How to Remove Ceramic Floor Tile

When you want to replace a ceramic tile floor with another flooring material, you usually are faced with the task of removing the old ceramic tile. While it’s possible to lay some types of flooring material directly over the ceramic tile, this can increase the overall thickness of the floor to such a degree that it’s not practical. Sheet vinyl can usually be directly laid over ceramic tile, but if you are installing hardwood, laminate, or new ceramic tile, you’ll generally have to remove the old ceramic tile before laying the new flooring.

Removing ceramic or stone floor tile is a job that is simple in technique but difficult in terms of effort. In fact, it can be backbreaking work, especially with older installations. Doing your own removal can, however, save you a significant amount of money since the job is so labor intensive.

Thin-Set Tile Installation vs. Mortar Base Installations

In older traditional ceramic tile installations, the tile was set into a base of solid mortar that was often reinforced with steel lathe. The mortar bed usually was applied over a layer of tar paper covering the subfloor. Removal of such a floor can be extremely hard work, involving hours of breaking up the mortar base and laboriously cutting away the metal lathe to free slabs of mortar and tile from the tar paper underlayment. Be prepared for a long, hard weekend of work if you’re dealing with this kind of installation. The process involves a lot of hammering, prying, and cutting the metal lathe into manageable pieces. A similarly difficult job is ahead of you if the tile was installed on a concrete slab.

The job is somewhat easier if the tile was installed over an underlayment of plywood or cement board. Thin-set adhesive came into popularity in the 1970s, allowing tile to be adhered directly to a plywood or cement board underlayment. This system quickly replace the traditional mortar-bed system. With a thin-set installation, the bond between tiles and underlayment is relatively easy to break. It is still hard work, but you can take solace in the fact that you’re not facing a solid mortar base.

Removing Ceramic Floor Tile

Our example of floor tile removal uses basic hand tools on a ceramic tile floor that was laid over a plywood underlayment. The process is largely the same if you have cement board as an underlayment. When removing the ceramic titles, it’s generally best to break the tiles first with a hammer or sledge hammer. Although we are using hand tools, there are also power tools available to simplify the job. A hammer drill with a chisel attachment or roto-hammer with a spade bit can make quicker work of this job, and is highly recommended if the tile is installed over a solid mortar base or over a concrete slab. Hammer drills and roto-hammers can be rented at tool lease outlets or home centers. A hammer drill can wreak havoc with a plywood or cement board underlayment, though, so be prepared for some subfloor repair work if you use this tool.

Be aware that tile removal can generate a huge amount of dust. It’s a good idea to tape off your work area with plastic sheeting to protect your ventilation system and ensure ​dust particles do not travel needlessly through your home or office.​​​​​

Always wear a dust mask, eye protection, hearing protection, and heavy-duty work gloves when demolishing tile. The hammering and ​chiseling action can kick up shards of tile or mortar that could cause serious damage to your eyes. Tile pieces also can be very sharp when broken, so wear long sleeves to avoid injury when doing this demolition.

Ceramic tile demolition can generate a significant amount of waste, especially for large floors. You may want to consider leasing a roll-off dumpster to handle the debris.


Carl Smith / Getty Images

Disclaimer: Curated and re-published here. We do not claim anything as we translated and re-published using google translator. All images and Tattoo Design ideas shared only for information purpose.

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