How To Remove A Tile Backsplash (Quickly & Easily!)

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

Tile backsplashes are considered to be one of the easiest ways to add more life to your kitchen. Backsplashes are great and add a sense of style. Well, they’re actually great until they’re not. Eventually, you will probably tire of the tile and want it gone. That’s a part of home design, and truthfully, it’s to be expected. The question is, how do you remove the backsplash without harming your walls?

Do not try to remove tile backsplash if it was installed directly on your wall. If it was, consult a professional. If it wasn’t, then start by chipping away the tiles by wedging a chisel into the grout. Start prying off the tiles, one by one, working with a hammer and chisel to lift up each tile. Once you hit thinset, scrape it away and sand down the area.

Getting rid of a backsplash comes with its own perils, most commonly running the risk of harming your drywall. If you want to remove your backsplash safely, read this article.

Do You Need Ceramic or Porcelain Tile Repair Services?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

Before You Begin: Should You DIY This?

Removing your own backsplash is something that should only be done if the tiling was properly installed, using thinset or mastic. If you notice that the tiling is set on drywall, done via liquid nails, or otherwise poorly done, do not try this on your own. This will end up harming your drywall.

If you are okay with removing your backsplash and potentially nicking your drywall on occasion, keep reading. (Don’t worry, drywall is easy to repair.)

Starting Your Tile Removal: Beginning (And Continuing) Your Prying

Now that we’ve discussed the major caveat, let’s talk about the prying issue. In order to pry your tile off, you will need a hammer and chisel, at the very least. Here’s how to start and work on your tile removal:

  • Look for a tile that looks a little loose. You want a tile that has a crack in and around the grout. If the tile is already loose, all the better!
  • Spread a plastic sheet below the backsplash. This will act as a barrier and counter protectant.
  • Take a chisel and lightly hammer into the grout. Break apart the grout and slowly edge your chisel (or a sharp 6-in-1 tool) underneath the tile. Try to angle your chisel as close to parallel to the wall as possible.
  • Keep breaking apart the grout, pulling the tile out. This is a good start, and once you get that first tile off, work the chisel into the edges of the removed tile and keep removing the tile. Eventually, you’ll be able to remove all of them.
  • Once all the tiles are removed, remove the grout and thinset. This is a procedure all its own, but thankfully, it’s a lot less tedious than the tile pulling.
  • Finish leveling everything with a thin layer of spackle. Spread the spackle evenly using a putty knife. Once the spackle has been applied, you will have to wait until it’s dry to finish up your installation.

Removing Grout And Thinset From Your Backsplash

Once you start prying off the tiles, you’re going to notice that thinset (or a gummy mastic) is going to be stuck to the wall. This is going to have to be removed if you want to place new tiles over your old area. Thankfully, this is fairly easy to do. In order to remove grout and thinset from the backsplash, just a 6-in-1 painter’s tool to scrape the majority of it off.

Once most of the gunk is off, you will need to take a rough grit sander and sand down the rest. This works best with thinset since the concrete is able to crumble fairly quickly. With a mastic, you will need to scrape off as much as possible without dangering your drywall. Then, continue with the sanding.

Help! I Got A Hole In My Drywall!

One of the most common errors and issues people have when they decide to get rid of tile on their own is damaging the drywall. It’s scarily easy to do, and drywall is remarkably fragile considering that it makes a large portion of your home. Should this happen to you, don’t sweat it. Here’s how you can fix most minor cuts, tears, and holes:

  • Continue cleaning and clearing up the area surrounding the hole or gash. You want to make sure that the rest of the grout and gunk is removed. Once everything is cleared up, brush the area down with a light brush. If you have multiple holes that have been poked in, it’s better to finish pulling the tiles off the wall before you continue unless you have an extreme problem (like a “punched a hole in a wall) look.
  • Then, grab some thin spackle. Apply the spackle over the holes that are as big as 1 inch long and 1/4 inch thick. This should be able to cover up most of the cuts caused by an errant chisel.
  • Smooth over the spackle. This is why you need to do this at the end of your clearing session. Fixing holes is the last step to actually clearing the backsplash and beginning the prep work for your next set of backsplash tiles.
  • Let the spackle dry, taking your time to make sure that it’s completely dry before you do any other work on the area. If you aren’t sure how long it’ll take to dry, you should read the package.

What Should You Do If You Poked A Larger Hole In Your Drywall?

Let’s say that you accidentally tried to remove tiles that were placed directly on the wall. You ended up pulling and—oh no! The wall came up with the tile! Drywall repair costs a pretty penny but you can DIY it. Depending on how big the hole is, you may need to patch things up with either thick spackle or a mixture of thick spackle aided by a support.

If the hole is less than the size of your hand, then you should be able to use thick spackle alone. If your hole is larger than four inches in diameter, then you will need to put a support over the hole. After that, you will have to apply a coat of thick spackle to hold the support in place and patch things up.

How Much Does Professional Backsplash Removal Cost?

Sometimes, removing your own tiling is not a good idea. This is particularly true if you looked at the tile, realize it’s been glued on, throw your hands up in the air and say, “NOPE!” Should this be the case, you will need to call a professional contractor to remove it for you. What’s interesting here is that the removal is a two-part issue.

The first thing you will need to pay for is the backsplash’s removal, which typically ranges from $3 to $6 per foot. Sometimes, this can be even more expensive—particularly if the backsplash was put directly on the drywall. In extreme cases, some companies might put a surcharge of $1 per foot if they notice seriously problematic issues with the install.

After your backsplash has been removed, the company will also typically charge a disposal fee. Disposal fees are typically between $100 to $150 for a typical backsplash removal. In most cases, the charge is mandatory as you are not always allowed to dispose of it yourself.

Do You Need Ceramic or Porcelain Tile Repair Services?

Get free, zero-commitment quotes from pro contractors near you.

Related Questions

Is installing a backsplash difficult?

While having a new backsplash is a great way to add a new twist to your kitchen, it’s not a project that should intimidate most people. This is one of the easiest ways to change the look of your kitchen without having to spend too much money.In most cases, you should be able to make your own backsplash as part of a day project. As long as you’re patient, you should be able to get a professional layout to your backsplash.

Do peel and stick backsplashes last?

A common misconception people have about peel and stick backsplashes is that they won’t last too long, or that they’ll peel off. While this may have been true in the past, it’s not true with modern backsplashes today.If you properly install the backsplash, you should expect to have your backsplashes last for at least three to five years. If you pick the top tier tiling, then you can expect the backsplash to last around 10 years or more. So, don’t underestimate this material. It’s more durable than it looks.

Do I need to have a backsplash?

For the most part, getting a backsplash is a necessity due to the amount of splatters that can happen from food, grease, and water. Since water and grease can cause serious stains across your walls and even promote mold growth.As a result of the risk that errant stains can pose to your walls, it’s best to just get a backsplash. Backsplashes prevent staining and are also easier to clean than an actual wall. Because of this, most kitchen designers agree that it’s more of a necessity than it is a nice addition to your kitchen’s look.

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

More by Ossiana Tepfenhart