Removing Ceramic Tile

LaurieSeptember 17, 2008

We are going to DIY and make the downstairs all wood flooring. The subfloor is all concrete. What is the best way to remove this ceramic entry tile? What suggestions do you have for trying to lessen the amount of dust that will get all over the house from this removal?

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I don't think you'll find it terribly dusty, but since it's near a door, I'd use a couple fans to create cross ventilation.

Since it's over concrete, it won't be too tough to break out a central tile, and use a chisel on its neighbors: if you are lucky, they'll pop off without too much trouble.

An old, dull wood chisel can work well for this, the bevel will help keep you from marking up the concrete too badly. Really, any chisel will do, even a pry bar if it's got the right shape.

There could be flying chips, so use eye protection.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2008 at 3:53AM
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Day 1 of tile removal : Long sleeves, long pants, gloves, eye protection, chisel, mallet, dustpan & broom.. Since this was installed (by my husband) in the late 70's, dh wants us to wear a dust mask to avoid breathing in any potentially dangerous dust. He remembers using thinset to lay these tiles, but when he ran out of the thinset, he went to the store to buy more and they were out. Then, he used a different type of "glue" stuff to lay the remaining (small area) of tiles. Where there was thinset, the tiles are VERY difficult to chip out. We are even running into some stuff the homebuilder used to "float" the entry slab to make it level. Here are some pics of about 3 - 4 hours of chiseling away...

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 6:37PM
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Try renting an electric hammer to chisel up the tiles. It'll make it go a lot faster.

Love your tent. :-)

    Bookmark   November 17, 2008 at 7:29AM
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I second, the electric demo hammer. My Bosch, is a hammer drill and chipping hammer.

It will make short work of that.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2008 at 8:51PM
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weedyacres & floorguy - thank you for telling me about the electric hammer idea. Lowes doesn't rent tools, so I called my local Home Depot this morning. The guy said that they do rent an electric hammer with a chisel attachment, but it's broken : ( He gave me a number of a Rental store in a neighboring city to give them a try. The rental store said they have a Trozel grinder and it's a walk behind unit. We may eventually go and get something electric to help out with this job, but today we made some progress with our little sledge hammer. My husband tried just pounding on the tile (without using the chisel) and we found that bigger chunks are coming loose. We're careful not to damage the concrete slab. Sometimes, the thinset and the tile crack & come loose together as one unit. Sometimes, the thinset remains.
So far, I think about 1/3 of the tile is off.
oruboris - you were wise to forwarn about using eye protection! Flying tile chips can be dangerous!
Here is a picture of day 2. We worked about 3 hours today.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2008 at 10:20PM
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You are brave.

We have a raised entry that the builder tiled. We aren't sure what's underneath. I figure the builder would have used concrete to raise the level. since the downstairs is on concrete slab. So the removal would be like yours, except we have twice the area.

But if for some godforsaken reason the builder used a plywood box to raise it up the one step level (hate this by the way) we are in for trouble.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2008 at 3:37PM
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Day 3: only able to do 1 hour of work. Day 4 : did 3 hours.
It's progressing, but still slow gowing and very hard work. The weight of the sledge hammer and the repetitive motion & the force that's needed is exhausting. I can only last about one hour, dh can do more. We're more than 1/2 way done : )

nutbunch - Are you planning on removing your tile soon or are you just thinking about doing it someday in the future?
Since you have twice the area, I would research renting a walk behind unit or electric hammer of some sort!

Had to construct a bigger tent!

Day 4

The mess after about 1 hour of my work

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 1:20AM
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Find that electric hammer! We demo'ed our 10x14 foyer in 4 hours with it, including cleaning up the thinset from the OSB subfloor.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 11:04PM
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Day 8 - finally finished. After all days totaled..about 22 hours. At the last day, we rented a "Floor Stripper" from Home Depot. $52 for 4 hours. It helped to get the last bit of stubborn thinset off. For anyone thinking of doing this job- get that electric hammer that weedyacres suggests...or some sort of electric tool/machine! Below is a pic of the "Blastrac" Floor Stripper. Also a pic of the tough thinset before and after using this machine.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2008 at 5:10PM
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Wow. We had our foyer retiled and the man had the tiles up in less then an hour with very little dust. Ours was on concrete, too. Did he just have some special trick or were we just lucky?

    Bookmark   November 25, 2008 at 11:11PM
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One hour...that is amazing! Maybe it was installed differently. Instead of thinset, maybe they were installed with a lighter glue type porduct.
But, you hired someone who probably works with tile on a daily/weekly basis (with the right tools & experience) and knew exactly what he was doing.
In any case, you were lucky!

    Bookmark   November 26, 2008 at 2:20AM
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It was installed with thinset. I think you are right about him knowing what he was doing. He removes tile all the time.

I remember many years ago when we tried to remove a glued down vinyl kitchen and laundry room floor. My husband and I worked for several hours and managed to remove only a small area in the laundry room. We hired someone to remove the rest of the floor. He had the whole thing up in a very short time, he knew what he was doing and had the right tools.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 12:29PM
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It appears you used about the hardest way to remove the tiles.

If you aim the chisel at the edge of the tile around 45 degrees it will often pop the entire tile off.

Portland cement products (like thinset) are wewakest in tension.

By driving the chisel at an angle under the edge of the tile it puts the bond in tension and reduces the work.

A 'dead blow' hammer can also reduce the stress on you arm from long periods of hammering.

It has lead shot in the head and does not rebound from the chisel like a drilling hammer.

Notice how the power removal tools work?

They get under the edge of the tile and lift it upwards.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2010 at 10:35AM
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