How to Remove Travertine Backsplash

Removing a travertine backsplash can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be done efficiently. Travertine is a natural stone made from limestone that forms in hot mineral springs. It’s popular for backsplashes because it offers an elegant, earthy look. However, travertine is porous and requires sealing to prevent stains. Over time, it can become damaged or you may simply want to update your backsplash with a new style. Follow this guide to learn how to remove travertine backsplash properly.

Gather the Necessary Materials

Removing travertine requires some specialized tools and materials. Before starting, gather the following:

  • Safety gear – safety glasses, dust mask, work gloves
  • Hammer and chisel
  • Pry bar
  • Putty knife
  • Screwdriver
  • Trash bags
  • Shop vacuum

Make sure to use eye and ear protection when breaking up the stone. A dust mask is also highly recommended to avoid breathing in particles. Have trash bags on hand to collect debris and make clean up easier.

Prepare the Workspace

Clear the area around the travertine backsplash to give yourself sufficient working room. Remove any dishes, appliances, décor or other items from the counters and walls around the backsplash area. It’s advised to cover nearby surfaces like countertops with tarps or plastic sheeting to prevent damage from flying debris.

Turn off the electricity and water supply to the backsplash area to avoid shock or water damage while working. Make sure any gas lines are shut off as well if you have a gas stove or fixtures in the backsplash zone.

Carefully Remove Grout

Before removing the travertine tiles, you’ll need to clear out the grout between them. Use a screwdriver, putty knife or grout removal tool to scrape out the grout. Take care not to gouge or scratch the travertine. Removing the grout eliminates what is helping adhere the tiles to the wall, and creates space to pry them off.

Dispose of the dusty grout debris directly into a trash bag as you work. Be thorough in removing all traces of grout but don’t dig into the tiles themselves.

Pry Off Tiles

With the grout gone, you can begin carefully prying off the travertine tiles. Start by gently tapping a chisel or pry bar into the corner joint of a tile with a hammer. Apply controlled force to pop the tile off the wall.

Work in sections, removing tiles row by row. Be aware that natural stone can break apart easily, so take precautions not to strike the tiles too forcefully. Remove any stubborn tiles by sliding a pry bar or putty knife behind to loosen them.

Check the back of each tile as you remove it. Some may have a mesh backing or adhesive you’ll need to scrape off before proceeding. Discard all broken tiles and debris into trash bags as you go.

Clean the Wall Surface

Once all tiles have been pried off, inspect the now exposed wall. Use a putty knife to scrape off any remaining thinset adhesive or backing material. Get it down to the bare wall surface.

Next, go over the area with a shop vacuum to remove all dust and loose particles. You may need to use a damp rag to wipe off leftover debris. The goal is to leave a clean blank slate for the new backsplash.

Make Any Necessary Repairs

Examine the cleared wall for any flaws that need repairing before installing the new backsplash. Look for cracks, holes, warped areas or moisture damage. Use spackle, caulk or drywall joint compound to patch small holes and cracks. Cut out and replace sections of seriously damaged drywall.

Let any repaired spots dry fully according to the product instructions. Sand and prime repaired areas so they are ready for the new backsplash. Address any existing moisture issues behind the wall before proceeding.

Apply New Backsplash

Once the wall is prepped, you can begin installing your new backsplash! Make sure to follow the specific instructions for your chosen backsplash product. Most will involve applying thinset mortar to the wall and pressing the new tiles in place.

Take care to achieve straight, even rows and smooth out all mortar between tiles. Allow proper drying time based on the backsplash materials. Finally, wipe away excess dusty residue and seal the surfaces with grout or caulk.

Your patience removing the old travertine backsplash carefully will pay off with a smooth installation of your new backsplash design. Maintain it properly by sealing and cleaning routinely to get the most longevity from your kitchen’s stylish new backdrop.

FAQ About Removing Travertine Backsplash

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about removing travertine backsplash:

How long does it take to remove a travertine backsplash?

Removing a travertine backsplash takes 2-4 hours on average depending on the size of the area. Working carefully to pry off each tile without damaging the wall adds time.

Can I salvage the travertine tiles for reuse?

You can try prying off the travertine tiles intact to reuse them. However, the thin nature of backsplash tiles means they often crack or break when being pried off. Reuse is not very common.

What tools do I need to remove travertine backsplash?

A hammer and chisel, pry bar, putty knife, screwdriver, shop vacuum, safety gear and trash bags are the essential tools for removing travertine backsplash tiles.

Is it cheaper to remove or cover over existing travertine backsplash?

Removing the travertine backsplash is generally the cheaper option. Covering over it adds extra costs for adhesive, backerboard and finishing materials before installing the new backsplash.

What’s the easiest way to remove old grout from travertine tiles?

Using a dedicated grout removal tool is easiest for clearing grout from travertine prior to removal. A simple screwdriver can also work well. Avoid harsh scraping to prevent damage.

Can I grind the travertine off instead of prying off tiles?

You could use a masonry grinding disk on an angle grinder to grind off travertine backsplash. However, the dust created makes this method very messy. Prying tiles off is cleaner.


Removing travertine backsplash tiles takes some muscle and the right tools, but any motivated DIYer can likely tackle this project with proper planning. Focus on carefully prying up the tile sections after clearing grout lines. Be prepared to do some minor wall repair before installing replacement backsplash materials. Employ safety gear and work slowly to get the backsplash area cleared with minimal damage. With some perseverance and patience, you can clear the way for a brand new backsplash design.