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 www.naturalhandyman.com/aitikia
For more home repair information, visit NH's growing list of original home repair articles and quality links www.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 www.naturalhandyman.com/friends
The Natural Handyman Site Directory
- Home Repair Articles www.naturalhandyman.com/iip
- Home Repair Links Library www.naturalhandyman.com/linkslibrary
- NH's Bookshop www.naturalhandyman.com/bookshop
- Find a handyman at www.naturalhandyman.com/network
- Win unique home repair gifts and prizes at www.naturalhandyman.com/contest
Please read the important copyright and disclaimer information is located at www.naturalhandyman.com/copyright
Also in Home
- 5 ways your house can make you go broke
- 5 simple and affordable luxuries for your home
- 12 ways to lower heating bills
- 8 ways homebuyers annoy sellers
- Why pay extra toward mortgage principal?
- Avoid mortgage closing costs on a refinance?
- 6 ways to stock your "man cave" for under $500
- 6 home projects that don't pay for themselves
- Should I refinance my home equity line?