How to Take Out Tile Backsplash

Removing a tile backsplash can be a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, it doesn’t have to be. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to safely and effectively take out a tile backsplash.

Prepare the Workspace

Clear the countertops and surrounding area of any items that could get in the way or damaged during the tile removal process. Have a garbage can nearby to discard broken tiles or tile pieces. Make sure you have adequate lighting and ventilation in the workspace. Wear safety goggles, gloves, and a dust mask to protect yourself throughout the process.

Gather the Necessary Tools

You will need the following tools:

  • Hammer
  • Cold chisel
  • Putty knife
  • Pry bar
  • Dustpan and broom
  • Shop vacuum
  • Safety gear (goggles, gloves, mask)

Carefully Remove the Grout

Use a cold chisel and hammer to gently tap away and break up the grout between the tiles. Go slowly and carefully so as not to damage the drywall behind the tile. Use a putty knife to scrape away remaining grout residue. Vacuum up the grout dust and pieces as you work.

Pry Off the Tiles

Once the grout is removed, you can begin prying off the tiles. Start from the top and work your way down. Place the pry bar under the edge of a tile and gently pull the tile away from the wall. Try to pry it off in one piece. For stubborn tiles, use a hammer or mallet to tap the pry bar further under the tile to loosen it.

Clean the Wall Surface

With all the tiles removed, thoroughly clean the now exposed wall surface. Use a putty knife to scrape off any remaining tile adhesive or grout. Vacuum up any residual dust and debris. The wall surface should be completely clean and smooth before preparing to install a new backsplash.

Safely Discard Tile Pieces

Carefully pile up the removed tiles and grout pieces and dispose of them properly. Broken tiles have sharp edges, so sweep the area to ensure no shards are left behind. Place removed materials in a bag or box for transport to the garbage.

Fix the Drywall if Needed

Examine the drywall after tile removal for any damage. Fill small holes or nicks with drywall compound. Cut away and replace any significantly damaged sections of drywall. Ensure the surface is smooth before applying a new backsplash.

Prepare for New Backsplash

Once the old tile is fully removed and discarded, the wall can be prepped for a fresh backsplash installation. Follow typical drywall preparation procedures, such as sanding and priming. Measure and make any needed adjustments to ensure the new backsplash fits properly.

FAQs About Removing Tile Backsplash

How do I remove stubborn tile adhesive from the wall?

For very stubborn adhesive residue, use a adhesive remover chemical. Apply it to the adhesive, let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then scrape off with a putty knife. Be sure to open windows for ventilation when using chemical removers.

What tools should I avoid when taking out backsplash tile?

Avoid power tools like oscillating multi-tools and grinding disks. The high-speed motion can damage the drywall behind the tile. Stick to simple hand tools like hammers and pry bars for safe tile removal.

What if my tile pulls off drywall chunks or paper when removing it?

This can happen with very adhered tile or deteriorated drywall. Assess the damage and cut away any loose drywall flaps or chunks. Fill sizable divots with drywall compound. If large sections are compromised, cut and replace the drywall.

How do I protect my countertops during tile removal?

Cover countertops with cardboard or drop cloths during the backsplash removal process. This will protect the surface from damage from fallen tiles, tools, and debris. Use painter’s tape on edges to secure the cover.

How should I dispose of old backsplash tile?

The best option is to place tile pieces in a sturdy box or bag and transport to a waste collection site. Alternatively, you can rent a dumpster to dispose of tiles and other demolition waste. Do not put loose shattered tiles in the trash.

Is it easier to remove tiles from drywall or cement board?

Tile removal is easiest from drywall, which is a softer surface material. Tile bonded well to cement board is more difficult to pry off. With cement board, take extra care not to damage the surface during removal.


Removing an existing backsplash tile properly takes time and care, but doing so allows you to refresh the space with an updated tile design. With the right tools and safety precautions, you can successfully take out backsplash tiles without damaging walls. Always dispose of sharp broken tiles carefully. Once the old tile is gone, you’ll have a blank slate to install the new beautiful backsplash you’ve been envisioning.