Removing and Reusing Ceramic Tile
I need to replace my bath tub, which will require removing a few rows of tile near the tub. How do I remove ceramic tile so I can reuse it?
Removing tile is always risky. The removal of the first tile is the riskiest task in this project, for sure! If this is any consolation, once you have that first one removed, the rest will most likely yield to your advances with less fuss. One assumption I am going to make is that your tiles are installed over some sort of wallboard. If the tiles are set into a mortar (cement) bed on the wall, or are glued to a rigid cement-based board, you may have no choice but to break them off or actually gut the wall. Being the optimistic sort, lets assume the first more favorable scenario… and then move on.
The first and perhaps most important step is to scrape out all the hard grout from the perimeter of the tiles you want to remove. You want to try to isolate the tiles from each other as much as possible. This is true even if you do not care to save the tiles, since you will still find them difficult to remove, especially the first one! Also, the flexible caulking between the tub and the tiles and in the vertical corners must be scraped out. Both removal chores can be accomplished with either a sharp utility knife or a razor blade mounted in a special holder. Hard caulks will soften with heat, so the use of a heat gun (low setting) or even a hair dryer will ease the task. The grout should scrape out easily since wall grout is rather soft.
Once all the tiles are grout and caulk-free, do a little tapping on the tiles to see if any are slightly loose. Probably the luckiest thing that could happen would be to find a tile that was already loose due to some water seepage. Loose tiles are most likely found near the corner of the tub below the spout or showerhead. If you can locate a loose one, the rest will often come off easily. This condition is often not apparent until you begin removing the grout and caulk. In fact, many regrouting/recaulking jobs can unexpectedly turn into small renovations because of this sneaky deterioration in the walls behind the tiles.
Gently but forcefully push a thin putty knife 2"-3" wide between the first tile you want to remove and its longtime neighbors, moving around the edge and breaking any leftover grout sealing them together. Pry them away from the wall, one at a time. Work around the tile, nudging and prying upwards to gradually separate it from the wall. Watch out for the corners of the tiles… the easiest to chip. The paper face of the wallboard will tear (remember our assumption earlier), but that is OK. Here is your "moment of truth"… if the wall is mortar, you will probably not be able to remove the tiles without breaking them.
Even with all the care and patience you can muster, there is still a strong chance that you will break or crack one or more tiles during this procedure. My worst nightmare… and I have lived it… is to break a tile by dropping it while cleaning off all the old glue and grunge… another necessary step to complete before reusing it! It is important to stress that working too quickly will virtually assure breakage. But if you do break tiles, don't despair... see this as an opportunity to be creative. You an replace the tiles around the base of the wall with another color that compliments the existing tiles, or even design a unique tile pattern from the wide variety of tile styles available today!
COPYRIGHT 1999 G.G. ALONZY
Have a small home repair question for THE NATURAL HANDYMAN? Just click here naturalhandyman.com/aitikia. For more home repair information, visit NH's growing list of original home repair articles and quality links naturalhandyman.com. If this information has been valuable to you, please consider making a small donation to support NH's free service to the home repair community! For more information, please visit our "Friends" page naturalhandyman.com/friends.
The Natural Handyman Site Directory
- Home Repair Articles naturalhandyman.com/iip
- Home Repair Links Library naturalhandyman.com/linkslibrary
- NH's Bookshop naturalhandyman.com/bookshop
- Find a handyman at naturalhandyman.com/network
- Win unique home repair gifts and prizes at naturalhandyman.com/contest. Please read the important copyright and disclaimer information is located at naturalhandyman.com/copyright
Also in Home
- Experts guide to line drying clothes
- How to decorate your patio inexpensively
- Organic weed control guide
- Buying furniture from the manufacturer
- Moving on a dime
- Homemade room and fabric deodorizers
- 6 cheap, effective home security solutions
- 5 simple and affordable luxuries for your home
- 5 frugal ways to expand your living space
- Top 10 DIY mistakes made by home 'handymen'
- How spring cleaning can save you money
- 4 secrets to budgeting for a home purchase
- Find the best mortgage rates in your area
- 3 ways to use a mortgage calculator
- Mortgage calculator: Calculate your payment and more
- Home equity calculator: HELOC vs. line of credit
- Mortgage refinance break-even calculator
- How much money can I borrow for a mortgage?
- Who offers the most home insurance discounts?