How to Remove Tile Backsplash Without Damaging Tile

Removing a tile backsplash without causing damage is definitely possible with the right techniques and tools. As long as you take your time and follow proper removal procedures, you can take down tile from your walls without harming the drywall or tile itself. Here’s an in-depth look at how to safely remove a tile backsplash without causing any damage.

Steps to Remove Tile Backsplash Without Damage

Gather the Proper Tools

The first step is gathering the correct tools to remove tile adhesive and pry the tiles off gently. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Tile pry bar – A long pry bar allows you to get leverage under tiles to pop them off. Look for one with a flat end to prevent scratching.
  • Hammer – Use light taps with a hammer to help loosen stubborn tiles. Choose a small hammer to avoid excessive force.
  • Putty knife – For scraping off old thinset adhesive, a putty knife is perfect. Opt for a 2-3 inch stainless steel one.
  • Goggles – Wear protective eyewear to guard against debris when prying tiles off.
  • Knee pads – Kneeling on a hard floor to remove tiles can hurt your knees without padding. Get comfortable kneepads.
  • Dust mask – A dust mask prevents inhaling dust and particles during the removal process.
  • Gloves – Wear thick work gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges on tiles.

Prepare the Workspace

Before starting demo, you’ll want to prep the area around your backsplash. Follow these tips:

  • Clear countertops and remove anything on walls near the backsplash.
  • Cover nearby surfaces like countertops with painters tape and drop cloths.
  • Have a wheelbarrow, buckets, and trash bags ready to dispose of tile debris.
  • Sweep and vacuum the floor underneath the tile thoroughly.

Cut Any Caulk or Grout

Use a utility knife or grout saw blade to cut any existing caulk or grout between the tile and countertop or between seams. This allows you to pop tiles off cleanly.

Start Prying Tiles

With your tile pry bar and hammer, begin prying tiles off gently. Follow these pointers:

  • Position pry bar under tile edges and use slight pressure at first.
  • Tap gently with hammer if needed to loosen adhesive’s grip.
  • Work in sections going outward from corners and edges.
  • Keep pry bar flat to prevent scratching drywall.
  • Wiggle tiles back and forth to break adhesive seal.
  • Support tile edges so they don’t crack during removal.
  • Stack tiles neatly as you remove them to prevent damage.

Scrape Off Any Remaining Thinset

Once tiles are pried off, inspect the wall for any leftover thinset adhesive. Use a putty knife to gently scrape off all residue. Take care not to gouge into the drywall.

Clean the Wall Surface

With adhesive removed, sweep and wipe down the wall to clear dust and debris. Carefully remove any remaining staples or tile spacers. Now the surface is prepped and ready for the next backsplash.

Tips for Preventing Damage

Removing a tile backsplash without damage involves patience and care. Keep these pointers in mind:

  • Work slowly and carefully. Don’t rush or force tiles off.
  • Wear kneepads and kneel to access the entire backsplash area safely.
  • Keep tools flush against the wall to avoid puncturing drywall.
  • Take breaks to avoid fatigue and sloppy technique. Tile removal can be taxing.
  • Inspect wall for damage after every few rows of tile are removed.
  • Have spare drywall, joint compound, and tools ready for minor repairs if needed.

Alternatives to Demoing Tile Yourself

Attempting a tile removal DIY project isn’t for everyone. Here are some options if you’d rather leave it to the professionals:

  • Hire a contractor to remove and dispose of the tile backsplash safely.
  • Some contractors offer tile “reset” services where they remove and reinstall tile.
  • In some cases, you may be able to install new tile or backsplash over the existing one.
  • Consider painting over the tile with specialty bonding primers and paints.

The bottom line is removing an existing backsplash without damaging walls or tile takes patience, the proper tools, and technique. But with care and by working methodically, you can demolition a tile backsplash successfully. Just tackle it slowly and carefully.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Tile Backsplash

Can I use a hair dryer or heat gun to remove backsplash tile?

No, avoid using heat sources to try and loosen the tile adhesive. This can damage the drywall behind the tile. Stick to a tile pry bar and hammer for safe tile removal.

What about using chemicals or solvents to dissolve the thinset?

Chemical strippers or solvents come with hazards, fumes and safety concerns. They can also damage the underlying wall. Scraping or chipping away old adhesive manually is best.

How do I get rid of thinset stuck on the drywall after tile removal?

Use a multipurpose drywall knife, chisel or putty knife to gently scrape and chip away at any remaining thinset on the wall’s surface. Take care not to dig into the drywall.

What should I do if some of the drywall paper tears off?

Minor drywall damage can happen. Use elastomeric patch or drywall joint compound to cover any gouges or missing paper layers. Apply in thin coats, sand smooth and repaint.

Can I save the backsplash tile to reuse somewhere else?

Sometimes yes! Remove tiles evenly and stack them to prevent cracks or chips. Clean off any thinset adhesive and store tiles safely. Check for damage before reinstalling them.


Removing an existing tile backsplash brings risks of damaging the drywall or the tiles themselves. But with the proper tools, technique, and patience you can demo a tile backsplash without causing harm. Always work slowly, use products designed for prying tile, and take safety precautions like eye and knee protection.

Or if removing tile seems too daunting, explore hiring a contractor or installer to take care of the demo for you. With care and preparation, you can take out any tile backsplash without causing damage to your walls or tiles.