How to Take Off Granite Backsplash

Removing a granite backsplash can be a challenging DIY project, but with the right tools and techniques, it is achievable. Granite is an extremely durable material, so taking it off requires patience and care. This guide will walk you through the entire process step-by-step, from preparing your work area to safely demoing and disposing of the granite. With some perseverance and our tips, you can successfully take on this backsplash removal project.

Gather Materials Needed for Removal

Before starting demolition, gather all the necessary materials to take off your granite backsplash properly and safely:

  • Safety gear – This includes safety goggles, a dust mask, ear protection, gloves, and steel-toe boots. Granite demo can create lots of debris and loud noise.
  • Pry bar – A sturdy pry bar is essential for loosening the granite from the walls and cabinets. Choose one approximately 18-24 inches long.
  • Hammer – A heavy hammer will help break up the granite pieces once pried off the wall.
  • Chisel set – Chisels help separate granite from caulk and other adhesives. A set of both flat and pointed chisels is ideal.
  • Putty knives – These can help scrape off old caulk, mortar, and adhesives.
  • Utility knives – Useful for removing backsplash corner pieces and cutting through caulk.
  • Dust sheets – Lay these down in the work area to collect fallen debris. Plastic sheeting works great.
  • Trash bags – Have plenty on hand to contain the granite pieces and other demo waste as you work.
  • Wheelbarrow (optional) – Makes transporting heavy granite pieces much easier. Use a contractor’s wheelbarrow for best results.
  • Replacement materials – Have any new backsplash materials on hand before beginning. This may include new granite slabs or tiles.

Prepare the Work Area

Once you’ve gathered the necessary equipment, prepare your work area by taking these safety precautions:

  • Clear countertops and remove anything breakable from the backsplash area. Granite demolition can shake shelves and cause items to fall. Take everything out of cabinets too.
  • Cover countertops, floors, and appliances with drop cloths. Use heavy plastic sheeting secured with painters tape. This will protect surfaces from debris.
  • Turn off electricity and gas to the area. Shut off relevant circuit breakers.
  • Wear your safety gear at all times during the process. Your eyes, ears, lungs, feet, and hands should remain protected.
  • Have a first aid kit on hand in case of any injuries from sharp granite edges or tools. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby too.
  • Work slowly and carefully. Rushing increases the risk of personal injury or property damage.

Demo and Remove the Granite Backsplash

Once fully prepped, you’re ready to start removing the granite backsplash safely. Follow these steps:

Pry Off Any Edge Pieces First

  • Locate corners or edges of the backsplash protruding from the wall. Insert a pry bar between the granite and drywall and gently pry outward.
  • Apply pressure gradually, rocking the pry bar to slowly pop the piece off. Caution – prying too abruptly can damage walls.
  • If needed, use a hammer and chisel to carefully chip away at edges to free the granite from caulk or adhesive.
  • Remove any loosened pieces and scrape off remaining caulk or adhesive with putty knives.
  • Continue working around the perimeter, removing edge pieces first to create access points for removing the main sections last.

Break Up the Main Sections

  • Once you’ve removed perimeter pieces, focus on the large central backsplash sections. Look for grout lines between granite slabs and use these as crack points.
  • Position pry bar in a grout line or joint and strike it with hammer to wedge granite pieces apart. Apply controlled force.
  • Alternatively, use a chisel and hammer to chip away at caulk lines little by little until the stone separates at its joints. Caution – rapid hammering can crack granite.
  • If needed, drill small holes along caulk lines using a masonry bit. Then insert a chisel and pry pieces apart. Holes allow access behind stone.
  • Remove any granite pieces that become fully separated and clear debris frequently. Be very careful of razor-sharp broken edges.

Scrape Away All Old Adhesive

  • After prying off the main granite slabs, examine the wall for any adhesive, caulk, or mortar still stuck on.
  • Use a putty knife, chisel, or scraper tool to gently remove all remaining adhesive. Caution – scraping too aggressively can damage drywall.
  • For stubborn adhesive, soften it first with a heat gun or chemical adhesive remover. Then gently scrape. Wear gloves when using chemicals.
  • Thorough adhesive removal prevents issues with new backsplash installation. Ensure the wall is smooth and clean.
  • Once adhesive removal is complete, smooth any gouges in drywall with joint compound and sand once dry.

Dispose and Recycle Granite Properly

With removal complete, you must now properly contain and dispose of the broken-up granite pieces using the following tips:

  • Place all granite chunks in heavy duty trash bags or wheelbarrow as you work. For larger pieces, consider renting a dumpster.
  • Granite can often be recycled, but check with your local recycling center first. Broken granite may not be accepted.
  • For disposal, look for construction & demolition landfills accepting stone waste. Avoid putting in regular municipal waste.
  • If hiring a disposal company, choose one experienced in stone demolition waste. Ensure they dispose of materials legally.
  • Ask granite countertop installers if they’re willing to take away old granite pieces for recycling or disposal.
  • Never dump granite waste illegally! It contains crystalline silica which can contaminate soil and groundwater if not disposed properly.

Safety Tips for Granite Removal

Follow these additional safety precautions throughout the granite removal process:

  • Wear an N95 dust mask at all times, changed out regularly. Granite demo creates high levels of silica dust.
  • Keep children and pets completely out of the work area. Granite poses falling, crushing, and cutting hazards.
  • Never use a heat gun or torch to remove granite. The stone can crack dangerously from rapid heating.
  • Work carefully on ladders or heights. Use tall step ladders over shorter stepladders for stability.
  • Stay focused and don’t rush. Many injuries happen when people hurry demolition work.
  • Monitor for electrical wiring behind walls. Turn off power and inspect carefully before prying or drilling.
  • Lift properly and get help moving heavy granite slabs. Don’t strain your back trying to solo large pieces.
  • Allow dust to settle completely before cleanup. Aggressive sweeping can stir up silica particles. Use wet mopping.

Install the New Backsplash

Once you successfully complete granite removal, the final step is preparing the area for new backsplash installation:

  • Inspect the wall and make any final drywall repairs if needed. Fill gouges, smooth uneven areas.
  • Deep clean the entire backsplash area, especially if removing due to a kitchen remodel. Remove grease buildup.
  • Properly prepare the surface. This may involve cleaning, priming, or applying adhesive, depending on the new backsplash type.
  • Have all new backsplash materials ready – new granite slabs, tile, other stone, etc. Check that the dimensions fit the space.
  • Carefully install the new backsplash according to the specific material’s instructions. Take time to properly level and align.
  • Finally, clean up the entire workspace, dispose of any remaining debris, and admire your new, improved backsplash area!

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Granite Backsplash

Here are answers to some common questions about taking off an existing granite backsplash:

Does the Granite Need to be Removed in One Piece?

No, the backsplash does not need to come off in one intact piece. Breaking it apart into smaller sections is much easier and more practical for most DIYers. Just be sure to do it carefully and safely.

Can I Rent Tools for a Granite Removal Project?

Yes, you can often rent granite removal tools such as pry bars, demolition hammers, chisels, and even dumpsters from home improvement stores or rental companies. This allows you to avoid buying specialty tools outright.

How Should I Protect Myself From Silica Dust?

Use an N95 dust mask, changed out regularly, along with safety goggles. Contain dust by misting work area with water and using plastic sheeting. Promptly dispose of dusty debris in sealed bags. Shower and launder clothes after finishing.

What’s the Easiest Method for Granite Removal?

Removing perimeter pieces first provides the greatest access to pry off the main sections last. Drilling small holes along caulk lines also allows easier prying leverage versus striking or chipping alone. Work slowly and carefully for best results.

Can I Hire Someone to Remove the Granite for Me?

Yes, you can hire a professional contractor experienced in granite demolition and removal. They have specialized tools and expertise to remove it more quickly and safely. However, this does add to the project cost.

What Should I Check Before Installing the New Backsplash?

Inspect the wall for soundness, fill any gouges, check for plumb and level, make sure the area is smooth and clean. Prep the surface for proper adhesion. Have all new materials ready to go prior to installation.

What’s the Hardest Part of Granite Removal?

The most challenging step is often breaking apart the main sections after removing the edges. Granite is durable and resists cracking. Just be patient, use pry bars and chisels strategically, and don’t rush. The pieces will eventually separate.

Taking on a granite backsplash removal project requires patience, physical effort, and commitment to safety. But with proper planning and time, it can absolutely be tackled by motivated DIYers. Follow the techniques outlined above and soon you’ll have that outdated backsplash removed safely. Make sure to properly dispose of the heavy granite debris. After the dust has settled, you’ll have a smooth, clean slate ready for your exciting new backsplash design!