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How to Remove a Tile Floor (In Easy Steps)

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Save a packet by removing your tile floor yourself.

Replacing a tile floor is simple enough, but it does require a lot of effort. You could lay a new floor over the old tiles, but that would increase the depth. Knowing how to remove floor tiles makes the task less strenuous and speeds up your work rate.

We explore the best techniques for tile floor replacement, share hints and tips, and reveal when it’s best to call in a professional.

Removing Old Tile Floors

  1. Know which tools are best for removing tile floors.
  2. Gather the tools and materials before you start, including a flat pry bar and a sledgehammer.
  3. Prepare the area by removing furniture and taping plastic sheeting to ducting and doorways.
  4. Find a convenient starting point and smash the tiles with the sledgehammer. For larger tiles, try the pry bar.
  5. Use the hammer and chisel to remove the tile adhesive.
  6. If the underlayment is damaged, replace it with new plywood.


How Hard Is It to Remove Tile Flooring?

Removing a tile floor is simple, as long as you know the right techniques. It does require physical exertion, but as long as you have the energy, you should be fine. Removing floor tiles scores a two out of ten for difficulty.

Best Floor Tile Removal Tools

Several tools are useful when removing floor tiles. Each has its merits, but all help you demo a tile floor a heck of a lot easier. You also need to take safety seriously. Mortar and tiles contain hazardous ingredients that could be dangerous if inhaled.

Safety Notice

Always put on a face mask and protective goggles. Also, wear heavy-duty work gloves to protect your fingers.

Here is our take on the best removal tool:

Flat Pry Bar

A flat pry bar, like this Texton 18-inch model, hooks beneath the ceramic tile to lift it free. All it takes is a little elbow grease to apply downward pressure. You will need a hammer to wedge it under each tile, but a flat pry bar makes light work of the project.

Flat-Edged Shovel

Flat-edged shovels are excellent for sliding under tiles and lifting them. The long handle on this Fiskars 46-inch shovel and the all-steel construction can handle the most robust tiled floor. Wear protective gloves because it is punishing on your hands.

Masonry Chisel

Removing stone and other dense tiles can be a challenge. A masonry chisel, like this Stanley FatMax, breaks up the mortar and removes stubborn tiles for fun. You will need a hammer to get those tiles up, but breaking a sweat is part of the deal.

Sledgehammer

When all else fails, brute force is the answer. Using a sledgehammer is the easy way to smash the tiles. You will need a wheelbarrow to help you clear the site, and wear a face mask and goggles to prevent inhaling toxic dust.

How to Remove Tile Floors

Those old tiles in your bathroom are finally going. You will have a lovely blank canvas to give your room that wow factor by the end of this project. Before we bathe in the glory of your success, we need to make the preparations.

What You’ll Need

1. Prepare the Area

Remove furnishings and other items and any trim, moldings, and baseboards to expose the edges of the tiled floor.

Use tape to cover heat ducts, windows, and doorways with plastic sheeting to prevent dust leakage. Tile dust is extremely fine and spreads around the house if not controlled.

Take Care

Don’t damage the trim or moldings because you will need them when you complete the new floor.

2. Don Safety Gear

Before you lift a tool, pop on your face mask, goggles, and protective gloves. Working with pry bars and sledgehammers can result in foot injuries. Ensure that you are wearing the correct heavy-duty footwear.

3. Look for the Best Starting Point

Typically, the easiest access to the floor is located in the doorway. Use the hammer and wedge the pry bar under the tile. Apply firm pressure and push down on the pry bar, and the tile should lift free.

If you can’t find an access route, grab the sledgehammer and break the tiles nearest the grout line. Be careful because porcelain tiles can be as sharp as glass when they splinter.

Keep In Mind

Overzealous sledgehammer use can cause structural damage to the subfloor and the floor frame. It can even crack the walls where they meet the floor.

4. Use the Floor Scraper

Once you’ve cracked the tile, grab the floor scraper and slide it under. It is better to remove more tiles without breaking them because it is less messy and noisy. It also reduces the risk of further damage from repeated hammer blows.

Check to see which way the scraper blade operates. Some are designed to work face up or down. It will take trial and error to establish which way yours works.

A flat shovel will also work similarly and is much more efficient, although it creates a little more mess. Alternate between the scraper and hammering as you work across the floor for the speediest results.

5. Clear the Debris

Load the broken tiles and old grout into the wheelbarrow or trash bags using the scoop shovel. The broom is a great way of collecting up the fine adhesive dust.

Once the debris is cleared, you can move to the next stage of removing the old adhesive.

How to Remove Floor Tile Adhesive

Try to get the floor as smooth as possible. If you are laying new tiling, it will need to be blemish-free. Keep your safety gear on because this is probably the dustiest part of the floor removal.

What You’ll Need

  • Hammer.
  • Masonry chisel.
  • Broom.
  • Trash bags.
  • Scoop shovel.
  • Floor scraper.
  • Stud locator.

1. Remove Grout and Tile Adhesive

Removing thin-set tile adhesive is more challenging than removing the actual tiles. The masonry chisel and hammer are the best tools to use.

The underlayment is the flat layer beneath the tiles, typically made from plywood. It gives the tiles a smooth surface for a stronger bond. You don’t get the same adhesion from concrete or other porous surfaces, which is why you have an underlayment.

Use the floor scraper to get the last remnants of the tile grout off the floor and sweep up the dust with the broom.

Take Care

Using the hammer and chisel is effective, but it could damage the underlayment.

2. Remove the Underlayment

Tile grout and adhesive forms a strong bond with the surface, making removal extremely challenging without damaging the underlayment. If the underlayment is too severely damaged, you may have to consider ripping it out.

It might also be the simplest way to get a super smooth surface for the new flooring. Grab your circular saw and cut the underlayment into sections to make it more manageable.

Use a stud locator, like this Tavool 4-in1 Wall Scanner, to detect the studs and pipework beneath the floor. You don’t want to slice through your kitchen floor and sever a water pipe. Now you can unscrew the boards and remove them in sections.

Top Tip

Set the saw blade depth to the same thickness as the underlayment to avoid cutting through the floor joists.

3. Clean Up the Area

Once the underlayment is up, use the broom and the scoop shovel to lift the larger bits of debris. For the finer sawdust, use the shop vac.

How to Remove Tiles Without Breaking Them

Removing tiles without breaking them is by no means a certainty. You will need to use smaller tools and work slowly and carefully. You can cut away the grout using a rotary cutter or grout saw, like this Coitak angled saw, and dislodge the tiles with a putty knife.

This method takes a lot longer, with no guarantees that the tiles will come away in one piece, but you should still salvage a large percentage.

Cost to Remove a Tile Floor

Removing the floor yourself costs you nothing other than the price of any additional tools. The bill for hiring a contractor depends on several factors, like location, type of tiles, and the size of the project. You should expect to pay between $3 and $6 per square foot.

When to Hire a Professional

While removing a tile floor is easy, it does take a lot of energy. Not everyone is lucky enough to have the physical attributes to tackle such a task. Call in the pros and let them take the strain if you think you might struggle.

Also, DIY and maintenance work often comes down to confidence levels. Some people are simply too wary of taking on the work. If you lack confidence, hire a contractor.

Finally, some homeowners don’t have the time to do the work themselves. If you are in a well-paid job and your time is precious, you would benefit from the services of a professional.

How Do You Modernize Old Floor Tiles?

Your tile floor may look tired, but before you start smashing things up, think about simple alternatives. Why rip up your tiles when you can refresh them?

Revive the Grout

grouting tile

Sometimes the tile looks worn because the grout has stained and discolored. Removing the grout and refreshing it with new transforms your tiled floor.

You can also buy grout pens that change the color of the grout. They are simple to use and give instant results.

Cleaning the Grout and Tile

Two caucasian male hands cleaning kitchen grout of an old, dirty tile floor with environmentally friendly hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and a scrub brush.

Simply using a fungicidal detergent, you can remove the staining and mold growth to bring the tile grout back to pristine condition.

Tile Paint

Hate the color of your old tiles? Tile paint, like this tile repair and paint kit from Fortivo, is an excellent choice. Not only does it transform your tiles, but it also repairs cracks and chips to leave them in pristine condition.

Stick-On Floor Tiles

You can buy adhesive floor tiles that stick to your old flooring for an instant transformation. This FloorPops Peel and Stick Tile Set covers 10 square feet and is easy to apply.

FAQs

How Can I Update My Floor Tiles Without Removing Them?

Painting them with dedicated tile paint and changing the grout works wonders. You don’t need to spend much money, and you get instant results.

How Long Does It Take to Remove Tile Floors?

It should only take you about eight hours to rip up a 100-square foot floor. You can speed up this process if you get additional help. It’s trickier to rip up tiles from wood subfloors because the tile adhesive bonds to the surface rather than soaking into concrete and cement.

How Do You Make Old Ceramic Tiles Look New?

You can paint them or decorate them with vinyl decals. Another easy way to get your tiles looking like new is to clean the grout back to the original color. Most white grout discolors easily, aging your tiles.

How Long Does It Take For the Dust to Settle After Removing a Tile?

It depends on the dust particle sizes. Dust is classified as thoracic (inhaled beyond the larynx) and respirable. Thoracic particles are more significant and take about five minutes to settle, whereas respirable particles settle in about three minutes.


The Last Word

Knowing how to remove floor tiles is a valuable skill and easy to master. All it takes is the right tools and a bit of brute force. The most important consideration is your safety; tiles create a lot of dust, which will irritate your eyes, nose, and throat.

Wear a face mask, goggles, and protective gloves, and seal the doors and windows to prevent dust from leaking throughout the house.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.