How to Remove Tile Work for a New Installation

Though tile work can be exceedingly difficult for the average Do It Yourselfer, and it often involves slightly more effort and time than a typical weekend home improvement project would require, the truth is that few things are as easy to accomplish as tile work, if you do your preparation, have patience and persistence, and make sure to double and triple check everything as you go.

Plus, one of the most fun parts about installing new tile is in removing the old tile. Here is a simple guide that will instruct you on the finer points about how to safely and easily remove the old tile before installing the new tile.

First, you need to understand that different applications will have different rules. If you are removing an old tile floor, there are a few things that you will need to do differently than if you are removing tiles from a counter top or a back splash area.

Tools That You Will Need

Roofing Shovel

Eye Protection (This is how you know a job is fun!)

Putty Knife

Grout Saw


Cold Chisel


Removing Old Tile from a Back Splash

Chances are that if the old tiles are adhered right to the dry wall or sheet rock behind them, you will likely have to replace this anyhow. This can make the process rather simple if you are not interested in saving the old tiles for any reason. Simply chisel out a perimeter around the tiles with your grout saw or with a cold chisel and a hammer, and then take a powered hand saw and remover the dry wall or sheet rock with the remaining tiles still attached. If you do plan on saving the tiles for future use or resale, then follow the same instructions that follow for removing floor tiles, modifying them for use with your back splash.

Removing Old Ceramic Tile from a Floor

Your first step is to thoroughly break up the old grout that lines throughout the grid of tile all along the floor. Use your hammer and cold chisel to accomplish this, though if you plan to save the tiles for future use or sale, be extremely careful when breaking up grout. A wrong or errant hammer strike could damage several tiles in one fell swoop.

After the grout is broken up, you will need to use your roofing shovel to ply up each individual tile. Simply place the flat end under the tile, and push up while tilting it forward. Each tile should peel up relatively easily with the grout broken up. Scrape off all of the residue from the old tile adhesive, while thoroughly scrubbing and cleaning the entire vacated area with a heavy, industrial strength cleaning agent. You need to ensure that all spots of oil, grease and other residue are completely removed, as your new tile adhesive will not be able to function in those spots with such remains still in place.

Tips for Quickness

Use the grout saw instead of the hammer and cold chisel for big floors, large surface areas or for long straight lines of grout.

If You Only Need to Remove a Single Tile for Replacement

This does occur sometimes. It is possible to pull out one tile and replace it, though be warned that it will look obviously newer than the old tile surrounding it. Simply take your hammer and chisel, bust up the grout surrounding that one tile, and use a putty knife to ply the old tile up and out of the surface area.