How to Replace Tile Backsplash

A tile backsplash can really enhance the look and feel of your kitchen. However, over time it may start to show signs of wear and damage. Replacing a tile backsplash is a project that takes some time and effort, but it can give your kitchen an entirely new look. Follow this comprehensive guide to learn how to remove your old backsplash and install a beautiful new one.

Assessing Your Current Backsplash

Before tearing into your backsplash replacement project, take some time to assess the current state of your backsplash. This will help you determine exactly what needs to be done.

  • Carefully inspect all of the grout lines. Are they cracked, missing, or showing signs of mold/mildew? Make note of any problem areas.
  • Look for damaged, cracked, or missing tiles. Count how many need to be replaced.
  • Check for signs of water damage behind the backsplash, such as swollen drywall. This could indicate leaks.
  • Test to see if the backsplash is well-adhered to the wall. Try gently wiggling a tile to see if it moves.
  • Note the size of the tiles and the thickness of grout lines. This will help determine replacement tiles.
  • Decide if you want to salvage your current backsplash or do a complete tear-out and replace.

Once you have thoroughly assessed the backsplash, you will know what work needs to be done. If the damage is severe, a full replacement is likely the best option.

Removing the Old Backsplash

If your goal is a complete backsplash replacement, the first step is safely removing the old tile. Here is how to do it:

Gather Materials

You will need safety gear like gloves and eye protection. For tools, you will need a pry bar, hammer, chisel, razor blade scraper, and a utility knife. Have a plastic drop cloth ready to protect floors.

Score All Grout Lines

Use a utility knife or razor blade to score through all grout lines. This will help break up the tiles during removal. Apply firm but controlled pressure as you score.

Start Prying Tiles Off

Use a pry bar or chisel to gently pry up the corner of one tile. Work the tools under the tile and slowly pry upwards to pop it off. Forcefully striking tiles could damage the wall behind.

Remove Broken Pieces

As you pry off each tile, use the hammer or chisel to knock off any thinset still stuck to the wall. Try to remove it down to the bare drywall. Use extreme care not to damage pipes or wiring.

Clean the Wall Surface

With all old tile removed, scrape off any remaining thinset or debris. Smooth the drywall seams if needed so the wall is flat and even for new tile.

By methodically removing each tile and cleaning the surface, you will have a blank slate for the new backsplash installation.

Preparing the Work Area

After demolition of the old tile, take time to properly prepare the work area for new tile installation. Proper prep prevents problems down the road.

Protect Surrounding Surfaces

Cover countertops, floors, and other surfaces with plastic drop cloths to protect from damage during the tiling process. Tape plastic at all seams.

Shut Off Water Supply

Turn off the water supply to the sink area at the shut-off valves. This prevents leaks while you work.

Inspect Plumbing and Electrical

Verify all plumbing and electrical lines are in good condition and will not interfere with the backsplash installation. Reroute as needed.

Clean and Seal

Wipe down the wall area with a damp sponge to remove dust. Once dry, apply sealer or primer to create a bondable surface for the new tile.

Apply Reinforcement

For extra adhesion strength, apply glass fiber mesh drywall tape over all seams and joints. Smooth with drywall compound.

With careful preparation, your new backsplash tiles will adhere tightly and last.

Choosing Your New Backsplash Tiles

One of the most exciting parts of a backsplash project is selecting beautiful new tiles. There are countless options when it comes to colors, patterns, materials, sizes, and shapes. Consider the following when making your backsplash tile decisions:


Ceramic and porcelain tiles are most common. Other choices include glass, metal, and natural stone. Consider durability, water-resistance, cleaning needs, and budget.

Size and Shape

Smaller mosaic tiles create intricate patterns. Large tiles or subway bricks cover more surface. Tiles also come in circles, diamonds, hexagons, and more.

Color and Pattern

Bold colors or patterns can make a statement. Neutral colored tiles offer flexibility in decor. Accent strips can add interest. Match or contrast with countertops.

Coordinating Trim Pieces

Consider ordering bullnose edge tiles, corner pieces, and decorative borders that coordinate with your main tiles. These finishing touches give a polished look.

Take your time, review tile samples, and choose backsplash tiles you will enjoy for years to come.

Gathering Your Tile Installation Supplies

With your tiles selected, gather the rest of the supplies you will need for installation. Having all materials on hand ensures the project goes smoothly from start to finish.

Adhesives and Grout

  • Thinset mortar modified for wall use. Makes a strong bond between tile and wall.
  • Non-sanded grout for narrow grout lines. Matches the color of your tiles.
  • Clear silicone caulk for gap filling and sealing. Matches grout color.

Tools and Materials

  • Notched trowel for spreading thinset mortar.
  • Grout float for forcing grout into joints.
  • Mixing buckets, stirring sticks, and sponges.
  • Tile spacers for consistent grout lines.
  • Tile cutter for modifying tile edges and shapes if needed.
  • Grout sealer to protect finished grout lines.

A full supply ready saves having to stop work to get something you missed!

Step-by-Step Tiling Your New Backsplash

Once all demolition is done and the new tile materials are on hand, you are ready for the fun part—installing the beautiful new backsplash! Follow these step-by-step instructions:

Apply the Thinset Mortar

Use a notched trowel held at a 45 degree angle to spread a thin, even layer of thinset mortar on the wall area. Apply only enough that can be tiled before the thinset dries.

Set the Tiles

Press tiles firmly into the thinset with a slight twisting motion. Use plastic spacers between each tile for consistent grout line spacing. Work in small sections.

Check for Alignment

Periodically align a straight piece of trim against the tiles to ensure they are staying straight and evenly spaced as you work. Adjust any tiles that are off.

Cut Any Custom Pieces

If tiles need to be cut to fit around outlets, pipes, or edges, measure and carefully score and snap tiles with a tile cutter. Grind the edges smooth.

Let Tiles Set

Allow tiles to set undisturbed for 24-48 hours. Remove spacers. Fill any gaps with silicone caulk that matches the grout color. Allow caulk to fully cure before grouting.

Grout the Tiles

Apply grout with a float, forcing it deeply into the grout lines. Wipe excess grout off the tile surface with a damp sponge in a circular motion. Rinse sponge frequently.

Seal the Grout

Once grout is dry, apply grout sealer according to label directions to protect it from moisture and staining. The sealer can help your grout look vibrant for years.

With proper thinset mortar application, neatly grouted joints, and sealant, your new backsplash tiles will stay beautiful as they endure everyday life in the kitchen.

Backsplash Installation Tips and Tricks

Follow these handy tips and tricks as you tackle your tile backsplash installation for a smoother, easier process:

  • Sketch ideas to visualize final pattern and order tiles accordingly. Lay out tiles on the floor first.
  • Number tiles with pencil on back side to keep the pattern organized if doing a complex layout.
  • Start tiling in the center and work outwards for best alignment. Measure and mark a center line to guide you.
  • Tape tiles in place if needed before applying thinset mortar to help support their position.
  • Clean excess mortar and grout immediately to avoid dried material that is hard to remove.
  • Use a grout finishing tool for crisp, clean grout lines. Hold it at a low 30° angle and work in circular motions.
  • Consider sealing tiles before grouting for extra stain protection and easier cleanup of grout residue.
  • Don’t rush! Allow proper dry time for thinset mortar and grout for strongest bonds. Patience pays off.

With planning and care, your tile backsplash can look like a professional installed it.

Cleaning and Caring for the New Backsplash

Once your replacement backsplash is successfully installed, proper ongoing care is essential. Follow these tips:

  • Seal grout periodically to protect it from stains. Reapply every 2 years.
  • Use pH neutral dish soap and water for regular backsplash cleaning. Avoid harsh chemicals.
  • Rinse backsplash fully after cleaning. Soap residue can cause buildup. Wipe tiles dry.
  • Address spills, stains, or damage promptly. Don’t allow problems to linger.
  • Check grout and caulk lines occasionally. Repair cracks or gaps right away before moisture gets behind tiles.
  • Limit direct high heat. Use a heat diffuser with appliances like kettles that vent steam upward.

Your new backsplash will maintain its eye-catching beauty for many years with proper care and maintenance.

Cost Factors for a Backsplash Replacement Project

What can you expect to spend if you take on a total backsplash demolition and reinstallation project? Here are the main costs factors:

  • Demolition: If DIYing, this involves just your time and disposal fees. Hiring demo help averages $200-$400.
  • New tile: Budget $10-$50 per square foot for materials based on tile choices.
  • Supplies: Adhesives, grout, tools, sealants, etc can range from $50-$200.
  • Optional pro installation: Average of $40 per hour. Could take 10-20 hours.

Your total costs can range from a few hundred dollars for a simple DIY to over $2000 if using specialty designer tiles and hiring contractors. Know your budget upfront to guide tile choices.

Hiring a Professional vs. DIY

Installing a new backsplash yourself can save money over hiring a professional, but evaluate if a contractor is right for you:

Benefits of Hiring a Pro

  • Expertise in proper removal and installation techniques
  • Ability to properly handle unexpected issues with wall surface, plumbing, etc
  • Knowledge of building codes and obtaining any needed permits
  • Finished results have an expert quality in design and execution

Benefits of DIY

  • Great way to learn new tiling skills and take on a satisfying project
  • Ability to customize your design and tile choices
  • Cost savings by providing your own labor
  • Flexible schedule for working at your own pace

Evaluate your budget, skill level, and schedule needs to decide if DIY or professional installation is best for your backsplash replacement.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplash Replacements

As you take on a backsplash replacement project, these common FAQs provide helpful answers:

How do I match a new backsplash with existing countertops?

  • Choose a tile color and pattern that coordinates well. Solid colored tiles tend to pair easiest.
  • Use a finishing border or trim that picks up a countertop color.
  • If countertop also needs replacing, choose new materials that complement each other.

What tools do I need for removing old backsplash tile?

  • Safety gear – gloves, eye protection, dust mask
  • Pry bar and/or chisel for lifting tiles
  • Hammer for knocking off remaining thinset
  • Utility knife for scoring grout lines
  • Plastic drop cloth to protect kitchen

Can I install a new backsplash directly over old tile?

This is not advised. Existing tile must be removed completely down to the wall’s surface for proper adhesion of new tile.

How long should I wait before applying grout on new backsplash?

Allow tile thinset mortar to cure for 24-48 hours before grouting tiles. This prevents the grout from drying too quickly.

How do I cut curves and holes in tiles for outlets and pipes?

Use a rotary tool like a Dremel with a diamond blade. Score the tile and break over an edge for clean curves and holes. File sharp edges smooth.

In Summary

Replacing an outdated or damaged backsplash can give your whole kitchen a fresh new look with the style and colors you love. Now that you know what’s involved, you can tackle this project fully prepared to handle each step from start to stunning finish! With patience and care, you can install a backsplash like the pros do. Just take it one tile at a time.

In summary, here are the key steps for replacing a tile backsplash:

  1. Assess the current state of your backsplash and decide on full replacement or spot repairs.
  2. Thoroughly remove old tiles and debris down to the bare wall.
  3. Prep the surface – clean, seal, reinforce with mesh tape.
  4. Select your new tiles and complementary trim accents. Gather all needed materials.
  5. Carefully install new tiles using spacers for consistent grout lines. Allow to fully cure.
  6. Skillfully apply grout, wiping off excess. Seal grout for protection when dry.
  7. Maintain your backsplash by using proper cleaning methods and sealing grout yearly.

With the right information and preparation, you can tackle a backsplash replacement project with confidence. The finished result will bring you joy and beauty every time you enter your kitchen.