How to Remove Tile Backsplash from Drywall

Removing a tile backsplash from drywall can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be done successfully. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to remove tile backsplash from drywall.

Gather the Necessary Tools and Materials

Before starting demo, make sure you have the following tools and materials on hand:

  • Safety gear – gloves, eye protection, dust mask
  • Hammer or mini sledge to break tiles
  • Putty knife or oscillating multi-tool to pry off tiles
  • Flat pry bar for removing stubborn tiles
  • Utility knife for scraping off tile adhesive
  • Drywall repair compounds like joint compound
  • Sandpaper and sanding block
  • Drywall replacement sheets and screws (if needed)

Prep the Work Area

To make the process easier, take some time to prep the workspace:

  • Clear countertops and remove anything breakable from the backsplash area
  • Lay down drop cloths to catch fallen tiles and debris
  • Have a trash can or wheelbarrow nearby to dispose of old tiles
  • Make sure the area is well-ventilated and wear a dust mask
  • Turn off power to any outlets in the backsplash area

Demo the Wall Tile

With your safety gear on, you can start removing the backsplash tiles:

  • Start tapping tiles with hammer/sledge to break them into smaller pieces
  • Use putty knife or oscillating tool to pry tiles off if hammer doesn’t work
  • For stubborn tiles, use a pry bar and gently tilt it behind the tile to pop it off
  • Take care not to damage the drywall behind the tile
  • Keep prying and tapping until all tiles are demolished

Scrape Off Remaining Tile Adhesive

Once tiles are removed, use a utility knife to scrape off any remaining thinset mortar or tile mastic:

  • Hold knife at 45 degree angle and scrape in direction of adhesive ridges
  • Take care not to gouge into the drywall itself
  • Thoroughly scrape entire area down to bare drywall
  • Dispose of adhesive scraps

Repair Damaged Drywall Areas

Inspect the drywall for any damage that may need patching:

  • Dents, holes, and gouges in drywall should be patched
  • Use drywall joint compound and mesh tape for cracks or seams
  • Larger holes may need drywall replacement patches to be cut and screwed in
  • Sand patches flush once compound dries fully

Smooth and Prepare the Surface

To finish prepping for new backsplash tile:

  • Lightly sand entire surface to smooth and remove adhesive residue
  • Clean off dust with tack cloth
  • Fill any gaps or imperfections with drywall compound
  • Prime drywall with tile primer to aid adhesion

The wall should now be ready for your new backsplash tile! Be sure to follow best practices for tile prep and installation. Gently prying off tiles and thoroughly cleaning the backsplash area takes time and diligence. But removing old tile without damaging the underlying drywall is certainly possible with the right methods. Let the new backsplash transformation begin!

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Tile Backsplash

What tools do I need to remove tile backsplash?

You’ll need a hammer or sledge, putty knife, pry bar, utility knife, sandpaper/block, and safety gear like gloves and eye protection. Oscillating multi-tools also work well.

How do I keep from damaging the drywall underneath?

Work slowly and carefully. Use putty knives and pry bars to lift tiles instead of hammering. Take care not to gouge into drywall when scraping adhesive. Repair any damage before adding new tile.

What’s the best way to break apart ceramic or porcelain backsplash tile?

Use a mini sledge or hammer and tap firmly on tiles to fracture them safely into smaller pieces for easy removal. Wear eye and hand protection.

Should I use a chemical stripper to remove thinset mortar?

No, chemical strippers can damage drywall and create a mess. It’s best to scrape off old thinset manually with a utility knife. Go slowly to avoid gouging the wall surface.

How do I prep the wall surface after removing old tile?

Sand, patch holes, fill gaps, and prime the drywall. This gives a smooth surface for new tile to adhere to. Be sure all adhesive is removed before applying new backsplash.

Can I install new tile backsplash right over the old one?

It’s not recommended. Old tile should be removed completely first to avoid poor adhesion and improper spacing of the new tiles. Thorough removal is worth the effort.


Removing tile backsplash is a manageable project with some demolition work, scraping, sanding, and drywall repairs involved. To avoid damage, work slowly and steadily. Make safety a priority and use the proper prying tools instead of brute force. With some diligence and patience, you can successfully demo the old backsplash tile without harming the wall underneath. The end result will be a smooth, clean surface ready for a stunning new backsplash.