Removing old tiles can be a complicated, time-consuming process but paying a tiler to do it for you is also expensive, so – if your renovation budget’s tight – it might be worth your while to DIY.
Regardless, it’s important to remember that removing old tiles takes time, considerable effort and a lot of patience. Here are our 4 top tips for removing old tiles like a pro:
- Scope your project.
Start with a full assessment of the task at hand. How big a tiling area do you want to remove? Are the tiles old or relatively new? – the older the tiles you have, the more likely they’ll be harder to get off.
You’ll also need to do some detective work to see what’s underneath your tiles, especially if you’re targeting floor tiles. Start in the corner and pry up your first few tiles (Always wear safety glasses – ceramic tile is sharp and dangerous!).
What’s underneath – concrete, timber, plywood, Masonite, plasterboard or a timber floor with cement sheeting (often used to underlay tiles) on top? Is there any asbestos? Does the timber have significant cement mortar or tile adhesive to remove? Depending on what you find, you'll need to think about how you're going to deal with it. Will you need to make significant repairs? Or will you need a new floor?
- Get prepared ahead of time.
Once you’ve scoped the project, it’s time to get started. To do the job properly and with the minimum amount of fuss, you’ll need to get your tools and materials together beforehand.
Clear the area of everything you can – this is going to get messy and flying tile shards can be destructive. If you’re doing a big area, you’ll probably also want to hire some specialised tools. A jackhammer will get the work done fast, and a flat blade scraper can remove small bumps left behind quickly. But if your tiled area is under 5 square metres, you can probably get away with using a hammer and cold chisel. You could also use a crowbar if you want.
You’ll also need a dust mask, knee pads, safety glasses, work gloves, a trowel/ utility knife/ putty knife and a vacuum cleaner. Once again, broken tiles can be sharp as a knife, so safety first.
- Cut your grout joints first.
This is a great professional tiler tip that will make it much easier to remove the tile. You could also use a grout saw or rotary cutter if you have one to hand.
Then you should look for the weakest spots where you might be able to take out multiple tiles at once. Cracked tiles are ideal – take your chisel and drive it with your hammer into the centre of the tile to break it.
Wedge your knife into the crack and pry out the tile – if it's a little hard to pop out, use your hammer to drive the blade under the adhesive. Then keep going until there are no more tiles left!
- Clean up carefully.
You’ll need to sweep or vacuum meticulously before you go to the next stage. Depending on what you’re replacing your tile with, you might want to replace the old plasterboard (for wall tiles), cement board underlay or use a floor-levelling product to fill any hollows to create a smoother surface for your replacement tiles.
And remember, should you need last minute tiling advice from a professional tiler who has decades of experience, we’re here to help!