How to Take Off a Backsplash

Taking off a backsplash can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be done efficiently and effectively. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to remove a backsplash from your kitchen or bathroom.


A backsplash is a protective coating made of tile, metal, glass, or other materials installed on the wall behind a sink, stove, or countertop. It prevents water damage, staining, and makes cleaning easier. Over time, backsplashes can become outdated, damaged, or you may want to renovate your space. Taking on a backsplash removal project allows you to update the look and feel of your kitchen or bathroom.

When tackling a backsplash removal, be sure to protect yourself. Wear safety goggles, a dust mask, and gloves during the entire process. Work slowly and carefully, have patience, and properly dispose of debris. With the right approach, you can successfully take off a backsplash without damaging the walls.

Before You Start

Before beginning demo, prepare your workspace to minimize dust and damage.

  • Clear countertops and remove items from walls, like soap dispensers and pictures.
  • Cover nearby surfaces with plastic sheeting and masking tape.
  • Have a container ready for debris, a vacuum, and garbage bags.
  • Turn off electricity to outlets near the backsplash area.
  • Wear protective gear like goggles, gloves, and a mask.
  • Prepare any replacement backsplash materials.

Tools Needed

Gather the proper tools before starting demo to streamline the process:

  • Hammer or pry bar
  • Putty knife or oscillating multi-tool
  • Utility knife
  • Wire brush
  • Dust mask
  • Safety goggles
  • Work gloves

Having these tools on hand will make removing the backsplash much easier.

Removing the Backsplash

With your prep work done, it’s time to take off the backsplash. Follow these steps:

1. Score the Grout Lines

Use a sharp utility knife to score along the grout lines. This will help break the adhesion and make prying off tiles easier. Apply firm but careful pressure while scoring to avoid damaging the drywall behind the backsplash.

2. Start Prying Tiles

Begin prying off tiles in an inconspicuous corner or along the edges. Place a pry bar under the tile edge and gently pull until it pops off. Work horizontally along scored grout lines to remove intact rows of tile at a time.

3. Remove Broken Pieces

Any broken tile pieces still stuck to the wall can be scraped off using a putty knife. Apply force at an angle to get under the tile shard and pry it off. Make sure to wear eye protection during this step.

4. Clean the Wall Surface

Use a wire brush to scrub the wall surface underneath to remove any remaining grout or adhesive. This prep work helps the new backsplash adhere properly. Vacuum up debris.

5. Remove Backing Materials

For backsplashes with a backing like wire mesh or special waterproof membrane, use a utility knife or pry bar to remove it. This exposes the bare wall for your new backsplash.

6. Dispose of Debris

Collect all broken tile pieces, grout chips, and other rubble into a box or trash bag. Properly dispose of at a construction waste facility.

Finishing Touches

Once the backsplash demo is complete, finish prepping the space:

  • Clean the walls with water and mild soap using a sponge or rag. Let dry fully.
  • Sand or scrape any remaining adhesive or grout off the walls.
  • Fill any gouges or holes in the drywall with spackle and let dry. Then sand smooth.
  • Carefully remove any outlets or switch plates near the backsplash area.
  • Vacuum the full workspace to remove the last of the debris.
  • Measure and make any layout lines for the new backsplash.

Installing a New Backsplash

After removing the old backsplash completely, applying a fresh one follows a similar process:

  • Select new backsplash tile/materials and purchase slightly more than measurements.
  • Spread thinset mortar on the wall area using a notched trowel.
  • Press tiles into the mortar and space evenly.
  • Let tiles set for 24-48 hours.
  • Grout seams between tiles and wipe away excess.
  • Seal grout once fully cured, about 2 weeks.
  • Caulk perimeter edges with mildew-resistant silicone.

With the old backsplash gone and new one installed, you can enjoy an updated kitchen or bathroom. Carefully removing tiles allows you to refresh the space without damaging walls. Patience and the right tools make taking off a backsplash a doable DIY project.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Backsplash

How do you remove stubborn backsplash adhesive?

For stubborn adhesive leftover, try scraping with a putty knife or sanding with coarse grit sandpaper. Adhesive remover chemicals or a heat gun can also help soften old mastic for easier removal.

What tools do I need to take down a tile backsplash?

The essential tools are a hammer or pry bar, putty knife, utility knife, wire brush, safety goggles and gloves. An oscillating multi-tool with scraping and grinding attachments can also make quicker work of backsplash removal.

How long does it take to remove a backsplash?

Removing a backsplash will take 2-4 hours for a small area up to 8 hours for a full wrap-around kitchen backsplash. Exact timeline depends on backsplash size, tile material, and what’s behind it. Plan more time if you have to take down backer board as well.

Can I remove a backsplash without damaging drywall?

You can remove a backsplash without damaging drywall if you go slowly and carefully. Use finish nails or scoring tools instead of hammering. Pry up tiles gently and scrape adhesives instead of pulling forcefully to avoid drywall tears.

What do I do with the old backsplash tile?

The old backsplash tiles, grout, and adhesive should be bagged up and disposed of properly, usually at a construction and demolition debris facility. Some recyclers may take broken tiles. Check locally if any materials like glass tile could be salvaged and reused.


Removing an outdated or damaged backsplash allows you to refresh your space and prevent more severe water damage or mold growth. With proper planning, tools, and protection, taking off a backsplash is an achievable DIY project. Focus on working carefully as you pry tiles, scrape adhesive, and fully clean the wall surface. Then apply your new dream backsplash and enjoy the updated look!