How to Remove Old Kitchen Backsplash

Removing an old kitchen backsplash can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be accomplished successfully. An outdated or damaged backsplash detracts from the look of your kitchen, so replacing it with something fresh and modern can completely transform the space. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to remove old kitchen backsplash tile or paneling.

Assessing the Existing Backsplash

The first step is to examine the existing backsplash and determine what type it is – tile, metal panels, laminate, etc. This will affect the level of difficulty in removing it. Make note of the following:

  • Material – Ceramic and porcelain tiles are more durable than grout and require more intensive removal methods. Laminates are thinner and easier to pry off.
  • Grout lines – Wide grout lines between tiles can make chiseling them off easier. Narrow grout lines make prying tiles loose more difficult.
  • Installation method – Backsplashes mortared directly to the wall are harder to remove than those applied with mastic adhesive.
  • Accessibility – A backsplash around a stove or sink creates more limited workspace.

Thoroughly inspecting the type of existing backsplash and installation method will inform the safest and most efficient removal approach.

Gathering Necessary Removal Tools

Removing a kitchen backsplash requires an assortment of demolition and prying tools:

  • Safety gear – Goggles, mask, and gloves for protection from debris and dust
  • Hammer – For breaking up tiles and knocking off grout
  • Chisel and pry bar – Getting under tiles and panels to loosen them
  • Putty knife – Scraping off remaining adhesive or grout
  • Shovel and dustpan – For clearing away backsplash remnants
  • Shop vacuum – For ongoing cleaning up of dust and particles

Having these tools on hand will prevent delays in the removal process. Be sure to use eye and ear protection when operating electric tools.

Prepping the Workspace

Before starting demolition, you’ll need to prep the kitchen for the installation of the new backsplash:

  • Remove any dishes, food items, utensils near the backsplash area.
  • Cover countertops with drop cloths to protect from debris.
  • Tape plastic sheeting along countertops and floors to keep dust contained.
  • Have a trash can or bag nearby to discard old backsplash pieces.
  • Turn off power at the circuit breaker to be safe when working near switches or outlets.

Taking these steps at the start will leave you with a controlled workspace for safely removing the old backsplash.

Removing Tile Backsplash

For tile backsplashes, follow these steps:

1. Score grout lines with utility knife

Run a sharp utility knife along grout lines to sever them. This will make prying tiles easier. Take care not to scratch countertops or cabinets.

2. Carefully pry off tiles

Use a pry bar or flathead screwdriver to gently lift a corner and work the tile loose. Apply force gradually to avoid damaging the drywall behind. Remove tiles in a controlled manner.

3. Chisel or scrape off remaining grout

Use a chisel or putty knife to remove leftover grout adhesive from the wall surface. Try to get it as smooth as possible.

4. Clean with towel and shop vacuum

Wipe the formerly tiled area with a wet towel to remove lingering debris and dust. Then thoroughly vacuum up particles.

5. Fill any gouges in drywall

Inspect the wall and fill any gouges or holes in the drywall with spackle compound. Allow time to dry before applying new backsplash.

Removing Laminate Backsplash

Laminate backsplashes utilize thinner panels adhered directly to the wall surface. Removal involves these steps:

1. Cut through caulk beads with utility knife

Slice any caulk seam between the countertop and laminate backsplash. This allows panels to come free.

2. Work panels loose with pry bar

Insert pry bar under an edge or seam and gently pry upwards and outwards. Work slowly to avoid tearing panels.

3. Scrape off adhesive with putty knife

Use a putty knife to gently scrape off any residual adhesive left on the wall, taking care not to gouge drywall.

4. Clean area thoroughly

Wipe down the former backsplash area with a wet towel. Use shop vacuum to pick up all crumbs and debris.

5. Sand rough spots on wall (optional)

Use fine grit sandpaper to smooth any uneven wall areas. This prepares the surface for new backsplash.

Disposing of Backsplash Debris

Once the backsplash demolition is complete, properly dispose of the waste:

  • Sweep debris into trash bags using a dustpan.
  • Vacuum up remaining dust and particles from countertops, floors, and cabinets.
  • Place tile or laminate pieces into contractor bags, seal, and carry to waste bin.
  • Wipe down surrounding surfaces to eliminate lingering dust.

Proper cleanup and debris removal keeps the rest of the kitchen clean for the new backsplash installation.

Preparing the Area for New Backsplash

With the old backsplash removed, a few finishing touches will get the wall ready for the installation:

  • Wash the newly exposed backsplash area with warm, soapy water.
  • Fill any small voids in the wall surface with spackle compound; allow drying.
  • Sand any raised grout lines or adhesive residue to smooth the area.
  • Seal the backsplash wall with enamel primer to improve adhesion.

Following these steps, your kitchen will soon be ready for a beautiful new backsplash that gives the space an updated, polished look.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Old Backsplash

Here are answers to some common questions on taking out an outdated kitchen backsplash:

What tools do I need to remove a tile backsplash?

A hammer, chisel, putty knife, pry bar, and eye protection are essential for prying off stubborn tiles and scraping residual grout.

How do I keep drywall damage to a minimum?

Pry tiles off gradually and carefully to avoid tearing the drywall behind. Use spackle compound to fill any holes or gouges in the wall.

What’s the easiest backsplash to remove?

Self-adhesive laminate sheets can generally be pried off intact more easily than tiles mortared heavily to the wall.

How do I get rid of old mastic or mortar?

Scraping with a putty knife can remove much of the adhesive residue. For more stubborn areas, use a solvent like mineral spirits.

Can I put the new backsplash up right away?

It’s best to wash the wall, fill any voids, sand, and prime before installing the new backsplash for proper adhesion.


Removing an outdated or damaged kitchen backsplash takes time and effort but is definitely a DIY-friendly project. With the right demolition tools and proper safety precautions, even novice homeowners can successfully peel away old tile or laminate. Thorough cleaning, prep, and priming sets the stage for a stunning new backsplash. Just take it slowly and safely so you can soon enjoy a beautiful kitchen transformation.