How to Remove Tile Backsplash from Wall

Removing a tile backsplash from your kitchen or bathroom wall can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it doesn’t have to be. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to remove tile backsplash from the wall.

What You’ll Need

  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Putty knife
  • Goggles
  • Dust mask
  • Trash bags
  • Pry bar (optional)

Prepping the Work Area

Before starting demolition, you’ll want to prep the area to minimize dust and damage. Here are a few tips:

  • Clear the counter and floor around the backsplash area so you have room to work. Remove anything breakable or valuable.
  • Cover nearby surfaces like countertops with drop cloths or plastic sheeting. This protects them from damage during the tile removal process.
  • Have a vacuum ready to frequently clean up tile pieces and dust as you work.
  • Wear safety goggles and a dust mask to protect yourself from debris.

Removing the Tile

With your work area prepped, it’s time to start removing the backsplash tile. Here is the process:

1. Break the Grout Lines

Use a hammer and chisel to break the grout lines between the tiles. Hold the chisel at an angle and carefully tap it to break up the grout.

Go slowly to avoid damaging the drywall behind the tile. Remove all grout so the tiles are completely free.

2. Pry Off Whole Tiles

Once grout lines are broken, you can begin prying off whole tile pieces. Use a putty knife or pry bar and gently work the tool under each tile to pop it off.

Start in an inconspicuous corner or edge. Work carefully to avoid gouging the wall behind the tile.

3. Remove Broken Pieces

Some tiles will likely break during removal. Use the hammer to break these pieces into smaller fragments that are easy to remove.

Continually vacuum up debris as you work to clear the area. Carefully pry off any remaining broken tile pieces.

4. Scrape off Adhesive

With all tile removed, use a putty knife to scrape residual thinset adhesive from the wall. Try to get it as smooth as possible.

Be careful not to gouge the drywall too deeply. Thinset stuck in holes can make it hard to apply new backsplash later.

5. Clean the Wall

Give the wall a final vacuuming and wipe down with a damp cloth. This removes lingering dust and debris.

Inspect the wall and ensure any screw holes or damage is patched up and ready for the new backsplash.

Can I Salvage the Tile?

If removing tile for a redesign or to change the backsplash style, you may want to salvage the tile. Pry it off carefully and slowly to keep tile pieces as intact as possible.

Place tile gently in a box padded with newspaper or bubble wrap. Clean salvaged tile and store it properly for reuse.

Tips for Easier Removal

  • Score the tile surface with a utility knife before prying. This can help it come off cleaner.
  • Heat the tile with a hair dryer or heat gun first to soften the adhesive.
  • For stubborn tile, use a multi-tool oscillator to vibrate it loose.
  • Apply painter’s tape along edges to protect the nearby walls during removal.

Hiring a Pro for Removal

Removing tile backsplash is labor intensive. For large projects or tricky installations, consider hiring a professional installer to remove it instead.

They have the right power tools, experience, and techniques to remove the backsplash quickly and safely with minimal wall damage.

Preparing the Wall for a New Backsplash

Once your old tile is removed, properly prepare the wall for new backsplash installation. Here are a few tips:

  • Fill any gouges, holes, or high spots with drywall compound for a smooth surface.
  • Prime and paint the wall with acrylic latex primer and paint formulated for kitchens/bathrooms.
  • Make any needed repairs to underlayment, moisture barriers, or waterproofing.
  • Ensure the wall meets any specific requirements of your new tile or backsplash material.

With the wall prepped, you’ll have a clean slate for your new dream backsplash! Carefully removing the old tile is the first step.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Tile Backsplash

How do you remove tile adhesive from drywall?

Use a putty knife, plastic scraper, or multi-tool to gently scrape off old thinset adhesive without damaging the wallboard behind it. Adhesive remover chemicals can also help soften and dissolve residual thinset.

What is the easiest way to remove backsplash tile?

Scoring the tiles, heating them up, and running a multi-tool oscillator along the surface helps vibrate tiles off intact. Use painter’s tape to protect edges. Work slowly and carefully. Damaging the drywall subsurface makes new tile installation harder.

Can I put new backsplash tile over old?

It is not recommended to install new backsplash tile over old. The layers of old adhesive and tile can make it unstable and prone to detach. It’s best to remove the old tile and start fresh with the wall surface.

Is it cheaper to replace or remove backsplash?

For a basic tile removal job, removing an existing backsplash and preparing the wall for new tile is cheaper than installing over old. Replacing avoids issues down the road and lets you inspect for any needed repairs before retiling.

What tools do I need to remove kitchen tile?

A hammer, chisel, putty knife, pry bar, vacuum, safety gear like goggles and mask, and drop cloths are the basic tools needed. A multi-tool oscillator is also handy for stubborn tile. Make sure to use pry tools carefully to avoid damaging the wall.


Removing an existing tile backsplash takes time and care, but is doable as a DIY project. The key steps are prepping your work area, breaking grout lines, prying off tiles carefully, removing adhesive, and cleaning the wall fully. Safety gear and the right tools are a must.

For large removal jobs, don’t hesitate to call in a professional installer. They can remove old tile efficiently while protecting your walls for a smooth new backsplash installation. With some elbow grease and patience, you can clear the way for your new dream backsplash design.