How to Remove an Old Tile Backsplash

August 26, 2015

How we removed our old tile backsplash (and drywall). 

I mentioned last week when my Dad and I took down our upper cabinets that the next step was to take down the beadboard backsplash, which would have been pretty easy if it was just beadboard nailed up on the wall. 

I'm crying a little inside that it wasn't just beadboard nailed up on the wall. Years ago when I installed that beadboard backsplash I tried to take down the black tile first, but it was an absolute mess. Chunks of the wall were coming off, and because I was looking for a relatively quick fix to brighten up our dark kitchen, I ended up gluing it on top of the tile. 

It worked great and it was actually pretty easy to remove too -- but the tile was still a pain in the butt: 
taking down tile backsplash

Many of you recommend just taking the drywall off the wall with the tile. We tried that at first but the tile was so close to both the countertop and the cabinets (at least under the wall of cabinets we still have up), we had to remove the tile first. 

When I got past the mess I created years ago it actually came off easier than I thought. You can see above that the glue helped out because it held the tile together -- nothing came flying off. 

I ended up going pretty basic with tools for the tile removal: 
tools for removing tile backsplash

A crowbar and a hammer did the job just fine. It was loud, so I recommend earplugs for sure. Also, eye protection too. We didn't have a lot of flying debris because of the glue but it still happened occasionally. 

About half way through we got smart and realized we only needed to knock the bottom tiles off. ;) 

That way we could cut around the bottom and the top on the areas where the cabinets were removed and we could pull it off in bigger chunks: 
removing tile backsplash

Most of the tile came off easier than I thought it would, but it was still a lot of work. Also, even the tiles that came off easily left a mess behind them. There were a lot of spots where chunks were taken off with the tile, so we knew from the start that the drywall would have to be removed everywhere. 

Keeping the majority of the tile up helped a bit because the drywall came down in bigger pieces -- the tile was holding it together. 

I'll be honest, this whole process was not so fun. I mean, I didn't think it was going to be a blast or anything, but if I could do it over again I probably would have just hired it all out. We got to the above photo a couple hours in on the first day and I was a little overwhelmed and decided to call the drywall folks. :)

But they couldn't come out to even give a quote till today so Dad came back the next day and we tackled getting that last section down. We used a level to mark straight lines to cut and used this saw to cut the drywall: 
saw for cutting drywall

Cutting down was super easy -- cutting horizontally was a pain in the butt. ;) You have to watch for the studs of course, but we made sure not to cut too deep so we didn't touch any wires in the walls. 

Two things to mention here -- make sure to turn off your power for the area at the breaker before cutting into your drywall! If you take your time and don't cut too deep, you'll be fine -- but better safe than sorry! Do not cut unless the power is completely off. 

Also, other than the basic safety gear, make sure to cover areas you're concerned about -- counters for sure. As I mentioned, we didn't have stuff flying, so our counters were fine. But I did make sure to cover the drain in the sink. You don't want little bits of stuff down your drain or disposal. 

We did try using a Dremel attachment to cut the drywall and it worked great, but holy dust. It was a MESS. Unless you have an attachment that sucks up the dust I would not recommend that. 

We were going to try to hold a shop vac hose up to it, but I'm quite sure even that wouldn't have gotten it all. It was way too much dust so we went with the handheld saw. 

Here's that space after we were done pulling the drywall off: 
And that's where we stopped. We purchased the drywall but didn't have it in us to try getting it up. I've patched big and small holes before and small ones weren't bad. 

Bigger ones are a total pain and I so didn't want to tackle it. Had I known I'd be so over it I would have just waited for the professionals to do it all at once. 

Sometimes productivity bites you in the butt. ;) 

I was just going to screw the drywall in anyway and hire out the taping and mudding. I didn't want to finish up anything just yet because I'm having lights installed on that wall and I knew they'd need to cut into the drywall anyway. 

My dream for years has been to add the library-type lights to that wall like these: 
swing arm lights over windows

I'm obsessed with them. Have been for years! But dangah -- they are so freaking expensive. 

If you remember, I wanted the same look for our dining room built ins but ran into the same problem there. I ended up going with outdoor sconces and I love it in that room. 

I really wanted something different in this space though -- something that sticks out from the wall more: 
swing arm lamps kitchen

So yet again, the hunt was on. And yet again, I can't find them for less than $250 each. Argh!! If I was getting one I'd splurge, but I needed three. So I looked and looked and found some that I loved, but they had awful reviews on both ebay and Amazon. 

I kept looking and found that those with more of a gooseneck were cheaper. I quite liked those as well so kept digging. Most of the ones I liked were considered outdoor barn lighting, so if you are interested in the same be sure to use those terms. Problem was, most of those are made for…well, barns. ;) They were HUGE. I'm glad I looked at the measurements! 

I finally came across these and knew they were the ones: 

gooseneck barn light

I can't find these sconces anymore, but these bronze gooseneck sconces are similar. 

They look green in the photo to me but they are supposed to be a dark bronze. I figure I can spray them with a high heat paint if needed. 

Two will go on the left on either side of the future vent hood and one will go to the right above the future shelves: 
removing tile and drywall backsplash

At first I wanted one above the window, but we have a header there. I'd like to give the lights a little more room too, as they are about ten inches tall. Adding it above the window would be just a little tight. 

I'm VERY excited about them and am really hoping they look as good as I think they will. Those particular lights are rated "dark sky" which are those that shine down instead of out into the space. 

I think it will be so lovely when the new backsplash is done! They will be placed on their own switch, with a dimmer of course. :) Can't wait!

And since we're waiting for that to get done and I have a few more days of living with the open walls (fun) -- I got to thinking, I could add a little niche above the oven: 
removing kitchen backsplash

Something like this: 
cut out in wall above range

Or something bigger like this: 
niche above oven

I hope to replace our oven with a slide-in range so we will have plenty of space to add that. 

It would be great to have a spot for cooking oils and I think it would just add a nice custom look for not a lot of money. It will be easy to frame out the niche and the added tile work doesn't worry me. 

I'm just trying to decide if I'll use it -- do any of you have that little cut out above your range? What do you use it for if so? 

There you go, the kitchen progress so far. Not pretty but I like sharing the steps with you along the way! I can see the after in my head and oh man, it's gorgeous. Just have to practice that thing called patience. I'm not great at that when I'm full steam ahead. I'm hoping we can get the lights up and the drywall all patched and finished by early next week. 

I've changed up my plan a bit and I'm going to start shopping for new countertops tomorrow. Yay! While I wait for those to get installed I'll tackle the vent hood and extending the wall of cabinets to the ceiling. I feel good about my deadline of November at this point -- I'm kind of hoping for a Halloween deadline now. Look at me! 

To keep up with the progress between posts, check out my Instagram page

Affiliate links included for your convenience. 
Email subscription form header
Your email:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide


  1. my dream is to have a pot filler arm above my stove. I also love those lights

    1. Ohhh I love pot fillers too! Our sink is right next to the oven so it wasn't worthwhile for us, but I love the idea of one.

  2. I don't really like the niche idea, I think it would get greasy and cluttered. ick. But I LOVE the lights!! I am a big believer that lights can make a room. Those are great!! Marianne

    1. I love the look of the niche but was also thinking it would be a grease catcher. As I've gotten older I go more for easy functionality rather than looks sometimes. Whatever makes life easiest.

    2. I agree...niche=grease catcher. We have a nice hood that vents outside that we always run when we cook, and I still have to wipe some sticky grease-dust off the backsplash.

  3. While you wait for the pros you could always build your own lights! They seem pretty similar to ones that Sarah built: just make the arm longer and get a different shade.

    1. I agree with Sarah Dorsey's lights too...they're gorgeous! And cheap!

  4. Kinda interested to see how the shelves on the right side of the sink work out. I was thinking it would make more sense to keep the corner cabinet, that way any shelves could start near the window and butt up to the side of the cabinet.

  5. I too have been obsessed with the library lights in the kitchen as well as office spaces. We recently redid our office/sitting room and I was on the hunt for cheaper library lights. No luck. But then we found these cheapys at lowes.

    1. They really look so awesome. We use a remote to turn them on and off to save money on not having to hire an electrician to hard wire them. I think there are a lot of "swing arm" lamps that would normally be used for next to the bed but would work great for the library light look. PB and amazon had som great options too for a little more money but not too bad. I know you could figure out a way to use them without hardwiring them too to save some cash ( like the remote option we found)

  6. Hey Sarah! They're not exactly like your dream lights, but have you seen/considered the Ranarp lights from Ikea? They're super cute!! I used them in our study and love them to little bitty pieces. Even though they are plug-in "wall lamps," I'm sure you could hard wire them into the wall and put them on a switch. I've actually thought of using them above my kitchen cabinets after I saw this pic:

    1. I just saw this post today where they used those Ranarp lights and hardwired them above some built-ins. They look fab! And so CHEAP!

    2. Here's the blog post from Avery Street Design Co.

  7. Isn't every project always more than you bargained for and the mess gets tiresome before it's finished? I just finished painting/staining my kitchen cabinets and then realized that the laundry room is right beside the kitchen. The laundry cabinets are clearly visible from the kitchen and are still the old golden oak color. I may have found my next project.

  8. What about this light fixture:

    Urban Barn Collection 11 1/4" High Bronze Outdoor Wall Light

    Urban Barn Collection 11...


    Google Trusted StoreLamps Plus

    Or these at HD?

    $19.97 / each
    Home Decorators Collection Essen 1-Light Antique Copper Outdoor Wall Lantern

    $24.97 / each
    Hampton Bay 1-Light Outdoor Zinc Wall Lantern

    Or these at Lowes
    Portfolio 10.75-in H Steel Dark Sky Outdoor Wall Light $31.97

  9. I feel like those little cut in shelves are not very functional and accumulate grease and dust

  10. So impressed with your progress (they make demolition look fun on the DIY shows, but is a BEAST and by far the worst part of any project IMHO. Maybe if you're a huge burly man it's fun, but even with way more upper body strength from all my DIY work, I am not strong enough to avoid either mess or bruises. My DH does the demo, and I build pretty things, and we are both happy).

    I also love the lighting idea! I think those were one of the ones I particularly liked, out of the approximately 2000 I looked at for my kitchen :P. (In the end, I became totally obsessed with a copper finish, and the narrowing-down process took a sharp turn.)

    As to a niche for oils and spices - the ones you have pictured are recessed into the space between the studs (similar to niches in showers etc.), which I think makes less sense on an exterior wall where you really want insulation (as I see you have). Your first inspiration photo clearly shows an exterior wall (see: window), but not all the pretty inspiration photos on the internet depict good ideas :). Maybe ask the contractor what they think about skipping the insulation in wintery Indiana?

    If a niche is not practical, you could put a pretty shelf there. I did that above my stove (but my backsplash is still beadboard, so the woodwork made good sense there, IMHO anyway). Maybe that wouldn't work with the look you are going for - just a thought.

  11. I like the niche but wonder if it's good for the oils, etc to be so close to the heat? That would be my only concern (along with the grease build-up).

  12. I always question putting anything behind the stove that would make you reach across the burners, especially with a gas stove such as yours. It just does not sit well with me.

    Congrats on your progress!

  13. You are better than me lol i freak out at the thought of having to wait for the end result! I like the bigger option for above the stove btw.
    XO Ellen from Ask Away

  14. The niche looks awesome but it looks like you're on an exterior wall with insulation, I don't know what the weather is like where you are but adding this niche into the walls would cancel your insulation and possibly make for a very cold area during winter - just something to keep in mind.

  15. Love what you are doing with your kitchen. I also love your choices in lighting. Like you said, It can be super expensive though. I have found some lighting for VERY reasonable prices when doing a google search for industrial style vanity lighting and then clicking the shopping tab. It will bring up all kinds of lights like you are looking for from different companies and what their prices are. Some are expensive but most of them are pretty reasonable. Also has great industrial/farmhouse style lighting that is very inexpensive as well. Good luck finding what you want.

  16. You guys are doing wonderful and difficult work but I agree with those before me who think that the niche looks great in photos, but practically, it's a grease and dirt catcher. I put a narrow shelf above my stove and it was constantly needing cleaned, just as does a backsplash between the stovetop and anything above it. I always encourage people to do what they want, but you did ask for our opinions.

  17. I have a large niche behind my range that I had installed when we renovated our kitchen and I LOVE it because it keeps my counters from being cluttered. I keep my olive oil, salt, pepper, kitchen timer there. My only complaint is that with the viking oven/range I have, when the oven is on it pumps HOT air out the back and everything on the shelf gets hot. It's fine when just using the range tho. It's not that big of a deal but I stopped putting my cooking spray back there in addition.

  18. Even though you've stalled- you're making progress! I don't think I would put a shelf because of heat and reaching across, but I do have a square of accent tile behind my range and I like that.

    Don't be sad about the pot filler. Our builder insisted on it but I rarely use it. You still have to lift the pot to empty it. I guess it looks cool but that's about it.

    Looking forward to more updates!

  19. You're doing a great job and I hear you on the amount of dust! We tried cutting the drywall with a dremel tool as well and gave up due to the amount of dust. I think I must have recleaned my kitchen 300 times over the course of our remodel.

  20. Awesome progress so far! I would be the same way to, if I was full steam ahead it would drive me nuts to have to stop. I really like the lights you chose and I can't wait to see them with the finished design!

    I really like the inlay idea and my preference might be the straight across rather than the bigger one, it looks sleeker and cleaner. The only thing I am thinking would be that it would be hard to clean if there was any splashes etc.

    Lauren Baxter| Lovely Decor

    1. Sarah, you are my personal Wonder Woman of all things home-related DIY, inside and out. I'm trying to follow your example wherever I can. It has been so great to follow along with all of your projects, especially updating your kitchen little by little. Love everything you've done thus far so I'm going to adapt some of your ideas to our own kitchen remodel which, likewise, needs to be accomplished in affordable increments. The one thing I think you may want to reconsider is that niche above your stove for oils and spices. Trust me, you'll end up hating the yuck of grease and dirt on your oils and spices, not to mention your fingers and hands whenever you use them, but also on the niche itself. If you're like me, you'll soon find yourself wanting to chuck all of them because of their gross factor. In my opinion, hide your oils and spices in a cabinet. You won't have that obvious gourmet kitchen look, but you won't have that greasy "yuck factor" either.

      Sarah, you've no doubt heard that Hollywood joke..".It's not about how you feel, it's about how you look." In this instance, it is about how that grease and grime feels which makes you not want to add any of those oils or spices to the food you present to your family or friends.


If you have a specific question I will do my best to answer you back here!

You can find our paint colors and links to items at the "Our Home" tab at the top of my site.

THANKS so much for reading!