How to Remove Old Backsplash and Install New

Installing a new backsplash is a great way to update the look of your kitchen. But before you can install the new backsplash, you need to properly remove the old one. Removing a backsplash can be a big project, but it’s doable as a DIY project if you have the right tools and take the proper safety precautions. This comprehensive guide will walk you through all the steps for safely and effectively removing your old backsplash and prepping the surface for a beautiful new backsplash installation.

Preparing for the Project

Before you start demolition, there are a few steps you’ll need to take to get ready:

Gather Supplies

To remove the old backsplash, you’ll need:

  • Hammer
  • Putty knife
  • Wire brush
  • Scraper
  • Dust mask
  • Safety goggles
  • Drop cloths
  • Trash bags
  • Pry bar (for stubborn tiles)

Make sure you have all the supplies you’ll need for full removal before getting started.

Clear the Area

Remove everything from the backsplash area including dishes, appliances, décor, etc. It’s important to clear the space to allow room for removing and disposing of the old backsplash material safely. Cover nearby surfaces like countertops with drop cloths to protect from dust and debris.

Turn Off Electricity

Make sure to turn off power to any outlets, switches or lights in the backsplash area. This is an important safety step before doing any demolition work.

Evaluate the Backsplash

Do a close inspection of the existing backsplash. Make note of what type of material it is (ceramic tile, metal, marble, etc) and how it was installed. This will determine the best way to remove it. Also take note of any special considerations like dealing with old adhesives or grout.

Safely Removing the Old Backsplash

With your prep work complete, it’s time to start removal. Take care to work safely and minimize dust.

Wear Safety Gear

Use safety goggles, dust mask, gloves and long sleeves during the entire removal process. This will protect you from debris, sharp edges on tiles, and potential hazard with electrical.

Start Removing Entire Tiles

If the backsplash is tile, start by removing any intact tiles safely with a putty knife or pry bar. Look for a loose grout line or damaged tile to wedge the putty knife into and then gently twist and lever it off. Work slowly and carefully.

Removing a tile with putty knife

Use a putty knife to pry off tiles.

Break Tiles into Smaller Pieces

For stubborn tiles that won’t pry off easily, you can carefully break them into smaller pieces using a hammer. This makes them easier to remove. Wear safety goggles and work slowly to maintain control and avoid debris.

Breaking tile with hammer

Break larger tiles into smaller pieces for easier removal.

Use Hammer and Scraper For Removal

Once tiles are off or broken into smaller pieces, use the scraper and hammer to knock off remaining grout or adhesive. Carefully scrape off any stubborn areas. Sweep up debris as you work to maintain a clean workspace.

Remove Any Backing Material

If the tiles are installed on any backing material like cement board, plywood or drywall, remove this layer by scraping, prying or using a utility knife. Dispose of all removed material as you work. Having a trash bag nearby makes clean up easy.

Remove Remaining Adhesive

Finally, use the wire brush, scraper and/or sandpaper to remove any remaining old adhesive or grout on the surface underneath the backsplash. Work slowly and carefully. Make sure to remove any residue so the new backsplash can be properly installed.

Scraping off remaining adhesive

Scrape off any remaining grout, adhesive or backing material.

Prepping the Area for New Backsplash

Once all traces of the old backsplash are removed, prep the area so the new backsplash can be installed.

Clean the Surface

Give the whole surface a thorough cleaning to remove any dust and debris from demolition. You want the area to be as smooth as possible.

Make Any Needed Repairs

Check the wall for any damage that may need to be repaired like holes, cracks or uneven areas. Repair any issues using spackle, caulk or drywall compound so the surface is ready for the new backsplash.

Prime the Surface

It’s highly recommended to apply a masonry primer / sealer to the entire surface where the new backsplash will go. This enhances adhesion and prevents moisture damage. Allow primer to dry completely per manufacturer instructions.

Apply Backerboard if Needed

If the existing surface needs additional support, you can install cement backerboard. This provides an even, durable surface for the backsplash. Attach backerboard with corrosion-resistant screws.

Installing backerboard

Installing cement backerboard if the existing wall needs reinforcement.

Prepare for Installation

Once prep work is done, you’re ready to start installing the new backsplash! Carefully follow manufacturer instructions for applying thinset mortar adhesive and installing your choice of backsplash materials like tile or panels.

Safety Tips for Removing Old Backsplash

It’s important to keep safety in mind throughout the backsplash removal process:

  • Wear protective gear like goggles, mask and gloves at all times
  • Work slowly and carefully when prying, scraping or hammering
  • Keep your workspace clean as you go to prevent slips or falls
  • Handle broken tiles or materials carefully to avoid sharp edges
  • Dispose of debris properly in trash bags
  • Turn off electricity to any outlets or lights near the workspace
  • Never use power tools around potential electrical hazards
  • Use drop cloths to protect countertops and floors
  • Work with a partner if removing heavier material
  • Take breaks and take care to avoid repetitive stress injuries

Focusing on safe work habits will help the project go smoothly from demolition to installation.

Tips for DIY Backsplash Removal

Removing a backsplash takes time and elbow grease but can be managed as a DIY project. Here are some top tips:

  • Use the proper tools like hammer, putty knife, scraper and wire brush for safe and effective removal.
  • Break large tiles into smaller pieces for easier removal.
  • Wear safety goggles, gloves and mask to protect yourself throughout the process.
  • Work slowly and carefully. Don’t rush through the job.
  • Remove all adhesive, grout and backing materials for best results.
  • Clean the area thoroughly after removal to prep for new backsplash.
  • Dispose of debris safely as you work to prevent slips or falls.
  • Repair any wall damage like holes or cracks before installing the new backsplash.
  • Apply primer/sealer to the wall area before installing the new backsplash.

With the right supplies and safe working habits, you can tackle a backsplash removal successfully as a DIYer. Just take your time and do it right.

Common Questions about Removing and Replacing Backsplash

Removing and replacing a backsplash brings up many questions for DIYers. Here are answers to some of the most common questions:

What tools do I need to remove a backsplash?

You’ll need a putty knife, hammer, scraper, wire brush, pry bar, safety gear like goggles and mask, and drop cloths. Start by prying off tiles and then use the other tools to scrape and brush away all grout, adhesive and backing material.

How long does it take to remove a backsplash?

Removal time depends on the backsplash size and what it’s adhered to. Plan for about 2-4 hours for a standard 10 sq ft backsplash. Removing all adhesive and backing material takes patience. Go slowly to avoid damaging the wall.

Can I remove a backsplash without damaging drywall?

With care, you can remove ceramic, metal or stone backsplash from drywall without too much damage. Use a putty knife between tiles and drywall to detach. Patch any drywall damage before installing the new backsplash.

What’s the easiest backsplash material to remove?

Self-adhesive, peel-and-stick backsplash tiles are the easiest to remove intact. Pry up gently with a putty knife. Vinyl sheets and metal backsplashes also usually come off relatively easily compared to tile.

How do I get rid of backsplash adhesive on drywall?

Use a putty knife, scraper and wire brush to gently remove adhesive residue. Avoid digging into the drywall. Any remaining adhesive can be covered by applying a primer/sealer before the new backsplash goes up.

Can I install a new backsplash over the old one?

It’s possible but not recommended. For best results, the old backsplash and all adhesive should be removed completely. This allows the new backsplash to adhere properly and last longer without moisture issues.

How do I prep the area after removing the old backsplash?

After removal, clean the area thoroughly, make any needed wall repairs, apply primer/sealer, and install backerboard if needed. This provides an even, intact surface for the new backsplash installation.

Removing Different Types of Backsplash Materials

The method for removing an existing backsplash depends on the material:

Tile Backsplash Removal

Ceramic, porcelain or stone tile is one of the most common backsplash materials. Start by prying off intact tiles with a putty knife or pry bar. Then break into smaller pieces if needed. Use a hammer and scraper to knock off remaining grout and adhesive.

Tile sheets may come off more easily as entire pieces if well adhered. Take care not to damage the underlying wall.

Vinyl Backsplash Removal

Sheet vinyl can often be peeled off in larger sections once you get a corner started with the putty knife. Any stubborn areas can be scraped clean.

For vinyl tile, remove individual tiles with the putty knife and then use the scraper as needed on remaining adhesive.

Glass Backsplash Removal

Use suction cups to detach glass backsplash tiles or mosaic sheets. Start from the bottom and work upwards. Finish removing adhesive residue with a scraper and wire brush. Use extreme care when handling glass to avoid breakage and injuries.

Metal Backsplash Removal

Metal backsplashes like tin or stainless steel often come off relatively easily with a putty knife or pry bar. Bend the material gently to pop it off the surface. Be careful of sharp edges for safety.

Removing Beadboard Backsplash

Wood beadboard sheets can often be removed intact with minimal damage if installed well. You may need to detach trim pieces first. Use pry bar and putty knife carefully between beadboard and wall.

Repair any remaining wood adhesive, holes or uneven spots on the wall before installing the new backsplash.

Final Prep for Installing New Backsplash

Once you’ve removed the old backsplash completely and disposed of the debris, do a final inspection of the area:

  • Ensure the wall surface is smooth, intact, clean and ready for new backsplash installation.
  • Repair any lingering damage like cracks, holes or uneven areas in the wall.
  • Apply primer/sealer over the entire surface following manufacturer’s directions.
  • Install cement backerboard if existing wall needs reinforcement for tile or stone backsplash.
  • Plan your layout – measure the area and mark where the new backsplash will go.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for applying thinset and installing the new backsplash properly.

Taking your time on prep work will ensure your new backsplash transforms the space and lasts for years to come!


Removing an outdated or damaged backsplash is the first step to updating your kitchen or bathroom with a fresh new look. With the right tools and safety approach, you can take on a DIY backsplash removal successfully. Just remember to:

  • Gear up with protective equipment
  • Carefully pry off and break down existing tiles
  • Thoroughly remove all old grout, adhesive and backing material
  • Smooth and clean the surface after removal
  • Make any needed repairs to the wall
  • Prime and prep the area for new backsplash installation

Taking it slow and steady will get the job done effectively. The end result will be a smooth blank canvas ready for your beautiful new backsplash design. So tackle that remodeling project and get ready to install an eye-catching backsplash that becomes the focal point of your space!