How to Remove Kitchen Tile Backsplash

Removing a kitchen tile backsplash can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be accomplished successfully. Taking the time to properly remove tile protects the underlying surfaces and allows for a smooth installation of new backsplash material. We’ll walk through the entire process step-by-step, from preparing for the project to cleaning up at the end. Follow along and you’ll have that outdated or damaged tile cleared out in no time.

Gather Materials Needed for Removal

Removing tile requires gathering a few necessary materials before starting demolition. Having these tile removal tools on hand will make the process much easier.

  • Gloves: Wear thick work gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges and debris during removal.
  • Safety glasses: Eye protection is a must to shield against flying fragments and dust.
  • Pry bar: A long pry bar provides leverage to loosen whole tiles and pry them off.
  • Hammer: Use a hammer to tap tiles and break them into smaller pieces for removal.
  • Utility knife: Score grout lines with a sharp utility knife before prying off tile.
  • Putty knife: Insert a stiff putty knife under tiles to pop them up.
  • Dust mask: Wear a dust mask to prevent inhaling all the dust created during demolition.
  • Knee pads: Knee pads cushion your knees when kneeling on a hard floor during the work.
  • Trash bags: Have plenty of heavy duty trash bags on hand to collect tile pieces and debris.
  • Shop vacuum: A shop vac is useful for controlling dust and cleaning up small fragments.
  • Tile nippers: Special nippers grip chips to remove remaining tile bits if necessary.
  • ** Spackle/patching compound:** Use spackle and patching compound to fill gouges left behind on the wall.

With the right gear gathered, you can start on tile removal feeling prepared.

Clear Area and Prepare for Demolition

Before demolition begins, we recommend taking a couple preparatory steps:

  • Clear the backsplash area of any dishes, appliances, cookware, etc. Remove everything from the counters, leaving a fully bare workspace.
  • Cover nearby surfaces like countertops with drop cloths to shield from flying debris and dust. Mask off appliances too.
  • Turn off electricity running to outlets underneath or near the backsplash. Shut off water supply lines in the area as well.
  • Have a large container like a bucket or wheelbarrow nearby to deposit large tile pieces and fragments.
  • Sweep the area to remove loose dirt and dust in grout lines prior to tile removal.

These simple steps create a clean slate and protected workspace for tile demolition.

Score Grout Lines and Cut Caulk

With the backsplash cleared off, it’s time to start loosening tile for removal. Begin by scoring grout lines surrounding each tile with a sharp utility knife. Don’t try to cut all the way through the grout. Just scoring helps weaken adhesion.

Next, use the utility knife to slice any caulk sealing the tile edges to the countertop or walls. Removing caulk seals allows tiles to be pried up easier.

Be sure to wear gloves and eye protection when scoring and cutting. Make sure no electrical wires or plumbing lines are hidden behind. Only score through grout and caulk.

Carefully Pry Tiles Off Vertical Surface

After scoring grout lines and cutting caulk, tiles will be ready to pry off carefully. Beginning in a bottom corner, insert the flat end of a pry bar or large putty knife behind the tile edge. Slowly apply pressure to loosen and pop the tile off.

Continue working systematically across the backsplash, prying off whole tiles. Focus on removing one full tile at a time. Apply force gradually to avoid gouging the wall surface below.

Depending on the tile thickness and grout strength, removal may require a bit of persistence. Take your time to prevent damaging the underlying wall.

As tiles are pried off, place them immediately in a bucket or wheelbarrow to keep the workspace clean. Wearing gloves is important during prying and handling to avoid cuts on sharp edges.

Break Up Stuck Tiles With Hammer

Some tiles may not pry off cleanly in one whole piece if grout or adhesive is particularly strong. In these cases, use a hammer to carefully tap and break apart a stubborn intact tile.

Position the pry bar end under the lower edge of the stuck tile. Then gently tap the tile surface with the hammer to fracture it. Repeat fracturing and prying until all pieces have been removed.

Wear safety glasses when hammering and breaking up tile. The hammer allows removal of extremely adhered tiles that cannot be pried off. Just take care not to dent drywall or plaster behind.

Use Nippers to Remove Remaining Pieces

After prying off whole tiles, small fragments and chips may remain stuck. Use special tile nippers to grip and extract those remaining pieces. The nippers provide controlled grasping unlike prying with a screwdriver.

Grip jagged edges and chips close to the wall with nippers. Pull firmly but carefully to break adhesion and remove. Don’t gouge into the wall surface as you extract pieces.

In some cases, it may be necessary to use a hammer to lightly tap nudging the fragment free. Take your time with cleanup to avoid damage. Removing every last bit prevents problems when installing new backsplash.

Clear Debris and Vacuum the Area

With all tile removed, take a few minutes to thoroughly clear debris and clean the exposed surface. Carefully deposit broken tile pieces and fragments into a trash bag or receptacle.

Remove all grout residue and dust by vacuuming the exposed backsplash area. Use a soft brush attachment to gently sweep the wall surface without causing scratches.

Proper cleanup leaves a smooth blank slate for installing replacement tile or other new backsplash material. Make sure no debris is left that could interfere with adhesion.

Fill Any Gouges in the Wall

Examine the cleared backsplash area for any gouges, holes, or damage caused during tile removal. Use spackle compound and a putty knife to fill any small dings and dents in the drywall or plaster.

Allow the patching compound to dry completely according to manufacturer directions. Then sand smooth for the best finish.

Repairing damage ensures an even surface for the new backsplash installation. Cracks or unfilled gouges will eventually telegraph through. Doing this step now saves extra work later.

Remove Any Remaining Mortar

Previous tile may have been installed with a mortar bed applied to the wall instead of adhesive. Use a hammer and chisel to carefully chip away any residual dried mortar after tile removal.

Try to remove all old mortar so it doesn’t interfere with new thinset tile adhesive. Mortar is difficult to adhere new tile or other materials to.

Vacuum up all remaining dust and debris when finished mortar removal. Now the backsplash wall should be fresh and clean, ready for installation of new tile, panels, or any backsplash materials.

Key Takeaways for How to Remove Tile Backsplash

Removing old or damaged tile backsplash involves much more than just tearing off the tiles themselves. Follow these tips for safe, effective demolition:

  • Protect nearby surfaces from debris and damage before starting demo. Turn off electricity and water as well.
  • Score grout lines and slice any caulk before attempting to pry up tiles. This prevents ripping off wall surface underneath.
  • Work systematically from the bottom up, prying off one full tile at a time. Don’t rush through removal.
  • Use hammer and pry bar together for stubborn, well-adhered tiles that won’t release easily.
  • Cleanly extract any remaining grout chips after removal with special tile nippers. Avoid gouging the wall.
  • Fill any dents, holes, and gouges in the wall before installing new backsplash. Repair now for smoother finish.
  • Remove all old mortar if present before applying new tile and thinset adhesive.

With some patience and the proper tile removal techniques, that outdated or damaged backsplash can be cleared off successfully. Just take your time and exercise care to avoid damaging walls underneath. The effort will pay off when that fresh new backsplash is installed.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Tile Backsplashes

Removing a tile backsplash in your kitchen generates lots of questions for first-timers. Here we answer some of the most common FAQs:

Should I remove the drywall before taking off backsplash tile?

Removing the entire drywall or plaster behind a backsplash is usually unnecessary. As long as you carefully pry off each tile and clear adhesive, the wall should remain intact for new tile. Only remove drywall if it becomes badly damaged during removal.

What is the easiest way to get rid of old tile adhesive?

Scraping with a putty knife takes time but is the safest adhesive removal method. Power tools like an oscillating multi-tool also work but require caution not to gouge walls. Tile adhesive solvents are another option but can be harsh chemicals.

How do I get rid of thinset mortar after removing tile?

Use a hammer and chisel to carefully chip away old thinset mortar remaining after tile removal. Tap lightly to avoid digging into the wall surface. Preventing leftover thinset avoids adhesion problems when installing the new backsplash.

Can I put new tile over existing backsplash tile?

Installing right over old tile is not recommended. Differences in thickness andtransitions between old and new tile will be obvious. Proper adhesion also requires removing the previous backsplash first before applying new.

How much does it cost to remove a tile backsplash?

If DIYing, costs are limited to tools like a pry bar, gloves, etc. Hiring a handyman costs $200-$400 for a simple tile removal job without wall repairs. A general contractor may charge $500 or more. The size of the backsplash impacts price.

Should I remove backsplash tile before listing my house for sale?

A dated or damaged backsplash detracts from home value and appeal. Removing the outdated tile before listing lets buyers envision installing a fresh new backsplash of their choosing. This can enhance the home’s marketability.

Final Thoughts

Removing an existing kitchen backsplash before installing a replacement requires careful demolition work, but yields superior results. Avoid hasty prying that damages walls, and be thorough in clearing off old adhesive and grout. Remaining debris interferes with adhesion and finish of new backsplash materials. Patience during removal prevents extra work fixing damage later. If hiring a pro, verify they have experience successfully removing tile backsplashes without wall harm. With some diligent demolition work, that new backsplash design can shine.