How to Remove Ceramic Tile from Concrete Floor

remove ceramic tile from concrete floor

Have you grown tired of your old tiles, but don’t know how to remove ceramic tile from concrete floor? Do you think that it might be time for something new and fresh?

Changing tiles might seem like a tedious and messy job (specially if they are asbestos infected), but it can certainly make a difference compared to just putting a rug over the cracks and ignoring the old tiles. In this article, we will inform you on how to complete this job successfully and feel proud of yourself afterward.

To remove ceramic tile from concrete floor, you will need to protect both yourself and the room you will be renovating. This means that you will need safety goggles, a mask, clothes that will cover you up as much as possible, and old sheets, tarp, or something similar to protect the furniture and items that you will not remove from the room. For the job itself, you will need a chisel, a maul, a trowel, latex thin-set mortar, and potentially an adhesive remover, a hammer drill, and a small jackhammer with a chisel point. For the clean-up, you will need a broom, a dustpan, and a vacuum. Keep in mind that you will need to dispose of old tiles, too.

Making decisions

remove ceramic tile from concrete floor

Before you take up a DIY project such as this one, it is necessary to consider the pros and cons. You don’t want to have regrets due to poor planning and unpredicted costs, and you don’t want to end up with half the floor chiseled up before you realize that you should have had this done professionally, either. But how can you know what’s the right thing to do? To make up your mind, consider the following arguments we’ve prepared for you.

This job requires strength – you don’t have to be a gym regular, but keep this in mind. In case you won’t be able to take off the tiles by yourself (either because you aren’t strong enough or the tiles refuse to come off), you should consider renting a jackhammer with a chisel point or an electric tile stripper.

Scraping off old tiles is advised because laying a layer of new tiles over the old ones will make them get worn and wonky much faster. On the other hand, it is much easier to let the old tiles be and install the new tiles directly over the old ones. However, if you choose this simpler option, keep in mind that the new floor will be higher, so you will need to trim the door and extend the toilet ring.

Finally, it’s always good to go for a change in flooring if it’s a health risk (for example, if the tiles are broken), or if the floor tiles are damaged beyond repair. Changing the tiles because you’re updating the look of your house is a good reason, too.

Tiles are durable and are a good choice if you have pets or children; however, they are slippery, too. If you think that there’s a risk of your child or an elder slipping on the tiles, it’s a good reason to take them off. Last but not least, changing the flooring because you’re selling the house might increase its price and likeability significantly. It is up to you to decide how and if you want to have the job done.

If you’ve decided to beautify your room, then it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work! We will lead you through the process, step by step.

Preparation

Start by preparing yourself. Removing tiles is a taxing job that results in dust and tile shards flying everywhere and you don’t want to get cut or bruised by them. You absolutely must wear protective goggles to shield your eyes.

remove ceramic tile from concrete floor
Image by: Suntorn Somtong

Wear clothes that cover your skin as much as possible (long-sleeved shirts, pants, gloves), and shoes to protect your feet. Lastly, you must wear a mask to protect your mouth and nose and not breathe in any of the silica dust. Silica dust is a known carcinogen and you don’t want it trapped in your lungs, so take this warning seriously and protect yourself.

Wear clothes that cover your skin as much as possible (long-sleeved shirts, pants, gloves), and shoes to protect your feet. Lastly, you must wear a mask to protect your mouth and nose and not breathe in any of the silica dust. Silica dust is a known carcinogen and you don’t want it trapped in your lungs, so take this warning seriously and protect yourself.

After you’ve ensured your safety, it’s time to protect the furniture and household items. It is advised that you remove as much of the furniture as possible in order to not have it damaged by the process. Also, remember the silica dust we just mentioned? It will get on just about everything, and you do not wish to make the cleaning process any longer than it needs to be.

Thus, remove the furniture, and make sure that the items that you can’t remove – e.g. kitchen cabinets – are sufficiently covered by tarp or old bedsheets, so that the dust doesn’t end up in all of the crevices and cracks. Keep in mind that this job isn’t a quick one, to be done during commercial breaks and that the removal of tiles will probably last from half a day to several days. Thus, choose a nice weekend, or the time when your kids are out on a field trip to be able to finish the job with the smallest amount of interruptions possible.

Lastly, prepare your tools – a ¾ – or 1-in. masonry chisel and a 2-lb. hand maul. Once you’ve done all of the above, you should be prepared for the hard work.

Removing the tiles

The ideal starting place for removing tiles is a broken tile or the place where a tile stops, like those around the bidet or a toilet. It is a good idea to find a place where the grout has loosened and start from there, too. What you want to do is to try and work the chisel at the angle under a tile to break it from the adhesive and force it loose. Hit the chisel with a maul.  Tiles laid with thin-set mortar tend to be more difficult to remove than tiles laid with mastic adhesive.

You need to be more careful when removing perimeter tiles, or tiles that are placed around the edge of a room because you might damage the walls or cabinets. Because of this, you should consider using a hammer drill, which is more delicate. Control your strength and strike with precision to get rid of the perimeter tiles.

How to Remove Ceramic Tile from Concrete Floor 1

Don’t forget that doing this job will result in a lot of broken tiles and old adhesive. Leaving them around until you finish the job simply won’t do since they will get in the way.

By walking in and out of the room you’re renovating, there’s a chance that you will spread the dust and (potentially sharp) tile and adhesive pieces to the rest of the house, making it a hazard both to you and other people that live with you. That is why you should dispose of tiles as you remove them. Use a heavy-duty trashcan, and once again, keep in mind that tile shards are sharp and can even cut through leather gloves. Handle with care, and plan ahead of time how to dispose of the debris.

If the tiles weren’t directly adhered to the concrete (if there was underlayment under the tiles), we have good news –you won’t have to scrape off the adhesive. Either way, after you’re done taking off the old tiles, you will need to remove the dust from the floor (it will make the following steps easier for you).  Take a broom and a dustpan and get to work! To remove as much dust as possible, vacuum afterward – just make sure not to vacuum any leftover tile shards as well, as they can damage your vacuum.

After that, it’s time to get rid of the adhesive. Scrape it off with a chisel, and if that isn’t working, use the hammer drill to get the job done. Removing all of the thin-set mortar and leaving the surface smooth is ideal, however, if you can’t get all of it off, don’t worry – leaving bits of adhesive up to ⅛ in. thick is fine, especially if you will be applying new tiles back on top again. Once you’ve removed as much as possible, use a 12-in. trowel to apply a ⅛ -in.

layer of latex thin-set mortar over the floor. This will help level out the floor, help hold new tiles if you will be placing them, and fill out the voids made by potential leftover chunks of adhesive. Also, if you will be installing new tiles, we recommend using the same latex thin-set mortar instead of mastic adhesive as it holds tiles better and it’s generally easier to work with. Once you’re done with the thin-set mortar, use a scraper to smooth over the floors.

Finally, it’s time to clean once again. Vacuum the dust and debris with a wet-dry vacuum, and make sure that the base is as clean as possible before laying new flooring. Give your floors an extra go with a broom and a dustpan, and you’re good to go!

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