Adding a backsplash to your kitchen or bathroom can instantly upgrade the look and feel of the space. However, over time, an old, outdated backsplash can start to look worn, damaged or unappealing. When it’s time for a change, removing the existing backsplash is often the first step. Taking out old backsplash tile or panels properly ensures you can install the new backsplash correctly. With some time and effort, homeowners can usually handle removing old backsplash themselves. Follow these steps for how to remove different types of old backsplash from the wall.
Assessing the Existing Backsplash
Before starting demo, take time to thoroughly assess the existing backsplash type, installation method and layout. This allows you to understand what will be involved in removing it and to identify any potential issues.
Consider the following:
- What material is the backsplash made of – ceramic tile, glass tile, metal panels, laminate panels, etc?
- How was it installed – directly on the wall, on a cement board backing, in a grid frame system?
- What type of grout and adhesive was used?
- Is it a full backsplash or only a small focal area?
- Are their special edges, trims or niches incorporated in the design?
- Does it extend behind or around cabinets, sinks, appliances etc?
Thoroughly inspecting the backsplash helps you understand how difficult removal may be based on the type of materials, application and layout. This also allows you to plan all necessary steps and precautions when starting demo.
Gather the Right Backsplash Removal Tools
Removing backsplash tile, panels or similar materials requires using the proper tools. Gather all necessary equipment before starting demo work. Some essential backsplash removal tools include:
- Safety gear – Safety glasses, dust mask, work gloves, knee pads
- Pry bar – A long pry bar provides leverage for removing tiles or panels.
- Hammer – Useful for breaking up tile edges or tapping pry bar.
- Putty knives – For scraping off old adhesive and grout residue.
- Razor scraper – Helps scrape off stubborn adhesive chunks.
- Utility knife – Cuts through caulk beads, mesh etc.
- Chisel & mallet – For chipping off really stubborn tile pieces if needed.
- Shop vacuum – Vacuums up tile pieces and debris as you work.
- Plastic sheets & masking tape – For covering surfaces, floors and containing debris.
- Sponge & bucket – For cleaning the wall surface after demo.
- Baking soda or vinegar – Helps with stubborn adhesive residue.
Gathering the proper tools ahead of time makes it much easier to start and complete the backsplash removal project efficiently. Check that you have all necessary equipment before starting demo.
Protect Surrounding Surfaces
Before beginning demolition, it’s critical to protect surrounding surfaces from damage and debris. Cover floors, countertops, cabinets and appliances with plastic sheeting. Use painter’s tape to secure plastic tightly to all adjacent surfaces.
Clear out anything underneath the backsplash area and place plastic sheeting or a tarp down to catch fallen tile pieces and debris. Move any dishes, glassware or valuables to prevent damage as well.
Take your time preparing and covering surfaces to avoid unnecessary repairs or cleaning later on. Proper surface protection also makes backsplash removal much less messy.
Removing Ceramic or Porcelain Tile Backsplash
Ceramic and porcelain backsplash tiles are installed similarly using thinset mortar adhesive. With the proper tools and techniques, ceramic and porcelain tile backsplashes can usually be removed relatively easily. Follow this process:
Step 1 – Score Grout Lines
Use a razor scraper or utility knife to score along all grout lines surrounding each tile. Don’t try cutting all the way through the grout yet – just scoring helps weaken it so tiles pull off more cleanly. Scoring may need to be done multiple times to really penetrate the grout.
Step 2 – Carefully Pry off Tiles
Start prying tiles off gently with a pry bar, working systematically from an outer corner inward. Place pry bar into grout lines to lift tiles, being careful not to gouge the drywall. Apply steady pressure until the tile pops off.
Break larger tiles into smaller pieces by tapping a hammer lightly along scored grout lines first if needed.
Step 3 – Clean Adhesive off Wall
Use a putty knife, scraper and/or wire brush to remove all thinset adhesive residue remaining on the wall surface. Take your time to fully clean off adhesive so the wall is prepped properly for new backsplash installation.
Step 4 – Vacuum Debris
Use a shop vacuum with brush attachment to thoroughly clean up all fallen tile pieces, grout and dust. Avoid leaving any debris that could interfere with new backsplash installation.
Properly disposing of fallen tile materials right away also helps keep the workspace much cleaner and safer.
Removing Glass Tile Backsplash
Glass mosaic tiles require more careful removal to avoid breaking the glass material. Follow these steps to safely take out glass backsplash tile:
Step 1 – Soak with Hot Water
Use a spray bottle to liberally soak the glass tile surface with very hot water. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes. This helps soften the grout and loosen tile bonding. Reapply hot water if grout seems stubborn.
Step 2 – Carefully Score Grout Lines
Score along grout lines with a utility knife as lightly as possible to start weakening grout. Take care not to apply too much pressure, which can crack glass tiles.
Step 3 – Slowly Pry Tiles Off Wall
Starting in an upper corner, gently work a pry bar underneath glass tiles, lifting slowly. Try to keep prying motions as smooth as possible to prevent cracking tiles as they release.
Step 4 – Rinse Adhesive Residue
Spray the wall area with more hot water to make cleaning off adhesive residue easier. Scrape off any leftover thinset carefully.
Step 5 – Clean Debris and Dry Wall
Use a vacuum and cleaning rags to thoroughly remove all glass tile pieces, grout residue and debris. Let the wall dry fully before attempting new backsplash installation.
Removing glass backsplash tile without damage takes more time and care. But using proper heated water soaking and gentle prying motions allows successful removal.
Taking Down Laminate Panel Backsplash
Laminate panel backsplash provides a simple, damage-resistant option. But panel systems must be taken down correctly to avoid wall damage or issues with new backsplash installation. Follow these tips:
Step 1 – Remove Panel Clips
Locate all the metal clips used to secure laminate panels to wall studs or drywall. Carefully pry clips out of the wall using a pry bar or screwdriver.
Step 2 – Take Down Panels
Once all clips are detached, the laminate panels should easily lift off the wall. Take down panels one-by-one, being careful not to bend or crack them in the process.
Step 3 – Clean Off Adhesive
Use a plastic putty knife to gently scrape off any adhesive residue remaining on the wall after removing panels. Avoid gouging or penetrating the drywall surface.
Step 4 – Patch Holes
Fill any holes or damage caused by removing panel clips with spackle compound. Let dry fully before sanding smooth.
With plastic laminate backsplash, the key steps are removing all clips correctly and patching clip holes for optimal wall prep.
How to Remove Metal Backsplash Paneling
Metal backsplash often uses an interlocking panel system mounted right on the wall. Removing metal requires understanding the installation method.
Step 1 – Locate Mounting Pieces
Examine how the metal panels were installed. Look for screws or special brackets along the top or sides holding panels in place.
Step 2 – Remove Mounting Hardware
Carefully remove any screws or specialty brackets. Use a pry bar if needed, but take care not to damage the wall.
Step 3 – Detach Interlocking Panels
Starting at one end, gently pry metal panels to detach the interlocking seams from each other. Work slowly to avoid bending or denting panels.
Step 4 – Patch Mounting Holes
Fill any holes left from removing screws or brackets with spackle compound. Let dry and sand until smooth.
Taking out an interlocking metal backsplash requires patience to avoid damaging the surrounding wall. Properly patching holes prepares for new backsplash.
Cleaning Wall Surface After Removal
Once backsplash demo is complete, properly cleaning the exposed wall surface is essential before installing new backsplash. Follow these tips:
- Give the wall area a quick once-over with a plastic putty knife to scrape off any last bits of old grout or adhesive.
- Mix a solution of baking soda, vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Lightly spritz the fizzy mixture on the wall and let bubble up to help remove stubborn sticky residue. Wipe clean with a sponge.
- For really tough adhesive, try carefully scraping with a razor blade then wiping clean.
- Thoroughly wash the entire backsplash area with an all-purpose cleaner and warm water using cleaning rags.
- Fully rinse with a clean, damp sponge to remove any soapy residue.
- Allow the wall to completely dry before attempting to install new backsplash. Look for any remaining debris, residue or uneven spots on the wall that need smoothing out.
Proper cleaning gives you a like-new wall surface for your fresh backsplash materials to adhere to.
Preparing Wall for New Backsplash
Once your wall is cleaned up and dried out after removing the old backsplash, take time to prep before installing the new one:
- Make sure all switching outlets or electrical boxes are cleared of debris and ready for new backsplash treatment.
- Look for any cracks, holes or high/low spots on the exposed wall surface and repair as needed with spackle or joint compound.
- Sand any spackled areas smooth for optimal adhesion.
- If existing drywall is in really rough shape, you may need to replace sections or install cement board prior to new backsplash.
- Plan adequate drying time following any repairs before attempting to install the new backsplash system.
- Read through the entire installation instructions for your specific backsplash product before starting. Have all tools, materials and components recommended on hand.
Taking these steps helps provide the proper wall surface to install a quality new backsplash that will last.
Tips for Easier Backsplash Removal
Removing an old backsplash completely can involve some work, but a few simple tips can help make the process go faster and smoother:
- Always wear safety glasses and a dust mask when demolishing tile or panels to protect yourself from debris.
- Cover floors, countertops and nearby surfaces very thoroughly before starting demo to contain mess.
- For glass or mosaic tiles, apply hot water to the surface first to loosen grout and bonding before trying to pry off tiles.
- When prying off any type of tile, start systematically in one corner and work horizontally or vertically across for the most control.
- Try scoring grout lines multiple times with a utility knife before attempting to pry up tiles to avoid cracking or breaking them unnecessarily.
- Take your time fully cleaning off old thinset adhesive for a perfectly prepped wall ready for new backsplash materials to bond.
- Dispose of demo debris promptly and keep the area cleaned up for safety and organization.
With proper tools, setup and techniques, removing an outdated backsplash gets you one step closer to a fresh new backsplash look.
FAQs: Removing Existing Backsplash
What is the easiest backsplash material to remove?
Laminate panel backsplash is generally the easiest type to take down. Once the securing clips are detached, panels can be lifted off cleanly. Just fill any remaining holes.
Can you put a new backsplash over an old one?
It is not recommended to install new backsplash tile or panels directly over an existing backsplash. Old materials should be fully removed to allow proper adhesion of new backsplash.
How do you remove old tile backsplash without damaging drywall?
Use a plastic putty knife and razor scraper to gently loosen old grout and adhesive. Pry tiles off carefully and systematically to prevent gouging drywall behind the tiles. Repair any drywall damage before installing new backsplash.
What removes old tile adhesive from drywall?
An all-purpose cleaner mixed with warm water helps dissolve adhesive and residue. For stubborn leftover thinset, try gently scraping then cleaning with a baking soda/vinegar solution and clean rag. Avoid excessive scraping or pressure which can damage drywall.
Can backsplash be easily removed when selling a house?
Backsplash tile, panels or laminates can be removed by the seller if desired to prepare home for sale. This provides a clean slate for the next owner’s decor tastes. Follow standard backsplash removal techniques based on the material.
Is it cheaper to remove or replace backsplash?
If the existing backsplash is in good overall condition except for being dated in style, it is generally cheaper to remove and replace with new materials. However, if the current backsplash has widespread damage or installation issues, full replacement may be worth the cost.
What tool removes grout effectively?
A handheld grout removal tool with oscillating head (multi-tool) works well to scrape out old grout. Manual grout rakes or pry bars also allow grout removal if carefully worked along grout lines.
Removing an outdated or damaged backsplash is an involved but doable DIY project for many homeowners. Understanding your existing backsplash material and layout guides the proper removal techniques. Having the right tools on hand allows safe dismantling. And taking time to clean and prep the wall means your new backsplash can be installed successfully. With some patience and elbow grease, you can tackle a backsplash removal project to upgrade your space with a fresh new look.