How to Take Off a Tile Backsplash

Removing a tile backsplash can be a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be accomplished successfully. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to take off a tile backsplash.


A tile backsplash serves both decorative and functional purposes in a home. Over time, tastes change and tile can become outdated. Removing the tile provides an opportunity to update the look of the kitchen or bathroom. Taking down a tile backsplash requires patience and care to avoid damaging the underlying wall. With some basic DIY skills, it is possible for a homeowner to take on this project.

Reasons for Removing a Tile Backsplash

There are several common reasons for wanting to take down an existing backsplash:

  • Replacing old, worn out tiles with a new style
  • Gaining access to the wall behind the tile for repairs or inspection
  • Preparing the wall for a new backsplash material like glass or metal
  • Removing outdated or no longer desirable tile selections
  • Creating a clean slate for a new kitchen or bath remodel

Whatever the motivation, removing tile can refresh the look of the space.

Preparing for Tile Removal

Taking the proper precautions will make the removal process safer and easier. Consider the following preparatory steps:

Assess the Tile Type

  • Ceramic, porcelain, or natural stone tiles each have their own properties that affect removal. Glazed ceramic will likely come off easiest.

Clear the Counter Tops

  • Removing everything from the counters allows easy access to the full backsplash area.

Protect Surrounding Surfaces

  • Cover nearby floors, countertops, and appliances with drop cloths to catch falling debris.

Wear Protective Gear

  • Safety goggles, dust mask, ear protection, gloves, and long sleeves are important for safe tile removal.

Gather Necessary Tools

  • A hammer, putty knife, pry bar, razor blades, and dustpan will all be helpful in taking down tile.

Step-by-Step Tile Removal Process

With proper prep complete, it’s time to start taking down the tile itself. Follow these key steps:

1. Remove Grout Lines

  • Use a razor blade, utility knife, or oscillating tool to scrape out all existing grout between tiles. This will help release the tile.

2. Start Prying Tiles

  • Wedge the flat pry bar into the corner of a tile and gently twist to pop it off the wall. Work across the installation to remove tiles.

3. Inspect Wall Surface

  • As tiles come off, examine the drywall or cement board behind them. Look for areas needing repair.

4. Chisel Off Adhesive

  • Use the hammer and chisel to chip away any remaining tile adhesive from the wall surface.

5. Clean the Wall

  • Sweep away debris, then wipe down the entire area with a damp cloth to remove dust.

6. Make Any Necessary Wall Repairs

  • Fill holes, smooth uneven areas in the drywall, and address other issues to ready the surface for new tile.

7. Prepare the Surface

  • Once repaired, apply primer and new adhesive so the new backsplash will stick properly.

Tips for Easier Tile Removal

Removing a backsplash takes time and physical effort. Keep these tips in mind to aid the process:

  • Work methodically across the wall, completing one section before moving to the next
  • Apply painter’s tape at the edges to prevent damage to surrounding surfaces
  • Avoid forcing tiles. If one won’t pry up easily, move to another area.
  • Take breaks as needed to avoid exhaustion and potential injuries
  • Be prepared for a messy demolition. Lay tarps and contain debris.
  • Properly dispose of all tile and adhesive at the end for safety.

Alternative Removal Options

For DIYers who want to avoid the hands-on demolition required for prying off tile, there are several removal options:

Tile Removal Service

Hiring a professional tile removal service ensures proper techniques and avoids the manual labor. This is the fastest option.

Rent a Tile Stripper Tool

A powered tile stripper uses an oscillating hammer to chip away adhesive and pop off tiles with less physical effort.

Use a Heat Gun

Applying heat until the tile adhesive softens can help release tiles from the wall quickly.

Each option has pros and cons to weigh before proceeding with a project. Removing tile backsplash by hand provides the most control for a DIY homeowner. Understanding the process helps ensure success.


Here are some frequently asked questions about removing a tile backsplash:

How long does it take to remove a tile backsplash?

On average, it takes 2-4 hours to remove a 100 sq. ft. tile backsplash. The time can vary based on tile size, wall surface, and tools used.

What is the easiest way to remove tile from a wall?

Using an oscillating multi-tool to slice through grout lines and vibrate tiles loose is the easiest DIY method. This requires renting the specialized tool.

Can I put new tile over old tile backsplash?

It is not recommended. Layers of tile build out the plane, making walls uneven. Proper adhesion of new tile requires removing old and prepping the wall surface.

What is the safest way to remove tile?

Always use protective gear like goggles, gloves, and a mask. Work slowly and carefully. Wedge tools into grout lines instead of tapping directly on tile to avoid breaking.

Can I sell old tile backsplash?

If tiles are still in good condition after removal, you can sell them through used building supply stores, architectural salvage shops, or online marketplaces. Vintage or unique tiles may have demand.


Removing an outdated or damaged tile backsplash takes some preparation and elbow grease but brings the reward of a fresh start in the kitchen or bath. Carefully follow the steps to pry up tiles safely, thoroughly clean the wall, and dispose of debris. Understanding the process ahead of time makes a tile removal project more manageable as a DIY home improvement. With the existing tile gone, you can move forward with installing a stunning new backsplash design.