Bathroom tiles naturally become discolored and grimy after long use. You can have them cleaned or you can clean them yourself, but both are time-consuming and impractical. Tiles also break or become loose when the adhesive and grout that hold them together wear away. They also become just plain ugly after a while. In all of these cases, you may need to remove some of your bathroom tiles or all of them. The following is a step-by-step guide on how to get rid of your bathroom tiles properly.
Things you’ll need:
- Putty knife/chisel/flat-head screwdriver
- Hammer/rubber mallet
- Utility knife
- Masking tape
- Eye protection
- Dust mask
- Power drill with carbide-tip drill bits
- Grout saw
- Cut saw
- Heat gun
Removing Broken or Loose Bathroom Tiles
Some people only want to remove a few loose or broken tiles and then replace or repair them. If you have this purpose in mind, the following tips will help you achieve your desired effect.
Step 1: First, consider to hire professional tile installers. They will ensure that your bathroom tiles are removed properly for a fee, making your job a lot easier.
Step 2: If you want to do it yourself, the first thing you should do is to remove all pieces of furniture that’s in the way. Make sure that you have plenty of room for the entire procedure.
Step 3: Wear safety glasses since tiles can fracture like glass and fly across the room as you remove them. It’s also advisable to cover your nose with a dust mask or cloth because dust will float around during the whole process. Wear protective clothing to prevent any injury or allergy.
Step 4: It doesn’t really matter whether your bathroom tiles are porcelain, ceramic, stone, broken or chipped. The removal procedure for all kinds of tiles is more or less the same. First, remove the grout around the tiles as thoroughly as possible. Grout seals and bonds the area between the tiles, protecting the floor underneath from moisture that can eventually damage the substrate. If you remove the tiles without removing the grout first, it’s likely that the adjacent tiles will chip.
- Feel the grout. If it’s soft and unsanded, scratch it off with the utility knife, being careful not to scratch adjacent tiles. Take note that a utility knife with a dull blade does a better job here than a sharp one.
- If you have a sanded floor grout, which is tougher than normal grout, you may have to use a flat-head screwdriver or a chisel to remove it, especially if its line is over 1/4”. Once you break the grout’s surface, you can go back to using the utility knife to scratch the remaining grout away. There’s a tool called a grout saw that you can use to remove the grout, although it’s practically useless if the line is wide.
Step 5: For Broken Tiles: Removing broken tiles is easy because you don’t have to worry about the condition of the tile. There are several techniques you can use to remove broken tiles. First, find a tile that’s easily accessible. Don’t start with a tile that’s located in a tight corner because this will make your job more difficult later. Pry it off the floor or wall by sliding the putty knife underneath at a very low angle. You can try holding it almost parallel to the adjacent tiles. Next, move the knife around to break the tile away from the adhesive that bonds it to the floor or wall.
Sometimes, the tile still sticks to the floor quite firmly even when you’ve removed most of the grout. In this case, you can use a cut saw or a chisel to cut the tile diagonally. When the cut is deep enough, use the chisel to pry off the broken pieces. Another option is to use a drill with a carbide-tip drill bit to cut through the tile. Put masking tape across the tile from side to side, forming an “X”, to stop the drill bit from slipping on the tile’s smooth surface. Drill a series of holes along the “X”, remove the tape, then pry off the pieces with a chisel or putty knife.
If you don’t have a cutsaw or a drill, try rapping on the edges of the tile using a hammer and a chisel. A rubber mallet and a flat-head screwdriver will also do. Rap the edges of the tile until the piece loosens, then remove it with the chisel. This method works best with tiles set in mortar or thinset.
- Note: When removing broken pieces, a good trick is to start at the center of the tile because there is usually less adhesive there. You can then use the chisel to chip away at the tile outwards.
For Loose Tiles: If you just want to add adhesive to a loose tile, then put it back again in its place, you must be careful not to damage it. The first thing you should do is find out which tiles are loose. Tap each tile gently and feel if there’s any movement. Once you’ve identified which tiles are loose, remove the grout, then pry the loose tiles off the floor or wall by sliding the putty knife underneath at a very low angle.
Tiles located near the bathtub may have some flexible caulking holding them to the floor or wall to make them watertight or airtight. Remove the caulking or adhesive by scraping it off with a putty knife. You may also use a heat gun to soften the adhesive for easier removal.
Step 6: Using one broken or loose tile as a starting point, remove the surrounding tiles outwards. This will make chipping them away easier as more of their edges are exposed.
Polishing the floor or wall
Step 7: After you’ve removed all the broken and loose tiles, scrape out any bumps or lumps of mortar or adhesive on the floor or wall. Vacuum out all the debris or use a broom to clean the bathroom thoroughly.
Step 8: If you’re going to install new tiling, test fit the new tile to make sure it sits firmly without excess movement, and that it’s not higher than the other tiles. Scrape out remaining adhesive or mortar if the surface still isn’t level.
Removing a Large Area of Tiles
Sometimes, the entire tiling of your bathroom needs to be removed. If you don’t need to keep the tiles intact and just want to get rid of them all, the following tips may help you do this quickly.
- The fastest and easiest way to remove a large area of tiles is to simply use a hammer to break it up. Be sure to wear goggles and dust mask because dust and shards will fly across the room while you work. A nice trick to minimize the dust and shards is to cover the area with a towel while pounding away at the tiles. Use a chisel to chip away at the broken pieces of tiles, then polish the floor or wall to remove any remaining adhesive or mortar.
- Your other option is to use a power scraper that’s available from any home improvement store. You can rent it to save a lot of time and work. A power scraper uses a blade that goes back and forth to get beneath the adhesive and edges of tiles, easily breaking them up. It’s quite noisy, so you may want to wear earplugs during the whole procedure. After removing your tiles, your floor or wall will likely be uneven because of the the power scraper’s blade. You can level it again by applying a floor-leveling compound.
Keep in mind that removing bathroom tiles is naturally a time-consuming procedure. You need a lot of help and patience to get this job done properly.
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