Taking off old ceramic floor tile can be accomplished in several ways. You may use only one method, or you may use all three to get all the tiles up. As in many do-it-yourself projects, there is often more than one way to do something and quite often, many ways.
Removing old tile is not really a task that takes a whole lot of ingenuity, but it does take some time and muscle. You also need to think of protecting your eyes and lungs from ceramic dust particles with goggles and a facemask as you work and because you will be on your knees a good part of the time, a set of kneepads may be helpful, too.
Saving Old Tiles
Salvaging tile for reuse is never a guaranteed endeavor, but some homeowners wish to attempt it. Because of how the tile was originally installed and how long it has been there has a lot to do with how easily it can be taken up without being damaged, it is usually a hit-or-miss proposition as to whether or not it can be done. The best bet is to not plan on being able to use the old tile, but to consider it as an added extra bonus if you do manage to salvage some of it for reuse later on.
Cutting along the grout lines of the old tile all the way around each one with a rotary cutting tool makes for the best method of tile removal with the intent of keeping it from breaking. You can then use a large, slot-head screwdriver to slide underneath the tiles and then tap it with a hammer until the tile loosens. This is time-consuming, but may be the only hope of removing the tiles intact.
Fast Method for Small Areas
If you have no need or desire for tile removal methods designed to keep the tile intact, the fastest, easiest way to get the old tile out is to simply use a hammer to break it up. Be sure and wear your goggles and facemask doing this because shards and dust will fly up as you work. You can cover the tile your working on with an old towel and hammer the tile with the towel covering it to minimize this. You will need to scrape off the old, hardened adhesive with a hand scraper.
Large Area Removal
For big tile removal jobs, consider renting a power scraper from any large home-improvement store. These can be rented by the day and can save you a lot of time and work. Power scrapers use a blade that goes back and forth, getting beneath the edges of the tiles and the adhesive, and breaking it all up. These machines are very noisy, so earplugs should be used during operation.
After adhesive and tile removal, your floors will no doubt be pitted and gouged from the job. You can even things out with floor-leveling compound. Follow the manufacturers directions on the container, being sure to allow it to thoroughly dry before you walk on the surface that is now ready for whatever floor covering you are ready to install.