You may need to remove shower tiles at some point in your ownership of a home for several reasons. You might be remodeling and want to replace the tiles with more updated ones, or you could be relocating the shower itself to another part of the room to create a better flow in the space.
Or, you might need to fix a leaky shower which is far less fun, of course, but needs to be done to ensure ongoing water damage doesn’t occur. The other reason is that your old tiles might be starting to fall off of their own accord, either because they weren’t installed properly in the first place, or because they’re old and decrepit.
The good news with the latter issue is that these shower tiles usually start removing themselves! You can literally pull off any loose ones by hand and you might actually find that it’s quite gratifying.
Once you start with one, the others follow. Just work carefully so that you don’t create any damage behind the tiles because the wall or floor surface they were applied to might still be ok to tile over.
Requires Care and Patience
If you are going to need to re-tile the shower later, you’ll really need to be careful because it can be extremely difficult trying to match existing tiles.
Any tiles that are stubborn and simply won’t separate from the under-surface will need to be coaxed off. Removing shower tiles by hand is not a difficult process but you do need a couple of small tiles.
Take a utility knife and prise it under the corner you have been able to lift. If the drywall comes away with it, don’t panic as it can be easily and inexpensively replaced. Pull the tile and drywall away together and then put them into a bucket of hot water in order to remove the gypsum backing.
Breaking and Removing
In cases where the tiles have been applied to a mortar bed or a rigid cement-based board, it might be necessary to actually break the shower tiles to remove them. These ones are stuck fast! If it’s a case of having to break them, don’t just go at them with a sledgehammer!
It’s best to use a hammer and even a screwdriver to chip away at or create a split in an individual tile and then work at removing the rest of the tiles, one by one.
The best way to start is to remove the grout with a sharp utility knife. If you meet with resistance, try applying heat using a heat gun on a low setting, or if you don’t have one, try a hair dryer. Remove all the grout and that will give you an ‘in’ for the tiles.
For a whole wall or whole floor job, removing shower tiles is made much easier if you go in search of one pesky tile that has started to come away. Just that one tile can make your job so much simpler because it will be your starting point.
Removing shower tiles might be relatively simple or it could be a miserable task, depending on the condition of your tiles and the backing surface. Be realistic with your expectations. It’s pretty likely that one or more tiles will break but with as much care and attention as you can muster, you can rescue some for re-application later.
photo by Casey Serin – CreativeCommons Attribution