How to Remove Mosaic Tile Backsplash

Removing a mosaic tile backsplash can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be done successfully. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to remove mosaic tile backsplash.

Assess the Tile and Adhesive

The first step is to assess the type of tile and adhesive used. Mosaic tiles are typically mounted on a mesh backing for easier installation. The adhesive underneath can be mastic, thinset mortar, or grout. Knowing what type of adhesive was used will help determine the best removal method.

Inspect the grout lines carefully. Cement-based grout will be more challenging to remove than epoxy-based grout. Epoxy grouts are polymer-modified for flexibility and adhesion.

Also, check if the tiles contain asbestos. Older homes may have asbestos mosaic tiles. Asbestos removal requires hazardous material handling.

Gather the Necessary Tools and Materials

Removing mosaic tiles requires having the right tools ready. Here are some recommended supplies:

  • Safety gear – gloves, eye protection, mask
  • Flat pry bar or putty knives
  • Hammer
  • Chisel and scraper
  • Wire brush
  • Utility knife
  • Bucket of water
  • Rags
  • Shovel and dustpan

For epoxy grouts, a heat gun or hair dryer can help soften the adhesive. Have a ladder and any other equipment to reach the backsplash area safely.

Protect Surrounding Areas

Before starting demolition, protect surfaces around the backsplash to prevent damage. Cover countertops with cardboard or plywood. Tape plastic sheeting over cabinets, appliances, and floors.

Turn off electricity running to any outlets covered by the backsplash. Prevent debris from falling behind cabinets or counters by stuffing back areas with plastic.

Remove Grout

Removing grout first makes prying off tiles easier. Use the hammer and chisel to carefully chip away at grout lines. Apply force at an angle parallel to the wall to avoid damaging drywall.

For cement grout, score lines along the grout and break up the hardness with the hammer and chisel. Apply water to soften cementitious grout as you work.

Epoxy grouts require heating up with a heat gun to soften the polymer adhesive. Scrape softened epoxy out with a blade. Take precautions against burns from hot tools.

Thoroughly scrape and brush out all debris until only the tile adhesive layer remains. Removing all grout at this stage reduces tile removal work.

Pry Off Tiles

With the grout gone, you can start prying off the tiles themselves. Begin working in a corner or along an edge.

Wedge the flat pry bar under the corner of a tile. Apply gentle force in quick motions, working the tile loose bit-by-bit. Use scrapers to assist removal.

Tap lightweight tiles with a hammer and chisel to break their adhesion. Take care not to damage the wall surface.

For stubborn tiles adhered with mastic, heat it with a heat gun to soften the bond. Heating through the tile allows the mastic to release more easily.

Slowly and carefully pry up tiles, trying not to damage the drywall behind them.

Remove Adhesive Residue

Once all tiles are pried off, scrape adhesive residue from the wall using putty knives. Warm water helps soften mastics for easier scraping.

For thinset mortar beds, use the hammer and chisel to gently chip residue away. Take precautions not to gouge the wall surface.

Continue adhesive removal until the wall is completely clear. Wire brushes can help remove any remaining debris from the porous drywall surface.

Rinse the wall several times to wash away fine particles. Let it dry completely before attempting any repairs.

Clean and Dispose Debris

As you work, place tile pieces and debris into buckets. Remove and empty frequently to keep the job site clean.

When fully removed, thoroughly sweep then mop the entire backsplash area. Discard debris properly according to material types. Some grouts and mastics may require hazardous waste disposal.

Lay removed tiles on a drop cloth and sort any undamaged pieces to save for other projects. Otherwise, dispose of at a construction waste facility.

Repair Wall and Prepare for New Backsplash

With tiles removed, inspect the wall fully. Repair any gouges or damaged drywall areas using joint compound and tape. Sand smooth.

Prime and paint the exposed areas to create an even finish. Let it cure fully before installing a new backsplash.

The wall is now blank and ready for a new backsplash tile, panels, or alternative backsplash design.

Tips for Easier Removal

  • Heat adhesives before prying for easier release
  • Keep tools sharp for maximum effectiveness
  • Work in sections and empty debris frequently
  • Wear knee pads for comfort during extended work
  • Go slow and careful to avoid wall damage
  • Consider professional help for large or complicated projects

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to remove a mosaic tile backsplash?

Removal times vary depending on the size of the backsplash, tile adhesion method, and wall surface. In general, plan on 2 to 4 hours for an average 8 sq. ft. backsplash. Larger backsplashes can take 8 or more hours.

Can I salvage and reuse mosaic backsplash tiles?

You may be able to salvage undamaged tiles for reuse depending on how carefully they can be detached. Use scrap plywood to prevent breakage. Match salvaged tiles and plan new designs carefully.

What kind of new backsplash can I install after removing mosaic tile?

You have lots of options for new backsplashes after removing mosaic tiles. Subway tile, marble, travertine, metal tin tiles, glass, and stone backsplashes make great replacements.

What tools should I rent to remove backsplash tile?

Consider renting a demolition hammer, pry bar set, multiple heat guns, and a heavy-duty shop vacuum to make the removal process faster and easier.

Should I hire a professional to remove mosaic tile backsplash?

For large backsplash areas, complicated designs, or asbestos tile removal, hiring a professional contractor is advisable. They have the proper tools, skills, and experience to remove backsplash tile safely and efficiently.


Removing an existing mosaic tile backsplash takes time and physical effort. With the proper tools and removal techniques, this project can be successfully DIYed. Always exercise safety and care to avoid damaging walls or countertops during the demolition process. A clean surface cleared of adhesive residue will be ready for a fresh new backsplash design.