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Tips on Removing Kitchen Tiles

by Glyn Sheridan

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Wall Tiles

Kitchen tiles, frequently installed as a backsplash behind a kitchen counter or stove, provide a water-resistant and easily-washable surface. While tile is a long-term decorative feature in most kitchens, you may want to remove wall tiles if you update your cabinets or remodel your kitchen. The adhesive used to install wall tiles forms a strong bond, so it may take some time and effort to remove. Here are some tips for preparing the wall for the application of new kitchen wall tile.

What You Need to Know:

  1. Remove the grout first. Scraping away grout between the tiles is the first step in removing them. A hand-held grout scraper features a thick blade with a point on one end and a small wedge on the other end. Scrape back and forth along grout lines to grind away the grout until the base of the wall tiles is visible.

  2. Loosening wall tiles. Wedge the end of a putty knife beneath the bottom of a tile and gently pry outward. Depending upon the type of adhesive used to install the wall tiles, they might pop right off. Unfortunately, most tiles are stuck on quite tightly, and you may have to tap the handle of the putty knife with a small hammer or a mallet to drive it deeper beneath the tile. Since wall tiles may break during this process, chunks of tile may remain stuck to the wall. Scrape these away with a wide-blade putty knife. Also, if the tile was installed over drywall, chunks of drywall may crumble and pull away. If this happens, you may need to do some drywall or plaster skimming to fill the holes and level the surface of the wall.

  3. Alternate removal methods. Some wall tiles are stuck on quite securely, and it may be necessary to cut the whole section of drywall or backer board and replace it with a new piece, rather than pick and pry at each individual tile. If you choose this method, locate the nearest wall stud outside the tiled area and cut the drywall along a vertical line in the middle of the stud. When you install the new sheet, it will be ready to attach to the stud. Make a horizontal cut anywhere above the tiled area. Remove the drywall with the wall tiles still attached. Install a new piece of drywall in place of the old one and use drywall mud to close up the seams. If you are installing new wall tiles, you don't need to paint the new drywall.

  4. Following safety procedures. Wall tiles may shatter when removed. Wear safety goggles while working to prevent eye injuries from flying shards of tile or glaze. In addition, wear a long-sleeve shirt and leather gloves to reduce the risk of scrapes from sharp tile edges.

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