Removing Tile

June 22nd, 2013 by Mark Matyskiel

Tile is an excellent flooring material. It is durable, attractive, and lasts a long time. It’s also easy to clean and matches well with almost any décor. However, sometimes the homeowner decides that tile needs to be replaced for a variety of reasons. Cosmetic or structural reasons exist for replacing tile, and whatever the reason, removing the existing tile is the usual course of action.

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To remove tile, you’ll need:

The prybar should be a flat type of bar (see accompanying picture), so that it can be forced under the tile without damaging the floor or wall underneath it. Tile is put down on a variety of bases including concrete, plywood, concrete board, or other tile. Concrete board consists of fiberglass mesh infused with layers of mortar, and is sold in sheets of a similar size and shape as plywood (although it is about twice as heavy per square foot). While a concrete base is essentially indestructible, improper use of a prybar can damage concrete board or plywood


The hammer should be a light sledge hammer. A framing or carpenter’s hammer can work in a pinch, but a slightly heavier hammer makes the job a lot easier. Avoid using too heavy of a hammer. For example, a 10 or 20 pound sledge hammer would be too difficult to wield with sufficient precision to avoid putting a hole in plywood or concrete board, and might even crack concrete.

The dust mask, ear plugs and eye protection should be fairly self-explanatory, but are necessary because chipping tile is loud, and produces a lot of airborne dust and flying tile chips.

To remove the tile, hold the end of the prybar against the edge of the tile, and pound the other end of the bar with the hammer. The prybar should be at about a 5 to 45 degree angle. At first you might be tempted to hit timidly, and chip carefully around the grout lines for each tile. But, as you develop a technique, you’ll realize that it is impossible to remove the tile without breaking it, so simply concentrate on getting an angle that removes the tile the most efficiently.

If you’re taking tile off concrete board, the strength of the glue used to hold the tile in place might sometimes exceed the strength of the board, and so the board might start spalling off, leaving a hole in the board. If this begins to happen, or if the bar starts becoming driven through the board instead of between the board and the tile, stop and pull the bar out and start again from a new direction. Avoid levering the bar up to remove the tile unless the base is concrete, since this can put holes in concrete board or plywood.

For concrete, there is very little to worry about besides causing cracks, and even this is difficult with the a small sledge hammer and the type of prybar pictured.

If you are in need of an expert remodeling company with decades of tile experience, Sunset Tile & Bath is the company to choose. They service all parts of the Phoenix metro area, including Glendale, Phoenix, and Scottsdale.

17155 N 51st ave. Suite 116 | Glendale, AZ 85308
Phone: 602-789-8700
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