Tips for Removing Old Tile & Preparing Your Floor for New Tile

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Tips for Removing Old Tile & Preparing Your Floor for New Tile

1 May 2017
 Categories: , Articles


If you have a broken, cracked, and worn tile floor in your kitchen or bathroom, then you may not be too happy about the general appearance of the floor. It may just be time to have a replacement installed. If you want to complete some of the prep work yourself, then this involves the removal of the old tile. This can be a time consuming job, but if you are up for it, keep reading to learn about what you need to do.

Buy Your Tools

The first thing you need to do is purchase the right tools for the job. You will need to purchase either a floor chisel or a masonry chisel. A floor chisel is a device with a short, wide, and sharply angled head. A masonry chisel is a strong tool made for stone and tile materials. The chisel is thinner and longer with a tapered and angled blade on the end. Both types of chisels will have rounded ends that can be tapped with a mallet.

Do not confuse the masonry chisel with a cold chisel. While masonry chisels are sometimes referred to as cold chisels, a cold chisel is meant to chisel metal and it can damage the subfloor underneath the tile. Purchase either a chisel mallet or a short-handled rubber mallet as well as a heavy duty floor scraper.

Break & Release Tiles

With your tools, place the end of the chisel in the middle of one tile. You want the chisel to be perpendicular and forming a 90 degree angle with the tile. Place your hand high up on the handle and hold the chisel loosely. Use moderate speed and pressure to knock the mallet down into the top of the chisel. Once the tile cracks, angle the chisel to the left to create a 45 degree angle with the tile and use the mallet again. This will widen the crack on the right side of the tile. Angle the chisel to the right and hit it again. 

Once an opening is created in the tile, slip the end of the chisel inside it, angle the chisel, and hit it with the mallet to release the tile from the floor. You will not have a larger opening where you can chisel underneath the adjacent tiles to release them. Continue to use the chisel across the floor until all the tiles have been released. 

Remove the Thinset

The tiles on the floor will be adhered to the subfloor with the assistance of thinset or dryset mortar. This material tends to stick to the floor once the tiles are removed. You will need to release it or the newly applied thinset will not adhere when the new tiles are installed. Use your floor scraper for this purpose.

If the thinset is thick and will not release, then you can rent a device called a chipping hammer from your local home store. The electric tool can be fitted with a chisel the will vibrate and sink underneath the tool across the floor. The tool looks a lot like a miniature jackhammer and works in much the same way, just one a smaller scale.

Thinset will sometimes not release, even with the help of a chipping hammer. This is something commonly seen when thinset is applied directly to a concrete floor. In this situation, you may need a buffer with a special diamond buffing head. Tiling contractors can successfully use the tools to release the material for you if you are not comfortable with the machines. 

Once you have successfully prepared the floor, contact contractors for ceramic tiles to inspect the subfloor and to install the new tiling for you.