How To Remove Ceramic Tiles

by Drew Henry

Want to remove ceramic tiles and wondering if it’s possible to do it yourself? 

You’re in the right place — here’s everything you need to know.

Essential Tools & Supplies

It’s important to prepare for any project, whether it’s something small like removing scratches from cement tile or a larger undertaking like removing ceramic tile. The process of removing ceramic tiles can be challenging, so make sure that you prepare properly and allocate yourself plenty of time to get the job done. 

Below are some essential tools and materials, but keep in mind that what you’ll need depends on the method you’ll be using to remove your tile. 


  • Bricklayers chisel
  • Cold chisel
  • Masonry or ball peen hammer
  • Power tools such as an oscillating tool/angle grinder/jackhammer/air chisel (for larger projects)
  • Circular saw with carbide blade
  • Pry bar
  • Rotary tool or grout saw
  • Floor scraper
  • Straightedge
  • Scoring tool
  • Broom or shop vac
  • Wet/dry vacuum
  • Sander
  • Center punch
  • Trash bin and trash bags

In addition, don’t forget safety gear, such as knee pads, a face mask, and safety glasses. If using power tools, also use safety equipment to protect your ears. 

Before You Begin

Who doesn’t love keeping their home’s appearance fresh with the latest trends? From kitchen remodels to bathroom refreshes, there are many reasons to want to remove ceramic tile and spruce up your home. 

Once your old tiles are removed, you can refresh your space with new ones that will last for years - as long as they’re properly maintained.

If you can, determine the type of adhesive that was used under the tiles to ensure it’s safe for removal. For example, older installations may have a concern regarding asbestos; if disturbed or broken, asbestos can be harmful to health. Before proceeding, make sure your tile is safe to remove. 

Wear all appropriate safety equipment every step of the way and ensure that you understand the potential damage that can occur depending on the removal methods used.

Finally, clear out your space and remove anything you don’t want damaged during the process.

Step 1: Remove Grout

Get started by loosening and removing the old grout. 

If it’s a smaller project, hand tools can work. Using a cold chisel and a masonry or ball-peen hammer, free the pieces by tapping them. Make sure you’re wearing safety glasses and gloves when removing ceramic tile!

You may need heavier equipment, such as an air chisel or jackhammer, to tear the ceramic tile out. 

If you’re working in a larger space with grout, power tools will make the job far more efficient. With a rotary tool or grout saw, cut along the grout’s edges. Try to cut as deeply as possible. 

Toss chipped pieces in the trash and clean up dirt and debris. A wet/dry vacuum is also useful at this stage. 

Step 2: Remove the Tile

Once you’ve dealt with the grout, separate the tile from the mortar beneath it. You may be able to pry it up easily, but it usually won’t be so simple.

You can remove those stubborn tiles by scoring them. Do this by putting a straightedge across a diagonal and guiding a scoring tool along the straightedge, which scratches a line into your tile. Do this until the line is at least 1/16-inch deep. Do the same on the other diagonal. 

With a long-handed floor scraper, remove old residue and tile fragments. For especially challenging tiles, you can strike the center of it using a center punch. As the tile starts to break up, place your cold chisel on the diagonal near the center and use your hammer to strike it. Continue this process along the length of both diagonals until the tile pieces lift. 

Older tiles can be quite a challenge. Consider renting a jackhammer equipped with a chisel to help remove a tile floor and make the process easier. If you do so, be extremely careful and wear safety glasses. 

Step 3: Remove the Mortar

Once you’ve successfully removed your old ceramic tile, clean up your workspace, including any debris. 

Use a hammer and bricklayer’s chisel to tap away the remaining mortar, and clean up any loosened tile as you work. 

Step 4: Prepare the Subfloor

Next, evaluate the subfloor for damage. You may want to put down new tile to upgrade the aesthetic of your home, and you need a good subfloor for your new tile to lay correctly. If necessary, cut and remove the subfloor or any damaged areas. 

Cut the old subfloor into small sections using a circular saw with a carbide blade. Use a pry bar to pry up the sections. If the removed tile was on underlayment, cut through the mortar and underlayment but not the subfloor. Then, it’s time to replace the subfloor. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Remove Ceramic Tile Myself? 

Removing ceramic tile involves making sure it’s safe to remove, removing the grout, tile, and mortar, and preparing the subfloor. Ensure you understand the entire process before diving in. 

How Do Professionals Remove Ceramic Tile? 

The methods professionals use to remove ceramic tile may differ, but having it done by a trusted professional allows you not to worry about a labor-intensive process. 

How Easy Is It To Remove Ceramic Floor Tiles? 

Removing ceramic floor tiles is a challenging and time-consuming process, but it can be gratifying as it allows you to introduce a new aesthetic into your space once you’re finished by installing brand-new tiles. 

What Is the Easiest Way to Remove Old Tiles? 

The removal process is easier with power tools, but make sure you understand what you are doing so you don’t accidentally damage your work. 

Remove Old Tiles & Make Way for the New — Shop LiLi Tile! 

While removing ceramic tiles can be challenging, it’s certainly worthwhile once you’ve got your new tile in place and can enjoy your home’s fresh look! Browse LiLi Tile today for replacement tile options to bring your home to the next level.

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