How to Remove Glued on Backsplash

Backsplashes protect your walls from water damage and spills while adding visual interest to kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas. However, over time, you may wish to remove or replace an outdated or damaged backsplash. Glued-on backsplashes can be especially tricky to remove without damaging the wall underneath. This guide will walk you through the process of safely removing a glued-on backsplash step-by-step.

What You Need to Remove a Glued-On Backsplash

Removing a glued-on backsplash takes time, patience, and having the proper tools and materials on hand. Here’s what you’ll need:

Safety Equipment

  • Safety goggles
  • Dust mask
  • Gloves


  • Pry bar
  • Putty knife
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Heat gun or blow dryer
  • Utility knife
  • Spackle knife
  • Sandpaper


  • Drop cloths
  • Garbage bags
  • Spackling paste
  • Joint compound
  • Paint to match existing walls

Preparing to Remove the Backsplash

Before starting demolition, take some time to prepare:

Clear the Area

Remove everything from the counters and surrounding area. Cover surfaces with drop cloths to protect from damage during removal.

Take Pictures

Photograph the backsplash and wall behind it to use as a reference later. This can help with repairs, replacements, and residuals.

Turn Off Water Supply

Locate water shutoff valves and turn off the water supply to prevent leaks while removing tile. Turn it back on briefly to relieve pressure before resuming work.

Ventilate the Room

Open windows and use fans to circulate fresh air. Wearing a dust mask during removal also helps avoid inhaling tile dust.

Fill Gaps

Use painter’s tape, silicone caulk, or putty to fill any cracks or open gaps bordering the backsplash. This keeps debris contained during removal.

Removing the Backsplash

With preparations complete, it’s time to start removing the backsplash. Take it slowly and carefully to avoid unnecessary damage.

Pry Off Whole Tiles

Use a pry bar and hammer to gently pry off and dislodge any intact tiles. Wedge and twist to pop them off without cracking.

Heat Glue Behind Tiles

For stubborn areas, use a heat gun or blow dryer to soften the adhesive behind tiles. This makes prying off easier.

Scrape Off Remaining Adhesive

Use a putty knife, spackle knife, or scraper to peel, scrape, and chisel away excess tile adhesive from the wall. Take care not to gouge drywall.

Cut With a Utility Knife

Use a sharp utility knife to sever adhesive in difficult spots. Score the glue surface before attempting to pry or scrape.

Remove Backerboard if Present

Pry up any backerboard behind the tile and tear it away. Discard and prepare to refinish the bare wall underneath.

Clean the Surface

Clear dust, adhesive, and debris. Use water, vinegar solution, or adhesive remover to scrub off remaining residue. Rinse and let dry fully.

Repairing and Preparing Walls

With the backsplash removed, repair any damage to your walls and get them ready for the new backsplash:

Fill Holes and Gouges

Use spackling paste or compound to fill small holes, gouges, and uneven areas caused by backsplash removal. Let dry and sand smooth.

Remove Adhesive Backing

If any adhesive mesh or backing remains on the wall, wet it with soapy water and gradually scrape it away. Avoid damaging the drywall surface.

Sand Away Rough Areas

Use fine-grit sandpaper to smooth any bumps, residue, or uneven areas on the exposed wall(s). Take care not to over-sand.

Prime the Surface

Apply 1-2 coats of primer to the wall area to prepare it for fresh paint or new backsplash installation. Use sealer for porous drywall.

Paint Walls

Repaint walls to match the surrounding room color. Use a small roller and brush for best coverage and consistency. Allow paint to dry fully.

Caulk Perimeters

Run a silicone caulk bead along the top and sides of the backsplash area. Smooth with a finger or tool. Let set fully before installing replacement.

Installing a New Backsplash

Once the old backsplash is removed and walls prepared, the final step is putting up your beautiful new backsplash!

Select Your New Backsplash

Choose a style and material that fits your home. Get accurate measurements and order replacement tiles or panels.

Apply Adhesive

Spread an even layer of mortar or mastic adhesive on the backsplash area using a notched trowel. Follow product instructions.

Set the Tiles

Arrange tiles on the prepped area in the desired pattern. Use spacers between tiles for equal grout lines.

Finish Grouting

Mix grout and apply it smoothly between the tile joints. Wipe diagonally across tiles to remove excess.

Seal and Finish

Apply grout sealant to protect from moisture and staining. Buff tiles gently with a soft cloth for shine.

FAQs About Removing Glued-On Backsplashes

Removing a glued-on backsplash brings up many questions. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers:

How long does it take to remove a glued-on backsplash?

Plan for the backsplash removal process to take 2-3 hours or longer, depending on the backsplash size and intricacy. Work slowly to avoid damage.

What’s the easiest way to remove thick mastic?

For heavy adhesive, score or cut through it with a utility knife before scraping. Heat also helps soften mastic for gradual removal.

Do I need to remove all the adhesive from the drywall?

It’s best to remove all traces of adhesive, but minor residue is okay for sealing before adding the new backsplash.

What kind of damage can removing a backsplash cause?

Potential risks include gouging drywall, tearing off facing paper, damaging underlying plumbing, or puncturing electrical. Work carefully.

Is it better to replace or repair drywall after backsplash removal?

For small holes and damage, repair with spackle and joint compound. For extensive damage, replacement may be better.

Can I add the new backsplash right after removing the old one?

No, allow time to repair, prime, and paint the underlying wall first before installing the new backsplash.

Should I hire a contractor to remove a glued-on backsplash?

For DIYers comfortable with demo, it’s possible. But for more complex jobs, hiring a pro can save time and prevent damage.


Removing a glued-on backsplash takes diligence and care to avoid harming walls or surroundings. With the right prep work, tools, and techniques, you can successfully pry off stubborn backsplash tiles and glue without too much hassle. Just be sure to properly seal and resurface the wall afterward, and take your time installing a beautiful new backsplash you’ll enjoy for years to come. With some patience and effort, you can tackle this project and renew your space!