When to Remove Tile Spacers on Backsplash

Installing a tile backsplash can transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom. While the spacers between the tiles serve an important purpose during installation, knowing when to remove tile spacers is a key step to achieving the perfect finished product. In this article, we’ll look at why tile spacers are used, when you should remove them, and how to remove spacers properly.

What Are Tile Spacers?

Tile spacers are small, plastic crosses that are placed between tiles during installation. Their purpose is to help create consistent spacing or “grout joints” between the tiles. This gives the finished backsplash a neat, uniform appearance once the grout is applied.

Tile spacers come in different sizes for different size grout joints. The most common sizes are 1/16 inch, 1/8 inch, and 3/16 inch. The size chosen depends on the type and size of the tiles being installed as well as personal preference regarding the look of the grout lines.

Why Are Tile Spacers Important?

There are a few reasons why tile spacers play such an important role in achieving professional looking results:

  • They keep tiles evenly spaced as the tiles are placed on the wall. This prevents tiles from shifting out of position as more tiles are installed.
  • They allow room for the grout. Grout needs a space between tiles to adhere properly. Spacers create a uniform grout joint size.
  • They allow for even, straight grout lines between all tiles. Consistent grout lines give a clean, polished look.
  • They prevent tiles from sitting too close to each other. Tiles that are installed too close can crack or chip when grout is applied.
  • They compensate for small variances in tile size. Not all tiles are cut perfectly. Spacers help account for those slight differences.

So in short, tile spacers are crucial for professional looking, long-lasting results.

When Should You Remove Tile Spacers?

Tile spacers should be removed after the tiles have been set but before the grout is applied. The timing generally works as follows:

During Installation

The spacers stay in place between each tile as the tiles are being installed. This keeps everything properly spaced as the work progresses.

After Tiles Are Secured

Once all tiles have been mounted to the wall and are held firmly in place with adhesive, the spacers can be removed. Often they can gently be popped off by hand.

Before Grouting

All spacers must be taken out prior to grouting. Any spacers left in will prevent proper application and adhesion of the grout.

So as a general rule of thumb:

  • Spacers stay in during the laying of tile
  • Spacers get removed prior to grouting after tiles are secured

This allows them to serve their positioning purpose without interfering with the next crucial installation step.

How to Remove Tile Spacers

Taking out tile spacers is usually a quick and easy process. Here are a few tips for smooth removal:

  • Start removing spacers 24-48 hours after installing tiles once adhesive has hardened. This allows for simpler spacer removal.
  • Wear work gloves to protect your hands and improve grip.
  • Beginning at the top, gently grasp one cross arm of the tile spacer and rock it back and forth to loosen any adhesive bonding. Slowly pull the spacer away from each tile.
  • Twist the spacer as you pull for looser removal. Go slow to prevent tile edges from chipping.
  • Work in small sections. Take spacers out from each section before moving down the wall.
  • Use a plastic putty knife as needed to help gently pry spacers free without marring tiles.
  • Be sure to check all sides of tiles and remove any stray spacers. Look closely along the perimeter.
  • Inspect for any thin set adhesive that may have oozed out. Carefully scrape away any excess.

With some care and patience, the spacers should release fairly easily. Take time to remove all of them thoroughly before grouting.

Can Spacers Be Left In?

Technically tile spacers can be left in place between tiles during grouting. Some homeowners may choose to do this if spacers seem stubborn. However, this is generally not recommended:

  • Spacers can interfere with proper application and adhesion of grout.
  • They reduce full grout coverage between tiles.
  • Grout will adhere to the spacers resulting in uneven grout line edges once spacers are taken out.
  • Any remaining thin set adhesive makes spacer removal after grouting more difficult.

For best results, taking spacers out completely prior to grouting is advised. Put in the time upfront to fully remove all spacers from the tile joints.

Achieving a Professional Finish

While removing tile spacers may feel tedious, this simple step makes a big difference in the finished look of your backsplash. Keeping spacers in place during tile setting, then diligently removing each one before grouting, will help your project achieve a polished, professional appearance.

With the spacers out of the way, you can look forward to cleanly grouted, consistent joints between all your tiles. Taking the time to properly remove spacers allows for a smooth, quality grouting process and a beautiful backsplash you’ll love enjoying for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions About Removing Tile Spacers

Removing tile spacers is an important part of the installation process. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about this topic:

When is the right time to remove tile spacers?

The ideal time to remove spacers is once the tile adhesive has cured, usually 24-48 hours after installing the tiles. This allows the tiles to adhere while still being able to remove the spacers with relative ease.

Can I grout over tile spacers?

It’s not recommended. Leaving spacers in place can interfere with proper grout application and adhesion. Spacers should be fully removed from all joints before grouting for best results.

Do I have to remove all the spacers?

Yes, every last spacer should be taken out prior to grouting. Even one left in place can negatively impact grout coverage and lead to uneven lines once removed later. Check edges thoroughly.

What’s the easiest way to remove tile spacers?

Start at the top and work in sections. Gently twist and rock spacers loose, pulling slowly straight out from the tile joint. Use a plastic putty knife as needed. Wear gloves for grip.

Can tile spacers be reused?

Most plastic tile spacers are designed for single use installation. While you may reuse rigid, durable types, reuse of flimsy plastic cross spacers is not recommended as they become deformed.

What if a spacer breaks during removal?

First try to carefully remove any remaining pieces with a putty knife. For any small fragments left behind, apply grout over top. The grout should surround and adhere to any small remnants.

How can I prevent tiles from shifting after removing spacers?

Use caution when removing spacers to limit tile movement. You can also apply painter’s tape across the outside parameter to keep perimeter tiles tightly in place.

What should I do if tiles shift after spacer removal?

If any tiles become loose, loosen surrounding tiles and adjust them back into proper position using a clean popsicle stick or putty knife. Reapply tile adhesive primer and press back into place.

Taking the time to properly remove all spacers prior to grouting may feel tedious, but it is worth the effort for beautiful results. With some care and patience, you can achieve professional-looking grout lines and a stunning backsplash overall.


Tile spacers serve an invaluable purpose while tiles are being installed. But knowing when to remove tile spacers is just as important for a flawless finish. Allowing tile adhesive ample time to cure, removing spacers thoroughly from all joints, and taking care not to shift tiles are all key steps. While a bit time consuming, proper spacer removal prior to grouting prevents issues and creates an even, consistent look. Following these best practices for when and how to eliminate spacers will help any backsplash project look its very best. With careful spacer removal and quality grouting, you can look forward to enjoying a showpiece backsplash you’ll love for years to come.