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Replace the Countertop, Leave Tile Backsplash

Countertop removal by leaving the tile backsplash is possible.
If you want to replace your existing countertop and leave the decorative tile backsplash in place, I’m going to tell you how it can be done. Old outdated ceramic wall splashes should be handled with care, for obvious reasons. If they come loose while removing the existing top put them in a very safe place immediately.

What was installed first the tile or the countertop?

In most cases the countertop was installed before the ceramic fixtures; so with this being the case, there is a grout line on top of the countertop that you should be extra careful with. Be prepared to replace it though.

The chance of the grout line needing to be reworked is pretty good. The cement oftentimes breaks away as you are trying to remove the top from underneath.

If you’re replacing the cabinets, it’s possible to make the new height of the countertop cover over the face of the tiles. This will eliminate the need for re-grouting. This will require having a special depth countertop made though. Either that or cut down the standard size top that you ordered without a backsplash. Once it’s installed you can generally caulk it in with a thin bead.

Will my new countertop be the same thickness as my old one?

There is going to be a difference in thickness from your old counter to the new one; so you may or may not be able to fit the new countertop underneath the existing wall tile splash.

Here are some possible countertop thicknesses. Every top manufacture has their own set standard for fabricating; so these should not be considered as rules but variables. Check with your countertop supplier for a more accurate dimensional overview of your counter top selection.

Plastic laminate tops are 1 ½” thick
Real granite counters will be either ¾” or 1-1/2” thick.
Silestone thickness is 1-1/4” to 1-½”
Corian 1-1/2”

Now with all that being said, unscrew the counter top from the base cabinetry and begin to remove it gently. The grout is not really an adhesive that holds a lot of strength so it should eventually release from the counter top. Keep a watchful eye on every area of the grout line. If you see it giving way, you’d better catch it before it falls into the cracks. The same applies with observing the tiles as you are pulling and pushing.

Once it is removed  start replacing the countertop with the new one. As you are doing this, you will either have to fit the counter to the contour of the tile backsplash, if you’re butting against it, or you will have to shim it up to the grout line. Make sure to shim the front of the counter too so that it remains level.

Can I leave my tile backsplash in place? Yes you can!

Categories: Backsplashes
  1. Jim Benefiel
    September 19th, 2010 at 08:15 | #1

    I am getting into granite replacing Formica and have existing tile backsplash.
    Most granite if 3 centimeters which comes out to 1.18 inch or about one and three sixteenths inch.
    My Formica counter is one and a half inch so I am five sixteenths short of lining up with the tile backsplash.
    My best plan so far is to get clear wood molding or plywood strips of a quarter inch thick to affix to the top of the cabinet walls and then have the granite installed on top of this shimming.
    My cabinets are white so I can paint hem to match easily.

  2. Charles Kelly
    August 10th, 2011 at 20:57 | #2

    What if the granite is 1/4″ thicker than the Formica being replace? The granite now overlaps the tile by 1/4″. How do I cut 1/4″ off the tile along the line at the back of the counter top where granite meets tile?

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