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Send us your ceramic tile removal tips

Getting that old thinset chiselled out can take several days, if you are working on a large area of floor. Who's got the best tool and accessory for getting it all cleaned up quickly?


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August 13, 2013 by Steve Payne

Is there a more frustratingly slow demolition task than removing ceramic tile thinset from a plywood floor? You can rent any number of specialty demolition tools, and half of them seem to work. A contractor we visited last week was using a pretty nice chipping hammer, but either the chisel-type blade he was using wasn’t sharp enough, or this particular thinset was brutally tough, because it was going to take him and his buddy several days to get the subfloor  clean enough for new tiles.

Do you have a favourite tool or technique for this thankless task?  Send us your ideas and we’ll publish the best ones, entering your name into a drawer to win an Irwin chisel set.


Steve Payne

Steve Payne

Steve Payne is the editor of Canadian Contractor magazine
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3 Comments » for Send us your ceramic tile removal tips
  1. Adrian Bynoe says:

    If the tile is laid on 1/4″ ply (with or without mesh wire) on top of the sub floor, easiest way to remove is to pry up from bottom of 1/4″ ply by use of very large crow bar or even a strong garden fork will work. You will have to replace 1/4″ ply after, but the time you save is well worth it.

    • Matt Seiling says:

      I personally would never leave the 1/4″ board underneath any tile project. It’s always stapled down (a no no with tile installs), and board is normally quite spongy. I haven’t seen one yet that helps stiffen the floor.
      For mortar removal on plywood, nothing beats the old angle grinder/cup blade/vacuum system. The cup blade grinds the plywood flat while the vacuum sucks up the dust. It’s fast and relatively easy. I’ve done about 450 sq.ft. in 3 hours.

  2. Mike Piazza says:

    If you don’t have a real bad height issue; why remove the thin set? Leave it and skim coat over the floor with new thinset, similar to mudding drywall. Less work, stronger base; then lay your new tiles on that. This options will also allow you to address any unevenness in the floor, etc. Its a great selling feature/ idea to your customer!