How to Remove Mosaic Backsplash

Removing a mosaic backsplash can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it doesn’t have to be. Mosaic tiles are made up of small,individual pieces set into a mesh backing. This makes removing them more tedious than pulling off full sheets of tile. However, with some patience and elbow grease, you can fully remove an existing mosaic backsplash and prepare the wall for new tile.

Tools and Materials Needed

Removing a mosaic backsplash requires having the proper tools and materials on hand. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Safety gear – safety glasses, dust mask, ear protection, gloves
  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Pry bar
  • Putty knife
  • Trash bags
  • Shop vacuum

Make sure to wear safety glasses, a dust mask, and gloves throughout the process to protect yourself from debris. Ear protection, like earmuffs, helps shield your ears from loud hammering noises. Have trash bags on hand to quickly dispose of tile pieces and a shop vacuum to clean up dust and debris as you work.

Preparing the Work Area

Before starting demolition, prep the area around the backsplash to make the process go smoother:

  • Clear countertops and remove anything on backsplash – Take everything off countertops and shelves above the backsplash. Remove any decorative items or anything else attached to the mosaic tiles.
  • Protect surfaces – Use painter’s tape and plastic sheeting to cover countertops, floors, appliances, and any other surfaces around the backsplash area. This helps protect them from damage during the removal process.
  • Turn off electricity and water supply – Turn off power to any outlets near the backsplash. Shut off the water supply to the sink and any appliances in the backsplash area.
  • Cover drains – Plug sink drains to prevent losing small tiles or debris down the drain. You can use a sink stopper, plastic bag, or towel to cover drains.

Preparing the workspace takes a bit of time upfront but avoids issues and damage later on.

Removing Mosaic Backsplash Tiles

With the prep work done, it’s time to start removing the mosaic tile:

Step 1 – Score grout lines

Use a utility knife or grout removal tool to score along all grout lines. This severs the grout so tiles are easier to pop off. Take care not to scratch the drywall behind the grout lines in this step.

Step 2 – Lightly tap tiles

Go over the entire mosaic with a hammer and lightly tap tiles to loosen them. Apply light, controlled strikes to avoid damaging the wall behind the tiles.

Step 3 – Pull off sheets

Once tiles are loosened, you can start removing full sheets of the mosaic at once. Slowly work a pry bar or putty knife behind the mesh, prying it off gently. This often removes full sections cleanly.

Step 4 – Chisel stubborn tiles

For any remaining tiles stuck tightly, use a chisel to chip them off. Angle it under tiles and lightly tap to break the bond with the adhesive.

Step 5 – Clean off adhesive

Use a putty knife to scrape any leftover tile adhesive off the wall. Try to get it as smooth as possible. Be careful not to gouge the drywall.

Step 6 – Vacuum and dispose debris

Vacuum up any pieces, dust, or debris. Properly dispose of the tile sheets and fragments in a trash bag.

Taking it slow and using the right technique prevents damaging the wall as you remove tiles. Patience and the proper tools are key.

Preparing the Wall for New Tile

Once you’ve removed all the mosaic tile, the wall needs to be prepped before adding new backsplash tile:

  • Inspect wall and make repairs – Look for any damage to drywall and repair as needed with joint compound. Fill any gouges or holes.
  • Clean surface – Wipe down the entire wall with a damp sponge to remove dust and debris. Rinse sponge frequently.
  • Allow wall to dry completely – Let the wall fully dry overnight before attempting to apply new tile. Any moisture will prevent adhesive from bonding properly.
  • Apply adhesive primer – Use an adhesive primer designed for tile installation to coat the wall. This helps the new tile stick better.

Take time to correctly prep the surface or issues can occur when installing the new backsplash. With the wall ready, you can move forward with your fresh tile project.

Common Questions and Answers

Removing and replacing a mosaic backsplash brings up many questions for DIYers. Here are some frequently asked questions with answers:

How long does it take to remove a mosaic backsplash?

Removing an entire mosaic backsplash tile installation typically takes 2-4 hours. Exact timeframe depends on the size of the backsplash area and what tools you’re using. Patience is required to avoid damaging the wall.

Can I pry off mosaic sheets without breaking them?

You can try prying off full mosaic sheets intact but they often crack or break apart. The small tile pieces are fragile. Focus on safe removal rather than keeping them whole.

What’s the easiest way to get adhesive off the wall?

A putty knife usually scrapes off old tile adhesive effectively. For really stubborn spots, use a paint scraper or the edge of a chisel to gently lift off remaining residue. Avoid puncturing the drywall surface.

Should I repair damaged drywall before installing new tile?

Yes, drywall needs to be repaired and smoothed out before installing the new backsplash. Use joint compound to patch holes or gouges in the surface for proper adhesion.

What tools do I need for this project?

A hammer, putty knives, pry bar, chisel, utility knife, and shop vacuum are essential tools. Safety gear like glasses, gloves, and a mask are also a must.

Can I reuse a mosaic backsplash somewhere else?

While you can try reclaiming the mosaic tile pieces, they often break apart too much during removal to be reused. The small size and brittle mesh backing make salvaging difficult.

Is removing a mosaic backsplash a DIY project?

Removing mosaic tile can be DIYed by anyone comfortable using demolition tools. Go slowly and use proper technique to avoid wall damage. Seek pro help for installing the new backsplash after.

Tips and Warnings

Removing and replacing a backsplash takes patience but gets easier with experience. Keep these tips in mind for the safest, most effective process:

  • Work slowly and methodically when prying tiles off. Rushing can lead to damage.
  • Wear safety goggles and gloves at all times to protect eyes and hands.
  • Contain dust and debris right away to keep the workspace clean.
  • Discard broken mosaic tile pieces as you go to prevent stepping on shards.
  • Patch drywall right away before adhesive fully dries and hardens. Wet adhesive wipes up easier.
  • Check for hidden electrical lines or plumbing before using demolition tools.
  • Turn off power and water supplies to prevent accidental leaks or electric shocks.
  • Don’t pry tiles off with sharp tools to avoid gouging the wall behind tiles.
  • Smooth wall surfaces completely so new tiles stick properly during installation.

With careful demolition technique and thorough preparation, removing a mosaic backsplash is totally doable. Just take it slow and make safety the top concern. In a weekend, you can have that outdated backsplash removed and ready for a stylish new tile design.


Removing a mosaic backsplash requires breaking up years of adhesive build-up and prying off hundreds of tiny tiles. While it’s a tedious process, it just takes some perseverance, the right tools, and safety precautions. Focus on controlled tile removal and wall prep for success installing replacement tiles. With a little know-how and elbow grease, that outdated backsplash can be cleared out and prepped for a fresh new look. Just take it slow and be thorough for the most seamless results. In the end, all that hard work pays off with a backsplash space you’ll love showing off.