Granite is an elegant backsplash material, but it's possible to get tired of elegance, especially if you've got your heart set on pizzazz. Removing a 4-inch granite backsplash to make way for a new backsplash material, or none at all, is a lot easier than you might suspect. A word of warning, though: It will be next to impossible to avoid damaging the wall, so be prepared to make drywall repairs.
Don't Use a Heat Gun
If you're searching granite backsplash removal methods in preparation for a kitchen renovation, you'll probably come across recommendations to use a heat gun. The thinking is that heat will soften the adhesive and make it easier to pry the stone off the wall. There are two problems with this approach.
The first problem with using a heat gun to remove backsplash is that the adhesive holding the backsplash may be thinset mortar, and heat won't have any effect on it. If the installers used mastic, you'll probably encounter the second problem, which is a gooey mess that's extremely difficult to clean. Instead of using heat, consider doing as Greco Design Company recommends and use the force of a hammer instead. And that doesn't mean to shatter the granite.
Removing a 4-inch Granite Backsplash
The first thing you have to do is to cut the caulk seal around the backsplash because it's strong enough to keep the backsplash in place all on its own. Cut a deep slice into the caulk all around the perimeter, including the border between the backsplash and the countertop, using a sharp utility knife. You'll know that the knife has penetrated the caulk if it sinks more than about 3/4 inches behind the backsplash.
Once the caulk bond has been severed, get a 2- or 4-inch rigid metal putty knife. Slip it between the backsplash and the wall and tap it sharply with a hammer. Repeat this all around the perimeter, and at some point, the shock of the tapping will break the glue bond, and the backsplash will loosen enough for you to pry it off with a screwdriver or pry bar. To remove a 4-inch granite backsplash with tile above, you may have to chip through some tile grout with the putty knife before you can get the knife behind the backsplash.
If cabinets above the backsplash limit the room you have to swing the hammer, angle the putty knife and wedge a corner of the blade into the space between the backsplash and the wall. Adjust the angle to maximize the trajectory of the hammer and work around the top of the backsplash that way. It probably won't take many hits to loosen the backsplash enough for you to pry it off.
Cleaning Up the Removed Backsplash
If you refrain from using heat, you'll be left with hardened glue residue on the wall, and this is fairly easy to remove by scraping with a putty knife. Stubborn deposits usually come off if you wedge the putty knife underneath and tap it with a hammer. It's best not to use solvents because they might soften the drywall.
Some of the adhesive will inevitably take drywall paper with it when you chip it off, and it may even leave a hole in the drywall. You can patch holes with drywall patching compound, and you can repair paper tears and smooth over patches with drywall joint compound. Apply two or more coats with a drywall knife, sand the final coat to smooth it and the wall is ready for a new backsplash or even painting, if that's what you prefer.
Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker.com.