How to Remove Part of a Tile Backsplash

Removing part of a tile backsplash can be a daunting task for homeowners. Tile is durable and built to last, so removing just a section while leaving the surrounding tiles intact takes patience and the right techniques. With some planning, care, and the proper tools, you can successfully remove and replace a portion of your backsplash tiles.

Reasons for Removing Part of a Tile Backsplash

There are several reasons you may need to remove only part of your backsplash:

  • Damaged tiles – If some of your backsplash tiles become damaged or cracked over time, replacing just those tiles is often easier than redoing the entire backsplash.
  • Accessing plumbing or electrical – Tiles may need to be removed to gain access to pipes, wires, or outlets located behind the backsplash.
  • Change up the look – Removing a section of the backsplash provides an opportunity to mix up the tile design or layout.
  • New kitchen layout – Adjusting appliance placement may require removing tiles so the new layout fits.

No matter the reason, carefully removing select tiles leaves the rest of the backsplash intact and saves major renovation work.

Preparing to Remove Backsplash Tiles

Taking time to prepare will make the process easier and protect the surrounding tiles. Consider the following tips:

  • Have replacement tiles ready – Matching tiles may be difficult to find, so purchase replacements before starting removal.
  • Photograph backsplash – Take photos of the entire backsplash and area to be removed. This will help with replacing tiles in the right layout.
  • Clear area – Remove everything from the work area, including appliances, tools, or decor.
  • Protect surfaces – Cover countertops, floors, and appliances with drop cloths to catch falling debris.
  • Turn off electricity – Shut off power to outlets located behind the backsplash to stay safe if cutting into the drywall.
  • Wear safety gear – Use safety goggles, gloves, and a face mask when removing tiles and drywall.

Tools Needed for Removing Backsplash Tiles

Removing tiles requires patience and the right tools. Be sure to have the following on hand:

  • Chisel and hammer – Use a masonry chisel and hammer to chip away grout and loosen tiles. Hold chisel at a 45-degree angle when chipping away grout.
  • Utility knife – Score grout lines with a utility knife before chipping tiles away.
  • Pry bar – A small pry bar helps gently pry off tiles as you work across the surface.
  • Putty knife – Useful for scraping away old thinset adhesive after removing tiles.
  • Drywall saw – For cutting into the drywall behind the tiles, a drywall saw with fine teeth works best.
  • Safety gear – Wear safety goggles, gloves, and a face mask to protect yourself.

Step-by-Step Process for Removing Tiles

Once you have prepped the work area and have the right tools on hand, follow these key steps:

1. Outline the Tiles to Remove

Determine the tiles needing removal and outline the area with painter’s tape. This keeps the focus only on the affected tiles.

2. Score Grout Lines with Utility Knife

Use a sharp utility knife to score all grout lines surrounding the tiles to be removed. Cut as deep into the grout as possible.

3. Chip Away Grout with Chisel

Position chisel at a 45-degree angle into the scored grout lines. Use the hammer to lightly tap and gradually chip away the grout around the tiles.

4. Remove Intact Tiles

When grout is removed, insert a pry bar under each tile and gently pry it away from the wall. Remove tiles intact if possible.

5. Cut into Drywall as Needed

For broken tiles or thinset stuck to drywall, use a drywall saw to cut into the drywall behind the tile.

6. Scrape Away Adhesive Residue

Use a putty knife to scrape off any remaining thinset adhesive or mortar on the drywall after tile removal.

7. Prepare Area for New Tiles

Once the old tiles are removed, inspect the drywall. Repair any damage before installing new tiles.

Tips for Achieving a Seamless Look

When installing new tiles, follow these tips to achieve a seamless look:

  • Use edge-finishing tools to smooth cut edges of surrounding tiles.
  • Stagger new tiles to blend with the existing layout and grout spacing.
  • Use grout that matches in color and texture. Let it fully cure before sealing.
  • Apply grout sealer to help new grout lines blend with old grout.
  • Make tile cuts precisely to allow gaps of 1/8-inch for grout lines.

Common Questions about Removing Backsplash Tiles

How long does it take to remove backsplash tiles?

Removing a section of backsplash tiles takes 2-4 hours on average. Exact timeframe depends on the number of tiles, accessibility, and how easily the tiles pry off.

Can I match existing backsplash tiles?

You may be able to find matching tiles through the original manufacturer if they are still in production. Or check home improvement stores for similar styles and colors. Another option is to replace the entire backsplash with new tiles.

What tools do I need to remove kitchen tiles?

A chisel, hammer, utility knife, pry bar, and putty knife are essential tools. Safety gear like goggles, gloves, and a mask are also a must. For drywall cutting, use a drywall saw.

How do I remove thinset mortar after taking off tiles?

Use a putty knife or chisel to scrape off leftover thinset adhesive as much as possible. For remnants stuck on badly, use a grinder or sandpaper to remove remaining mortar residue.

Can I save removed backsplash tiles for reuse?

It depends on whether tiles come off intact or crack apart during removal. Undamaged tiles can be saved for reuse or repurposing in other projects. Cracked tiles must be discarded.


Removing only a portion of tile backsplash takes patience but prevents replacing the entire backsplash. With careful prep work, specialty tile removal tools, and safety precautions, homeowners can successfully remove and replace a section of backsplash tiles. Focus on taking tiles off intact, protect surrounding tiles, scrape adhesive residue, and make new tiles blend seamlessly. With the right approach, part of your backsplash can be renewed without a total redo.