Learn How to Prep your Concrete Floor for New Tile
A long time ago, someone installed ceramic tile in your kitchen or bathroom. Now, you want it gone in favor of something contemporary! Ceramic tile floor removal can be a bear, especially from concrete, but DIY is possible for the ambitious.
In order to install that great new flooring, the ceramic tile floor must be removed and the concrete subfloor must be exposed and prepped. Depending on the tile and its age, adhesive and concrete condition this job ranges from challenging to difficult.
The right tools, equipment and procedures will help you remove the old tiles from the concrete and prepare the subfloor for updating.
- Protective wear ($0 – $50 depending on what you already have)
- Tarps/drop cloths ($10 – $15 for an 8×10 tarp)
- Masonry chisel (3/4 or 1-inch, $9 – $15)
- Heavy hammer or 3-5 pound maul ($15 – $25)
- Jackhammer rental (Optional, $25 – $40 per day)
- Pry bar ($8 – $20)
- Flat Shovel ($12 – $25)
- Shop Vac/Wet-dry vacuum ($50 – $125)
- Broom/dustpan ($8 – $12)
- Contractor trash bags ($30 – $40 for a box of 50)
- Scraper ($20 – $30)
- Mastic remover scrubber – See step 9 ($25 – $40 per day rental)
Step by Step Tile Removal from a Concrete Floor
Get prepared by gathering tools, supplies and safety gear. Let’s start with the last of those. Responsible ceramic tile removal requires safety gear. You will encounter dust and sharp tile shards. Wear safety glasses, a dust mask, thick gloves, long pants, a long-sleeve shirt and close-toed shoes. Kneepads – you’ll wish you had them the first time you kneel on a sharp piece of broken tile – or after you’ve been working on your knees on concrete for an hour or two.
Empty the room of all removable furniture and fixtures. Remove the baseboards to expose tile edges and avoid baseboard damage. Close air and heat vents. Remove wall hangings and window treatments. Cover everything left in the room, which commonly includes built-in cabinets and countertops.
Pro tip: Cover and turn off individual AC units, the central HVAC system, overhead fans and other indoor air circulation to avoid spreading dust.
Choose a starting point, and work the masonry chisel under a tile. Pry the tile loose from underneath. Broken tiles and loose grout, where the floor is already compromised, are great places to start. If there is no obvious starting point, choose a gout line near a corner and start pounding away with hammer and chisel.
Pro tip: Minimize dust in the air and flying debris. Cover a small section of tile with the towel. Use the heavy hammer or maul to break the tile beneath.
Use the right technique on tough tiles. You are destined to find stubborn tiles. To break them loose, hold the chisel at an angle and hit it where it adheres to the subfloor with a hammer or maul. Repeat as necessary. Don’t use more force, or a larger hammer, than does the job. The risk is damaging the concrete subfloor, which will require patching before the new floor is installed over it.
Pro tip: For especially large or difficult jobs, consider renting a small jackhammer with a chisel point. Follow tool and equipment instructions carefully to avoid damage to the subfloor, walls and you!
Ceramic tile removal jobs are not delicate, but don’t make extra work for yourself. To avoid damage to walls and cabinets, try to gently angle the tiles upward and away until the tiles can be pulled out by hand. A flat shovel or pry-bar may give you more control in this situation.
Ceramic tile pieces can be heavy and sharp. Use a shovel, broom and dustpan to move all the tile waste into a heavy-duty trash bag or trash can. If you have a dumpster available, put the tile debris in 5-gallon pals, and carry it to the dumpster.
Once the tiles are removed, clear the remaining dust and debris. Start by sweeping along the walls toward the center of the room. Pick up the debris with a dustpan. Go over it again. A shop vac works too.
Remove the remaining adhesive from the concrete subfloor with the chisel. If you have rented a jackhammer, pulse the jackhammer against the adhesive. It’s crucial to remove as much of the adhesive as you can to create a smooth subfloor for what you plan to install.
Pro tip: If you will be re-applying ceramic tile to the same area, adhesive removal doesn’t have to be perfect. Any remaining adhesive must be smooth and even. It should be no more than 1/8” thick.
Use a mastic remover scrubber if the concrete subfloor has to be “perfect” for the next flooring, such as LVP. The scrubber can be rented.
Clean again with the wet-dry vacuum. Ensure all dust and debris is removed so the room is ready for the next step of your project.
Pro Tile Removal Cost
Would you prefer to pass on this tough, dusty and dangerous job? Let’s figure out costs.
If you hire a handyman or flooring contractor to do it, the cost to remove tile is $2.00 to $4.25 per square foot
An average cost is right about $3.25 per square foot.
The biggest cost factor is tile location.
Removing tile in a cramped bathroom costs more per square foot than removing it in an open kitchen, for example. There are often minimum fees for small spaces too, usually at least $100 to $150.
But there is a cost to doing the work yourself.
As you can see from the Supplies list above, some of the tools are pricey and not common ones most homeowners have.
If you bought everything on the list and paid average prices, the bill would be right about $300. And that would be renting the scrubber and jackhammer for just one day.
Do the Math
Which tools would you have to buy or rent?
1). Add up their cost.
2). How many square feet of tile (length x width) do you have? Multiply that total by $3.25.
3). Compare totals to decide which is the most cost-effective approach for you.
Pro Tip: If you think you’ll get a lot of use from the tools you’d have to buy, it probably makes sense to purchase them and remove the tile yourself.
If not, then at least consider getting pro estimates for tile removal cost.
How to Remove Floor Tile: Tools, Step by Step & Tile Removal
Carpet Removal – How to Remove Carpet or the Cost of Using a Pro
How to Remove Laminate Flooring
Asbestos Floor Tiles – How to Identify & How to Remove Asbestos Flooring
About the Author:
Rob joined the Home Flooring Pros team in 2014 and is a freelance writer, specializing in flooring, remodeling and HVAC systems.
“I’m the son of an interior designer and picked up an eye for design as a result. I started hanging wallpaper and painting at 14 and learned enough on the job to be the general contractor on two homes we built for our family and did much of the finish plumbing, electrical, painting, and trim work myself.”