How to Remove Glued Tile Backsplash

Removing a glued tile backsplash can be a tricky task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be accomplished. A tiled backsplash can really enhance the look of a kitchen or bathroom, but tastes change and there comes a time when you want to update the look. Thankfully, the tile does not have to be a permanent fixture. This comprehensive guide will walk you through all the steps needed to safely and effectively remove a glued tile backsplash without damaging the underlying wall.

What You Need to Remove a Glued Tile Backsplash

Removing a tile backsplash takes a bit of physical effort and requires gathering some specific tools. Having all equipment ready will make the job go faster and smoother. Here is a list of the basic items you will need:

  • Hammer
  • Chisel and flat pry bar
  • Putty knife or paint scraper
  • Gloves and eye protection
  • Dust mask
  • Shop vacuum

Optional but helpful tools include:

  • Oscillating multi-tool
  • Heat gun
  • Chemical tile stripper

Make sure to use eye and ear protection when using power tools like an oscillating multi-tool. Have a shop vacuum handy to regularly vacuum up tile pieces and dust as you work.

Preparing for Tile Removal

Before you start chiseling away at those tiles, take a few minutes to prepare the workspace. Here are some tips for prepping for a safe and efficient tile removal process:

  • Clear the area of any items that may get in the way like dishes, appliances, décor, etc.
  • Protect surfaces and floors from fallen tiles and debris by covering with drop cloths or tarps.
  • Have a plan for tile disposal – gather boxes, buckets or bags to contain broken tiles.
  • Turn off power supply to any outlets in the backsplash area. Exposed wires and water/chemical stripper used in tile removal can be a dangerous combination.
  • Lighting is important! Make sure you have adequate lighting as you work to clearly see tile seams and surfaces. Supplement with portable work lights if needed.
  • Ventilate the kitchen or bathroom by opening windows and turning on exhaust fans to let dust escape.

Advance planning for debris containment and good lighting will make for a safer, cleaner tile removal process.

How to Remove the Glued Tiles

With your prep work done, it’s time to start taking those tiles off the wall. Here are the steps:

1. Score all grout lines

Use a utility knife or oscillating multi-tool to score and cut any remaining grout between tiles. This helps weaken the grout so tiles can be removed easier. Take care not to scratch tiles you intend to reuse or the drywall behind soft grout lines.

2. Start chiseling tiles

Use a cold chisel and hammer or flat pry bar to begin working the tiles off row by row. Apply force at the grout lines and tile edges versus directly on tile faces. Strike the chisel or pry bar at an angle rather than straight at the wall for better leverage.

3. Remove stubborn tiles

For tiles that won’t budge, try heating them first with a heat gun to soften the adhesive underneath. Set heat gun to low and wave across tiles, then try prying again. You can also use a chemical stripper formulated for tile but follow directions closely to avoid damaging the wallboard.

4. Clean off remaining adhesive

Once all tiles are off, there will still be adhesive residue left on the wall. Use a putty knife or paint scraper to scrape off all adhesive buildup down to the bare wallboard. Be methodical and take your time to avoid gouging the wall. Any stubborn adhesive spots can be softened first with a heat gun or chemical stripper.

5. Vacuum debris

Vacuum up all tile pieces, grout fragments and adhesive dust. Be sure to regularly vacuum as you work to control the dust level in your kitchen or bathroom. Wipe down the empty backsplash area to remove final dust and debris when finished.

Preparing the Wall for New Backsplash

Now that you’ve removed the old tile and adhesive, inspect the wall surface closely. Here are tips for prepping for a new backsplash installation:

  • Inspect wall for damage – if drywall is gouged in areas, repair patches may be needed before applying new backsplash. Use joint compound to skim coat any gouges or irregularities in the wall surface for a smooth finish.
  • Prime the wall – apply a masonry primer to help new tile and adhesive adhere properly to the wall and provide extra moisture protection.
  • Plan new backsplash layout – measure the open wall space and create a layout for the new tile arrangement. Having a pattern planned will make the new installation go smoothly.
  • Allow wall to fully dry – let primer coat and wall repairs dry completely before applying adhesive and new tiles. Wall moisture can undermine proper bonding.

With the wall prepped and layout planned, you’ll be ready to install a beautiful new backsplash you’ll love. Take your time with each removal and prep step for the best results.

Tips for Easier Tile Removal

Removing a glued tile backsplash takes work, but these tips can help make the process a little easier on yourself:

  • Wear kneepads – kneeling on hard floors while chiseling puts stress on knees. Protect them with comfortable kneepads.
  • Start from the bottom – tiles often adhere better at the top near countertops. Start removing from the bottom rows first.
  • Watch out for wire mesh – backsplashes over 30 inches high may have wire mesh for support. Take care not to damage the mesh when prying off tiles.
  • Give chemical stripper time to work – read directions and wait the recommended time after applying chemical removers before scraping to allow thorough softening of adhesives.
  • Take breaks – tile removal is physically demanding. Take regular breaks to avoid wearing yourself out. Hydrate and stretch stiff muscles.

The right tools, proper safety gear, and some patience will help you successfully tackle a tile removal project. With the proper prep, you’ll have that outdated backsplash removed and be ready for your new beautiful backsplash design in no time.

FAQs About Removing Glued Tile Backsplashes

Still have some questions about taking on a tile removal project? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

What tools do I really need to remove backsplash tile?

At minimum, you need a hammer, chisel, putty knife or paint scraper, and eye protection. A pry bar, oscillating multi-tool, heat gun and shop vac add convenience but are not essential.

How do I get rid of old tile pieces and debris?

Collect removed tile pieces in boxes, buckets or bags as you work. Place directly in your household trash receptacle or call local waste management companies to arrange pickup of larger loads.

Is it better to remove tile intact or break it up?

Intact removal is better to minimize dust and debris. But breaking some tiles is often inevitable, especially with stubborn adhesive. Just take care to contain and vacuum up debris right away.

How do I remove thin-set mortar after tile is gone?

Scraping with a putty knife or paint scraper works well. For very stubborn thin-set, soften first with a heat gun or chemical stripper before scraping.

Can I put new tile over an existing backsplash?

It is not recommended. Existing tile must be removed to allow new tile to properly adhere. Covering over old tile often leads to future failure and water damage.

How long does it take to remove an average backsplash?

Removal speed depends on tile size, grout hardness and adhesive tenacity. Typically it takes 2 to 4 hours for an average 8 square foot backsplash. Larger tile jobs can take 1 to 2 days.

Should I hire a contractor to remove backsplash tile?

While challenging, a DIYer can tackle a tile removal project, especially with the right tools. Pros can remove it faster, but at a higher cost. Assess your skill level and time before deciding.

With patience and care, you can take out that outdated or damaged backsplash yourself without requiring professional help. Follow safety precautions and give yourself adequate time. Soon you’ll have a smooth, clean wall ready for your new dream backsplash.

Removing Glued Tile Backsplash – The Key Takeaways

  • Use a chisel, putty knife and hammer to carefully pry tiles off starting from bottom rows first
  • Heat tiles and scrape off old adhesive thoroughly to prep wall for new tile
  • Take time to lay drop cloths and vacuum debris frequently during removal
  • Wear protective eyewear, gloves and kneepads for safety
  • Allow wall repairs and primer coats to fully dry before new backsplash install
  • Have a tile disposal plan in place ahead of time
  • Work methodically and safely – don’t rush the removal process

With proper preparation and tools, removing an outdated or damaged glued tile backsplash is totally doable as a DIY project. Just be sure to take care not to damage the wall surface and adequately prepare for new tile application once the old is removed. Take your time and follow safe practices during removal. Soon that shiny new backsplash will provide a beautiful focal point and wow factor for your kitchen or bath.