How to Take Down a Backsplash

Backsplashes are a great way to add visual interest and protect the walls behind kitchen counters or bathroom sinks from water damage and stains. However, there may come a time when you want to remove or replace an existing backsplash. Taking down a backsplash can be a big project, but is doable as a DIY with the right planning and tools.

Assessing Your Backsplash

Before taking on the project of removing your backsplash, take time to assess the current state of it. This will help you determine the best method for removal.

Consider the following:

  • Material – Ceramic tile, metal, glass, and stone backsplashes all require different removal techniques. Identifying the material will guide the tools and care needed.
  • Installation method – Backsplashes can be installed in a variety of ways, such as mortar, mastic, adhesive strips, or grout. Knowing how it was applied will help inform how it needs to be taken down.
  • Condition – Make note of any damaged, missing, or cracked tiles. Also check for signs of water damage or leaks that may complicate removal.
  • Area – Calculate the total square footage of the backsplash. This will help you estimate the time and tools needed for the job.

Once you’ve assessed the specifics of the current backsplash, you can start planning for the removal process. Safety should always be the top concern.

Safety First

When dealing with demolition and the use of power tools, safety equipment is a must. Here are some precautions to take:

  • Wear safety goggles to protect eyes from debris.
  • Use a face mask or respirator to prevent inhaling dust and particles.
  • Wear thick work gloves to protect hands from sharp edges.
  • Cover skin completely to avoid cuts; long sleeves and pants are ideal.
  • Use a drop cloth or painter’s tape to cover countertops, floors, appliances and other surfaces.
  • Turn off power at the main breaker if removing an outlet with the backsplash.
  • Use a pry bar carefully to avoid damaging the wall behind the backsplash.
  • Dispose of sharp, heavy or hazardous debris properly per local requirements.
  • Clean the area thoroughly once finished to remove any remaining dust or residue.

Taking precautions will help the project go smoothly and prevent injury.

Tools/Materials Needed

Removing a backsplash requires having the right tools for the material used. Here are some standard items needed:

  • Safety gear – goggles, mask, gloves
  • Drop cloths or painter’s tape
  • Pry bar or putty knife
  • Hammer
  • Utility knife or oscillating tool
  • Screwdriver
  • Dustpan and shop vac
  • Plastic boxes or buckets for debris
  • Grout saw or rotary tool with grout removal blade
  • Grout scraper
  • Sponge and bucket
  • Tile nippers
  • Solvents if needed for mastics
  • New tile, tools and supplies if replacing backsplash

Having all equipment ready ahead of time will allow you to remove the backsplash efficiently. Consider if a power grout saw, oscillating tool or other powered equipment may be helpful for large areas.

Preparing the Workspace

Once you havesafety gear and tools ready, proper prep of the workspace will make the process easier:

  • Clear countertops and remove anything that could hinder access to the backsplash area. Move appliances if necessary.
  • Cover nearby surfaces (countertops, floors, appliances) with drop cloths. Use painter’s tape for clean edges.
  • Have a clear path to exit areas to simplify debris removal. Set up boxes or buckets to directly pack materials.
  • Cover nearby electronics, vents or other sensitive areas to protect from dust.
  • Sweep and clean the backsplash well to remove surface dirt.
  • Turn off power at the main breaker if removing near outlets.
  • Have plenty of lighting to see work area clearly. Use temporary task lighting if needed.
  • Cover floor vents to prevent dust from circulating.
  • Make sure you have an exit plan for efficient debris removal.

Proper prep gets the work area ready for safe and effective removal of the backsplash.

Removing Ceramic or Porcelain Tile Backsplash

If tackling a ceramic or porcelain tile backsplash, here are the steps:


  • Safety gear
  • Grout saw, rotary tool, or oscillating tool
  • Hammer and chisel
  • Grout scraper
  • Dustpan, shop vac
  • Plastic buckets or boxes


  1. Score grout lines with a utility knife or oscillating tool fitted with grout blade. This is easier if the grout is in good shape. If grout is crumbling, go straight to the next step.
  2. Use the grout saw or rotary tool to cut along grout lines and separate tiles. Take care not to harm the drywall behind. Go slowly on corners.
  3. Use a hammer and chisel to carefully pry tiles away from the wall. Tap lightly to pop tiles off.
  4. Remove remaining grout with a grout scraper or oscillating tool with grout blade.
  5. Clean off residual grout or mastic with a sponge and bucket. Use a solvent if needed for stubborn areas.
  6. Check drywall for damage. Fill small holes with spackle; larger areas may need patching.
  7. Smooth any lumps of remaining grout or mastic with grout scraper.
  8. Sweep area and wipe down with damp sponge to remove all debris and dust.
  9. Dispose of tiles, grout and other debris properly. Recycle materials if possible.
  10. Inspect the bare wall and prepare for new backsplash installation.

Going slow with the proper tools will make removing a tile backsplash much more manageable. Follow all safety advice as this process uses sharp, powered cutting tools.

Taking Down a Glass Tile Backsplash

Glass tile requires special care when removing to prevent cracking or breakage. Follow these steps:

Supplies Needed

  • Safety gear
  • Painter’s tape
  • Plastic putty knife
  • Plastic buckets or boxes
  • Solvent as needed


  1. Outline removal area with painter’s tape to protect surrounding surfaces.
  2. Using a plastic putty knife, gently pry up tiles, working in a corner and lifting slowly.
  3. Place removed glass tiles directly into a plastic bucket or box to prevent cracks or chips. Discard broken tiles.
  4. Carefully scrape off any remaining mastic with the putty knife. Take care not to gouge the drywall.
  5. Use a solvent like mineral spirits to remove residual mastic. Use caution with chemical solvents.
  6. Smooth any lumps or globs of old mastic with plastic putty knife.
  7. Clean area well, washing with warm soapy water to remove dust and debris.
  8. Allow area to fully dry before assessing for any needed wall repairs.
  9. Discard tiles and mastic properly. Recycle glass if possible.
  10. Prep the area for new backsplash installation.

Taking extra care will allow glass backsplash removal without breakage. The key is using plastic tools and controlled prying motion.

Removing Metal Backsplash

Metal backsplashes may be stainless steel, tin, copper sheets or other metal materials. Follow these tips:


  • Safety gear
  • Pry bar
  • Screwdriver
  • Solvent/adhesive remover
  • Painter’s tape
  • Plastic buckets or boxes


  1. Cover nearby surfaces with painter’s tape to protect from damage.
  2. Using a pry bar, gently pry up the bottom edge of the metal backsplash. Work slowly across the surface.
  3. If screws were used, remove with a screwdriver before prying metal away.
  4. Apply adhesive solvent to stubborn areas to loosen bond. Follow product directions closely.
  5. Peel off any adhesive backing or strips carefully if present.
  6. Remove residual mastic or adhesive using solvent and plastic putty knife.
  7. Clean the newly exposed wall area thoroughly with warm soapy water.
  8. Make any needed wall repairs prior to new backsplash.
  9. Discard old materials properly. Recycle metal if possible.

Be gentle when prying to avoid wall damage. Adhesive remover can help ease the process of taking down a metal backsplash.

Removing Stone Backsplash

Natural stone like granite, marble, slate or travertine can be used for backsplashes. Use caution when removing to prevent damage to the fragile stone.


  • Safety gear
  • Painter’s tape
  • Plastic putty knife
  • Pry bar
  • Solvent/adhesive remover
  • Plastic boxes or buckets
  • Shop vac


  1. Outline work area with painter’s tape to protect other surfaces.
  2. Using a plastic putty knife, gently pry up bottom edge of stone pieces, working slowly.
  3. Carefully wiggle stones to break adhesive bond. Take care not to crack delicate stone.
  4. Apply solvents to problem areas to help loosen adhesive. Follow product instructions closely.
  5. Remove stones whole whenever possible. Transport quickly to prevent cracking.
  6. Use pry bar and putty knife to scrape off remaining mastic.
  7. Clean exposed drywall area thoroughly when finished removal.
  8. Make any necessary repairs to wall before new backsplash.
  9. Discard old backsplash materials properly. Recycle if possible.

The natural beauty of stone tiles makes them wonderful for backsplashes. Take extra care when removing to prevent damage.

Removing Backsplash Near Electrical

If the backsplash area includes electrical outlets, switches or undercabinet lighting, use extreme care during removal.

Safety Steps

  • Turn off power at main breaker before starting project
  • Only work on small sections near electrical at a time
  • Do not cut through electrical wiring accidentally
  • Keep all liquids and solvents away from outlets or wiring
  • Avoid prying too forcefully near outlets to prevent dislodging
  • Take pictures before disconnecting any wiring to simplify reassembly
  • Cap any disconnected wires properly
  • Test circuits thoroughly before turning power back on

Any electrical concerns are best handled by a qualified electrician. Avoid working near wiring until power is disconnected.

Disposing of Backsplash Debris

Removal projects create loads of dust, shards, tiles and demolition debris. Follow these tips for clean up:

  • Wear safety gear when handling debris to avoid cuts or breathing dust.
  • Directly load tiles, grout pieces, metal sheets, etc. into boxes or buckets for transport as they are removed.
  • Use dustpan and shop vac frequently to contain dust and small pieces.
  • Transport larger debris carefully to avoid trailing dust or scratches to floors and walls.
  • Set removal containers right outside work area to prevent spreading mess.
  • Schedule debris removal immediately so it is not left onsite.
  • Check if removed materials like metal or intact stone can be recycled rather than landfilled.

Proper cleanup during and after the project makes the process neater and helps recycle materials. Schedule waste disposal in advance so it can be removed quickly.

Fixing and Preparing Walls for New Backsplash

Once the former backsplash is fully removed, inspect the exposed wall closely. Fill any gouges, holes or cracks with spackle or joint compound. Allow to dry fully and sand any rough areas. Address larger damaged areas by:

  • Cutting out drywall sections and replacing with new pieces
  • Applying fiberglass mesh drywall tape to cracks for reinforcement
  • Skim coating larger damaged areas with joint compound

Clean the entire area with warm soapy water once repairs are complete. This removes any remaining dust or residue. Allow the wall to dry completely before applying primer and paint if needed. Prepping the area fully makes it ready for your new dream backsplash!

FAQs About Removing a Backsplash

What tools are essential for taking down a backsplash?

The must-have tools are safety gear like goggles, mask, and gloves. Drop cloths, a pry bar, hammer, chisel, utility knife, and dustpan are also very useful. Power tools like an oscillating saw make the demolition go faster.

How do I remove stubborn old mastic or mortar?

Applying a solvent like mineral spirits to remaining adhesive residue can help dissolve the bond. Use a plastic putty knife to gently scrape off any clinging bits. Always follow safety precautions when using chemical solvents.

What is the easiest backsplash to remove?

Self-adhesive plastic backsplashes come off the cleanest and easiest. Simply pry up the edges and peel off slowly. Any sticky residue left behind can be removed with mild solvents.

Is it cheaper to remove or replace backsplash?

If the backsplash is dated but undamaged, removal may be cheaper. For cracked, broken, or very outdated backsplashes, complete replacement is likely the better value.

Can I remove a backsplash myself or do I need to hire a contractor?

Handy DIYers can tackle most backsplash removals with proper tools and safety precautions. Consider hiring a pro for very large projects or if electrical work is involved.

How to Install a New Backsplash

After removing an outdated or damaged backsplash, installing a fresh new one can give your kitchen or bath an instant facelift. From elegant marble and ceramic tile to cheerful glass mosaics, backsplash possibilities are almost endless. With some planning and DIY skills, you can handle installing one yourself. Here are key steps for a stunning new backsplash on any budget:

Selecting Your New Backsplash

The most exciting part of any backsplash project is choosing your new look. Consider these factors when deciding:

Material – Ceramic, glass, metal and stone tiles are all common options. Evaluate weight, texture, durability and water-resistance needs.

Color/pattern – Select something that fits your overall decor but adds visual interest. Contrast grout color also affects overall look.

Cost – Prices vary greatly. Measure space to estimate needed tile square footage and materials. Budget extra for additional mastic, grout and tools.

DIY skills – Simple ceramic or glass mesh-mounted mosaic sheets are beginner friendly. Larger tiles may require more cutting and experience.

Use location – Heavy steam, heat, grease and moisture in a kitchen setting may dictate more durable materials like stone or metal versus bath backsplashes.

Take time to gather samples, browse photos for inspiration, and make the perfect selection. Order all materials before starting.

Prepping the Work Area

Preparing the space before installing a new backsplash is crucial:

  • Remove existing backsplash completely and make any needed wall repairs. Surface should be smooth.
  • Clean area thoroughly after removal process. Wash with warm, soapy water to eliminate dust.
  • Fill any small holes or cracks with spackle compound and let dry completely.
  • Paint wall if desired color is different than existing to provide fresh backdrop.
  • Remove outlet covers; tape over outlets and switch plates to prevent contact with mortar or grout.
  • Cover all countertops, appliances, floors, furniture and other surfaces to protect from spills.

Proper prep prevents damage and gives a clean, fresh canvas for your new backsplash.

Tools/Materials Needed

Gather all necessary tools and tile supplies before starting:

  • Tiles
  • Mortar or mastic adhesive
  • Grout
  • Notched trowel for spreading adhesive
  • Grout float
  • Mixing buckets
  • Tile nippers
  • Tile cutter and/or wet saw
  • Tile spacers
  • Grout sealer
  • Caulk and sealant
  • Rubber grout float
  • Sponges
  • Buckets
  • Drop cloths
  • Safety gear – gloves, goggles, mask

Having everything readily available makes installation much simpler. Consider renting or buying any larger power tools needed.

How to Install a Tile Backsplash

Follow these key steps for proper tile backsplash installation:

  1. Plan tile layout – Dry lay tiles on countertop to determine spacing and arrangement before installing. Mix sizes and patterns if using.
  2. Apply mortar adhesive – Apply even layer of mortar to wall area using notched trowel. Only cover sections where tiles will immediately be placed.
  3. Cut tiles if needed – Use a tile cutter or wet saw to cut any edge tiles to fit.
  4. Place tiles – Starting at bottom, press tiles firmly into mortar. Use spacers between for consistent grout lines.
  5. Check alignment – As you go, verify tiles are level and aligned. Adjust as needed.
  6. Allow mortar to cure – Let mortar fully dry 24-48 hours before grouting.
  7. Mix and apply grout – Prepare grout mix and press into tile joints using grout float. Let sit 10 minutes then scrub off residue.
  8. Clean tiles – Once grout has cured 24 hours, use sponge and bucket to wipe tiles clean.
  9. Seal grout – Apply grout sealer to protect from moisture and stains.
  10. Caulk edges – Once completed, run a bead of caulk along top edges, corners and around fixtures.

Take time with each step for a professional looking finished tile backsplash!

Installing Sheet Mosaic Backsplash

Sheet mosaics feature small uniform tiles mounted to a mesh backing that covers entire sections. This is much faster and easier to install than individual tiles:


  • Sheet mosaics
  • Mortar or mastic
  • Notched trowel
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • Sponges and buckets
  • Caulk

Installation Steps

  1. Measure area and cut sheets to fit with utility knife or shears.
  2. Apply