Tiles can add visual appeal and style to interior walls and are commonly used in wet areas, like the kitchen or bathroom. Whether you’re replacing tiles with a new colour or transforming a wall with another finish, removing existing tiles is one of the first steps in the remodelling process. Depending on the type and size of the existing tile, a handy DIY’er with the right tools can easily finish the tile-removal portion of their renovation project.
Caulking is usually used around all transition pieces and needs to be removed before any tiles and grout are taken down from the wall. Caulk can be warmed with a heat gun so that a putty knife can gently scrape away any excessive material. After caulk has been removed, it’s easier to determine the type of material that’s underneath the tiles. While professionals generally use cement fibreboard to affix tiles, drywall may have been used. Because it’s nearly impossible to remove existing tiles that are affixed to drywall without damaging the drywall, it may be easier to remove and replace the drywall as part of the renovation.
Removing the Grout
Grout is used between individual tiles, and forms a watertight surface by bonding each tile together. Over time, grout can begin to crumble or become stained, so it must be removed as part of a renovation. When the grout is stripped away, it’s easier to gain enough space to use a prying tool to remove tiles. While removing grout can be as simple as using a utility blade or screwdriver to strip out the existing grout lines, there are products that are designed exactly for the job. A rotary machine or a power drill that is equipped with a grinding wheel can help speed through the process. When working with power tools, it’s advisable to wear a mask or respirator as a larger amount of dust may be generated. Each grout joint should be carefully taken down to the wall’s original surface level. When using a grinder, maintaining a safe distance between the blade and the underlying wall will prevent damage to the drywall or cement fibreboard that is underneath the grout and tiles. Rotary machines and grinders are both available in stores and on sites like eBay.
Taking Down Tiles
After the grout is removed, the tiles need to be taken down from the wall individually. While there are certain tools that are designed specifically for removing tiles, the project may be as easy as using a hammer and chisel to break individual tiles free from the bond holding them to the wall. Depending on the type of backing and the glue that’s used during the installation process, certain tiles may require more effort than others. Sometimes, tiles may crack when they’re removed, so it’s important to keep an eye out for sharp edges. While chipping away tiles, use only enough force to dislodge the tiles without damaging the material to which each piece is affixed.The simplest way to handle the process is to work from a corner and gently pry the entire tile away from the wall. Use a hammer, pry bar, or screwdriver to tap between the tile and the wall. By using a little leverage on the prying mechanism, most tiles will come free from the wall. Depending on the size and design of the installation, bullnose tiles may be used as a transition piece between tiles and another type of wall covering. These should be removed prior to taking down the larger tiles that form the rest of the wall.
Preparing the Surface
After the tiles, grout, and caulking have been removed, there’s likely to be a fair amount of mastic or thin-set left on the walls. When tiles are originally installed, the adhesive is usually set with a notched trowel that creates raised ridges. Depending on the material that will finish a wall, the surface may need to be thoroughly cleaned before completing a renovation. There are two main ways to remove any existing mortar from the wall. The mastic can be sanded down with an orbital grinder, or a chisel and hammer can be used to pry away any standing ridges. Some home improvements can be finished by installing a new sheet of cement board over the existing drywall or by replacing the entire wall, down to the framing. The type of product that’s used as the underlayment and the kind of adhesive that was originally installed can affect the amount of labour that’s needed to properly prepare any surface. After the surface is smooth and free of tiles and grout, it’s time to begin the rebuilding process.
Any handy homeowner can transform their living space with a new tile wall using just a few tools, new materials, and a basic understanding of the remodelling process.