Removing a few tiles in old mud job - possible??

ctlady_gwJanuary 24, 2013

I am getting differing opinions as to how easy (or possible) it will be to remove a few of the tiles in this old mud job. We need to replace the plumbing fixtures but don't want to remove the old (and pristine) tile job. I was told by one tile guy that you could remove selective tiles as long as you weren't trying to retain them (we're not -- we're hoping to fill in with a small mosaic tile, not try to match the old tiles and not try to pretend it's not a "patch" job, just make it a pretty one). Another tile guy said in an old mud job, it's often very difficult to get tiles out because they "bond" so where you might be able to "pop" tiles out of a newer tile wall, you really can't do that with an old mud job. I don't want to start down this road if it's going to end up being a nightmare. Worst case, we can always resort to just covering these holes (which we will no longer need) with chrome covers, but we really would love to remove the row and fill with a pretty mosaic if we can.

So my question is: what is entailed in removing old tiles like this if we just want a few taken out? Can it be done? Or shouldn't we risk it?

Thanks in advance to the tile experts out there!

Here's a photo of our dilemma: this is the old plumbing, which is going... and is very low, so while the new spout could go in roughly the same spot if necessary, the new valve, etc. will be higher up on the wall. We might be able to use the center (current diverter) hole for something, but definitely not the hot and cold on either side as we are installing a thermostatic single lever valve.

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If you are not preserving the tile, you could cut out the grout and cut slots into the tile with a Dremel tool and chisel out the pieces.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 5:16PM
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Remove the grout from the perimeter of the area you want to demo.

Then I'll usually "X" the center tile with a grinder, and remove it with a mallet and a low-angle chisel.

Then with the chisel at a low angle, whack out the remaining tiles, working from the center of the demo area, outwards to the perimeter.

Well-set tile will usually come out in several pieces. If the setting bed, or the backs of the tiles, were at all dirty or dusty when installed, the tiles will sometimes pop off in one piece.

If the tiles do indeed have a hellacious bond and you're having huge difficulty removing them, then score the tiles full-depth with a grinder, then pop off the individual pieces with a low-angle chisel.

I use a well-worn 2-lb hammer and a well-abused masonry chisel.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 7:12PM
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Ah, thank you both! It sounds as if a competent tile installer should be able to do it -- might be time consuming, but could be done... Now just have to find one who WANTS to :)

Not sure I'm brave enough to tackle it myself. I've laid some tile, and even removed a wall of bath tile (on a horsehair and lathe plaster wall in an 1889 house), but I didn't have to be careful, just took a hammer to the wall (easy!) This looks a lot trickier...

MANY thanks to you both for the quick responses and the detailed advice! May have to do it myself if I can't find an installer who's interested in a small job like this, so I appreciate the detailed advice.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 9:03PM
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