How to Remove a Tile Backsplash Cleanly

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Things You'll Need

  • Grout scraper or rotary tool with grout removal attachment

  • Stud finder

  • Pry bar

  • Putty knife

  • Hammer

The average size of a kitchen backsplash is only 30 square feet.

Removing and replacing a tile backsplash can be one of the most dramatic ways to update your kitchen design. Backsplashes are an extremely decorative component of most kitchens, and updating them can give the whole area a face lift. If you are only removing the backsplash tiles and not replacing the cabinets as well, it makes sense to try to get the tiles off without damaging the plaster or drywall behind them. Working slowly will provide the best results.

Remove the grout from between the tiles on the backsplash, as well as the caulk between the bottom row of tiles and the countertop. Use a grout scraper, moving in a downward and side-to-side motion, or use an electric rotary tool to cut through the grout. This will loosen the tiles and allow you to pry them up one at a time, which will do the least damage to the wall behind them.

Use a stud finder to locate the wall studs behind the backsplash. Insert the end of a pry bar at this point, and gently pull the tiles free. This will give you a starting point to branch out from that will not pull a section of wall away with the tiles.

Insert the edge of a putty knife behind the tiles adjacent to the cleared section. Wiggle the knife in behind the tile, pulling upward very slowly and gently as you do so. The goal is to get the tile up in one piece with as much mortar as possible to create the least mess. Use a hammer sparingly and gently to tap the putty knife behind any tiles that are stuck fast.

Work slowly in rows, loosening all the tiles around a stuck tile to avoid doing additional damage. Use the putty knife to carefully scrape any leftover mortar off the wall to create as smooth a surface as possible when you're done.


Sarabeth Asaff

Sarabeth Asaff has worked in and has written about the home improvement industry since 1995. She has written numerous articles on art, interior design and home improvements, specializing in kitchen and bathroom design. A member in good standing with the National Kitchen and Bath Association, Asaff has working knowledge of all areas of home design.