Removing the tiles from a bathroom takes time and effort, but it can also be a satisfying and rewarding job. However, before you start, you need to know the right way to do it – so here’s our guide to how to remove bathroom tiles.
If you want a preview of some of the things we’re going to be talking about – as well as a couple of extra useful tips – you can check out this video before reading on.
Tools and materials required for Bath Tile Removing
Here is a list of the materials you will need. You probably won’t need every item on this list, but check the steps below to see which ones will be useful for the job you want to do.
- Protective cloth
- Painter’s tape
- Work gloves
- Safety goggles
- Ear protection
- Safety respirator mask
- Pry bar
- Electric chisel
- Putty knife
- Handheld grout saw
- Rotary grinder with carbide blade
- Reciprocating saw
Step-by-step guide on How to Remove Bathroom Tiles
Tiles in bathrooms are found either on the floor or on the walls, and the steps are slightly different, depending on which you are removing.
Removing tiles from a bathroom wall
Here are the steps for removing tiles from a bathroom wall.
Step 1. Make sure there is no asbestos in your building
Before starting the work, you need to consider the possibility of whether there is any asbestos in your walls. Asbestos may be present in homes that were built between 1920 and 1989, so if you are not sure, you should have your walls tested by a professional.
If you inhale airborne asbestos particles, they can cause asbestosis, which can lead to a particularly nasty and dangerous type of cancer. For this reason, if there is any chance that asbestos is present, you should not take any risks.
Step 2. Put on the proper protective equipment
Even if there is no asbestos present, you still need to wear the proper protective equipment. Chipped tiles can fly into the air and may damage your eyes or even cut exposed skin.
For this reason, you need to wear protective goggles, gloves, long sleeves and tough pants like jeans. You should also wear a respirator mask to prevent yourself from inhaling dust, and hearing protection is also recommended since breaking tiles can be loud.
Step 3. Protect the surroundings
Remove anything you can from the bathroom before you start working. Next, you should cover anything that can’t be removed with sheets, since flying pieces of tile can damage anything like mirrors, bathtubs, etc.
Pro tip: Fix the sheets in place with painter’s tape and, also use painter’s tape to protect any exposed edges or anything else that might get damaged.
Step 4. Consider removing the toilet
If you need to remove tiles behind the toilet, it might be better to remove the toilet altogether before you start.
First, turn off the water to the toilet, either at the shutoff valve or at the main supply, and then flush the toilet to remove the water. Next, cut around the caulk that seals it to the floor with a putty knife.
Remove the wax ring seal that connects it to the drainpipe and then remove the toilet. This will need to be replaced with a new one when you put the toilet back. Finally, remove the toilet from its position and put it somewhere out of the way.
Pro tip: Block the hole with an old cloth to stop smelly gases coming up from the sewer.
Step 5. Tear down the drywall or backerboard
If you don’t need to keep your tiles in one piece to use again, the easiest way to remove them is to simply tear down the drywall or backerboard they are attached to.
To start, break off the tiles at the top and the edges to reveal the backing behind the tiles. Next, take a knife and cut into the board. If you have a reciprocating saw, this will make the work easier.
After this, you can simply tear the board away from the wall. If you have a pry bar, you can use this to help remove the board. It will also help if you smash the tiles to make it easier to pull everything down.
Step 6. Remove tiles one by one
If you prefer to keep the tiles intact, it is also possible – but it will take much longer. You will need to remove the grout around each individual tile with a knife or rotary grinder.
When this is done, you can use a hammer and chisel to remove the tile.
Pro tip: If most of your tiles are still breaking, try removing even more of the grout. If you remove enough of the grout, you should find that most of them come away in one piece.
Removing tiles from a bathroom floor
If you are removing tiles from the floor, the first steps are the same, so you can follow steps 1-4 as for a wall. Again, it must be stressed that if there is any chance that asbestos is present in your floor, you should not continue with the work until you have had it checked by a pro.
When you have prepared the necessary safety equipment and prepared the room, you can move to step 5.
Step 7. Break the first tile to see what’s underneath
The first step when removing the tiles from a bathroom floor is to break through one tile to see what lies beneath. You can do this with a sledgehammer and a chisel.
Pro tip: If you are planning to save the tiles for reuse later, you can reduce the amount of damage caused to the surrounding tiles by taping over the tile you are going to break with painter’s tape.
After this, you should drill several holes into it, using a suitable drill bit. This way, when you smash it, pieces won’t fly everywhere, and it won’t damage other tiles.
Step 8. Inspect what is beneath the tiles and decide what to do next
When the first tile is out of the way, see what the state of the floor is like underneath.
If the substrate is in good condition, you may choose to leave it there. However, you may decide that you prefer to remove the substrate and put down a new layer before laying the new tiles.
Step 9. Remove the tiles
If you don’t plan to remove the substrate, you can now start lifting the tiles one by one using a hammer, chisel and pry bar. Scrape away the grout with a knife and use the pry bar to prize the tiles from the floor. You may need to use the hammer and chisel if this is not enough.
Depending on the condition of your tiles, how easily they come up and whether you want them in one piece to reuse, you will have to experiment with your tools to find the best technique to get them up.
Pro tip: If you want to keep the tiles intact, you will have to spend more time working the grout and the adhesive with the knife. This will take longer, but it should allow you to save most of the tiles.
Step 10. Remove the tiles and substrate
A quicker method if you plan to discard the old tiles is to cut through the substrate and pull it all up.
Break a line of tiles to reveal the substrate and then use a reciprocating saw to cut through the board. Once you have done this, you will be able to pull up the whole section at once. Simply repeat this until the whole room is finished.
Pro tip: Make sure you use the correct blade that corresponds with the material you are cutting. If you are cutting through masonry, you will need a special carbide-tipped blade, for example
More pro tips
Here are a couple of extra tips that will help you successfully complete this project.
If you are planning just to smash through the tiles and drywall or saw right through the floor, be aware that there may be pipes or other things in there that you don’t want to damage.
For this reason, it’s best to take things slowly rather than just to smash your way through everything with a sledgehammer – however satisfying this might be!
Be aware of nails and screws
Similarly, when you are sawing, be aware of nails and screws that might be in the walls. If you saw into a nail, it is likely to mess up your blade at the very least – and could potentially cause a nasty accident.
Don’t underestimate the need for safety equipment
We’ve mentioned it already but it’s worth stressing again – don’t attempt this work without the necessary safety equipment.
At the very least, you need proper safety goggles because a flying piece of tile can easily blind you. You can’t get your sight back, so don’t take the risk.
However, gloves, mask and all the other safety equipment we mentioned are very important too, so don’t start removing tiles unless you have everything you need.
As you can see, there are several ways to remove tiles, depending on your situation and whether you want to keep the tiles in one piece. However, as long as you have the right tools and safety equipment, with a bit of determination, it’s a relatively easy job.