How to Take Off Old Backsplash

Taking off an old 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 old backsplash from your walls.

Assessing the Backsplash

Before starting demolition, take time to fully assess the existing backsplash.

  • What material is it made of? Ceramic tile, glass, metal, and stone will need different removal approaches.
  • What does the adhesive or grout look like? Cement-based products will be more firmly attached.
  • How large are the tiles or sheets? Larger panels will need more leverage to dislodge.
  • Are there multiple layers? Older homes may have several layers of backsplash.

Thoroughly inspecting the backsplash will give you an idea of how difficult removal will be and allow you to plan accordingly.

Gather the Right Tools

Removing backsplash requires some specialized tools for efficient removal:

  • Backsplash remover: A manual scraper designed specifically for removing existing backsplash. It has a handle and flat, angled blade.
  • Hammer and chisel: For breaking up stubborn backsplash and tiles. Use a masonry chisel.
  • Flat pry bar: Helpful for leverage when prying up whole sheets of backsplash.
  • Putty knife or paint scraper: For scraping off old adhesive and grout residue.
  • Goggles and gloves: For eye and hand protection from debris. A dust mask is also recommended.

Having the right tools for the material you are removing will make the process significantly easier.

Prepare the Workspace

Before starting demolition, set up your workspace to keep the area contained and protected.

  • Clear the countertops and remove anything breakable.
  • Cover nearby surfaces with drop cloths to catch debris.
  • Have a covered trash can ready to discard broken pieces.
  • Sweep and vacuum the backsplash to remove dirt and dust.

Proper prep will allow you to work cleanly and efficiently.

Removing the Backsplash

With your tools gathered and the area prepped, it’s time to start taking down the backsplash:

1. Loosen the Grout

Use a grout saw or oscillating tool to loosen the grout between tiles or panels. This allows you to pop them off individually.

2. Start Removing Tiles

Use the backsplash scraper at a 45° angle to get behind each tile and pry it off. Apply force gradually.

3. Clear Adhesive Residue

Use a putty knife to scrape any remaining adhesive or thinset mortar off the wall. Chisel if needed.

4. Remove Backing Materials

For backsplash mounted on backerboards, pry them off and pull out any nails or screws.

5. Clean the Walls

Use a wire brush and shop vacuum to clear dust, debris, and remaining adhesive from the walls.

Go slowly and be careful not to gouge into the drywall. Wear eye protection to avoid debris.

Disposing of the Old Backsplash

Once removed from the walls, properly contain and dispose of the backsplash debris:

  • Wear gloves when handling broken tiles or glass pieces.
  • Sweep up small fragments and contain in bags or boxes.
  • Break any large pieces to fit in the trash bags.
  • Load materials into a truck or trailer for a trip to the dump.
  • Ceramic, glass, metal and natural stone are not hazardous and can go directly to landfills.

Proper cleanup and disposal completes the backsplash removal process. Now the walls are prepped and ready for a beautiful, new backsplash design.

FAQs About Removing Old Backsplash

What’s the easiest backsplash material to remove?

Self-adhesive, peel-and-stick backsplashes come off the easiest. Just grab a corner and slowly peel away.

What should I do with the removed backsplash pieces?

Discard broken shards safely. Larger intact tiles or panels can be recycled or repurposed.

How do I get rid of old tile adhesive on walls?

Scraping and sanding removes adhesive residue. Solvents like mineral spirits also help dissolve old glue.

What do I do if parts of the drywall come off too?

Patch and repair any drywall damage before applying new backsplash. Use joint compound and mesh tape.

Can I put up new backsplash right over the old one?

It’s not recommended. Old tiles prevent proper adhesive bonding. Remove completely for best results.

How do I get grout haze off the surface after removing tiles?

Use a grout haze remover product or mix baking soda and water into a paste to gently scrub off residue.


While removing old backsplash requires time and elbow grease, the sense of accomplishment and ability to update your space makes it worthwhile. Carefully assess the materials, use the right tools, and work methodically. Follow safety precautions for an efficient demolition and cleanup. Soon you’ll have a fresh backdrop ready for a stylish new backsplash design.