How To Remove Ceramic Tile And Thinset

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how to remove ceramic tile and thinset

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Today we’re talking about how to easily remove ceramic tile and thinset. Removing tile and thinset can seem like a daunting task. I get it, I felt the same way the first time I did this myself. But it doesn’t have to be.

For those of you that follow me, you know that I’ve been working on my laundry room renovation. I scraped the popcorn ceilings in there last week, and this week I tackled the floors.

I’ve removed ceramic tile in a couple of other rooms now. I want to share with you guys the tools and tricks to getting the job done easily.

Here’s the full YouTube tutorial, or just keep scrolling down.

Tools Needed To Remove Ceramic Tile And Mortar

floor scraper
rotary hammer drill 
thinset removal bit
Plastic drop cloth
broom/mop/bucket (basic cleaning supplies)

Before Removing The Ceramic Tile And Thinset

You want to hang plastic in the doorways or from the ceiling, dividing the space off that you’ll be working in.

This small laundry room has a door to close it off from the rest of the house, so I didn’t need to hang plastic this time.

You’ll also want to either shut off your AC, or cover the vents. The dust will get kicked up throughout the house through the vents if you don’t.

Lastly, you can remove the trim and either set it aside to reinstall or replace later. I pulled mine off as I was removing the floor. I knew I was going to replace it and didn’t care if it got dinged up as I was working.

Removing Ceramic Tile From Concrete

The first thing you want to do is break a tile free to give yourself access to the edge of the tiles around it.

You may have to take a sledge hammer or use your scraper to slam down on the first tile and break it. Once you’ve gotten the first tile up, the rest will be easier to get to.

My laundry room is right off of the kitchen where we’ve already removed the tile. This means I already had access to the edge of the tiles by the doorway.

how to remove ceramic tile and thinset

Once you’ve gotten that first tile up, you can take your scraper at an angle and drive it in to the tile.

You want to hit the tile at the bottom edge where it meets the concrete. Make sure to use enough force to break it free.

how to remove ceramic tile and thinset

The difficulty will depend on how well adhered your tiles are. You may have some tiles that require two or three jabs with the scraper before they break free.

how to remove ceramic tile and thinset

Here’s a better view of the angle you want to hit the tile at.

The scraper should slide right underneath the tile on impact.

how to remove ceramic tile and thinset

Clean Up As You Go

As you’re working your way through the room, pick up your tiles and stack them up out of your way. It’s easier to clean up in the end. You also don’t want loose tiles in your way as you’re trying to remove the rest of them.

It also helps to sweep up some of the loose grout and thinset and you move along.

how to remove ceramic tile and thinset

After you’ve removed the ceramic tiles, you’ll be left with a mess similar to this.

how to remove ceramic tile and thinset

Before moving on to the thinset removal, move the tiles out of the room and sweep up the remaining loose grout and thinset.

How To Remove Thinset From Concrete

There are different sized hammer drills you can use for this job. I prefer using this Dewalt hammer drill because it get’s the job done without being nearly as heavy as some of the larger drills.

Make sure you get a thinset removal bit that fits your drill. They come in many sizes as well.

Removing The Larger Areas First

Take your hammer drill and begin chiseling away at the larger areas of thinset on the concrete. 

If you haven’t used one of these drills before, you might need a few practice passes to get a handle on it. It’s all about keeping a consistent speed and continuously moving across the floor.

Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, it’s pretty easy to get going.

how to remove ceramic tile and thinset

After you chisel through a section of the thinset, move over to the next row and clear another.

You can usually tell by the feel of the chisel if you’ve gotten all of the thinset in that spot. Sometimes you have to take another pass.

how to remove ceramic tile and thinset

Sweep Up As You Go

As you’re removing the thinset, it is going to leave chunks of thinset and lots of dust everywhere. This makes it hard to see what you have left to remove.

Sweep up your floor every now and then as you’re working, making it easier to see what you’re doing.

how to remove ceramic tile and thinset

Checking For Missed Thinset

You’ll be continuously sweeping and chiseling away at the floor. Every time you think you’ve gotten it all, sweep and check again. There will be more to remove.

When you get to a point where you think the area is cleared, take your hand and run it across the floor.

how to remove ceramic tile and thinset

You’ll probably find a few spots that otherwise would’ve looked good. I spent a lot of time on the floor, running my hand across it, and finding another rough spot.

how to remove ceramic tile and thinset

If you’re going to be leveling the floor after removing the ceramic tile and thinset, it doesn’t have to be perfectly smooth. But if you’re laying new flooring like I am, it needs to be as close to perfect as possible.

Cleaning Up After Removing The Ceramic Tile And Thinset

Cleanup is important throughout this entire process. Since you’ve been sweeping throughout, you won’t have massive piles of debris to pick up at this point. But the dust is another story.

Start off by thoroughly sweeping the dust up. Go over the concrete several times, making sure to get the bulk of it.

how to remove ceramic tile and thinset

After sweeping, take a bucket of clean water and mop the entire floor. Once the water begins to get murky, clean out your mop and refill your bucket.

how to remove ceramic tile and thinset

It doesn’t matter if you’re going to be leveling the floor or laying new flooring over the concrete. Either way, you need the surface to be extremely clean. The ceramic tile and thinset removal leaves a lot of dust behind.

So to make sure you’re getting the concrete clean enough, continue to rinse out the mop and replace the water in the bucket regularly. As soon as it gets dirty, change it out.

It will seem like there is a never ending amount of dust being mopped up, and you’re right.

I like to take it a step further and after the floor dries, sweep and mop again. This insures the surface is as clean as you can get it.

how to remove ceramic tile and thinset

After Removing Your Ceramic Tile And Thinset

Now that you’ve mopped the floor 1000 times, you’re probably ready to install your new flooring. Make sure to let your concrete flooring dry out entirely before moving on to priming or whatever your next step will be.

For me, my next step is installing peel and stick vinyl plank flooring in this laundry room. I’ll be sharing that tutorial here with you all soon. Then it’ll be time for the laundry room reveal after that!

If you have any questions about this project, feel free to leave it down in the comments. Also, if you have any tips or tricks that work for you, I’d love to hear them!

Thank you for following me!

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