How to Remove Grouted Tile Backsplash

A grouted tile backsplash can be a beautiful addition to any kitchen or bathroom. However, over time, the grout between the tiles can become stained, cracked, or just look dated. When this happens, removing and replacing the grouted tile backsplash may be necessary to refresh the look of the space. Properly removing an existing backsplash takes some work, but can be accomplished as a DIY project.

When Is It Time to Remove the Grouted Tile Backsplash?

There are a few signs that indicate it may be time to remove and replace the grouted tile backsplash in your home:

  • The grout has become stained and cannot be cleaned. Food splatters, grease, mold, and mildew can cause stubborn staining between the tiles over time.
  • The grout is cracking or crumbling. Cracks allow moisture to seep in and cause damage. This can lead to the grout eventually falling out.
  • The tile or grout is deteriorating. Old, damaged tile with cracked glaze or grout that is powdery or falling out will need replacing.
  • You want to update the look. Tastes change over time. Removing the old backsplash allows you to update with a new tile design or different material like sheet backsplash.
  • Part of the backsplash is damaged. If part of the backsplash has become damaged from a leaky faucet or appliances pulled out from the wall, it likely needs replacing.
  • Renovating the kitchen or bathroom. A backsplash replacement often accompanies a full remodel.

If you notice any of these issues, it is probably time to consider removing and replacing the grouted tile backsplash.

Preparing to Remove a Grouted Tile Backsplash

Removing a grouted tile backsplash takes time and labor. Make sure you plan properly before starting demolition:

Gather Materials and Tools

You will need the following:

  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Putty knife
  • Grout saw or oscillating tool
  • Safety glasses and gloves
  • Dust mask
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Garbage bags
  • Shop vacuum

Protect Surrounding Areas

Cover countertops, floors, and appliances with plastic sheeting to protect from debris and damage during demolition. Tape sheeting securely in place along backsplash edges.

Disconnect and Remove Items on Backsplash

Detach any mounted accessories like soap dispensers, utensil hooks, lights, etc. Also remove upper cabinets if they are installed on top of the backsplash tiles.

Check for Hidden Electrical

Shut off power to the kitchen or bathroom at the circuit breaker. Check for any hidden electrical wires or plumbing that could get damaged during backsplash removal.

Have a Removal Strategy

Plan the order for removing tiles. Work top to bottom and focus on removing entire tiles first. Leave any stubborn thinset and grout remnants for later removal.

How to Remove the Grouted Tile Backsplash Step-by-Step

Once prepped and ready, follow these steps to remove the grouted tile backsplash:

1. Score Grout Lines

Use a grout saw or oscillating multi-tool to score along grout lines. This will help break the grout seal. Be careful not to scratch tile faces.

2. Chisel Out Grout

Use a grout chisel and hammer to carefully chisel out the grout surrounding tiles. Chisel at a 45 degree angle to avoid damaging tiles.

3. Separate Entire Tiles

Place a putty knife under the tile edge and gently hit the handle to pop tiles off. Try to remove whole tiles if possible.

4. Remove Thinset and Debris

Use the grout saw and chisel to scrape off any remaining thinset adhesive from the wall. Vacuum up all debris and dust.

5. Clean and Patch Wall

Wipe wall surface areas clean where backsplash was removed. Fill any gouges or holes with spackle and sand smooth.

6. Prep for New Backsplash

Once walls are prepped, you can install the new backsplash! Check that the wall surface is smooth, clean, and ready for the new backsplash installation.

Tips for Easier Removal

Removing stubborn backsplash tile can be challenging. Follow these tips to help the process go easier:

  • Heat tiles with a heat gun to soften adhesive before prying and scraping.
  • Apply painter’s tape on stubborn tiles and quickly rip off to pull tile faces off.
  • Use a utility knife to score grout lines deeper before chiseling.
  • Spray vinegar solution on old grout lines and let sit 15 minutes before scraping to soften grout.
  • Use a grout removal bit on a rotary tool to grind out old grout efficiently.
  • Apply citrus-based adhesive remover to help strip off stubborn thinset adhesive residue.
  • Wedge wood shims under tiles and carefully knock shims sideways to pop tiles off.
  • Start removal at the top and work down to take advantage of gravity.

Going slowly and being careful not to damage the wall subsurface will result in the cleanest removal. Be patient and the hard work will pay off when the beautiful new backsplash is installed.

FAQs About Removing Grouted Tile Backsplashes

What is the easiest way to remove old grouted backsplash tile?

Heating the tiles with a heat gun before prying makes the adhesive soften for easier removal. Using painter’s tape and ripping off also helps quickly pull tile faces off.

Can I put a new backsplash right over the old one?

It is not recommended to install a new backsplash over an existing one. The layers of old thinset can create unevenness and prevent proper installation of the new tiles.

Will removing backsplash tile damage drywall?

Drywall can become damaged while prying off stubborn tiles. Prevent damage by scoring grout lines before chiseling out grout which allows tiles to pop off more easily.

What tools do I need to remove backsplash tile?

Common tools needed are a grout saw, chisel, hammer, putty knife, heat gun, utility knife, oscillating multi-tool, safety gear, dust mask, plastic sheeting, and a shop vac.

How do I get rid of thinset adhesive left on the wall?

Use a grout saw, putty knife, or oscillating multi-tool to scrape and grind off leftover thinset adhesive residue. Citrus-based adhesive removers also help strip off old thinset from the wall.

Can I match new tile to my existing backsplash?

It can be difficult to find exact matches to existing tile and grout colors after years of aging and staining. Nearby tile suppliers may be able to help source close matches or recommend complementary designs.

Removing an outdated or damaged grouted tile backsplash takes work, but revitalizing the space with a new backsplash makes the effort worthwhile. With the right tools, safety precautions, and patience during demolition, a DIY backsplash removal project can successfully refresh the look of any kitchen or bathroom.

How Long Does It Take to Remove Tile Backsplash?

Removing an existing backsplash tile installation takes time and labor. The total timeframe will depend on several factors:

  • Size of the backsplash – A larger backsplash area with more tile and grout will naturally take longer to demolish and remove.
  • Installation method – Backsplashes installed with mortar and mesh backing tend to be more stubborn to take out. Backsplashes using mastic adhesive are usually easier for removal.
  • Tile material – Natural stone tiles can be more delicate and prone to breakage during removal. Ceramic or porcelain tiles tend to come off more cleanly in one piece.
  • Grout condition – If the grout lines are still intact, scoring and chiseling out the grout takes time before prying off each tile. Crumbling grout in poor condition removes faster.
  • Wall condition – Drywall in good shape allows for clean removal. Walls with prior damage or moisture issues leads to more repairs.

For a standard 10 square foot ceramic or porcelain backsplash in decent condition, you can expect the removal process to take approximately:

  • 1-2 hours to prep the workspace and disconnect/remove items attached to backsplash
  • 2-3 hours to score grout lines and chisel out all grout
  • 2-3 hours to pry off tiles and scrape residual thinset mortar off the wall
  • 1 hour for clean up, debris removal, wall patching, and final preparation

This equals around a full 6-9 hour project. Larger backsplash areas or more difficult removal conditions could extend the timeframe to several days. Having an extra set of hands helps speed up progress as well.

The key is having the right tools for each step, taking care not to damage the underlying wall, and applying patience during the dusty demolition process. Moving efficiently yet cautiously makes for the cleanest backsplash tile removal to prep for fresh new tiles.

DIY Tile Removal vs Hiring a Professional

Is it better to DIY tile removal or hire a contractor? Here is a comparison of the pros and cons:

DIY Tile Removal


  • Less expensive than hiring a pro
  • Knowledge of learning a new skill
  • Flexible schedule and work at your own pace
  • Satisfaction of completing your own renovation project


  • Very time consuming and labor intensive
  • Risk of damaging subsurface if inexperienced
  • Proper tool investment required
  • Frustrating dealing with stubborn tiles and thinset
  • Large amount of cleanup and debris disposal

Hiring a Professional


  • Project completed much faster
  • No physical labor required of homeowner
  • Experienced with proper demolition techniques
  • Right tools for efficient removal
  • Proper disposal of hazardous debris


  • More expensive vs DIY method
  • Need to schedule work when contractor is available
  • Risk of damage still exists with another company

Key Considerations

Ultimately the choice between DIY vs hired help depends on your budget, how urgent the project timing is, your skill level and physical abilities, and how much of a perfectionist you are about the final results. Tile removal can be managed as a DIY project for many homeowners willing to take their time and put in the hard work for a major sense of accomplishment in the end. However for larger backsplash areas or for those wanting fast results and prefer to avoid the mess and labor, consulting a general contractor or tile removal specialist is advisable.

Safety Tips When Removing Tile Backsplashes

Demolishing a tile backsplash creates debris and hazards. Follow these tips to remove tile backsplash safely:

  • Turn off electricity and water at shut off valves before starting demolition. Check for hidden wiring behind tiles.
  • Wear safety goggles, gloves, long sleeves, closed toe shoes, and N-95 dust mask to protect yourself.
  • Cover nearby surfaces like countertops with plastic sheeting to contain debris.
  • Work slowly and carefully. Don’t force tiles off with excessive prying pressure.
  • Keep a first aid kit nearby in case of cuts from sharp tile or tool edges.
  • Use tools properly and according to directions to prevent injuries.
  • Limit the work area to a manageable section at a time and fully clean up debris before moving on.
  • Dispose of tiles, grout, and backer board properly according to hazardous material regulations.
  • Wash hands frequently to prevent accidentally ingesting grout dust which may contain silica.
  • Plan adequate ventilation with fans or by opening windows. Control dust by misting surfaces with water before scraping.
  • Keep children and pets away from the workspace while demo is in progress.
  • Take regular breaks, stretching and resting muscles often when doing repetitive motions.
  • Inspect wall subsurface after removal and use proper patching techniques to repair any damage before new installation.

Exercising caution and patience is necessary for safe and effective tile backsplash removal. Protect yourself and your home while demolishing and properly handle and discard the debris.

Removing Backsplash Around Electrical Outlets

Electrical outlets commonly protrude through tile backsplashes. Carefully removing tile around outlets prevents damaging the wiring or box:

  • Turn off electricity to outlets at circuit breaker before starting. Test with voltage tester to be sure power is off.
  • Use a utility knife to gently score grout lines around outlet box edges. Carefully chip grout away with a grout chisel.
  • Avoid striking chisel directly on corner edges of outlet box to prevent damage.
  • Try popping tile edges outward from outlet box using putty knife. Apply painter’s tape and yank off to pull tiles outward.
  • Cut any backerboard around box using oscillating multi tool to expose outlet screws.
  • Protect outlet by stuffing plastic bag in box and around screws. Slowly unscrew outlet from wall, catching it in plastic bag.
  • Pry off remaining tile pieces and scrape residual thinset mortar off wall around box area.
  • Inspect condition of outlet box and wiring. Replace outlet box if necessary. Use joint compound to resurface wall damage.
  • Install water-resistant drywall around box area to maintain water protection behind new backsplash.
  • Secure and rewire new outlet in box properly. Maintain 1/4″ gap between box and tiles for grout line.
  • Take precautions not to damage wiring or outlet when removing old backsplash tile around electrical boxes.

Carefully following each step prevents electrical hazards and damage that could result from improperly removing tiles around outlets protruding through the backsplash area.

Removing Backsplash Under Cabinets

Upper cabinets are often installed on top of backsplash tile. Use caution when removing backsplash tiles from under cabinet overhangs:

  • Remove doors, drawers, and shelving from upper cabinets before starting demo.
  • Take down entire upper cabinets if feasible. This allows full access to backsplash area during removal.
  • Support underside of cabinets by placing wood blocks underneath if unable to fully remove uppers.
  • Score grout lines by hand if unable to fit power tools in tight space under cabinets.
  • Lay on back under cabinets to chip out grout and pry tiles using less forceful hand tools.
  • Shim hammer between wall and tile underneath to pop tiles off if swing room is limited.
  • Plan to remove thinset in sections reachable from side if unable to scrape entire area under cabinet overhang.
  • Sweep and vacuum debris frequently to keep area clean in tight workspace.
  • Patch and resurface any wall damage under cabinets to ensure proper surface for new backsplash.
  • Carefully reinstall cabinets on top of new backsplash using shims to hold in place. Caulk gap between cabinet and backsplash.

Working under cabinets makes removing backsplash tile challenging. Adjust methods by working from below or accessible sides in the confined space.

How to Transition from Backsplash to Drywall

When a backsplash ends, properly finishing the transition edge ensures a streamlined look:

Remove Existing Backsplash Border

Carefully pry off any cap tiles or edging at end of backsplash area. Scrape residual mortar and level wall surface.

Install Backerboard to Ceiling

Cut cement backerboard to fit from top of backsplash to ceiling. Mud and tape seams. Secure permanently to frame wall.

Float Joint Compound Over Backerboard

Apply joint compound over backerboard up to ceiling to hide seams and create a smooth, paintable surface. Feather out edges.

Prime and Paint New Drywall

Once joint compound dries and sands smooth, apply drywall primer followed by two coats of interior wall paint to finish.

Caulk Joint Between Backsplash and Wall

Run a flexible, paintable caulk line between backsplash tile edge and freshly painted drywall area. Smooth bead with wet finger.

Install New Backsplash Edge

Optional: Apply brushed metal backsplash trim or tile edge along the transition to conceal caulk line and frame backsplash area.

Prepping the backsplash edge properly before installing new drywall ensures the materials meet cleanly. Blending the tile to wall transition achieves a cohesive finished look.

Disposing of Old Backsplash Tile and Grout

Follow local regulations when disposing of construction debris after removing an old tile backsplash:

  • Check if municipal garbage service will collect discarded tile and backerboard if cut down into manageable sizes.
  • Rent a dumpster to contain demolition waste if regular trash will not collect tile materials.
  • Take intact tiles that could be reused to a habitat for humanity reStore or architectural salvage center.
  • Inquire about hazardous waste days in your city to dispose of backerboard, thinset mortar, and grout which may contain asbestos or silica.
  • Review hazardous waste disposal guidelines for your city. Materials may need specially sealed bags, liners, or covers during transport.
  • Drop off intact tiles at recycling centers that accept construction debris. Call ahead to confirm tile acceptance policies.
  • Use protective eye wear, mask, gloves, and long sleeves when handling debris to minimize dust contact with skin or breathing hazard.
  • Show care when disposing of backsplash demolition waste, keeping safety and environmental impact in mind.

Properly disposing of tile backsplash debris takes extra steps beyond routine garbage removal. Follow all local ordinances and use caution when transporting and handling to safely clear out remnants of the old backsplash.

Cost to Remove Tile Backsplash

What is the typical cost range for removing an existing tile backsplash? Here are the key factors affecting backsplash removal costs:

  • Size of backsplash area – Larger backsplash areas require more time, labor, and materials which increases overall costs.
  • Tile material – Natural stone is more delicate requiring extra care during demolition which can add cost. Durable porcelain may be cheaper to remove.
  • Grout condition – Dry, crumbling grout is easier to chisel out vs hard, intact grout lines which are more stubborn.
  • Method of installation – Backsplashes installed over cement board and wire