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Hammer and Chisel Being Used to Remove Floor Tile

How to Remove Tile: A Step-by-Step Guide

The Easy Way to Remove Tile from Your Bathroom Floor and Walls

Nothing dates a bathroom quite like old tile. Whether your walls are sporting a color that went out of style with eight-track tapes or your floor shows too much wear, creating a bathroom you want to spend time in starts with tearing out the old-fashioned tile. 

Luckily, this job doesn’t call for much DIY experience. The work will only take a day or two and isn’t a complicated process. We’re here to walk you through how to remove tile yourself safely and efficiently.

5 Steps for Removing Old Tile

Step 1. Rent a Small Dumpster

Tile removal is a messy job. If you also plan on removing bathroom fixtures as part of your remodel, you’ll end up with too much debris for your garbage service to take at the curb. So, before you get to work, consider renting a 10 yard dumpster to handle the cleanup.

Step 2. Round Up Your Materials

Time to gear up. You’ll need a few tools and protective wear to keep you working safely.

Tile Removal Tools: Protective Gear:
  • Chisel
  • Pry Bar
  • Hammer
  • Shop-Vac
  • Utility Knife
  • Masking Tape
  • Plastic Sheeting
  • Reciprocating Saw
  • Boots
  • Face Mask
  • Work Gloves
  • Safety Goggles
  • Long Pants and Sleeves

Step 3. Prep the Bathroom

When the hammers start swinging, you’re going to kick up a lot of dust and debris, so take down glass shower doors to protect them from damage. If you have a shower curtain, remove it from the room along with any window treatments so they won’t collect dust. Tape plastic sheeting over the door, vents and registers in the room to keep dust from filtering into the rest of your house. 

Important Safety Tip: If your bathroom was built before 1978 and has paint on parts of the wall, test the paint for lead  before you start removing tiles. Lead isn’t very dangerous when it’s left undisturbed; but when it’s chipped, the dust can be extremely harmful—especially for young children.

Once you’ve got the plastic up, remove any baseboards in the room. If you’re planning to reinstall them, here’s how to remove them without damage:

  1. Cut through the paint along the top, bottom and sides of each board with a utility knife.
  2. Slide a putty knife behind the baseboard near the molding around the door and gently pry outward to loosen the nails.
  3. Move down the wall, repeating this process every six inches or so until the entire board is free.
  4. If the board is wedged between surrounding molding, carefully rock it up and down to loosen it. 
  5. Label the back of each board with its location so you can put everything back in the right place.

You’ll also need to get your toilet and vanity out of the way. Use our handy guides to walk you through this step.

If you plan to keep these fixtures, store them in an out of the way area while you work. Otherwise, go ahead and toss them in your dumpster. If your mirror isn’t attached to your vanity, take it down as well or cover it with a sheet of plywood for protection.

Step 4. Tear Up Your Floor Tiles

Person Removing Floor Tiles With a Chisel

Time for the demolition work to begin. The easiest way to remove a tile floor is to start at the doorway, where your bathroom floor meets the adjoining room or hallway and work your way in. Remember to clean up loose tile as you go so you always have a clear, safe work area.

How to Remove a Tile Floor

  1. Use a hammer and chisel to break up one of the tiles at the edge of the doorway. 
  2. Work your chisel under the next tile and use the hammer to pop it free. 
  3. Continue this process until you’ve removed all of your flooring. If you have a hard time loosening tiles, use your chisel to break up the grout lines first. 

Important Safety Tip: Take a look at the adhesive layer underneath the first tile you pry up. If your bathroom floor was installed before 1984 and the adhesive is black and tar-like, it may contain asbestos. Stop your work and call in a professional tile remover who can handle asbestos safely. In the meantime, keep the room closed off so that no one disturbs the material.

Step 5. Take Down Your Wall Tiles  

Man Using Hammer to Remove Wall Tiles

Time to move from the bottom of the room to the top. The best way to remove wall tiles is to start at the top and work your way down. Remember to take frequent breaks to carry discarded tiles out to your dumpster so they won’t trip you up as you work.

How to Remove Tile From Walls

  1. Break up a tile at one of the top corners of the room using a hammer and chisel. It’s easier to start with one of the rounded tiles on the edge of your shower. 
  2. Work in a horizontal line along the top of your starting wall, inserting your chisel under each tile and using the hammer to pop it loose.
  3. Cut through exposed drywall using a reciprocating saw. Be careful not to sink the blade into the studs. If you’re having a hard time, remove another row or two of tile first.
  4. Slide a pry bar into one of these openings and exert pressure to pry down a section of the tile and backing.
  5. Continue around the room, using this process to remove all wall tiles. Make sure you always have firm footing before you start prying.

What Comes After Tile Removal?

With your DIY tile removal job behind you, your bathroom is a blank slate you can turn into a true oasis. And you’ve saved yourself a nice chunk of change to put towards your plans for the space. Check out our tips for remodeling a bathroom on a budget to keep costs down without sacrificing style.

Got some more demolition work to do before your bathroom is remodel-ready? Use our complete bathroom demo guide to get the job done.