How to Remove Tile Countertops and Backsplash

Removing tile countertops and backsplash can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques it can be done successfully as a DIY project. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to remove tile countertops and backsplash in your home.

Gather the Necessary Materials

Before starting demolition, make sure you have gathered all the necessary materials to safely and effectively remove the tile. Here is what you will need:

  • Safety gear – This includes goggles, dust mask, ear protection, knee pads, and gloves. Tile demolition can create a lot of debris and noise.
  • Hammer – A 3 lb sledge hammer or 5 lb mini-sledge hammer works best for breaking up tile.
  • Cold chisel – Use a masonry chisel about 1 inch wide to help pry up tiles.
  • Pry bar – A long pry bar helps leverage and loosen tile.
  • Dust sheets – Cover nearby surfaces to contain dust and debris.
  • Shovel and dustpan – For cleaning up tile pieces and grout as you work.
  • Bucket – For collecting tile debris and carrying tools.
  • Tile cutter – Useful for cutting a score line in sturdy intact tiles before prying up.
  • Replacement countertop materials – Have new countertop materials ready to install after demolition.

Prepare the Workspace

Now it’s time to set up your workspace to start demolishing the tile:

  • Clear countertops of any items, appliances, fixtures.
  • Protect nearby surfaces from debris with drop cloths. Cover walls, floors, appliances.
  • Have a debris collection system in place with dust sheets, buckets, trash cans.
  • Sweep the countertops to remove any loose debris or objects.
  • Turn off electricity or gas to appliances like stovetops.
  • Have a first aid kit nearby in case of any injuries.
  • Open windows and use fans to maximize ventilation.

Score and Break Up Tile

With your safety gear on, you can start breaking up the tile:

  • Use the cold chisel and hammer to score grout lines between tiles. This weakens the grout.
  • Position cold chisel in grout line and hit with hammer to break up grout.
  • Once grout is compromised, use pry bar to pry up individual tiles.
  • For stubborn tiles, use tile cutter to score surface before prying up.
  • Pull up tiles and use hammer to break them into smaller pieces over a bucket.
  • Wear knee pads to protect knees from sharp debris while working low.
  • Work in small sections, fully removing tile before moving to the next section.

Remove Thinset Mortar

After removing the majority of tile pieces, it’s time to scrape off the thinset mortar below:

  • Use a chisel, putty knife, or oscillating multi-tool to scrape and grind away mortar.
  • Try to remove mortar down to the substrate below, which may be plywood, cement board, or the existing countertop.
  • Vacuum up dust and debris frequently while scraping to improve visibility.
  • Ensure mortar is removed across the entire surface, leaving a clean substrate for new tile or countertop.
  • For stubborn spots, a grinder with a diamond blade can help remove remaining thinset.

Clean Up Debris

Demolishing tile creates a huge amount of dust, shards, and powder that requires proper cleanup:

  • Use a shop vacuum to vacuum up all debris on countertops, floors, walls and other surfaces.
  • Go over the area several times to ensure all tile debris is picked up.
  • Remove any dust sheets protecting appliances or surfaces.
  • Use a damp cloth to wipe down remaining dust from all surfaces.
  • Dispose of tile debris appropriately based on local regulations. Most can go in normal waste.
  • Clean tools like hammers, chisels and pry bars thoroughly before storing.

What to Consider

When taking on a tile removal project, keep these tips in mind:

  • Removing tile takes time and patience. Work slowly to avoid damaging the underlying surface.
  • Wear proper safety equipment at all times to protect from debris and dust.
  • Contain dust by sealing doorways with plastic sheeting and using dust extraction tools.
  • Disconnect appliances or fixtures attached to tile area to simplify removal.
  • Be prepared to also remove adjacent surfaces like drywall if it gets damaged during demolition.
  • Have a plan for safe debris disposal and cleanup before starting demolition.


How long does it take to remove tile countertops?

Removing tile countertops takes 2-3 days typically, working at a careful steady pace. Rushing increases the chance of damaging the underlying surface.

What tools do I need to remove backsplash tile?

A cold chisel, hammer, pry bar, putty knives, and shop vacuum are essential tools for removing backsplash tile and adhesive. Safety gear like goggles, gloves and a dust mask are also a must.

Can I rent tools for removing tile?

Yes, specialty tools like oscillating multi-tools or grinders can be rented affordably from home improvement stores to help with tile removal. Always use proper safety precautions when operating power tools.

What is the easiest way to remove thick mortar?

Scraping with a chisel followed by grinding with an oscillating multi-tool or angle grinder are the most effective ways to remove thick, stubborn layers of mortar. Take proper safety precautions when using power tools.

Can I put new tile over existing tile?

It is not recommended to install new tile over existing tile. Removing the old tile allows inspection of the underlying surface and proper preparation for the new tile.

What do I do if I crack my countertop removing tile?

Minor cracks may be repairable with epoxy injections for stone countertops or Bondo for solid surface. Major damage usually requires calling in a countertop pro to replace or install a new countertop.


Removing existing tile countertops and backsplash takes time and physical labor, but with the proper tools and safety precautions it can absolutely be tackled as a DIY project. Always work slowly and carefully to avoid damaging the underlying surface. Focus on safety and proper debris containment. The sense of accomplishment making way for a new backsplash or countertop makes the demolition work worthwhile. With some perseverance and muscle, those outdated tiles will be rubble in no time!