How to Remove Old Tile Flooring

By Gene Hamilton, Katie Hamilton

Removing tile isn’t an easy project. It’s very labor intensive, but it’s also expensive to pay someone else to do. So, it pays to learn how to remove tile and actually rip up any old flooring tile yourself. Be sure to protect yourself during the battle by wearing the safety equipment recommended below.

Equipment for removing old tile

For about $20, you can buy a floor scraper, a broom-size tool with an angled steel head used to strip off layers of flooring material. Often, the tool is useful for dislodging the flooring material from the adhesive.

We recommend using the following tools and safety equipment for tile removal projects:

  • Floor Scraper
  • Handheld Chisel
  • Paint Scraper
  • Safety Glasses
  • High Quality Riggers / Leather Gloves
  • Dust Mask
  • Drop Sheet

How to remove tile

If the tiles you’re removing were set in mastic and not mortar, you’re lucky — a floor scraper will do the job. However, if they were set in mortar, follow these steps for proper tile flooring removal:

  1. Break up the first tile with a hammer.

    Hit the tile in the center with a hammer. The edges of broken tile can be very sharp, so work carefully and cover surfaces with a drop sheet for protection.

  2. Use the chisel to chip out the rest of the tile.Place the cold chisel in the grout line at the edge of the tile and start chipping it out. Repeat Steps 1 and 2 until you’ve removed several tiles.
  3. Break up multiple tiles at a time and remove with floor scraper.

    You may get lucky when removing tile from a floor and find that the adhesive under the floor is pliable and that you can easily peel it off the floor, making the job a piece of cake. Or, you may find that the adhesive is like cement (or is cement) and nothing short of dynamite will dislodge the flooring.

  4. Remove the mortar from the underlayment by hammering.

    Hammer on a 2- to 3-foot-square section of the floor to smash up the remaining mortar, and then use the floor scraper to scrape the broken pieces of mortar off the underlayment.

    If this doesn’t get most of the mortar up, it’s probably going to be easier to replace the underlayment.

    Removing adhesive from the underlayment can be a challenge. Try softening the adhesive with a heat gun and then scraping it with a wide putty knife.

Easy enough? Take on your new-found DIY skills and learn how to install your new tile floor!