If you’re like most of the world population, you spent much of 2020 watching Netflix, lounging in your jammies all day, drinking a little (read: a lot) too much, and having the occasional panic attack as the world crumbled down around you. But there are only so many fun things to do at home to divert your attention. You probably spent quite a bit of time just staring at the walls—or at your outdated, icky-looking, or just plain boring bathroom and kitchen tiles. But this year can be better.
What better way to give yourself a sunnier outlook for the new year than by replacing those tiles with brand-new ones you love?
To give you a hand, we’ve compiled this comprehensive guide to tile removal tools. By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have a better idea of how to remove tile, what to look for in a quality tile removal tool, and where you can find the best tile removers on the market.
Save yourself some money, make your home a brighter place to bide your time, and get acquainted with the tools and techniques that will make it all possible.
How to Remove a Tile Tub Surround
Many people make the decision to remove and replace the tile surround of their bathtub or shower. While you can pay a professional to do this, you can also save lots of money if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and get dirty.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Hammer and crowbar
- Heavy duty gloves
- Dust mask
- Safety glasses
- Large dumpster / garbage can
- Broom and shop vac or similar
- Razor blade, chisel
For the sake of this article, we’ll divide the tile removal process into four basic steps for you. We also have a full tutorial on how to do this project if you need more details!
Tile removal is, by nature, a messy task. Before you begin the actual removal process, there are a few steps you need to take:
Remove everything from the bathroom
This means everything. Toothbrushes, the shower curtain, rugs, etc.
Protect drains, outlets, and vents
Because so much debris will be falling, it’s crucial to protect drains, outlets, and vents from damage or clogging. Painter’s tape and cloth both make great coverings!
Protect the tub
The last thing you want to do is damage the bathtub. (Do you know how expensive getting and installing another one would be?) The best way to protect the tub is by covering it with an old sheet; this will keep the debris from scratching or denting the tub too badly.
You’re now ready for the actual tile removal! Here is a quick breakdown of what this will look like:
Start by removing one tile
To do this, use a hammer and crowbar to pound away at the outside edge of the tile surround. Work the crowbar from one side of the tile’s edge to the other, doing so until there is a crack large enough for the crowbar to fit inside. To remove the tile, push on the crowbar’s handle with enough pressure to loosen the tile. Keep in mind that the tile may come off in one clean piece, or it may crumble and come off in several pieces. It’s not a big deal if it does crumble, so don’t worry!
Examine the layers underneath
Depending on your home, there may be two or three layers of material underneath the tile. Removing that first tile will allow you to know for sure how many layers there are so you can brace yourself in advance!
Continue the tile removal process
Keep removing individual tiles from the tub surround until all of the tile has been removed. Remember to remove any faceplates to get at the tile underneath, and work from outer edge inward.
A few tips
There are a few things you can do along the way to make the process run a lot smoother:
Clean as you go
There will be a lot of debris left over. Do yourself a favor and clear it away in intervals as you work. Your future self is going to thank you (and maybe even treat you to a glass of wine or slice of cake with all the time you’ll have left over…).
Be careful around the windows
So basically: Falling Debris + Glass Windows = A Very Bad Day
Remove as much of the mortar with the tile as possible
The mortar is the material right underneath the tile, and it can be a real pill to remove. The good news is that you can remove some of the mortar along with the tile, which will make the rest of the process go a lot faster. You’re welcome!
Working the Layers
As mentioned, there are a few layers of material underneath the tile that you will need to get rid of. These materials are mortar, metal mesh (on older homes), and drywall. If you followed our tip above and tried to remove some of the mortar with the tiles, then this part won’t be too much of a hassle.
If your home has a metal mesh (you’ll be able to see it underneath the removed mortar), then you should begin by removing the nails and pulling it out using gloves. You can use a hammer to remove any excess mortar.
You can also remove the drywall if desired, but this step isn’t always necessary.
Yep, that’s all there is to it!
How to Remove Kitchen Tile Backsplash
Between the pandemic and the dreary winter evenings, I’m sure we’ve all spent a lot of time in the kitchen. Just enough time to realize that our kitchen tile backsplash isn’t all that interesting. If you’re ready to change things up a bit, here’s what you’ll need:
- Crowbar, chisel
- Multifunction (Dremel) tool
- Safety glasses, gloves (optional, but recommended)
The only thing worse than a mess in the bathroom is a mess in the kitchen, am I right? (Or is it the other way around…?) In any case, there are a couple of steps you can take to minimize the impact of the falling debris:
- Remove faceplates from electrical outlets located on the tile.
- Protect the countertops using a sheet or similar covering.
- Plug the sink to ensure falling debris doesn’t clog it up.
There are three practical methods for removing the backsplash tile depending on your needs and preferences. You can…
Step One: Remove the tiles one-by-one using a hammer and chisel (just as described in the previous project), working from top to bottom.
Step Two: Use a Dremel tool to remove large chunks of the tile at one time, which may cause less damage to the material underneath the tile and speed up the process.
Step Three: Break the tiles into pieces using a hammer, and then remove the crumbled tile pieces. This is a messier method, but also super-effective.
Nothing you can’t handle, right? So, go ahead and pick your favorite method of destruction.
Do You Really Need Tile Removal Tools?
Tile removal is a serious business, so you definitely don’t want to skimp out at any stage of the process—and this includes the putting together of your tool kit! Using the wrong type of tool for the job you have in mind can have disastrous (and expensive) consequences. From irreparably damaged drywall to bodily injuries, the list of potential mishaps goes on and on.
All of this can be avoided, however, by purchasing the correct tool or tools for the job. There are a variety of tile removal tools out there, each one designed to complete or aid in a specific task.
So, yes! You absolutely need tile removal tools in order to have a successful and (mostly) headache-free experience.
Things to Consider in a Tile Removal Tool
Because choosing the best tools for the job at hand is paramount, you should consider the following factors before making any related purchases.
As mentioned, there are several types of tile removal tools on the market today. From floor scrapers and chisels to demolition forks and even jackhammers, there really is a tool for every type of tile removal job—and for every aspect of that job.
Before purchasing a tool (or tools) ask yourself what you plan on using it for. Will you be redoing the tiling on your kitchen floor? Retiling your tub surround? Or maybe even handling a large-scale project where you’ll need to retile over lots of space?
Whatever your requirements, know that there is a specific type of tool (or set of tools) dedicated for the job. You just have to find it!
Manual vs. Mechanical
In addition to the tool’s general “type,” you should also decide whether you need simply manual tools or more powerful mechanical ones. Generally speaking, manual tools are perfect for jobs around the house or occasional use; mechanical tools are best for big projects and frequent use.
In our product roundup, we’ve included a combination of manual and mechanical tile removal tools so you can find just what you need.
The materials used in a tool’s construction play a huge role in determining its overall quality. The specific materials you should opt for vary based on tool type, though manual tools should generally be made of high-quality metals (such as steel) and mechanical ones should have a durable construction that will last many years.
Oh, budget. We hate talking about this one, but the truth is, finding the highest-quality tile removal tools won’t mean a thing if you can’t afford them.
Before shopping, determine a budget—the amount of money you’re not willing to spend over for this project—and write it down. Use that written budget as a guide while searching for your ideal set of tools, and seek out the deal that gives you the best quality for your money.
Safety When Removing Tiles
We’re gonna level with you: Removing tiles can be a dangerous task, especially if you’ve never done so before. When broken, the tiles have sharp edges; if not used properly, the tools can cause you bodily harm or damage your property. And don’t get us started on the electrical wiring behind the walls!
Now that we’ve set you into a state of panic, it’s time for the good news: You can absolutely make the process of removing tiles a lot safer for you and your belongings! Here are some key tips:
Wear protective gear
The most important pieces of protective gear are protective glasses and gloves. You should also wear clothing that covers your whole body, as well as a face covering of some kind (to protect your lungs from any dust in the air).
Know your tools
Before going all gung-ho on your tiling using your new toys, it’s crucial that you know what you’re doing. Study up on how to use any unfamiliar tools, read the user manuals, and practice using them on smaller projects before moving on to the real thing.
Do prep work
In our tile removal tutorials, we mentioned a few steps of “prep work,” and for good reasons. Clearing the room you plan to work in, covering countertops, and plugging sinks are all great ways to keep your belongings safe during the process. Anyone who’s watched The Brave Little Toaster knows that appliances and personal belongings have feelings, too.
When all is said and done, plain-old being careful can go a long way toward keeping you safe. Don’t rush things—just take your time and get this thing done in as safe a manner as possible.
The Best Tile Remover Tools
There’s just one thing left: Finding the perfect tile removal tool to add to your DIY armoire! If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend you take a look at our top picks to get a feel for what’s out there. So, without further ado…
Do you have a seemingly herculean tile removal job ahead of you? Don’t sweat it, friend: just purchase this Heavy Duty Electric Demolition Jackhammer from XtremepowerUSA and let it do most of the work for you. Its real selling point is that behind its low price is a whole lot of power and a wealth of user convenience. This bad boy is durable, comfortable to hold and use, and offers variable speed operation—these factors make it ideal for just about any tile removal job. Throw in its red finish, handy carry case, and practical add-ons (gloves, glasses, and accessories), and you have a pretty irresistible offer on your hands.
No list of the best tools on the market would ever be complete without a DEWALT mention—and let us tell you, this 29-piece set has more than earned its place here. The machine itself features a lightweight, easy-to-carry design and a 3-amp motor to ensure optimal drilling power for any big project. You can easily control the machine’s speed using the conveniently located trigger, swap out attachments in the blink of an eye, and utilize its Tool Guide System for greater accuracy. This kit includes a variety of practical items, including sandpaper sheets, accessories, and a pretty swanky black-and-yellow carry bag. You really can’t go wrong with a tile removal kit this well thought-out.
“Bulldog Xtreme” just about sums up the kind of power you can expect from this serious-looking piece of machinery from Bosch. 7.5 amps of power, 3 modes to choose from, and 36 possible locking positions make this one of the most versatile rotary hammer power drills on the market today—get ready to check off your long list of remodeling and demolishing to-dos! And its long string of top-notch features doesn’t end there. You can also look forward to a comfortable D-handle design, an SDS-Plus system for easy-peasy bit changing, and a handy variable speed trigger to get just the right speed for any project. This kit comes with a carry case as well as a 1-year warranty you can count on!
Okay, let us start by saying that this “oscillating tool” looks a lot more like an intergalactic space gun from the future—it really knows how to rock the slime-green against black look. Petty observations aside, this is a super-affordable yet an ultra-powerful tool that will make a great addition to your collection. It boasts a high level of versatility, a comfortable grip, simple blade switching, and a heat dissipation feature that keeps the device cool and functional over the long haul. The kit includes a user manual, an array of useful blade attachments, sanding paper, and a sanding pad—even if this is your first time getting down to business, you won’t have to make those extra purchases. For a budget-friendly yet effective option, you can’t get much better than this.
Simplicity in design is often the key to making a product that does its thing really, really well. For this 44” Indexing Deck Removal Bull Bar from Crescent, it does two things really, really well: pull nails and reclaim material. With defining features such as an indexing joint for flexibility, a center nail puller for added efficiency, and gripping teeth to keep reclaimed material…well, reclaimed…this tool has so much to offer and will be a welcome partner in your upcoming retiling project.
Yet another simple but effective tool from Crescent, this Indexing Flat Pry Bar can take on a number of roles in your upcoming project. With 180-degree indexing, 16 lockable positions, and a head that’s well-equipped for a variety of basic demolition tasks—from penetration to prying nails—this may just be simplicity at its finest. You can purchase this handy piece of equipment in four different sizes, based on your needs: 16-inch, 18-inch, 24-inch, and 30-inch. Take your pick!
This multi-purpose Trim Puller from Goldblatt might look cute, but its unassuming appearance is only hiding a whole world of calculated functionality. Crafted of 65 mangalloy (Mn) steel and featuring a comfortable textured handle, this is a product that will be fantastic to work with over the long haul. It’s specially designed with a flat, wide head that makes quick work of removing trim and baseboards without damaging the wall. Oh, and it pulls nails too! All this for a crazy-affordable price…what are you waiting for?
Nothing says “tile removal” like a good old-fashioned chisel—so why not get six of them? Each chisel in this set is designed for a specific purpose, and each one features SDS-Plus compatibility. This means you can use them with any SDS-Plus drill from any brand. We’re serious! These chisels also have a nice grip on them and are constructed of high-quality, heat-treated steel. Truly a remarkable and versatile set that you’ll be glad to have on hand long after your tile removal project is over.
A quality floor scraper is pretty much non-negotiable as far as retiling projects go, and this 6-Inch SDS Max Floor Scraper Tool from Kelbert should be your number-one choice. It’s constructed using hardened and heat-treated steel, features a long handle design (which is also compatible with most SDS drills, by the way), and your purchase will also come with a spare scraper just in case something happens to the first one. Best of all, the company offers a money-back guarantee—if this product just doesn’t work for you or isn’t what you expected, you can return it for a full refund.
In this corner, we have the Jackson Sledge Hammer, weighing in at 10 pounds and boasting a gnarly 36-inch fiberglass handle. Can it defeat its arch-nemesis Old Kitchen Tile?
Seriously, though. This sledge hammer is the perfect tool for smashing away at that old tile and getting rid of the stuff in record time. The hammer part is constructed of top-notch forged steel while the fiberglass handle is durable enough to withstand all the smash sessions you have planned. What more can we say? Get yours today.
By now, you should be much better acquainted with the tile removal process and have a good idea of which tools are best suited for your purposes. We covered a range of tools you might want to use during your upcoming project, but in the end, the best tile removal tool for you depends on three things: your needs, your preferences, and your budget.