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Tiled floors are practical, and their many patterns can look gorgeous. Whether you need to install new floors or simply restyle, you might be curious about removing the existing tiles. This can sometimes be challenging and even a little intimidating if you plan on doing it yourself. We have carefully researched the steps and tools to use so you can replace old tiles or add in a new floor altogether.
There are several steps you can take to remove tile and grout from any floor successfully. These steps will ensure that you do not damage the tiles and prepare for any new flooring. But there is an ideal order to follow when you are removing fixtures:
- Trim and Baseboards
- Tiles and Thinset
It can take a lot of patience and effort to install an entirely new floor. But the process is usually worthwhile since your flooring is usually meant to last a long time. Keep reading to learn how to properly remove existing tile and grout from the floor and even how to reuse them.
How To Remove Tile And Grout From Floor
1. Trim and Baseboards
Before you remove any flooring, you will typically have to remove the baseboards at the floor's perimeter. These baseboards are also known as trim. Baseboards are the wooden panels that line the foot of your walls. They are often painted to coordinate or match the walls, so they might be easy to miss.
But the baseboards can actually pin down your floor tiles. In fact, baseboards are often intentionally used to hold down the edges of carpet tiles. In other words, they will have to be peeled off before the flooring. You can read "What is the Standard Size of a Baseboard [And Why]?"
Floor grout is a durable sealer made from a mix of cement and water. Grout fills in the gaps between your tiles, which is meant to protect the edges of your floor tiles. It also adds personality because its color can drastically change the appearance of the tiles themselves.
Since this grout is both essential and stylish, you will never find floor tiles without some kind of grout to remove as well. It must come off first because the point of grout is to join the tiles together, hold them down, and protect them.
Grout Removal Hand Tools
For smaller rooms, you should be able to use special hand tools to remove the grout. Keep in mind that doing things by hand is always tougher and more time-consuming. There are two popular options available, and each tool is generally useful in its own way. The best one may come down to personal preference.
You might find a multi-purpose scraper for grout and other sealants. There are also specially made grout saws that are angled in such a way that the grout will pull free more easily. Each tool will have its own instructions on how to remove the floor grout.
Grout Removal Power Tools
However, larger rooms will probably be far too demanding for simple hand tools. In that case, you may have to resort to some unique power tools. This will involve one of another two options. You can decide between a reciprocating saw and an oscillating tool.
It is generally best if you choose an oscillating tool because it is a multi-tool. Both can do the same job, but you will get more for your money with an oscillating tool that can use more than a saw on its head. The Dremel brand is especially popular for its reliability.
3. Tiles and Thinset
Now that the grout is out of the way, you can safely remove the tiles. Keep in mind that floor tiles are secured to the floor by some powerful adhesives. Typically, tiled flooring is held down by thin-set.
Thin-set is often used synonymously with mortar. It is simply a glue made of cement, water, and sand. And it can be notoriously difficult to remove tiles from thin-set.
It is probably going to be necessary to score down the angled edge of a tile. You can score the tiles with pretty much any reliable straightedge that will get the job done. This may involve some kind of saw or other blades.
Remember to review your own floor tiles and blade before you try anything because the metal has to be strong enough. Some floor tiles are made of natural stone, which can be unusually durable. For example, vinyl tiles are only made of PVC, and plastic won’t be nearly as resistant as marble.
What is the best way to remove floor tile adhesive?
In order to remove the mortar underneath the tiles, you can use a thin-set scraper. This tool is specially designed to work with that adhesive. However, sometimes it can be easier to use old-school methods like a hammer and chisel.
Either way, this process should be completed with a delicate hand. Only tap away at the thin-set in order to break it apart. You will need to chip away at the thin-set before the floor tiles finally come loose from the subfloor.
What dissolves tile adhesive?
There are numerous paint thinners and commercial adhesive removers that you can purchase. For example, you may also be able to use mineral spirits, which are petroleum-based.
But these tend to be tough on the tiles themselves. Usually, commercial cleaners are reserved for the exposed subfloor. That’s because subfloors are generally made of concrete, which is the most stable base for construction.
However, sometimes it can be as simple as using a sponge to scrub water onto the thin-set. This mostly applies to thinner layers. When the thin-set happens to be a little thicker, you can swap out the water for vinegar.
Then again, if your tiles were secured to the ground with epoxy, then you will definitely need a special solvent. Epoxy is simply too powerful of an adhesive to come undone against some water. Benzyl alcohol is a common epoxy solvent that will help remove this adhesive. You should try to identify what adhesive was used on your tiles before you select any solvents.
An underlay is a protective layer between your subfloor and the surface flooring that you see. You are likely to find an underlay beneath your tiles. That’s because underlayment can be crucial in rooms that have tiled floors, such as kitchens and bathrooms. These rooms are subjected to tough conditions and have an unusual vulnerability to water damage, in particular.
If the underlay has been supporting old tiles and grout, then it’s probably time to replace the underlay as well. You don’t want to use a worn out underlay for your expensive new flooring.
Most of the time, your underlay will be nailed down. You can use a hand tool or a screw gun to remove the screws from the underlay and pry the layer free.
Can you remove tiles and reuse them?
Sometimes, it is possible to remove tiles and reuse them. Typically, this can only be done if the adhesive can be cleaned off enough. Unfortunately, some adhesives are so powerful that they require extra strength in their solvent removers.
That means you will likely damage the floor tiles to clean underneath them. If the tiles can somehow be recovered, that could save you a lot of money on laying the room with all new tiles. For instance, read "How Much Does It Cost to Tile a 12x12 Room?"
Can you remove tiles without breaking them?
If the tiles are removed carefully enough, they might not break. Sadly, some tiles are secured to the floor so stubbornly; it is actually advised that you break the center of the tile on purpose. Most of the time, it will be difficult to remove the tiles without breaking them.
Professionals might be able to keep their tools level with the ground enough to avoid as much damage. But one of the common steps for removing tiles is to score down a diagonal. Your success will depend on the skill of the removal, the material of the tiles, and the strength of the adhesive.
Floor tiles and their grout can be tough to remove, but it’s still possible with the right tools and a lot of patience. The most important thing is identifying the removal approach that is best for you. Now that you know which tools are best and the proper order to follow, you can replace that tiled floor with anything you please.