How to Remove Granite Backsplash Strip

Granite makes for a beautiful and durable backsplash in kitchens and bathrooms. However, there may come a time when you decide you want to remove or replace your granite backsplash. Removing a granite backsplash can be a big project, but it’s doable as a DIY with the right tools and techniques.

Reasons for Removing Granite Backsplash

There are several reasons you may need to remove your existing granite backsplash:

  • You’re remodeling and want to update to a new backsplash tile or material. Granite can develop cracks, stains, or other damage over time. Or you may just be ready for a change in style.
  • You’re replacing your countertops and want the new countertops and backsplash to match.
  • There are problems with the original installation, such as hollow or drummy areas, gaps, loosening grout, or seams that have opened up.
  • You need to repair water damaged or deteriorated drywall behind the backsplash.
  • You’re preparing the kitchen or bathroom for selling your home. An outdated backsplash can make the space look dated.

Preparing for Removal

Before removing your granite backsplash, take some time to prepare:

  • Clear the area. Remove everything from the counters and walls around the backsplash area. You’ll need plenty of open workspace.
  • Take pictures. Document the existing backsplash, especially if you plan to save and reinstall any accent tiles or borders.
  • Cover floors and surfaces. Use drop cloths or rosin paper to protect floors, cabinets, and countertops from debris, dust, and damage.
  • Turn off electricity and water. Shut off power to any outlets in the backsplash area. Turn off the water supply valves under sinks or behind toilets if applicable.
  • Wear safety gear. Use safety goggles, gloves, a dust mask or respirator, and ear protection when cutting tile or granite.
  • Have a removal plan. Decide on the order for removing pieces and where to begin. Backsplashes are often installed from the bottom up. Reverse that order for removal.
  • Gather supplies. Have all necessary demolition and removal tools on hand before getting started.

What Tools Are Needed?

Removing granite tile requires patience and the right tools for the job:

  • Pry bar or hammer – To pry tiles off the wall. A mini or standard size pry bar works well.
  • Chisel and hammer – Helps chip away grout and break tile free. Choose a carbide-tipped grout chisel.
  • Utility knife – Useful for cutting caulk beads, mesh, or backing materials.
  • Grout saw – Specialty tool to cut through hardened grout.
  • Eye protection – Safety glasses or goggles for protection from debris.
  • Work gloves – Leather gloves to grip tiles when prying and protect hands.
  • Dust mask – Minimizes inhaling granite dust and silica particles.
  • Ear plugs – Reduces noise from hammering and power tools.
  • Plastic sheeting – Covers surfaces and contains dust and debris.
  • Bucket – For collecting tile pieces and cleanup.
  • Whisk broom – To quickly sweep up debris during the project.
  • Shop vacuum – Vacuums up granite dust and small debris.

Avoid power tools like grinders or oscillating multi-tools which can shatter the granite. Manual hand tools give you better control for prying and removing intact tiles. Rent specialty tile removal tools if needed.

How to Remove the Granite Backsplash

With the right planning and tools, here are the step-by-step instructions for removing a granite backsplash:

1. Score all grout lines.

Use a grout saw or carbide-tipped grout chisel and hammer to score all the grout lines surrounding each tile. Cut as deep as possible through the grout. This separates the tiles and makes them easier to pry off.

2. Remove perimeter tiles first.

Start by prying off perimeter tiles around the outer edges. Work on one section at a time. Wedge a pry bar into the grout line and twist to break the tile free. Apply force gradually to avoid damaging the drywall.

3. Remove accent tiles and inserts next.

If there are any decorative accent tiles or inserts, carefully pry these off next. You may need to break these into smaller pieces to remove without damaging the surrounding field tiles.

4. Work from top to bottom.

Once perimeter and accent tiles are removed, begin detaching the field tiles working from top to bottom. This prevents tile debris from falling onto tiles below. Pry one column off at a time.

5. Cut mesh backing (if present).

Some backsplash installations use a mesh backing attached to the wall to set and adhere tiles. Use a utility knife or scissors to cut away the backing as you remove pieces.

6. Chip away remaining grout and adhesive.

Use a chisel or oscillating multi-tool to carefully chip away any remaining grout or adhesive clinging to the wall after tiles are detached. Take care not to gouge into the drywall.

7. Clean the wall surface.

Once all tiles and adhesive residue are removed, thoroughly clean the bare wall area. Use a shop vacuum and whisk broom to remove all debris, dust and loose particles from the existing drywall or cement board.

8. Inspect and make repairs.

Before installing a new backsplash, inspect the wall for any damage that may need repair. Fill holes, smooth uneven areas in the drywall, and fix any water damage that’s revealed after old tile is removed.

9. Prepare for new backsplash.

Finally, prep the bare wall for a fresh backsplash installation. Apply skim coat or drywall joint compound if needed to create a smooth, uniform surface for the new backsplash application.

Tips for Removing Granite Backsplash

Follow these tips to help the granite backsplash removal go smoothly:

  • Take time to score grout lines thoroughly before attempting to pry tiles off. This prevents chunks of wall surface material from coming off with the tile.
  • Start prying tiles or inserts in the center outwards to avoid breaking corners and edges.
  • Always wear thick work gloves to protect hands from sharp edges and granite shards.
  • Apply painter’s tape around the perimeter before prying tiles. This helps minimize wall damage.
  • Have a helper support large sheets of backsplash as they are detached to prevent cracking.
  • Go slowly and be patient. Removing granite requires gradual, persistent force. Rushing can lead to damaged tiles or wall.
  • Check for wire mesh backing attached to the wall occasionally. Cut away as necessary while detaching tiles.
  • Break removed tiles into smaller pieces before disposing to make them easier to handle. Granite is heavy and bulky.
  • Keep the work area contained and cleaned up as you go. This makes replacement installation easier.

DIY Granite Backsplash Removal vs. Hiring a Professional

Removing and replacing a granite backsplash is a big, demanding project. While it’s possible to tackle as a DIY job, there are some factors to consider:

DIY pros:

  • Typically lower cost than hiring a contractor
  • Flexible scheduling according to your time availability
  • Don’t have to coordinate with contractor schedules

DIY cons:

  • Very labor intensive, especially for large backsplash areas
  • Requires specialty demolition tools you may need to purchase or rent
  • Creates a very messy process – granite dust is pervasive
  • Risk of wall damage if not extremely careful prying off tile
  • Proper disposal of old tile and adhesive materials

Professional pros:

  • Gets the job done much faster than DIY
  • No need to buy or rent tools – contractor supplies their own
  • Experienced with techniques for quick, safe granite removal
  • Minimizes risk of damage to existing wall
  • Able to assess any hidden issues once old tile is removed

Professional cons:

  • More expensive than a DIY project
  • Availability may be limited for tile setters in high demand
  • Need to arrange your schedule around contractor timing

Ultimately the choice between DIY vs. professional granite backsplash removal depends on your budget, how comfortable you are taking on demolition projects, time available before new backsplash installation, and access to proper tile removal tools. Consult a home improvement contractor for an estimate and advice.

Preparing Walls for New Backsplash

Once you’ve removed the old granite backsplash, preparing the wall for a new backsplash installation involves a few key steps:

  • Clean thoroughly – Eliminate all old adhesive, grout residue, dust and debris left over from the granite removal.
  • Make repairs – Fill holes or cracks in the wall surface with spackle or drywall compound and let cure fully.
  • Skim coat – If drywall is severely uneven after old tile removal, apply a skim coat of joint compound to smooth and level the entire surface.
  • Prime – Use drywall primer to seal and prepare walls for the new backsplash application.
  • Paint – Repaint if changing wall color before the new backsplash is installed. Use 100% acrylic latex paint for best adhesion.

Proper prep work helps ensure the new backsplash tiles or panels bond securely. Consult your tile contractor for their recommended wall surface requirements before applying the new backsplash materials.

Disposing of Old Granite Tiles

Don’t just throw removed granite tiles in the trash. Natural stone should be disposed of properly:

  • Break down into smaller pieces using a hammer and chisel or grinder. Wear eye and hand protection.
  • Contact your local municipal waste department for disposal guidelines and locations. Some accept construction debris like tile for recycling.
  • Consider repurposing small granite pieces for landscaping or decorative projects before disposal. Granite scraps make great drainage filler material.
  • Take tile shards to a stone supplier or recycler. Some may accept granite scraps for recycling or reuse.
  • Hire a junk removal service to haul away old tiles if you don’t have means to transport them yourself.
  • Use protective floor coverings when breaking tiles down to contain flying shards and dust.

Follow all local regulations when disposing of granite tile materials. Never dump construction waste illegally. Handling and disposal costs should be factored into your granite backsplash removal budget.

FAQ About Removing Granite Backsplash

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about removing an existing granite backsplash:

How long does it take to remove a granite backsplash?

Removal time varies greatly depending on the backsplash size and installation method. Expect the demo process to take at least several hours up to two days for large backsplashes. Work slowly and carefully.

Can I pry off granite backsplash intact for re-use?

It’s very difficult to salvage whole granite backsplash tiles without breakage for reuse. The thin tiles and brittle nature of granite make this unlikely. Reinstalling used backsplash tile also requires a seamless color match.

What about heat guns or multi tools to remove granite?

Avoid heat guns. Rapid heating and cooling can fracture granite. Oscillating multi-tools with a scraper blade can be used minimally to help separate tiles. Take care not to shatter the granite.

How do I get rid of old grout and adhesive from granite backsplash removal?

Use a chisel, putty knife or oscillating multi-tool to scrape and chip away remaining grout and adhesive after tiles are detached. Avoid abrasive grinding on the wall surface. Thoroughly clean the wall afterward.

Can I put new tile or backsplash right over existing granite?

It’s not recommended to install new backsplash directly over granite. Adhesion will be compromised leading to future failure. Existing granite or adhesive residue should be removed down the the bare wall surface first.

What kind of saw do I need to cut granite backsplash seams?

Don’t attempt to cut backsplash seams with a wet saw or tile saw. These are designed for cutting new tile only, not removing installed tiles. Use a manual grout saw to score grout lines when prying tile off.

How can I patch damaged drywall after removing granite backsplash?

Use drywall joint compound and mesh tape to patch holes, gouges, and uneven areas on the wall after backsplash removal. Sand smooth and prime before installing the new backsplash.


Removing an existing granite backsplash takes time, care, and the right tools. Focus on working slowly to pry tiles off intact, and minimize damage to walls. Thorough cleanup and prep are also key for successful new backsplash installation. While challenging, with patience and persistence, homeowners can tackle a granite backsplash removal DIY project and achieve beautiful results. Hiring a professional tile removal contractor is an alternative if the scope exceeds your skills or capacity.