How to Remove Grouted Backsplash

A grouted backsplash can be a beautiful addition to any kitchen, providing an elegant, clean look and protecting walls from splashes and spills. However, over time grout can become stained, cracked, or damaged. Replacing the entire backsplash can be costly and time-consuming. Fortunately, with some time and effort, you can remove your existing grouted backsplash and install a new one. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to properly remove a grouted backsplash.

What You’ll Need

Removing a grouted backsplash requires just a few simple tools and materials:

  • Hammer or mallet
  • Cold chisel – 3-4 inches wide
  • Eye protection
  • Dust mask
  • Knee pads
  • Drop cloths or tarps
  • Sandpaper
  • Shop vacuum
  • Grout removal tool (optional)
  • Putty knife
  • Replacement tiles if needed
  • Thin-set mortar
  • Grout float
  • New grout

Make sure to gather all necessary materials before beginning to remove the backsplash for a smooth process from start to finish. Wearing eye protection, a dust mask, and knee pads will also help protect you during removal.

Preparing the Workspace

Before starting demolition, properly prepare your workspace:

  • Clear countertops and remove anything breakable from the backsplash area.
  • Cover countertops, floors, and appliances with drop cloths or tarps to protect from debris.
  • Have a shop vacuum ready to collect tile pieces and grout dust as you work.
  • Sweep the backsplash area to remove any loose crumbs or debris.
  • Turn off power to any outlets in the backsplash area. Exercise caution working around outlets and plumbing to avoid electrical shocks or water damage.

Preparing the workspace takes a little time upfront, but will make the removal process much cleaner and easier.

Removing Grout

With your workspace prepped, it’s time to begin removing the grout:

Step 1: Score Grout Lines

Use a cold chisel held at a 45° angle or a grout removal tool to score along grout lines. Apply steady, moderate pressure as you slide the blade or tool along the grout. This will cut through the top layer of grout.

Step 2: Chip Away Grout

Switch to a hammer or mallet. Holding the chisel at a 90° angle, lightly tap to begin breaking up the grout. Apply repeated small taps to slowly chip away grout without damaging tiles. Continue along all grout lines until grout is removed from joints.

Step 3: Vacuum Up Debris

Use a shop vacuum to collect all grout pieces and debris as you work. Vacuuming regularly will help keep your workspace clean.

Step 4: Scrub Off Grout Residue

Once all loose grout is chipped away, use a putty knife or sandpaper to scrub any remaining grout residue off the tile edges. Avoid digging into tile surfaces. Thoroughly remove all old grout for best results.

Removing old grout requires patience, but going slowly helps prevent tile breakage. Take your time to fully clear out old grout before attempting to pry off tiles.

Removing Tile

Once all grout has been eliminated from joints, you can start prying tiles off the wall:

Step 1: Inspect for Damaged Tiles

Before removing intact tiles, first pry off any cracked, broken, or damaged tiles with a putty knife or cold chisel. This will create open space to start removal. Discard any broken tile pieces.

Step 2: Locate Starting Point

Look for a corner or intact grout line to start tile removal. Slide putty knife into joint or under bottom edge of corner tile.

Step 3: Apply Pressure

Apply slow, steady pressure with the putty knife until adhesive releases its grip. Quick, forceful prying can damage drywall behind. Use mallet to lightly tap putty knife if needed.

Step 4: Work Outwards

Once corner tile is freed, continue applying leverage outwards to pop off surrounding tiles. Caution: Wear gloves as tile edges can be sharp.

Step 5: Remove Stubborn Tiles

For any tiles resisting removal, use a mallet to deliver firmer taps behind the putty knife. Soak very stubborn tiles with warm water to soften adhesive before prying.

Step 6: Clean Surface

Once all tiles are removed, sand residual thinset mortar off the wall surface. Use a shop vac to thoroughly clean the area of all debris.

Take care not to damage the drywall during removal. With some patience, the tiles should pry off fairly easily.

Preparing the Surface

Before installing a new backsplash, prep the wall surface:

  • Inspect for damage – fill any gouges or holes with drywall compound and let dry completely.
  • Wash the entire surface with soap and water – remove any oily residues left from old adhesive.
  • Sand smooth and wipe away dust – this helps the new thinset mortar adhere.
  • Prime if needed – for glossy or painted walls, apply a primer coat and let dry.

Proper prep creates the ideal surface for the new backsplash to stick to. Avoid applying new tiles over damaged or unsound drywall.

Installing the New Backsplash

Once the old backsplash is removed and surface prepped, installing a new backsplash is straightforward:

Step 1: Apply Thinset Mortar

Use a notched trowel to spread a thin layer of thinset mortar evenly across the installation area. Apply only 1/4 to 1/2 inch at a time to prevent drying.

Step 2: Set Tiles

Firmly press tiles into the mortar, using spacers for consistent grout line width. Make sure tiles are fully embedded flat in the thinset.

Step 3: Let Tiles Set

Allow tiles to set undisturbed for at least 24 hours. Do not grout or disturb joints until thinset has fully cured. Keep area dry.

Step 4: Grout Tile Joints

Mix grout with water to a thick peanut butter consistency. Spread grout across joints using a rubber grout float. Let sit briefly before wiping away excess grout with a damp sponge.

Step 5: Seal Grout

Once grout has cured 24 hours, apply grout sealant with a small foam brush. This will protect grout from stains and damage. Allow to dry completely.

Follow all manufacturer’s instructions for mortar, grout, and sealant products. Your new backsplash will look fresh and flawless.

FAQs about Removing Grouted Backsplash

Removing and replacing a grouted backsplash brings up many common questions:

Should I hire a contractor to remove backsplash?

While it’s possible to DIY, removing backsplash can be labor-intensive. For large backsplash projects, hiring a professional tile contractor may be worth the cost for proper removal and disposal.

What tools do I need to remove backsplash?

A few simple tools like a cold chisel, putty knife, hammer, and shop vac are sufficient for DIY backsplash removal. Safety gear like eye protection is also recommended.

How do I remove thinset mortar after prying off backsplash tiles?

Residual thinset left on walls after tile removal can be sanded smooth. Use a shop vac to thoroughly clean off sanded particles.

How can I tell if my drywall is damaged?

Inspect for cracks, soft spots, or holes after removing tiles. Repair any damage with drywall joint compound before installing new backsplash.

How long does backsplash tile need to set before grouting?

Allow fresh tile to cure for at least 24 hours before applying grout. This allows the thinset mortar to fully harden and affix tiles in place.

Can I use the same grout color on new backsplash?

It’s best to use a fresh new batch of grout when installing backsplash. Old grout can dry out and crack over time, decreasing durability.

Taking the proper steps when removing an existing grouted backsplash paves the way for a successful new installation. Carefully remove all old grout and tiles, prep the surface well, and properly re-tile the backsplash. With some perseverance and these tips, you can tackle this project yourself and save on installation costs. Enjoy your fresh, updated backsplash for years to come.


Removing and replacing a grouted backsplash is a manageable home improvement project for a DIYer. While it requires time and labor, the right tools and techniques make it possible to remove grout and tiles without damaging walls. Always take safety precautions and properly dispose of debris. With some persistent chiseling and prying, the old backsplash can be cleared away for a clean slate to install an elegant new backsplash. Taking extra care to prepare the wall surface will ensure the new tiles adhere and withstand the test of time. With a little patience and these tips, a stunning new backsplash can give your kitchen just the face-lift it needs.