How To Remove Ceramic Tile From Concrete Floors

Updating your kitchen or bathroom tiled floor? If you’re looking to lay down new flooring or expose your concrete subfloor, you’ll first want to scrape off the old tile. You want a clean, prepared slate so you can apply new floors, tiles, or concrete stain. (You can apply new flooring on top of existing ceramic tile, but it won’t last as long.)

However, removing old tiles isn’t as easy as they make it look on home improvement shows. You have to use a lot of strength, time, and elbow grease to knock out the old tiles and their adhesive. But with the right tools and know-how, you can easily and effectively get rid of your old tiles and prepare your floor for updating.

What You’ll Need:

  • Protective gear
  • Tarp or old sheets
  • 3/4 inch or 1-inch masonry chisel
  • 4-pound sledgehammer
  • Shovel
  • Garbage can
  • Dustpan
  • Broom
  • Vacuum
  • Mastic remover scrubber

  1. Wear protective gear.

When removing tile, dust and glass shards can fly into the air. You’ll want to be thoroughly protected while working. Wear safety glasses, gloves, pants, long-sleeve shirts, and close-toed shoes. Wear a dust mask to prevent inhaling any dust. You may want kneepads if you’ll be kneeling.

  1. Remove and cover everything.

Remove any possible fixtures from the room. This includes a toilet (after you drain the water supply).  Then, using old sheets or a tarp, cover anything left in the room, such as cabinets and countertops. Tile removal has severely dusty side effects, so this protection can help shield against damaging layers of dust. If you have an AC unit in the room you’re updating, turn it off and cover it. You don’t want dust getting into the unit and spreading to other parts of your house.

  1. Find a starting point.

Look for any broken tiles or loose grout. This is a great place to start your work because there is already a compromise in the flooring. If the tile is still perfectly in place, start at a spot where your tile stops, like against where your toilet had been. Once you pry up the first tile, it makes the rest of the job easier.

  1. Take a chisel to the tiles.

At the starting point, try to work the chisel underneath the tile to force it loose. Hold the chisel at an angle and hit it with a 4lb sledgehammer or maul. This will break the tile, making it come up from the adhesive. You don’t need to be as forceful as those guys you see on demo shows. Simply hitting the tile the right way with a sharp edge will crack and loosen it.

If the tile won’t come loose, you may need to rent a small jackhammer with a chisel point. You can also rent an electric tile stripper for larger rooms.

  1. Remove perimeter tiles.

You don’t want to damage the walls or cabinets around the edge of the room. Thus, there’s a slightly different process for tiles close to the perimeter. Consider removing the baseboards first to have additional room. Then, use your chisel or a hammer drill, which is slightly more delicate. Don’t come in swinging. Instead, work at an angle to pull up these outermost tiles.

  1. Clean as you go.

As you work, use a shovel to move the shards of tile into a garbage can. Be sure to use heavy-duty garbage bags in your trashcan so the shards won’t cut through. Take care, as tile shards can be very sharp and even cut through leather gloves.

  1. Remove the underlayment.

If there was an underlayment under the tile (the tile wasn’t directly adhered to the concrete), you’ll likely want to remove and dispose of it. This actually makes your life easier because you don’t have to scrape up the adhesive. Remove and dispose of any exposed nails in the underlayment.

  1. Clean.

After the tile is removed, sweep up the dust with a dustpan and broom. It doesn’t have to be perfect, as you still have to remove the adhesive. You just want to remove as much dust as you can to make the following steps easier.

You can also vacuum up any dirt as well. Don’t vacuum up shards if possible.

  1. Remove the adhesive.

Using the chisel, scrape away at the adhesive. If the chisel isn’t working, pulse your hammer drill to remove it. You’ll want to remove all the thin-set until smooth. If you will be applying tile on top, you can leave about 1/8 of an inch of adhesive left on the concrete.

You can apply a thin 1/8 inch layer of latex thin-set mortar on top of the adhesive layer to level out the floor. This can also help hold any new tiles. Then, use a scraper to smooth over the floors.

If you want to reveal the concrete underneath, you need to remove all of the adhesives. Use a mastic remover scrubber to help remove and smoothen.

  1. Clean again.

Clean up dust and debris with a wet-dry vacuum. Ensure that all debris is removed so you can be fully prepared for the next process of updating your flooring.

What are your tips and tricks for removing tile from concrete floors? Let us know in the comments below!

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