A backsplash is a protective covering on the wall behind a sink, stove, or other appliance to prevent water damage and make clean-up easier. Backsplashes come in a variety of materials like ceramic tile, metal, glass, and stone. Over time, you may decide to remove or replace your existing backsplash for an updated look or to make repairs on the wall behind it. Taking off a backsplash can be a big project but it’s doable as a DIY home improvement project. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to safely and effectively remove different types of backsplash from your wall.
Gather Materials Needed for Removal
Before starting demolition, gather all the tools and materials you’ll need to take off your backsplash:
- Protective gear – Safety glasses, dust mask, work gloves, ear protection
- Pry bar or putty knife
- Heat gun or hair dryer
- Utility knife or razor blades
- Dustpan and broom
- Plastic sheets or drop cloths
- Garbage bags
- Spackle or joint compound
- Paintbrush and paint
Make sure to wear safety glasses, gloves, and a mask to protect yourself from debris, sharp edges, and dust during the removal process. Cover nearby surfaces with plastic drop cloths to prevent damage and make clean-up easier.
Preparing Wall Area Behind Backsplash
Before starting demo, prep the wall area behind the backsplash:
- Clear countertops & remove items from backsplash area – This gives you full access to the backsplash during removal.
- Disconnect electrical – Switch off power to outlets in the backsplash area to prevent electrical shocks during removal.
- Turn off water supply – Shut off water valves supplying plumbing fixtures in the backsplash zone. This is especially important if removing a backsplash with embedded plumbing.
- Photograph backsplash before removal – Take pictures of wiring, plumbing, or wall irregularities before taking the backsplash down. This provides a handy reference guide when putting up the new backsplash.
- Inspect & prepare wall surface – Look for areas of loose paint, damaged drywall, or previous repairs that need addressed behind the backsplash. Make any necessary repairs before installing new backsplash.
How to Remove Ceramic Tile Backsplash
Ceramic tile is one of the most popular backsplash materials due to its durability, easy maintenance, and vast design options. Here is the process for taking down a ceramic tiled backsplash:
Step 1: Score grout lines with utility knife
Use a sharp utility knife to score along the grout lines surrounding each tile. This severs the bond between the grout and tile edges. Be sure to hold the knife at a 45° angle and scored deeply along grout lines.
Step 2: Tap tiles loose with hammer & putty knife
After scoring grout lines, tap a putty knife behind each tile using a hammer. Apply firm but controlled taps to loosen the tile without damaging the drywall behind it. Work methodically around the backsplash knocking tiles loose.
Step 3: Pull tiles off wall
Once tiles are loosened, grip each tile firmly with gloved hands and pull directly away from the wall. Stack tiles neatly for disposal or recycling. Use a putty knife to scrape off any remaining grout left on the wall’s surface.
Step 4: Remove remaining grout
Use a grout removal tool, putty knife, or oscillating multi-tool to scour out remaining grout adhered to the wall. Be careful not to gouge into the drywall. Thoroughly remove all old grout until only the bare wall surface remains.
Step 5: Clean & finish wall area
Sweep up all tile debris and grout residue. Wipe the wall down to remove lingering dust and dirt. Fill any wall holes or uneven areas using spackle. Once dry, sand smooth and wipe clean. The bare wall is now ready for a fresh backsplash installation.
Taking Down Glass Tile Backsplash
Glass mosaic tiles create a glittering, eye-catching backsplash. But removing intricate glass tile can be tricky. Use these steps to safely take down a glass tile backsplash:
Step 1: Spray water on grout lines
Use a spray bottle to spritz water generously on grout lines surrounding glass tiles. The water will help soften and dissolve the grout. Avoid spraying forcefully as you don’t want to shatter the glass tiles.
Step 2: Let water soak into grout lines
Allow the water to penetrate into the grout lines for 10-15 minutes. This gives the water time to adequately moisten and weaken the grout. Reapply water as needed to keep grout saturated.
Step 3: Scrape out grout carefully
Use a plastic grout removal tool, old credit card, or putty knife to gently scrape out the damp grout. Work slowly and cautiously to avoid breaking glass tiles in the process. Continuously re-wet grout lines as you scrape.
Step 4: Wiggle tiles loose
After clearing grout from around tiles, begin wiggling each mosaic tile gently from side to side. The water and grout removal should allow tiles to pop free from the wall relatively easily.
Step 5: Remove remaining adhesive
Use a plastic scraper or putty knife to gently peel off any adhesive or thinset still clinging to the wall’s surface after tile removal. Avoid gouging the drywall.
Step 6: Clean & prep the wall
Clean the wall space thoroughly to remove all debris, grout residue, and adhesive. Make any needed drywall repairs before installing the new backsplash. Take added care to ensure the wall area is smooth for glass tile installation.
Removing Peel-and-Stick Backsplash Tiles
Peel-and-stick backsplash tiles offer a simple, budget-friendly backsplash solution. Many DIYers opt for peel-and-stick due to their ease of installation. Luckily, they are also relatively easy to take down when it’s time for a new backsplash. Follow these steps:
Step 1: Heat adhesive with blow dryer
Switch a blow dryer to the highest heat setting. Apply heat directly to the peel-and-stick tiles, concentrating on one small section at a time. The heat will soften the adhesive on the backside of the tiles.
Step 2: Slowly peel off tiles
Once adhesive is warm and pliable, begin slowly pulling tiles away from the wall. Peel tiles off gently at a 45° angle – yanking them straight off may damage the drywall.
Step 3: Remove adhesive residue
Any remaining adhesive left on the wall will need removed. While still warm, scrape off residue using a plastic putty knife or paint scraper. Adhesive remover sprays or citrus-based solvents can also help dissolve stubborn adhesive buildup.
Step 4: Smooth wall & clean
Inspect the wall closely and use spackle or drywall joint compound to smooth over holes, tears, or gouges in the drywall caused by removing the backsplash tiles. Once repairs are made, clean and prime the bare wall for the new backsplash.
Taking Down Stone or Marble Backsplash
Natural stone like marble, granite, or slate make a high-end, opulent backsplash statement. But stone and marble can be the most challenging backsplash type to remove due to their weight. Exercise extreme caution when taking down a heavy stone backsplash using these tips:
Step 1: Score grout lines with saw
Use a rotary tool or oscillating multi-tool outfitted with a grout removal blade to score along the grout lines surrounding stone tiles. Cut at least 1/8″ deep into the grout. This will loosen tiles for removal.
Step 2: Break suction with steady force
Stone and marble tiles often use mortar for installation which can form a tight suction bond to the wall. Place a wood block against each tile and strike firmly with a hammer. Apply controlled, evenly distributed force to break the suction bond.
Step 3: Slowly pry tiles off
Once tile suction is released, wedge a pry bar behind each tile and slowly work it forward away from the wall. Take care to avoid sudden tile movement that could damage the drywall. Have a helper on hand to hold tiles when fully released.
Step 4: Chip off remaining mortar
Use a cold chisel and hammer to carefully chip away any leftover thinset mortar adhered to the wall surface after tiles are removed. Keep chisel angled away from the wall to avoid gouges.
Step 5: Smooth & clean wall
Fill in any gouges or holes with spackle, allow to dry fully, then sand until smooth. Thoroughly clean the wall area to remove all debris and dust before installing the new backsplash.
How to Remove Metal Backsplash
Metal backsplashes like tin, stainless steel, or copper make a bold, contemporary design statement. Taking down metal backsplash involves breaking the seal of caulk or adhesive holding it in place. Follow these tips:
Step 1: Slice through caulk beads
Use a utility knife or razor blade to slice down through any caulk bordering the metal backsplash. Cutting through the caulk will allow the metal to release from the wall.
Step 2: Warm adhesive with heat gun
If installed with construction adhesive rather than caulk, use a heat gun to soften the adhesive behind the metal backsplash. Apply even heat moving slowly across the surface.
Step 3: Pry metal tiles off carefully
Once caulk seal is broken or adhesive is warm, wedge a flat pry bar behind metal tiles to pop them off the wall. Take care not to distort the metal tiles as they are removed.
Step 4: Scrape off adhesive
Use a plastic scraper to gently remove any leftover adhesive residue from the wall after the metal tiles are down. Rewarm areas with a heat gun as needed to soften adhesive for removal.
Step 5: Clean wall & remove debris
Thoroughly clean the bare wall area once all metal tiles and adhesive residue is removed. Fill any wall holes or damage with spackle and sand smooth. Remove all debris before installing new backsplash.
Backsplash Removal Tips
- Go slowly and be cautious not to damage underlying drywall during demolition.
- Wear protective gear like goggles, gloves, and a mask to stay safe from debris and dust.
- Have a helper on hand for large backsplash jobs or removing heavy stone tiles.
- Properly dispose of backsplash debris since broken tiles and chips can be sharp.
- Take photos and measurements of the backsplash layout before removal to aid the new installation.
- Be aware of what’s behind the backsplash like electrical or plumbing that may need disconnected.
- Prepare the wall area with repairs and fresh paint/primer before installing the new backsplash.
- Consider hiring a professional for removal and installation if you are unsure tackling a backsplash project as a DIY homeowner.
FAQs About Removing Backsplash Tile
What tools do I need to remove a backsplash?
Common tools needed are a putty knife, utility knife, pry bar, hammer, heat gun or blow dryer, grout saw, oscillating multi-tool, plastic scrapers, and safety gear like gloves and eye protection.
How do I remove old grout from backsplash?
Use a grout removal saw, oscillating multi-tool, stiff putty knife, or plastic grout removal tool to scrape out old grout once tile is dislodged. Re-wetting grout lines helps soften old grout for easier removal.
Can I put new tile over existing backsplash?
It’s generally not recommended to install new backsplash tile directly over your existing backsplash. The multiple layers can lead to installation issues and prevent proper adhesion. It’s best to take the old backsplash down to the bare wall first.
What’s the easiest backsplash to remove?
Peel-and-stick backsplash tile is the easiest to take down. Just heat the adhesive with a blow dryer and slowly peel off. Glass tile and metal backsplash are also less labor intensive than ceramic or stone.
How do you get old mastic off backsplash for new tile?
Use a plastic scraper or putty knife to gently scrape residual mastic or thinset adhesive off the wall after the old tile is removed. Rewarming areas first with a heat gun can help soften old mastic for easier removal.
How long does it take to remove kitchen backsplash?
It typically takes 2-3 hours for a DIYer to remove an average sized backsplash in a kitchen. Larger backsplash projects or difficult materials like stone or metal may take 4-6 hours or longer to fully demo and prep the wall for new tile.
Removing an existing backsplash is a necessary step before putting up a new backsplash in your kitchen or bath. With the right tools and safety precautions, DIYers can tackle a backsplash removal successfully. Focus on taking your time, controlling debris and avoiding wall damage during the demolition process. Be sure to properly prepare the wall area with cleanup, repairs and priming before installation day for your fresh new backsplash. Contact a tile removal professional if unsure about taking down elaborate stone, glass or metal backsplashes to avoid making costly mistakes. With some perseverance and patience, you can take out that outdated backsplash and gain a smooth, clean slate for creating the backsplash design of your dreams.