How to Remove One Tile from Backsplash

Replacing one damaged or outdated tile in a backsplash can give your kitchen a quick facelift without requiring a full remodeling project. With some basic tools and techniques, removing and replacing a single backsplash tile is a manageable DIY task for many homeowners.

Assessing the Tile and Gathering Materials

Before rushing into prying off the old tile, take a moment to fully assess the situation. Here are a few tips:

  • Identify the exact tile that needs replacing. Make sure it is actually damaged or flawed and not just discolored. Clean it first to be sure.
  • Check that you have extra tiles or can get a replacement tile that is an identical match in terms of size, color, texture, and glaze.
  • Ensure the surrounding tiles are all fully secured in the thinset and grout. Replace any that are loose or cracked.
  • Gather the necessary materials including: pry bar, putty knife, hammer, razor knife, painter’s tape, thinset mortar, grout, grout sealer, sponge, safety gear.
  • Turn off the main water supply so faucet and supply lines can be removed if needed to access the bad tile.

Carefully Removing the Tile

With the prep work done, it’s time to remove the bad tile. Take your time with this step to avoid damaging tiles around it.

  • Use painter’s tape to cover the tiles immediately surrounding the bad one to protect their surface.
  • Using a putty knife, carefully pry under the bad tile and break the seal of the grout around it. Apply pressure slowly.
  • Once freed, use a pry bar for additional leverage to work the tile off the thinset starting at the bottom edge.
  • Be patient and cautious. If it’s not budging easily, recheck for any remaining grout seal and try heating the area with a hair dryer to soften the thinset first.
  • Remove any remaining thinset mortar from the empty space on the wall so the new tile will adhere properly.

Preparing the Replacement Tile

Get your new backsplash tile ready for installation before applying fresh thinset and grout.

  • Make sure the new tile matches the old one as closely as possible in size, texture, and appearance.
  • Use a razor knife or wet saw to cut it down slightly if needed for a perfect fit.
  • Bevel the edges if needed to match the surrounding tiles. Use a special bit for porcelain or ceramic.
  • Temporarily put the tile in place and apply painter’s tape across the joint lines to protect nearby tiles.

Installing the Replacement Tile

You’re nearly done. Now it’s time to securely install your replacement tile into the backsplash.

  • Apply a thin layer of fresh thinset mortar evenly across the back wall area.
  • Place the tile into position and press firmly to adhere and flatten. If needed, use a rubber mallet wrapped in a cloth.
  • Ensure the edges are aligned evenly with neighboring tiles and press firmly into the thinset.
  • Use painter’s tape to keep the tile propped in place as the thinset dries if needed.
  • After 24 hours, remove the tape and clean away any leaked thinset before it dries.
  • Mix grout according to package directions and press it firmly into the joints around the new tile.
  • Wipe away excess immediately with a damp sponge in diagonal motions.
  • Apply grout sealer once dry for added protection.

And that’s it! With some care and elbow grease, you can successfully replace a single backsplash tile on your own. Be sure to inspect closely and address any cracks in surrounding grout or caulk for a flawless finish.

Frequently Asked Questions About Replacing One Backsplash Tile

What tools do I need to remove one backsplash tile?

You’ll need a pry bar, putty knife, hammer, razor knife, painter’s tape, safety goggles, work gloves, thinset mortar, and grout. Optional tools include a hair dryer or heat gun.

How do I match a new tile to the existing backsplash?

Bring one of the undamaged tiles with you to the home improvement store. Compare color, texture, dimensions, and glaze. Order extras for future repairs.

Should I turn off the water before replacing a tile?

Yes, turn off the main water supply or shut off valves for any faucets or supply lines that will be near the work area. Remove fixtures if needed.

What’s the easiest way to remove old grout around the tile?

Use a razor knife, utility knife, or oscillating tool held at a 45 degree angle to the joints to gently break the old grout seal. Go slow.

How long does thinset mortar take to dry before grouting?

Cure times vary by product, but most standard thinsets take 16-24 hours to fully cure before grouting can begin. Refer to label directions.

How do I keep the new tile even with the existing backsplash?

Use painter’s tape to mark width guidelines on the wall and tile edges. Check dimensions often during installation and before thinset dries.

What’s the best way to apply and clean grout for one new tile?

Use a grout float held at a 45 degree angle to force grout firmly into joints. Wipe excess with minimal pressure using a damp sponge indiagonal motions.


Replacing a single damaged, stained, or outdated tile in a kitchen or bathroom backsplash is a simple and affordable way to instantly improve its appearance. With proper tools, careful tile removal technique, exact tile matching, and step-by-step installation, even novice DIYers can achieve professional-looking results. Pay close attention to clean grout lines and seal them once dry for maximum protection. Then stand back and admire your refreshed backsplash!