A mesh tile backsplash can add an interesting texture and aesthetic to your kitchen. However, over time, styles change and mesh tile can start to look outdated. If you’re ready to remove your mesh backsplash and install something new, it can be done as a DIY project. Taking the time to properly remove the tiles will ensure your wall is prepped and ready for whatever new backsplash you choose.
Assessing the Mesh Tile Installation
Before removing any tiles, you’ll need to assess how your current mesh backsplash was installed. This will help determine the best method for removal.
- Examine the grout lines carefully. Mesh tiles are typically grouted into place. If the grout is just between the mesh tiles themselves, removal should be more straightforward.
- Check for grout between the tiles and the wall. If the mesh tiles are grouted directly to the wall surface, removal may be somewhat more difficult.
- Try gently tilting or wiggling one of the mesh tiles. If it moves freely, it likely wasn’t attached directly to the wall. Tightly adhered tiles will resist any movement.
- Locate the edges of the installation. Mesh tiles installed in sheets will have seams where one sheet meets the next. This can provide an edge to pry up.
- Consider when the tiles were installed. Older mesh tile is more likely to have been firmly grouted in place. Newer installs may have used higher quality grout that comes up easier.
Once you have an idea of how the mesh tile was installed, you can decide on removal methods. The goal is to remove the tiles while doing minimal damage to the underlying wall.
Gather the Right Mesh Tile Removal Tools
Removing mesh backsplash takes time and effort. Having the proper tools will make the process much easier. The essential items needed include:
- Hammer and chisel – A masonry hammer and wide chisel are key for breaking up old grout. A stone chisel provides extra strength.
- Goggles – Wear protective eye goggles when chipping at grout to prevent debris getting in your eyes.
- Flat pry bar – A long, flat pry bar is useful for gently loosening whole tiles or working edges up from the wall.
- Putty knife or painter’s tool – Useful for scraping off any remaining grout residue after tile removal.
- Utility knife – Helpful for scoring grout lines or cutting mesh seams as needed while removing tiles.
- Dust mask – Breaking up tile and grout creates dust. A mask protects from inhaling particles during removal.
- Gloves – Wear thick work gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges on the mesh tiles.
Having these mesh tile removal tools on hand will make the entire process smoother. Prepare them along with any step stools or ladders before you’re ready to start removing the backsplash.
Take Safety Precautions
Removing mesh tile involves chiseling, prying, and handling broken materials. Be sure to take safety precautions:
- Wear protective goggles, mask, gloves and long sleeves/pants. This protects from debris and sharp edges.
- Work carefully on any ladders or step stools. Have a spotter for stability if necessary.
- Watch out for wires, pipes or other hazards behind the wall. Only remove tiles gently at first to avoid damage.
- Keep dust and particles contained in the immediate work area. Close doors and use plastic sheeting to prevent spreading throughout the home.
- Have a first aid kit available in case of any cuts from sharp tile edges and grout. Stop any bleeding right away.
- Dispose of all tile pieces carefully as you work. Broken tiles can have very sharp points and edges.
- Go slowly, taking breaks as needed. Removing a whole backsplash can strain muscles if rushed.
Paying attention to safety means taking the time to remove mesh tile correctly and avoid injury.
Remove Any Accessories on the Backsplash
Most mesh backsplashes have some additional items installed along with the main tiles. Removing these first makes taking down the tiles easier:
- Take out any mounted soap dispensers, utensil hooks or shelves on the backsplash. Follow the manufacturer instructions for each item as needed.
- Detach any trim pieces, edging or molding around the perimeter of the backsplash installation. Carefully pry or loosen with a flat bar.
- Remove any caulk, sealant or flashing where the countertop meets the backsplash. Slice through with a utility knife.
- Take down towel bars or drying racks mounted on the backsplash. Scrape off any adhesive residue after removing hardware.
- Pull off any décor, panels or artwork attached directly to the mesh tiles. This prevents breakage during tile removal.
Eliminating everything on the backsplash first gives clear access to the tiles. Check that any holes or adhesive leftover from removed items are cleaned off the wall. Then you can focus just on taking down the mesh tile itself.
Start Removing Mesh Tiles
With safety gear on and accessories cleared away, you’re ready to carefully start removing the mesh tiles:
Score Grout Lines
Use the hammer and chisel to lightly score along the grout lines surrounding each tile. Don’t try to dig out the grout yet – just score the surface. This weakens the grout for easier removal later.
Look for Loose Tiles
After scoring grout lines, check for any tiles that might already be loosened. Gently pry or wedge the flat bar under the edges, working slowly. Removing already loose tiles first prevents damage elsewhere.
Work From an Edge
Can you find an installation edge or seam between mesh sheets? This is the best place to start removal. Carefully pry up the corner or edge tiles first. Work horizontally, not ripping an entire sheet down vertically.
Apply Gentle Force
As you pry up tiles, use light force only, working the flat bar carefully under each one. If tiles resist removal, re-score grout lines before attempting to pry again. Never forcibly rip tiles off.
Remove Grout as You Go
Once tiles are pried up, use the chisel to fully knock out any remaining grout before moving to the next ones. Check the removed area for any remaining grout residue.
Watch for Hidden Areas
Be alert during removal near sinks, electrical outlets or other fixtures. Make sure any hidden tile edges are freed up before removing outer tiles.
Go slowly, applying force gently and deliberately to get the mesh tiles off intact. Removing any loose grout as you work prevents it falling and cracking tiles.
Chip Away Remaining Grout
After removing the tiles themselves, you’ll be left with areas of grout still adhered to the wall. Removing this grout takes precision:
- Re-score any remaining grout lines with the chisel to re-weaken the grout.
- Position the chisel correctly on the grout line or coat, angled slightly under the edge.
- Use light, repeated tapping motions with the hammer to flake up the grout bit by bit.
- Be very careful not to dig into the drywall or plaster behind the grout.
- Check for any stubborn spots or globs that may need re-scoring along the edges.
- Avoid pounding directly against the wall surface to prevent damage underneath.
Taking your time helps precisely chisel away the grout without harming the wall itself. Remove it in small sections until all residual grout is gone.
Clean and Inspect the Wall Surface
Once all mesh tile and grout is removed, thoroughly clean the exposed wall area:
- Use a stiff brush or putty knife to scrub off any remaining bits of grout residue.
- Carefully scrape away any mortar, thinset, or adhesive from the tile installation.
- Wipe over the entire area with a damp sponge to remove dust and debris.
- Let the wall dry completely before doing any inspection or prep work.
- Look for any gouges, holes, cracked drywall or other damage that may have occurred during removal.
- Check areas near outlets and fixtures for any gaps that may need patched.
Take time to clean and dry the wall so it’s ready for inspection. Any needed repairs can then be completed before adding your new backsplash.
Prep and Prime the Wall
Once clean, the wall surface itself will need proper prep and priming:
- Fill any nicks, holes, or gouges with drywall putty. Allow to dry fully.
- Sand any dried putty smooth and blend with the wall surface.
- Wipe away all dust with a dry cloth.
- Apply a coat of quality primer over the entire surface. This helps the new backsplash adhere.
- Allow the primer to dry fully following the manufacturer’s instructions before installing new tile.
Prepping and priming the wall provides the ideal surface for your new backsplash installation. Take time with the prep work for the most seamless finished look.
Dispose of Debris Safely
Don’t forget about properly disposing of the old tile pieces, grout, and other debris:
- Sweep up any loose grout, dust and residues to contain for disposal.
- Carefully collect all broken tile pieces, putting them into a box or bin. Watch for sharp edges.
- Seal any disposal boxes or buckets to prevent dust escaping.
- Check if your ceramic tile pieces can be recycled locally as construction waste.
- For non-recyclable debris, schedule a special pickup or take to your regular waste disposal facility.
- Follow any regulations in your area for properly disposing of home renovation debris.
Removing a whole backsplash creates a lot of waste. Contain it carefully to keep your work area clean and dispose of it responsibly when finished.
Here are some additional safety tips to keep in mind when removing a mesh tile backsplash:
- Work slowly and cautiously using the right tools. Don’t rush or take shortcuts, which can lead to injury.
- Wear safety goggles, gloves, long sleeves and pants to protect yourself from debris. A dust mask is also essential.
- Clear the workspace and cordon off the area from kids or pets to prevent access while working.
- Work carefully when on ladders or stepstools. Have someone available to help support if needed.
- Double check for any electrical wires or water pipes before tearing into walls to avoid shock or leaks.
- Dispose of sharp broken tiles carefully. Double bag to prevent cuts from protruding edges.
- Keep a first aid kit close by in case of cuts. Stop any bleeding immediately and thoroughly clean wounds.
- Take breaks as needed when doing demolition work to avoid overexertion or muscle strains.
- Leave newly exposed wall areas sealed off if you’re stopping work mid-project to keep out dust.
Remain safety focused at all times during this type of demo work. Don’t let eagerness to remove the tile lead to careless injuries.
What causes mesh backsplash tiles to need removing?
There are a few common reasons mesh backsplash tile may need to be replaced:
- To update the look – Mesh tile can appear outdated as styles change. Homeowners often want to remove it for a more modern backsplash.
- Discoloration or damage – Mesh tile can become stained, cracked, or chipped over time, necessitating removal.
- Preparing for kitchen remodel – Removing tile backsplashes is usually part of an overall kitchen upgrade. New countertops and appliances call for a new backsplash style.
- Moisture damage – Excess moisture can loosen grout and cause mesh tile adhesion issues that require removal.
Can you paint over existing mesh backsplash tile?
It’s not recommended to paint over mesh backsplash tile. The multiple layers of the mesh along with the grout lines usually causes paint to appear uneven and flaky. It’s best to fully remove mesh tile prior to painting or applying any new backsplash.
What’s the easiest way to remove mesh tile backsplash?
Scoring the grout lines with a hammer and chisel and then gently prying up tiles from an edge or seam is typically the easiest mesh tile removal method. Take care not to chip away at the wall itself as you work. Removing any loose grout behind tiles as you go makes prying off each tile smoother.
How do you remove mesh tile backsplash from drywall?
Use achisel to carefully break up and pry away grout from the drywall surface. Apply light force, working in small sections. Avoid digging into the drywall, which can cause damage. Clean and sand the wall surface once all grout residue is removed. Fill any gouges with drywall putty before priming.
What kind of new backsplash can I install after removing mesh tile?
You have lots of options for new backsplash looks after removing mesh tile. Tile options include glass, ceramic, porcelain or natural stone. Some popular alternatives are shiplap or beadboard planks, metal sheets, or removable wallpaper. Consider the overall kitchen style you want when choosing something new.
Removing a mesh backsplash in your kitchen takes time, effort and care. But with the right tools and proper technique, you can tear down existing tile without damaging your walls. Take all necessary safety precautions, work slowly, and dispose of debris responsibly. Once you’ve cleared the space, you can move forward in creating the updated kitchen backsplash look you want.