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Perhaps your robust and durable tile floor has been damaged by something really big and heavy falling on it, or more likely, the style feels dated and you want something new. Whatever your reason, you have decided that you need to remove tile flooring from your concrete.
This article will take you through exactly how to remove tile from a concrete floor. The process is pretty much the same whether you have ceramic or porcelain tiles, or even natural or travertine tile. What changes the difficulty is how hard the tiles are, and what type of mortar is holding them down.
But let’s preface this by saying that there is no easy way to remove tile from concrete. Unlike when the tile is laid on concrete board or wood, there is no underlayment or subfloor that can be pried up and thrown away. You need to knock out the tile and the adhesive too. This is hard work and it is time-consuming, but it is a task that most DIYers should be able to do themselves.
However, also bear in mind that you don’t necessarily have to remove the tile flooring to lay a new floor, depending on the type of floor that you want to install. For example, you can install new tile, or floating floors such as LVP, over the top of the existing tile. It does mean that your new floor may be higher than the floors in adjoining rooms, but it is a possibility.
But let’s get into it. Here is how you can remove tiles from your concrete floor.
Before getting started, you will want to make sure that you have the right tools at your disposal First and foremost among these is safety equipment.
You will need:
- Safety goggles that cover your eyes, front and side
- A dust mask
- Protective, padded gloves
- Clothing that covers the majority of your body (long pants and long-sleeved shirt)
- Knee pads, which can be useful because you will spend hours on your knees
The main purpose of this safety equipment is to protect you from the small shards of tile that will go flying during the removal process. These can easily find their way into an eye and will often leave cuts and abrasions on your hands if you don’t use the right safety gear.
Next, you will need a variety of tools to actually remove the tile. If you are going to remove the tiles by hand, you will want:
- Cold chisel (2-3 inches long)
- Hand maul (2 pounds)
Even if you choose to use a machine to remove your tiles, you will still want these tools, as there will always be corners you will need to do by hand.
The simplest electrical tool that you can use to speed up the process is a rotary drill with a chisel attachment. These are affordable and multi-purpose, so they make a good addition to any home DIY kit. We’ve recommended some of the best rotary drills further down in this article.
If you are clearing a large space—for example, an entire floor of your home—you might want to invest in renting commercial-grade equipment from your local home improvement store.
You can look into a jackhammer with a chisel attachment, which is a larger version of a rotary drill. Or you can get an automatic tile stripper. These are big pieces of machinery that weigh about 100 pounds. They use a push bar and a curved metal scoop that you can guide across your floor a little like a lawnmower. You do need to remove the first tile in the row by hand and then allow the stripper to take out the rest of the tiles in the row.
Removing tile makes a lot of mess, and you are going to need more than a dustpan and brush to clean it up (though you will need these too). Make sure you have a shovel to remove large debris, and a wet/dry shop vac to pick up all the remaining debris. You can read our review of the best wet/dry shop vacs here.
How To Remove Tile From Concrete
1. Prepare The Space
You will want to thoroughly prepare your space before starting the removal process. This involves removing everything from the space, as those shards of tile can damage furniture and fittings just as much as it can damage you!
Remove all the furniture that it is possible to remove. This includes things such as cabinets and toilets, that can easily become damaged. If they are not possible to remove, then cover them in something protective. It can also be a good idea to cover other decorative features in the room, such as windows, to protect them.
2. Tile Removal
Once the space is prepared, it is time to get your hands dirty and start removing those tiles. The process is the same whether you are doing this by hand or using a machine.
Look for a broken tile or, if you don’t have any, start between two tiles. Use the chisel head to work them loose from the floor.
You will probably find that some come up surprisingly easily, while others are stubborn. With difficult tiles, strike their face in order to break them up and make them easier to remove.
Start at one end of the room and work toward the other, clearing discarded tiles out of your way as you go.
You can make this task easier by using a rotary drill with a chisel head to do some of the work for you, getting under the tiles with additional power and without you needing to use the maul.
A jackhammer with chisel attachment works in much the same way but is much more powerful, which means you also need to be more careful not to damage your underlying concrete slab.
If you are clearing tiles from a big area, you might want to rent a commercial tile stripper. This looks and works a little bit like a mini-lawnmower.
Start on one edge of the room. Use a hand chisel or rotary drill with chisel attachment to remove the first tile in the row, covering a space at least the width of the tile stripper. Then position the stripper up against the edge of the wall (or previously stripped row), with the push bar against the next tile, after the tile you have removed.
You can then push the stripper forward much like a lawnmower. The push bar will chisel up tiles, and a metal scoop will pick up the tiles behind it, clearing your floor quickly and efficiency.
3. Remove Adhesive
Removing the tiles themselves is often the easy part—and the fun part (who doesn’t enjoy a little bit of destruction). But once the tiles are up, you will probably notice that there is still a lot of mortar or other adhesive on the floor.
You will need to go through the whole room a second time with the chisel to remove the adhesive.
You don’t need to get up every last piece, though, as long as the pieces of adhesive that you leave are no greater than 1/8th of an inch thick.
There are some solvent chemicals you can also use to dissolve residual tile adhesive, such as vinegar and other acidic cleaners. You will need to use the right type of solvent for the type of adhesive you are removing.
But be sure that the space is well ventilated, as these solvents often release toxic chemicals into the air. Also ensure that the solvent won’t damage the underlying concrete, especially if it is unsealed.
4. Restore Your Floor
At the end of this process, your concrete slab probably is not going to look great, but what you should do to restore the slab depends on the type of floor that you intend to lay next.
If you are planning on laying tile again, you can even out the floor by applying a thin layer of mortar 1/8th of an inch thick, ready for the new installation. You can read everything you need to know about tile installation here.
If you want to retain the concrete slab as your flooring, you can use self-leveling concrete to even out the floor. This is a highly viscous concrete mix that you pour like a liquid and naturally spreads out over the floor, filling cracks and dips and creating a smooth concrete surface. You can read everything you need to know about self-leveling concrete here.
If you decide to remove your tile flooring yourself, it doesn’t need to be expensive beyond safety equipment, which you may already have, and a few essential tools. What it costs is mostly time and effort.
If it sounds like too big a task for you to do yourself, there are also professionals available for the job. The national average cost for this kind of work is $3.25 per square foot, though there are often minimum fees for working in small areas.
Best Rotary Drills
- ENEACRO Heavy Duty Rotary Hammer Drill
- VonHaus Rotary Hammer Drill
- DEWALT 20V MAX SDS Rotary Hammer Drill Kit
If you do decide to invest in a rotary drill to help make removing your tiles a little bit easier, and also add to your collection of home DIY tools, here are three of the best rotary drills you can buy today.
It has three different functions: drill, hammer, and hammer drill, which means it can be used to tackle a variety of different projects. It also comes with a wide variety of drill bits, including that essential 10-inch flat chisel and 10-inch point chisel you will need for removing tiles.
It has an ergonomic design that is easy on the hand and ensures you aren’t injured by the force exerted by this powerful tool.
A little bit less powerful with a 10 amp motor, it is still powerful enough to use for masonry and solid steel projects, and you can choose between hammer, hammer-drill, and drill functionality.
It has a nice 360-degree swivel handle that means you can get comfortable in any position, and helps you control the impact of the vibration.
Naturally, it comes with the flat and pointed chisel bits that will be so useful for removing tiles from concrete in your home.
If you are looking for a premium piece of equipment, and you are willing to pay for it, you’ll struggle to find something better than this rotary hammer drill from DeWalt, one of the leading names in power tools.
Extra powerful, it runs at 20 volts with a rechargeable battery, so you aren’t tied down to wherever you have a power plug. With all that power, you could be worried about the kickback, but you get active vibration control that significantly reduces the vibration, and a 360-degree handle, so you can always hold the drill in the most comfortable position.
It features drill, hammer, and chip modes, so you can use the same excellent machine for all your home improvement projects.
You will need to buy the required chisel bit separately, but it won’t make a difference to the overall cost of this machine. Plus, DeWalt makes a variety of compatible titanium and cobalt pieces if you really are looking for top quality.
- How Do You Remove Tile From Concrete?
- How Much Does It Cost To Remove Tile From A Concrete Floor?
- Is It Hard To Remove Tile Flooring?
- How Do I Remove Floor Tile Adhesive?
- What Is The Fastest Way To Remove Floor Tiles?
How Do You Remove Tile From Concrete?
There is no easy way to remove tile from a concrete floor. It is a matter of chiseling up the tile, either by hand or using an electric tool such as a small jackhammer or tile stripper. Also bear in mind that removing the tiles is generally the easy part of the removal process. Removing the remaining mortar or other adhesives can take the same amount of time again.
How Much Does It Cost To Remove Tile From A Concrete Floor?
If you decide to DIY remove your tiles from your concrete floor, it is not expensive beyond your time. If you decide to rent an electric tile stripper, that will add an extra expense of around $30-$50 per day, and don’t forget that you will probably need to pay for the disposal or your old, broken tiles.
If you decide to hire a professional, the national average for this kind of work is $3.25 per square foot, which should guide you on price, though there can be a minimum fee when working in small areas.
Is It Hard To Remove Tile Flooring?
Removing tiles from concrete flooring isn’t difficult in that it does not require any special skills; however, it does require a lot of effort and can be dangerous if you aren’t careful. This is why it is essential that you wear the appropriate safety equipment, and that you use extra care when using unfamiliar electrical tools such as a jackhammer.
How Do I Remove Floor Tile Adhesive?
Removing mortar and adhesives from concrete is much the same process as removing the tiles themselves, in that they need to be taken up with a chisel. Generally speaking, you will need to go over the whole space again with the chisel to remove the adhesive once the tiles have been taken up and cleared away.
What Is The Fastest Way To Remove Floor Tiles?
The fastest way to remove tiles from concrete is with an electric tile stripper tool that can be rented from most home improvement stores.
If your latest home improvement project means removing tiles, then prepare to roll up your sleeves and put in some hard work. While removing tiles from concrete is physically exhausting and time-consuming, it is something that can be done as a low-cost DIY project.
This can save you funds for important things like laying new tiles. Unless you are experienced with tiles, it is always good to hire a professional as it is surprisingly difficult to get the tiles straight and even, and to arrange the pattern in a way that works.
Have you ever removed tiles yourself? Share your advice and experience with the community in the comments section below.