How to Remove Tile Backsplash Without Damaging Drywall

Removing a tile backsplash without damaging the drywall behind it can be a tricky process, but with the right tools and techniques, it is possible. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to remove tile backsplash safely and minimize damage to the drywall.


A tile backsplash can be a great way to add visual interest and protection behind a sink, stove, or countertops. However, styles change over time and you may eventually want to update your backsplash. Removing the tile carefully is key to avoiding unnecessary damage to the drywall behind it. With some preparation and the right tools, you can remove tile backsplash without ruining your walls.

Steps to Remove Tile Backsplash Without Damaging Drywall

Gather the Right Tools

To safely remove tile backsplash, you will need:

  • Hammer
  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask
  • Pry bar
  • Putty knives
  • Scrapers
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Grout removal tool
  • Shop vacuum

Having the proper tools for the job will make the process much easier and prevent damage. Investing in quality tools is worthwhile.

Prepare the Workspace

Clear the area around the backsplash of any dishes, appliances, rugs, etc. Cover nearby surfaces like countertops with drop cloths to catch falling debris. Wear safety glasses and a dust mask to protect yourself. Have a shop vacuum ready to frequently clean up tile pieces, grout, and dust as you work.

Score the Grout Lines

Use a utility knife or grout removal tool to score along the grout lines surrounding each tile. This will help break the tile free. Apply firm but controlled pressure as you score – don’t dig too deeply into the drywall.

Carefully Pry Off Tiles

Working in small sections, insert a pry bar under the edge of a tile and gently pry upwards and outwards to pop it off. Apply force slowly and evenly. Use scrapers or putty knives to help release stubborn tiles. Remove nails or mesh from the drywall.

Clean Off Excess Grout

Use your grout removal tool, putty knives, or chisels to scrape away remaining grout from the edges and surface of the drywall. Avoid gouging into the drywall. Vacuum frequently to clear away grout debris.

Inspect and Patch Drywall

Examine the drywall for any damage. Fill small holes or nicks with drywall compound. Cut away and replace any larger damaged sections. Careful tile removal should not damage the integrity of the drywall.

Prepare Surface for New Backsplash

Once you have removed the tile and cleaned up the drywall, inspect for any remaining debris or uneven surfaces. Sand and wipe any rough areas. Prime and paint the surface so it is fresh and ready for your new backsplash application.

Tips for Preventing Drywall Damage

  • Go slowly and apply controlled force to avoid digging into the drywall.
  • Use sharp tools to score grout lines – don’t use dull tools that can tear into the drywall surface.
  • Keep tools perpendicular, rather than parallel, to the wall surface as you pry.
  • Periodically stop and vacuum up debris so you have a clear view of the workspace.
  • Inspect for nails, mesh, or adhesive and remove completely after tile removal.
  • Fill any nicks immediately to prevent further crumbling of the drywall edges.

Common Questions About Removing Tile Backsplash

How long does it take to remove a tile backsplash?

Removal time depends on the size of your backsplash, but plan on several hours for a moderate sized kitchen backsplash. Working carefully and deliberately is more important than speed.

What is the easiest way to remove tile backsplash?

Scoring the grout lines before prying tiles off is the easiest method. Soak very stubborn tiles with water before prying to weaken the adhesive. Use sharp pry bars and putty knives designed for prying.

Can I put new tile over existing backsplash?

It is not recommended to install new tile over an existing backsplash. The layers of old adhesive and grout can prevent proper adhesion and cause the new tiles to crack or fall off. Old tile should be fully removed first.

What tool is best for scraping off old tile adhesive?

A multi-tool scraper or long handled floor scraper can remove adhesive residue. Adjust the angle of the blade to avoid gouging the drywall. Adhesive can also be soaked with hot water or vinegar to soften before scraping.


Removing an outdated tile backsplash takes time and care, but is a project a motivated DIYer can certainly accomplish. With the proper tools and techniques, you can eliminate your old backsplash without damaging the integrity of the underlying drywall. Just be sure to work slowly, use sharp tools, clean frequently, and make repairs immediately. Soon you’ll have a fresh blank canvas for an updated backsplash design.