Removing tile from a concrete floor can be an intense challenge and if you have a home flooring project that involves just that, you'll want to seriously consider figuring out a sensible and safe strategy to get the job done, without losing your patience and your stamina.
When removing tile floor, the proper tools should be used and step-by-step instructions followed, as it can be a time consuming and labor intensive job, but it can be done efficiently and effectively, and your concrete floor will be ready to take on an updated look with new tile or another type of replacement flooring.
What Should Come First
Before you do anything, make sure you have taken precautionary measures for your own safety. You want to have protective clothing and shoes available as well as gloves and safety glasses. Knee pads may be necessary if any kind of crouching is involved. A dust mask or respirator should also be used to avoid inhalation of concrete dust or other particles.
As far as the proper tools for removing tile from concrete, you should gather the following, some of which could be rented from a tool supply store if you don't have them in your own tool arsenal.
- Floor scraper
- Hammer drill
- Masonry flat chisel (3/4")
- Plastic sheeting, tarp or old sheets
- Large garbage can and heavyweight trash bags
- Broom and dustpan
- Shop Vacuum
Before you start removing tile, be sure to take away any free-standing structures or fixtures from the areas where the tile is going to be removed. Anything that is left in a room should be covered with plastic sheeting, tarps or old sheets. If bathroom tile is going to be extracted, be sure to remove the toilet, once the water has been drained from it. The same is true for areas of a home that may have cooling or heating window units. They should be turned off and covered, so no cement dust or other debris is sucked into the unit and spread throughout a larger area.
Where to Begin
Begin with examining the areas where tile looks floppy, broken or the grout is coming out, or is loose. These areas would be the best place to start, but if the flooring is more intact, begin with any space where the tile stops and start lifting out tile there.
The best way to lift floor tiles is to begin on a section of tile that you have determined as a starting point, or begin where a section of tile already shows tile wear and loosening.
If you really want to know how to lift tiles from concrete floor, instead of using a floor scraper, chisel and a smashing tool, make your work considerably faster by removing the tiles with a hammer drill and an attached masonry chisel. The tile will be much easier to remove with the drill and attachment, plus the tile will be broken into pieces. You won't have to wear out your arm by hitting on the tile to break it into smaller pieces. If that method seems even difficult for removing tiles that simply won't budge, try using a tile stripping machine that is geared for use with larger expanses of tile. Both the hammer drill and floor stripper machine can be rented through a tool supply store.
Removing Border Tiles
If you want to know how to lift floor tiles from border areas around walls, cabinets or other spaces, think about removing any baseboard or trim ahead of time. You will have extra room to get right to the edge of the tile, plus you won't damage any trim or wall areas. Use the hammer drill and aim it at an angle in order to lift up those tiles that are on the edge.
As you are removing tiles section by section, clean each area. Use a shovel to remove the tile pieces and place them in a garbage can lined with a heavyweight garbage bag. You don't want any sharp tile pieces to break through the bag. Also, do wear sturdy gloves while you are doing this, as tile pieces can poke through the bag and penetrate through the gloves and cut your hands.
Removing Under Tile Material and Adhesive
When removing tile, you may find an underlayment material that was glued to the tile and concrete. This should be removed and thrown away. If there are any nails with this material, remove them as well.
If there is a considerable amount of adhesive film left from where the tile adhered to the concrete, utilize the hammer drill to slowly remove it in a pulse action motion. You will want to do this until the area is smooth. If new tile is going to be placed over the top, you can leave a small fraction (1/8 inch) of the adhesive on the concrete. If necessary, to level out the concrete floor area and maintain better adherence with new tile, you can use a layer of thin-set over the top of the adhesive. Make sure that this new area is scraped over to even out the floor.
Any leftover dust and debris can be removed with a shop vacuum that will clean up wet and dry material. Even a floor stripping machine can help with final cleanup of any uneven material. With everything removed, you are now ready to move on to the next step in updating your flooring. Finally, enjoy your new flooring.