tiles, prying off slowly, proper scraping and sanding, and repairing any wall damage are the key steps outlined here. Having the necessary tools, protective gear, and materials will ensure safe and smooth progress. With some perseverance and patience, you can remove a stubborn glued backsplash without harming your walls or tiles. Follow this guide closely and you will gain the knowledge needed to take on this challenging but rewarding project.