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Replacement of an Old Tile Floor

Removal of Old Floor Tile

Removing floor tile can take a great deal of time and include underlying challenges not apparent until you begin taking things apart. The tile may be attached to a variety of bases, such as bare cement, plywood, or mason board, or a pre-existing flooring surface. Removal of the old tile must be done carefully to prepare the surface for installation of new flooring materials.

Remove Obstacles

Empty the room of all fixtures that might impede the demolition of the old floor or the installation of the new flooring. Examples would be vanities, toilets, tubs, or sinks, which may get in the way. Don’t forget to turn off the water supply before removing a shower head, a toilet, or a sink.  When moving a toilet, remember to drain water out of the tank, then take out the bolts and rock the toilet back and forth to break wax ring.

Choose a Place to Start

A convenient spot to begin pulling up old tile may be the space created by removal of a bathroom fixture. If no natural space has been created, it may be necessary to break a tile using a hammer and chisel. Sometimes it may prove easier to start near the middle of the room, or to start in a doorway, as this will give you room to move. Depending on the manner in which tiles were affixed, they may take a lot of force, or not much. Usually, tiles break when they are removed; it is difficult to save old tile. Helpful tools are a hammer, chisel, pry bar, scraper, or even a hammer drill, if a lot of force is needed.

Remove Old Tile

Chip or pry up tiles beginning at your chosen starting point, and working your way throughout the room. You can clean up as you go by throwing old tiles into a heavy-duty bucket or garbage can. Make sure that the container you choose for hauling away the old tiles is able to withstand the weight of the tiles, as they may break open a garbage bag or a light trash receptacle.

Assess Damage to Underlayment

Beneath the old tiles, it is normal to find a plywood or mortarboard underlayment. Once this is visible, it is up to you to decide whether the existing underlayment is in a condition to be reused, or whether it must be replaced before laying new flooring. Sometimes older tile may have been laid directly on concrete or subfloor, in which case it may be beneficial to add a plywood or mortarboard underlayment beneath the new flooring.


A combination of sweeping and using a shopvac is recommended for cleanup of the dust and tile fragments.

Remember to Remove Old Nails

If there was an old plywood or mortarboard underlayment, you may notice exposed nails. These will need to be either removed or pounded in with a hammer to create a flat surface for the new flooring.

Double-Check Surface

After removal of the old tiles, there may be chips or irregularities in the subfloor that will need to be repaired before a new floor is installed. In some cases, you may fill in holes with pieces of underlayment cut to fit, or fill them in with mortar before laying new floor. The main concern is that the surface for the new floor must be perfectly flat to ensure good quality.

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