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How to Remove Old Tile Flooring

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 rip up old tile yourself. Be sure to protect yourself during the battle — wear safety glasses and heavy, preferably leather, gloves.

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.

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 the tiles were set in mortar, follow these steps for getting it out of there:

  1. Break up the first tile by hitting it in the center with a hammer.

    The edges of broken tile can be very sharp, so work carefully.

  2. 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. Start breaking up several tiles at a time and removing them with the 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 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.

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