How to Take Off Backsplash

Backsplash is a versatile and stylish way to protect the walls behind sinks, stoves, and countertops from water damage and stains. However, there may come a time when you want to remove or replace an existing backsplash in your home. Taking off a backsplash can be a big project, but it’s doable as a DIY with the right tools, time, and care. Here is a comprehensive guide on how to take off backsplash tiles or panels in your kitchen or bathroom.

Reasons for Removing Backsplash

There are several reasons you may need to remove your existing backsplash:

  • Renovating the kitchen or bathroom – Taking out the old backsplash creates a fresh canvas for installing new tiles or panels that fit your updated style.
  • Damaged backsplash – Backsplashes can become stained, cracked, or scratched over time. Replacing is easier than repairing damage.
  • Tired of the look – If you are bored of your backsplash, removing it gives you an opportunity to get a brand new look.
  • Preparing to sell the home – An outdated or damaged backsplash can deter potential buyers. Taking it out leaves the wall blank for the next owner.
  • Incorrect installation – Sometimes backsplashes are not installed properly and start detaching from the wall. It needs to be redone.

No matter the reasons, the first step is taking off your current backsplash properly and safely, without damaging the walls.

Materials Needed

Taking out a backsplash requires certain tools and materials to do it correctly:

  • Chisel and hammer – For working the tiles/panels off the wall
  • Putty knife – Helps pry off tiles and scrape off adhesive
  • Razor blades – Useful for cutting through caulking or adhesive between tiles
  • Gloves – Protect your hands from sharp objects and chemicals
  • Safety glasses – Keep debris out of your eyes
  • Dust mask – Avoid breathing in particles
  • Plastic sheets – Cover floors and countertops
  • Garbage bags – For removing debris
  • Ladder – For reaching higher areas of the backsplash
  • Caulk remover – If needing to remove caulking between tiles
  • Adhesive remover – For removing leftover tile adhesive
  • Drywall mud and sandpaper – For smoothing damaged drywall
  • Primer and paint – To finish the wall for the new backsplash

Gather all materials beforehand so the project can move efficiently. Safety comes first when handling dangerous tools.

Prepping the Backsplash Area

Before starting demo, you need to prep the backsplash space:

  • Remove anything on the counters or floors around the backsplash area and cover surfaces with plastic sheets.
  • Detach any accessories, like soap dispensers, attached to the tiles.
  • Turn off electricity and water supply to the kitchen or bathroom if you’ll be working around outlets or plumbing.
  • Wear safety goggles and gloves – eye and hand protection is key during demo.
  • Have a box or garbage bag nearby to discard tiles/panels as you remove them.

Preparation helps you safely tear out the backsplash and protects the rest of the space from damage.

Removing Tile Backsplash

Follow these steps to remove a tile backsplash:

Step 1: Score the Grout Lines

Use a utility knife or razor blade to cut any caulking and score the grout lines between the tiles. This prep work makes the tiles easier to remove. Be sure to wear gloves and goggles.

Step 2: Start Removing Tiles

Begin gently tapping tiles with a hammer and chisel to break them free. Apply force at the grout lines you scored. Twist the chisel to pry up the edges.

Tiles may pop off the walls easily or take some effort depending on the tile thickness and adhesive used. Work in sections carefully.

Step 3: Clean Off Adhesive

Use a putty knife to scrape residual adhesive off the wall once tiles are removed. An adhesive remover can also help get rid of leftover residue.

Be sure to read the product directions carefully before using chemicals and wear gloves.

Step 4: Remove Damaged Drywall

Inspect the drywall underneath and scrape off any remaining debris. If the drywall is damaged, cut and remove those sections so you have a smooth surface.

Step 5: Smooth and Prep the Walls

Once all adhesive and tiles are removed, smooth any uneven areas in the drywall with joint compound. Let dry completely. Then sand until the walls are uniform for the new backsplash.

Wipe away all dust before priming and painting the wall where you removed the tile.

Now you have a clean slate for the new backsplash installation.

Taking Down a Panel Backsplash

For plastic, metal, glass, or other backsplash panels, follow these steps:

Step 1: Remove Accessories

Just like with tile, detach any accessories, like towel bars, before taking panels down. Turn off water and electricity sources if necessary.

Step 2: Cut Caulk Sealant

Use a utility knife to cut through the caulk sealing the panels to the wall. This helps separate them from the surface.

Step 3: Pry Away Panels

Start at the corner edge of a panel and begin prying it away using a putty knife. Slowly work around the edges and ease the panel off the wall.

Repeat this process for each panel, being careful not to bend or warp them if reusing.

Step 4: Scrape Off Adhesive

After removing panels, use a putty knife to gently scrape residual adhesive off the walls. An adhesive remover can help get rid of excess.

Step 5: Clean and Patch the Wall

Clean all debris before assessing if the drywall needs repairs. Use joint compound to patch small holes or imperfections. Prime and paint.

Now the space is prepped for new backsplash panels to go up.

How to Remove Backsplash Around Outlets

When removing backsplash around outlets, be sure to turn off the power supply first for safety.

Carefully cut around the outlet with a utility knife before prying off tiles/panels. Be cautious not to damage wiring. Remove nails or screws holding the outlet in place before taking it out of the box to fully expose the area.

Scrape residual adhesive and smooth the drywall as needed for fresh installation of tiles. The outlet can be replaced secured in place after the new backsplash is installed.

Backsplash Demolition Tips

Here are some additional tips to make demolishing the backsplash go smoothly:

  • Work slowly and carefully. Rushing can lead to breaking tiles or damaging walls.
  • Wear eye protection and gloves at all times. Tiles often shatter and tools can scrape hands.
  • Contain debris safely. Keep a garbage bag nearby and sweep up dust to contain particles.
  • Avoid wire damage. Take care when working around outlets and wiring.
  • Smooth uneven areas. This prevents gaps with the new backsplash installation.
  • Dispose of hazardous waste properly. Old tile adhesive may require special disposal.
  • Ventilate the area. Opening windows helps control dust while you work.

With the proper tools and safety techniques, removing a backsplash is a doable project! Take time to prep the space and materials for efficiency.

Can You Put New Backsplash Over Old?

Sometimes people consider installing a new backsplash directly over their existing one rather than removing it. However, this is often not advisable. Covering up an old backsplash with a new one can cause installation issues and prevent the new materials from properly adhering to the wall.

There are a few reasons installing on top of an old backsplash is not ideal:

  • Uneven Surface – The layers of old tile create uneven areas the new tiles would adhere to. This often leads to cracking and loosening over time.
  • Extra Weight – A new backsplash installed over an old one adds a lot of weight to the wall. This puts stress on the structure.
  • Outdated Look – If your old backsplash is highly outdated, its design will still show through the new tiles or panels. It can ruin the intended look.
  • Difficult Install – The adhesive and grout used to install the new backsplash won’t bond as effectively to the older material.
  • Moisture Issues – Water leakage can become trapped between the two backsplash layers, promoting mold growth.

In most cases, it saves future frustration and problems to just take off the old backsplash first before installing a new one properly. But if your existing backsplash is structurally sound and can provide an even base, tiling over it may work. Consult a tile professional to be sure.

How Much Does Backsplash Removal Cost?

If you plan to hire a professional contractor rather than DIY your backsplash removal, here are typical costs:

  • Basic tiles – $3 to $5 per sq. ft.
  • Stone tiles – $5 to $10 per sq. ft.
  • Glass tiles – $4 to $8 per sq. ft.
  • Metal or plastic panels – $2 to $4 per sq. ft.

So for a 10′ x 4′ backsplash area, removal may range from $120 for basic tiles to $400 for stone. This accounts for labor, materials, disposal fees, and new drywall if needed. Be sure to get an itemized estimate before hiring a pro.

Cost can be higher if the backsplash was installed poorly originally and is now difficult to take down. Intricate tile patterns, cement boards, or specialty grout can also drive the price up.

It’s often worth investing to have a contractor remove and dispose of materials safely. But if doing it yourself, just factor in costs of tools, equipment rental, and proper waste disposal.

FAQs About Removing Backsplash

Here are some commonly asked questions about taking out existing backsplash:

Should I protect walls when removing backsplash?

Yes, you should cover surrounding countertops and walls with plastic sheeting before removing backsplash. This protects surfaces from damage during the demo process.

What is the easiest backsplash to remove?

Self-adhesive plastic panels or metal sheets are typically the easiest backsplash to take down. Tiles that used mastic rather than mortar adhesive are also simpler to detach.

Can backsplash be reused after removing?

Porcelain, glass, or metal backsplash tiles or panels can often be reused if removed fully intact. But adhesives, caulking, and broken pieces may prevent salvaging ceramic or stone tiles.

Is it better to remove or tile over backsplash?

Removing the old backsplash completely is best to create the ideal smooth, clean surface for new installation. Attempting to install over an existing backsplash often leads to problems down the road.

How do I remove old tile adhesive from backsplash?

Scraping with a putty knife can remove leftover adhesive after taking tiles down. Solvent-based adhesive removers also help get rid of stubborn glue residue from the wall.


Removing an existing backsplash is a big project but worthwhile if your kitchen or bathroom needs a fresh new look. Carefully follow the process of prepping the space, using proper tools, and safely discarding debris. Tile backsplashes require scoring grout lines and prying off each tile, while paneling can pry off more in sheets after removing trim and caulk.

Be sure to smooth and finish the wall surface once the old backsplash is fully removed before installing replacement tiles or panels. With caution and patience, this is a home remodeling task an ambitious DIYer can certainly tackle and save on professional installation costs. Just gear up with all the necessary equipment and get ready for a satisfying demolition!