Fraud Blocker How to Remove Floor Tiles from Concrete: Effective Methods Explained

How to Remove Floor Tiles from Concrete: Effective Methods Explained

Understanding the Tile Removal Process

You may need to remove floor tile from an underlying concrete slab for many different reasons.  Perhaps the tile floor is old and damaged. Or maybe you’re looking for something that is more durable and has a lower total cost of ownership – like polished concrete.

In either case, you’ll want to be able to effectively remove the tile floor that is adhered to the concrete without damaging the concrete slab.  Unfortunately, there is no way to save and repurpose the tile as it will be destroyed during the removal process.

There are two ways to remove the tile that are covered in this article: powered and manual tile removal that we discuss below.

Powered Tile Removal

The tile removal process is best left to professionals who have the experience and automated machinery to assist in this process.  At our company, we use what is called a “floor scraper” to effectively remove the tiles that are adhered to a concrete floor.

A floor scraper (also called a tile removal machine) is a powered machine that runs on propane or a powerful battery.  A powered floor scraper can either be stand up (where you walk behind the self-propelled scraper) – or sit down.  With a sit down floor scraper, you’ll be sitting on top of the machine and guiding it as the machine effortlessly removes tiles from the floor.

Call a Professional

While more costly, hiring a professional is the safest way to get your tile floor removed.  They do tile removal each day and will be able to skillfully and properly remove the tiles.  When they’re done you’ll have the underlying concrete slab ready for applying a covering, coating, or conversion into a polished concrete floor.

Do it Yourself

DIY Tile removal is certainly more risky. If you have experience with tile removal and tile removal machines, you can always rent a floor scraper from an equipment rental company.  Many equipment rental companies will even show you how to properly operate the machine if you’ve never used one before.  Of course there is always significant risk using a floor scraper without experience.  You could possibly do damage to the underlying concrete slab or walls.  In the end, you could end up spending more trying to repair a bad floor scraping job then you would have had you hired professional help.

Manual DIY Tile Removal

Required Tools and Supplies

Removal Tools

Before starting your tile removal project, you’ll need to gather the right tools and safety equipment. First, get a masonry chisel and a heavy hammer, such as a 3-5 pound maul. These items will help you break up the tiles and mortar. Also, have a pry bar on hand. This tool will be useful for lifting and prying up stubborn tiles.

Cleaning Supplies

Use a broom, dustpan, and shop vac to clean up dust and debris as you work. A vacuum with a HEPA filter is essential for keeping the workplace clean and preventing dust from being redistributed throughout the air.

Safety Supplies

Whenever doing demo work or working with concrete, wearing a dust mask or respirator mask is a must for protecting your lungs. 

Ensure you’re wearing long pants, a long-sleeve shirt, and sturdy shoes while working.

Use safety goggles to shield your eyes from flying debris. Work gloves will protect your hands, and knee pads can save your knees from discomfort during this physically demanding task.

Adhesive Removal Tools

For adhesive removal, consider using a heat gun, hair dryer, adhesive removal solvent, or even a jackhammer if needed. Keep a utility knife handy for cutting through materials like vinyl tiles and baseboard trim. Additionally, a floor scraper or flat shovel will help remove thinset or adhesive from the concrete subfloor after tile removal.

Preparing the Work Area

Before starting the tile removal, clear the area of any furniture or obstacles. This makes it easier for you to move around while working on the concrete floor. Ensure you have good lighting, as this helps you see and avoid any hazards during the process.

Identify the best starting point for tile removal. This may be near a room corner or along a wall. Once you’ve determined your starting point, examine the concrete underneath the tiles. Pay attention to any signs that could indicate it needs repair before installing new flooring.

Removing Different Types of Tile Flooring

Ceramic Tiles

Removing ceramic tiles from a concrete floor can be quite a task, but with the right tools, you can get it done. Start by finding a loose or broken tile. Use a hammer and chisel to carefully lift the ceramic tile. Work your way under each tile, lifting them loose while being cautious not to damage the concrete underneath. This process demands patience and precision, so take your time.

Porcelain Tiles

Since porcelain tiles are a type of ceramic floor tile, they pose a very similar challenge as ceramic tiles when removing them from concrete floors. Once again, start at a loose or damaged tile. Using a hammer and chisel, work under the edge of the porcelain tile to loosen it. Continue this process for each tile, working cautiously to avoid causing damage to the concrete underneath. 

Vinyl Tiles

Vinyl floor tiles on concrete demand a different approach. These tiles are flexible, which means they won’t break like ceramic tiles. Start by prying up a corner of one of the vinyl tiles using a putty knife. Once it’s loose, grasp the tile firmly and gently pull it away from the concrete. This removal process requires less force than ceramic tiles but still requires a steady hand.

Final Step for All Tiles

Once you’re done removing tile – whether they are ceramic, vinyl, or porcelain, make sure to clear away any remaining adhesive or tile debris from the concrete floor. This ensures a clean and (hopefully) level concrete flooring surface that’s ready for the next step.  Whether that’s a new floor or polishing the slab is up to you. 

Dealing with Adhesives and Underlayment

When dealing with tile removal, adhesives like mastic or tile adhesive can be stubborn. To begin, use a floor scraper to remove large chunks of adhesive from the concrete. Make sure not to scratch or damage the concrete surface during the process. 

After scraping, you may need to use an adhesive remover for stubborn spots. Choose a suitable remover based on the type of adhesive you’re dealing with (mastic adhesive, tile adhesive, etc.). Follow the directions on the adhesive remover product for the ideal application and removal process.

When removing the adhesive, wear gloves to protect your hands and ensure proper ventilation for any fumes. Remember to clean the entire area thoroughly with a shop vacuum after removing the adhesive to eliminate any residue. 

Adhesive can be removed with specialized scraper bits

Once the underlayment is removed, inspect the concrete subfloor for any leftover adhesives or debris. Clean it properly before proceeding with the next flooring installation to ensure a smooth and secure foundation.

Cleaning and Prepping the Concrete Subfloor

After removing the floor tiles, your next goal is to clean and prep the concrete subfloor. Begin by sweeping up dust, debris, and leftover adhesive from the surface. A stiff-bristle brush may help with stubborn areas. Clean everything up after the fact with your shop vac.

Fill any cracks, holes, or divots with a concrete-filling compound. After it dries, sand the spots smooth. If the floor is uneven, apply a self-leveling concrete mix to create a smooth, even surface. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on drying time.

Before installing new flooring, ensure the concrete subfloor is completely dry. Moisture can seep through concrete, causing damage to your new floor. Use a moisture meter to test the subfloor’s dryness. If the readings are high, allow additional time for drying.

Next Steps

Now that the tile and its adhesive have been removed, you can install your new flooring option.  We’re obviously partial to polishing the concrete and enjoying the low maintenance and low lifetime costs that polished concrete offers.  But you can of course always add a new wood floor, vinyl tile, ceramic floor tiles, or even carpet (with the right subfloor).

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best method for removing ceramic tile adhesive?

A powered stand up or walk behind floor scraper is the easiest and most effective way to remove mastic and tile adhesive that is stuck to a concrete floor. A distant second option is to use a floor scraper or a chisel and mallet.

What tools are needed for electric tile removal?

For electric tile removal, you will need a tile removal machine like a battery powered ride on floor scraper, a handheld electric chipping hammer, rotary hammer with a tile removal bit. These tools make it easier to remove tiles quickly and with less physical effort. 

How can I remove quarry tiles from a concrete floor?

Remove quarry tiles from a concrete floor using a hammer and chisel to chip away at the tiles and adhesive. Start at the edge of a tile and work your way across the surface, carefully prying up each tile as you go. Be patient and take your time to avoid damaging the concrete floor beneath.

What techniques are used to remove commercial tile from concrete?

Removing commercial tile from concrete typically involves using a combination of methods, including mechanical tools such as floor scrapers, hammer drills, or grinders. Sometimes, chemicals like adhesive removers can help loosen the bond between the tile and concrete. Wear protective gear and follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions.

How can I remove tile cement from a wooden floor?

To remove tile cement from a wooden floor, use a scraper or putty knife to gently pry up the cement without damaging the wood. If the cement is difficult to remove, you can soften it using a heat gun or warm water. When removing cement from wood, take care not to gouge or scratch the surface.

What’s the most efficient way to remove stubborn floor tiles?

The most efficient way to remove stubborn floor tile is by using a combination of tools and techniques. Start with a hammer and chisel or a floor scraper, but if that isn’t working, consider using a power tool such as an electric chipping hammer or demolition hammer. Remember to wear appropriate safety gear and work methodically to avoid damaging the underlying surface.


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