How to Remove old Ceramic Tile Floors Without Damaging the Tile

Lead Image
  • 48-72 hours
  • Intermediate
  • $50-80
What You'll Need
Grout saw
Masking tape
Stiff plastic putty knife
Rubber mallet
Rubber suction cup
Paper towels or old rags

There may come a time when you want to remove your existing ceramic tile floor to cover it with something different like carpet or hardwood. However, this does not necessarily mean you no longer want the tile. You might sell it or use it elsewhere in your home. Removing ceramic floor tiles without breaking them takes much more time and effort than just plowing through, but it is worth it. The following article will show you how to preserve your ceramic tile even as you pull it off the floor.

Step 1 - Deal with Grout

When ceramic tile floors are installed, each tile is not only glued to the floor but is also set in place by grout. Grout is essentially concrete mixed with sand that dries to be as hard as rock. Over the years, it will dry out and crack unless it is properly sealed. Regardless of the state of the grout, however, you will still need to deal with it in order to keep the flooring intact as you remove it. A grout saw is a handy tool will make quick work of cutting the hardened grout. Just place it in the center of the grout line and carefully cut. You will know when you are at depth because the resistance will change. Continue cutting the grout until the entire floor is dealt with.

Step 2 - Protect Against Damage

Any type of vibration can cause ceramic floor tiles to crack. The easiest way to prevent damage is to use masking tape. Rip off two pieces and cross them in the center of each tile, so as you are trying to pry them off the floor, the masking tape can absorb the vibrations and minimize the risk of cracking.

Step 3 - Remove the Ceramic Floor Tiles

The first tile is always the hardest one to remove and, as such, is the one most likely to break. The trick is to work very slowly and methodically while protecting the tile as much as possible. Place the putty knife along the cut grout line at an angle that is as close to the surface as possible. Tap the end slowly with a rubber mallet until it is worked under a tile. Remove the putty knife, place it along the next edge, and repeat until all sides are complete. Place a suction cup in the center of the tile and thread twine through the protruding hole. Pull on the twine as you carefully pry the tile from the floor. You can remove the rest of the flooring in the same way until you're finished.

Be careful when storing the loose tile until you use it again. If you stack them, place padding, such as a few paper towels or some old rags, between each so they don't crack or scratch each other if moved.