How to Remove Vanity Backsplash

Backsplashes are a popular design element behind sinks, stoves, and vanities. They serve both decorative and functional purposes, protecting the walls from water damage and adding visual interest. However, there may come a time when you decide to remove or replace your vanity backsplash for an updated look. Removing a backsplash can be a tricky DIY project, but it’s doable with the right tools, prep, and technique. This guide will walk you through the entire process of how to remove a vanity backsplash in your bathroom.

Gather Materials and Prepare the Workspace

Before starting demolition, make sure you have all the necessary materials ready. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Hammer
  • Chisel and putty knife
  • Pry bar
  • Goggles and work gloves for safety
  • Dust mask
  • Drop cloths or tarps
  • Garbage bags
  • Spackle/drywall joint compound
  • Sandpaper
  • Drywall tape/mesh
  • Paint to match existing walls

Clear everything off the vanity and counter and lay down drop cloths to protect surfaces from damage during removal. Have a garbage bag ready to collect backsplash debris as you work. Wear safety goggles, gloves, and a dust mask at all times to protect yourself from flying shards and dust.

Now you’re ready to start tackling that backsplash!

Carefully Remove the Backsplash

Pry Under the Bottom Edge

Start by wedging the pry bar under the bottom edge of the backsplash. Gently pry upwards to loosen the bottom tiles or panels. Take care not to damage the surrounding walls or vanity. Continue working the pry bar side to side to disconnect the bottom edge.

Chisel Upward Along the Sides

With the bottom freed, use the chisel to carefully break the adhesive’s grip up the sides. Angle the chisel in and pry it upwards, working slowly to avoid cracking tiles. Repeat on both sides until you’ve freed the majority of the backsplash.

Use a Hammer for Stubborn Middle Sections

For any remaining sections that won’t budge, use light taps with a hammer to break them free. Aim just above the adhesive line and use controlled strikes. Apply even pressure across the backsplash to avoid cracking tiles or compromising the wall support.

Remove Broken Pieces and Adhesive

As you remove pieces, place them directly into a garbage bag to contain the mess. Use the pry bar, putty knife, and chisel to scrape off any remaining adhesive or thinset mortar from the wall surface. Getting it smooth now will make repairs easier later.

Take Your Time!

Removing a backsplash without damaging the surrounding drywall takes patience. Work methodically and don’t rush prying or hammering. If tiles start to crack or break, stop and reassess your approach before continuing. Safety comes first!

Prepare the Walls for New Backsplash

With the old backsplash removed, you’ll likely have holes, uneven spots, and adhesive residue on the walls that will need addressing before installing a replacement.

Wash the Walls

Give the walls a good wash with an all-purpose cleaner and water to remove dust, debris, and adhesive. Let the area dry completely before moving on.

Fill Any Holes and Damaged Areas

Use drywall joint compound and a putty knife to fill any gouges, holes, or uneven spots left behind on the walls from removing the old backsplash. Feather out the compound from the center of repairs towards the edges. Let dry completely and sand smooth.

Add Drywall Tape Over Seams

For added strength, apply paper drywall joint tape or mesh over any seams between wall panels behind the vanity. Embed the tape in a thin layer of joint compound, smooth with a putty knife, and let dry before sanding smooth. This helps prevent cracking with the weight of new tiles.

Prime and Paint

Spot prime repaired areas with primer before painting the full wall surface. Use a high-quality bathroom paint rated for humidity and mildew resistance. Closely match the existing wall color. Proper prep and paint will create the ideal surface for your new backsplash to adhere to.

Install the New Backsplash

Once your walls look fresh and renewed, it’s time for the exciting part – installing your beautiful new backsplash!

Select Your Materials

Carefully choose your backsplash materials – ceramic or glass tile, stainless steel, pegboard, painted beadboard, the options are endless! Just be sure to select moisture-resistant, backsplash-grade materials designed to withstand everyday use behind a vanity.

Set Your Tile

For tile, apply a thinset mortar adhesive using a notched trowel, just as you would for floor or shower tile. Press tiles into the mortar and use plastic spacers for consistent grout lines. Allow to dry per manufacturer instructions.

Cut Custom Pieces

Use a wet saw for precise cuts on border and accent tiles to finish edges and around outlets. Allow tile to dry completely before grouting.

Apply Grout and Seal

Grout tile joints, wiping away excess. Use a grout sealer to protect porous grout from stains and moisture. Allow to cure fully before using the vanity.

Consider Other Creative Materials

For other unique backsplash materials like metal, laminate sheets, or painted glass, use the appropriate adhesive and carefully follow manufacturer installation guidelines.

Maintain Your New Backsplash

Follow these tips to keep your vanity backsplash looking new:

  • Seal grout and natural stone annually to prevent stains and damage.
  • Use mild soap and water to clean. Avoid harsh abrasive cleaners.
  • Immediately dry any water that gets behind the backsplash to prevent moisture issues.
  • Re-caulk along the bottom edge if gaps appear to prevent water ingress.
  • Avoid using the backsplash as a cutting surface to prevent scratching.
  • Check for any loose tiles, cracks, or damage periodically and repair immediately.

With proper installation and care, your new vanity backsplash will look amazing for years to come!

FAQs: Removing a Vanity Backsplash

Removing and replacing a vanity backsplash brings up many questions for DIYers. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

Is it hard to remove a backsplash?

Removing a backsplash can be challenging, but it’s definitely doable as a DIY project if you take your time. The key is using proper tools and techniques to pry it off without damaging walls or vanity. Patience is crucial!

How do I remove backsplash glue?

Scraping tools like a pry bar, putty knife, and chisel can remove excess wall adhesive as you detach the backsplash. For any remaining residue after removal, use hot soapy water or an adhesive remover product. Avoid abrasives that may damage the wallboard.

What tools do I need to remove a backsplash?

A pry bar, hammer, chisel, putty knife, goggles, work gloves, dust mask, drop cloths, and garbage bags are essential tools for safely removing a backsplash without wall damage. Always use caution.

Can I remove just part of a backsplash?

It’s best to remove the entire backsplash at once for a uniform look. But if a section is damaged, you can carefully pry off only that portion and match with new materials. Take care not to crack surrounding tiles.

Do I need to prep walls before a new backsplash?

Proper wall prep is crucial! Fill any holes or uneven areas, add joint tape over seams, prime, and paint. This gives a smooth, uniform surface for the new backsplash to adhere properly.

How do I cut backsplash tile?

Use a wet saw with a diamond blade to precisely cut backsplash tile. Make custom cuts for border pieces and outlets. Take safety precautions and let tiles dry completely before setting.

Can I install a backsplash directly over old tile?

It’s not recommended. Removing the old backsplash allows you to inspect and prepare the wall for proper adhesion. Installing over old tile without removing risks moisture issues and poor bonding.

How long does backsplash tile take to dry before grouting?

Check the product instructions, but tile mortar typically takes at least 24 hours to cure before grouting. Make sure tiles are fully adhered and stable before applying grout.

How do I maintain my backsplash?

Seal grout annually, use mild cleaners, immediately dry any moisture, re-caulk gaps, avoid abrasives, and don’t cut directly on the surface. Check for damage and make repairs right away to get the longest life from your backsplash.

How to Remove Different Types of Vanity Backsplashes

The technique for removing a backsplash depends on the material. Here are some tips for taking down popular vanity backsplash finishes:

Tile Backsplash

Tile set in mortar is one of the most challenging to remove. Use a hammer and chisel to carefully break the bond and pry off each tile. Be prepared to also chisel away leftover thinset adhesive.

Peel-and-Stick Backsplash

Vinyl peel-and-stick backsplash panels have an adhesive backing for easy installation. Simply pry up the bottom edge gently, then slowly peel off each panel working upwards.

Laminate Backsplash

Use a pry bar and putty knife to work around the edges and underneath laminate sheets. Try not to bend or flex the panels to prevent cracking. Remove any adhesive residue.

Mirrored Backsplash

Use suction cups to firmly grasp and detach mirrors from the wall. Avoid levering pry tools behind to prevent cracking. Clean adhesive off with vinegar.

Beadboard Backsplash

Pry between beadboard planks to loosen adhesive, nails, or screws. Pull planks out one-by-one, using padding to avoid scratches. Use pliers to remove any remaining fasteners.

Metal Backsplash

Metal sheets have very strong adhesive. Use a heat gun to soften the bond, then slowly pry up from a corner while applying heat. Remove adhesive with a scraper.

Stone Backsplash

Natural stone is fragile and needs special care when removing to avoid cracking. Use a chisel and hammer around edges, cushioning stone to prevent breakage.

Painted Drywall

Use a putty knife to gently pry under paint, being careful not to gouge the drywall. Scrape off paint and skim coat repairs with joint compound to smooth.

The key with any backsplash removal is working slowly, using care not to damage the underlying wall. With the proper tools and techniques for each material, you can achieve a clean removal.

Safety Tips for Removing a Backsplash

Demolishing a backsplash has inherent dangers. Follow these tips to safely remove your vanity backsplash:

Wear Protective Gear

Goggles, gloves, long sleeves, and a dust mask are essential for eye, hand, and respiratory protection from debris. Make sure nothing is exposed.

Watch for Sharp Edges and Broken Tile

Backsplash materials can develop razor-sharp points and edges when broken. Be aware and work cautiously to avoid severe cuts. Dispose of shards safely.

Handle Tools with Care

Pry bars, hammers, and chisels require skill. Keep control when striking, prying, or levering to avoid slips. Let sharp tools do the work.

Support Fragile Materials

Cushion glass, stone, or other delicate backsplashes with drop cloths when prying to prevent dangerous cracking or breakage during removal.

Clear Electrical Fixtures

Switch off power and remove any electrical fixtures from the backsplash area to prevent dangerous contact during removal. Replace components properly later.

Use Adhesives Safely

Follow directions closely when using chemical adhesive removers. Ensure the area is well-ventilated and wear the recommended PPE.

Stand Safely on Ladders

If using a ladder for upper portions of the backsplash, maintain 3-point contact for stability. Don’t overreach. Have a spotter assist.

Dispose of Debris Carefully

Place removed backsplash pieces directly into garbage bags. Seal bags and transport shards safely to avoid loose projectile tiles.

Work slowly and cautiously. Your safety should be the top priority during any backsplash removal project. Stay alert and don’t rush the process.

Alternative Backsplash Ideas for Your Vanity

Once that outdated or damaged backsplash is removed, the possibilities are endless for the new replacement! Here are some striking and functional backsplash ideas to give your vanity a fresh new look:

Classic Subway Tile

Subway tile offers timeless style at an affordable price point. Use white or painted tiles for a clean look. For interest, experiment with laying bricks in patterns or framing with decorative borders.

Bold Wallpaper

Self-adhesive wallpaper now comes in a huge range of fun prints and textures. Consider glossy graphic patterns or faux textures like grasscloth or metallic for serious style at a low commitment.

Vintage Mirrors

Mirrored backsplashes lend light and the illusion of space, perfect for small baths. Use vintageframes and lean them against the wall for easy installation and a cool eclectic look.

Natural Stone Mosaic

Small stone tiles like marble or travertine mosaics create natural elegance. Use large-scale solid tiles on the counter to balance the fine pattern.

Rustic Wood Planks

Reclaimed barnwood instantly gives a cozy, rustic feel. Use varying wood grain and finishes for visual interest. Try grouping planks creatively.

Bold Painted Stripes

Make a statement with electric painted stripes in contrasting colors. Try pairing with glossy stripes for added dimension. Paint them to align with the mirror frame for a framed look.

Floating Shelves

Custom floating shelves behind the vanity provide both style and storage space. Try open shelves or ones with cabinet doors to conceal clutter but retain easy access.

Creative Metal

From zinc to copper, perforated sheets to corrugated, metal backsplashes offer cool modern style. Try mixing metal types and directions for a patchwork look.

The options are limitless for creating a stunning backsplash feature wall behind your vanity. Choose a material that reflects your personal taste and complements the overall bathroom design. Then switch it out whenever you desire for an instant room refresh!


Removing a vanity backsplash takes time, patience, and the proper prep and safety measures. But with the right approach, tools, and techniques for your backsplash material, it can be accomplished successfully as a DIY project. Always work slowly and cautiously during demolition. Once the old backsplash is taken down, repair any wall damage and paint to get a fresh blank slate for your new backsplash installation. With so many gorgeous, on-trend backsplash ideas to choose from, you can easily upgrade your vanity area for a stylish new look with function and protection. Just think how satisfying it will feel admiring your beautiful new backsplash installation knowing you tackled it yourself!