How to Take Down Tile Backsplash

Taking down a tile backsplash can seem like an intimidating task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be accomplished successfully. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to remove tile backsplash properly.

Assess the Tile and Wall Material

The first step is to inspect the type of tile, as well as the material behind it. Glazed ceramic tiles will need to be handled differently than natural stone tiles. In addition, tile applied directly to drywall can be removed differently than tile applied to cement backerboard or plaster walls. Identify the materials you are working with before proceeding.

Gather the Necessary Tools

To remove tile backsplash, you will need safety gear like gloves and eye protection, as well as the following tools:

  • Hammer and chisel – to chip away grout and break tile pieces
  • Flat pry bar – to pry off whole tiles
  • Utility knife – to score grout lines
  • Putty knife – to scrape off old adhesive
  • Grout saw or oscillating tool – to cut through grout lines
  • Dust mask – to prevent inhalation of debris
  • Shop vacuum – to contain dust and debris

Make sure you have all of these tools on hand before starting the tile removal process.

Protect Surrounding Areas

Use painter’s tape and drop cloths to mask off surrounding countertops, floors, appliances, and other areas you want to protect from damage during the tile removal. This will make clean up much easier later. You may want to consider removing appliances or hardware if they are too close to the backsplash area.

Score all Grout Lines

Use a sharp utility knife to score all grout lines surrounding each tile. Cut as deep as possible through the grout down to the surface behind it. This will allow you to break the tiles free much easier. Take care not to scratch the wall surface beneath the grout lines.

Break Free Whole Tiles First

Start by tapping a flat pry bar or putty knife into one of the grout lines to pry off a whole tile if possible. Apply force to pop the tile free from the adhesive behind it. Work systematically around the backsplash to remove all whole tiles first. Deposit removed tiles directly into a trash bag or wheelbarrow to contain debris.

Chip Away Remaining Tile Pieces

For any remaining tile pieces still stuck to the wall, use a mason’s hammer and chisel to carefully chip away at them until they become loose enough to pry off. Aim the chisel at the grout lines and apply controlled force to break up the tile without damaging the underlying wall. Remove all loose tile shards as you work.

Thoroughly Scrape Off Adhesive

Once all tile pieces have been removed, use a putty knife to scrape off any remaining tile mastic or adhesive from the wall surface. Try to get down to the bare wall material. This may take some time and effort depending on the type of adhesive used. Be patient and carefully scrape at the adhesive residue.

Clean and Prepare the Surface

Sweep and vacuum up all debris from the backsplash removal process. Use a damp sponge or rag to wipe down the now bare wall surface where the tile was mounted. Allow it to fully dry before proceeding with re-tiling or any next step. The surface should be clean and free of any residue or irregular texture.

Repair Damaged Drywall if Needed

Examine the exposed wall material after completing tile removal. If you discover any gouges, holes, or other damage in drywall panels, repair these issues before applying new backsplash. Use drywall joint compound and tape to patch holes and smooth over imperfections for the best surface.

Prime the Surface for New Tile

Once the bare wall behind the tile is cleaned, dried, and repaired, apply a tile bonding primer or sealer according to manufacturer directions. This will prepare the surface for acceptance of new tiles with optimal adhesion. Allow the primer coat to dry completely before attempting to install replacement backsplash tile.

Removing tile backsplash takes time, physical effort, and care to avoid damaging the underlying wall surface. But with the proper tools and techniques, it can be successfully accomplished as a DIY project. Always take necessary safety precautions, work systematically, and thoroughly prepare the wall for new tile after completing removal of the old backsplash.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Tile Backsplash

How long does it take to remove tile backsplash?

Depending on the size of the backsplash, thickness and type of tiles, and wall material, it typically takes 2-4 hours for a DIYer to fully remove tile backsplash and prepare the wall for new tile. Working carefully and systematically is more important than speed.

What’s the easiest way to get tile off the wall?

Scoring all grout lines with a utility knife before attempting tile removal allows you to break tiles free much easier. Chip away grout first before prying off whole tiles. Work in sections, removing all whole tiles before chiseling off remaining shards.

How do you remove tile glue from drywall?

Use a stiff putty knife, chisel, or scraper to gently but persistently scrape off old tile adhesive from drywall. Take care not to gouge the paper surface. Apply heat with a hair dryer to soften mastic first for easier scraping.

Can I put new tile over existing backsplash?

It’s not recommended to install new tile directly over existing backsplash tiles. The layers of old adhesive and grout can prevent proper bonding. Plus, uneven surfaces can result. Fully removing old tile allows proper prep and flat surface for new tile.

What tools do I need to remove ceramic wall tile?

At minimum, you’ll need a hammer and chisel, flat pry bar, utility knife, grout saw, putty knife, gloved and eye protection. An oscillating tool also helps. Have a shop vac, buckets, and drop cloths on hand to control debris.


Removing existing tile backsplash can be a big project, but now you are armed with a step-by-step process to make it go smoothly. Always start by evaluating your tile material and wall surface. Use the right tools to systematically score, pry, and scrape off the tile safely. Clean and repair the exposed wall before applying primer and new backsplash tile. Take your time and work carefully to achieve success replacing your outdated or damaged tile backsplash.