How to Remove Ceramic Tile Backsplashes

Lead Image
  • 2-3 hours
  • Beginner
  • $30-70
What You'll Need
Tile cleaning solution
Work gloves
Safety glasses
Grout removing tool
Putty knife
Rubber mallet

Learning how to properly remove ceramic tile backsplashes can help save you a lot of time and reduce the amount of damage done to your counter tops and the sheet rock behind your sink. There is not a great deal of skill required, but it will take some time and patience. The best approach is to start out on one small area of your backsplash until you have become adept at the process. Once you are comfortable with what you are doing, you can then move on to the rest of the tiles in turn.

Step 1 - Prepare the Tile

Begin the process by cleaning the entire backsplash with a tile cleaning solution. Apply the cleanser with a sponge, allow it to sit for four to five minutes, and then wipe it clean with a towel. It is important to get the grout and the tiles completely clean, so use plenty of solution and elbow grease if needed.

This may seem like a pointless process for tile you will be removing, but there are two very good reasons for cleaning the backsplash before it comes off. The first is that cleaning will remove any debris from the grout or the tiles that could dislodge and cause injury or property damage. You would be surprised at what can come flying off of tile and grout.

The other reason is that it is easier to remove backsplash tile when you can tell the difference between the grout and tile. If you do not clean the tile and have difficulty finding where the ceramic pieces end and the grout begins, you could do serious damage when trying to pull it up.

Step 2 - Clear Away Grout

Put on your safety gear, such as work gloves and protective glasses, and then use a grout removal tool to completely get rid of the grout between the tiles. This is the step that will take the longest and wear out your arms and shoulders most, so make sure you take regular breaks while doing this to reduce the chance of injury or cramping.

Dig the grout removal tool into the grout and slowly remove it. If you go too fast, you can slip and injure yourself or damage your counter tops. Go with a slow and even pace until the grout is completely gone.

Step 3 - Loosen the Tile

The biggest mistake people make when they remove a ceramic tile backsplash is to jump right in and try to pop the tiles off. However, there is a procedure that will minimize damage to the sheet rock while still allowing you to remove tile at a decent pace. Place a putty knife behind the first tile and give the end a tap with a rubber mallet. Do not strike the putty knife hard, and do not move the putty knife when you are striking it. Once you have loosened the tile, you can move on.

Step 4 - Remove the Tile

Lodge the putty knife under the tile again, and pry the tile away from the sheet rock until it pops off. Discard the debris and then move on to the next, starting with loosening again first. It will take you a few tiles to get proficient at this method, but once you get the hang of it, your pace will pick up significantly and the job will be done in no time.