Taking out an existing backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom can seem like a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it can be done efficiently. A backsplash not only serves a functional purpose of protecting the walls from water damage and splatters, but it is also a key decorative element in any room. Over time, backsplashes can become outdated, damaged, or you may simply want to change up the look. Whatever your reasons, removing the old backsplash is an important first step before installing a new one. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the entire process of safely and effectively removing a tile, metal, glass, or stone backsplash.
Assess the Existing Backsplash
The first step is to look at what type of backsplash material you currently have. Ceramic tile is one of the most common backsplash materials. Tile is attached to the wall with mortar/thinset adhesive. Stone backsplashes like granite or marble are also secured with mortar. Glass backsplashes can either be mounted on a mesh backing or adhered directly to the wall. Metal backsplashes are typically mounted with screws.
It’s important to understand how your existing backsplash was installed so you know how best to remove it. Inspect the corners and edges – are the tiles grouted or simply butted up against each other? Grout will need to be scraped out between tiles. Check whether the backsplash was installed right on the drywall or applied over cement board. Cement board will be more difficult to take down.
Gather the Right Tools
Taking out a backsplash requires a mix of demolition and scraping tools along with safety gear. Here’s a list of the essential tools you’ll need:
- Safety glasses and gloves – Protect your eyes and hands from debris, sharp edges, and chemicals.
- Dust mask – Prevent inhalation of dust or particles during demolition.
- Hammer – Break apart tile and knock off attached pieces from the wall.
- Chisel and putty knife – Scraping and prying tools to remove thinset, mortar, and remaining debris.
- Utility knife – Cut through mesh backing on glass tile or scoring grout lines.
- Pry bar – Help pry off tiles that won’t come off with hammer alone.
- Paint scraper – Scrape off old caulk or adhesive remnants.
- Shop vacuum – Vacuum up tile pieces, dust, and debris as you work.
- Plastic sheeting – Cover floors and countertops to contain mess.
- Ladder or step stool – Safely reach upper portions of the backsplash.
Prep the Workspace
Demolishing a backsplash can get messy, so properly preparing the workspace is crucial.
- Remove everything from the countertops and clear out items below the backsplash area.
- Protect surfaces like floors, countertops, and appliances with plastic sheeting and masking tape.
- Have a vacuum ready to frequently clear away debris and dust.
- Have a designated space to pile up tile pieces and discarded backsplash material for disposal later.
- Turn off electricity and gas to appliances like stoves that are along the backsplash area.
Carefully Demolish the Backsplash
With your prep work complete, it’s time to start demolishing the backsplash. Always wear safety glasses and gloves during the entire process. Here are some tips for safely and effectively taking down common backsplash materials:
- Use a hammer and chisel to gently tap the grout lines between tiles to break the grout bond. Scrape out all grout with a chisel or putty knife.
- Place a pry bar under one tile edge and gently pry upwards to pop the tile off the wall. Work in small sections.
- For stubborn tiles adhered with mortar, use a hammer to break tiles into smaller pieces for removal.
- Use a utility knife to cut through any mesh backing behind the tile.
- Scrape off any remaining thinset mortar with a chisel or putty knife.
Glass Tile Backsplash
- Score any grout lines with a utility knife then chisel out grout.
- Use a hammer to gently tap and break glass tile pieces. Wear eye protection.
- Peel off any mesh backing and scrape off remaining adhesive.
- Use a chisel to carefully pry underneath each stone tile, working slowly to pop each piece off.
- Apply heat with a hair dryer to soften stubborn adhesive then scrape with a putty knife.
- Use eye protection and work cautiously to avoid breaking stone tiles.
- Locate any screws, typically along the edges and bottom, then use a drill or screwdriver to remove them.
- Slowly pry the metal panels off the wall starting at the top using a pry bar.
- Scrape off any remaining thinset adhesive using a putty knife or chisel.
- Use a utility knife to cut through caulk beads along edges.
Clean Up the Walls
Once you’ve removed the backsplash materials, some cleanup of the underlying wall is required to prepare it for a new backsplash.
- Wipe down the walls with a damp sponge to remove dust and debris.
- Fill any gouges or irregularities in drywall with joint compound, let dry, and sand smooth.
- If the original backsplash was installed over cement board, you may need to apply a skim coat of joint compound over the entire wall to create a smooth surface for the new backsplash.
- Carefully scrape off any remaining tile mastic, mortar, or adhesive so the new backsplash has a clean surface for installation.
Dispose of the Old Backsplash
The final step is properly disposing of the backsplash debris.
- Place tile pieces, metal panels, stone scraps, and other discarded materials into heavy duty garbage bags.
- Remove bags of debris from the workspace to avoid spreading dust.
- Check your local regulations – tile and stone may be considered construction debris which requires special disposal.
- Consider recycling metal backsplash panels if possible.
- Vacuum the workspace thoroughly to remove any remaining dust and small debris.
- Remove plastic sheeting and cleaning supplies.
Although demolishing an existing backsplash requires patience and elbow grease, it can be accomplished DIY-style with the proper tools, prep work, safety gear, and demolition techniques. Always work slowly and cautiously, especially when handling glass or stone. Be sure to thoroughly clean the walls afterward so they are ready for your beautiful new backsplash! With some perseverance and the right approach, you can take out that outdated or damaged backsplash and get one step closer to the kitchen or bathroom of your dreams.