How to remove bathroom wall tile

Written by corey m. mackenzie
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How to remove bathroom wall tile
How to remove bathroom wall tile (Tiler replacing wall tile in shower cubicle image by Bryan Clark from

Before you install new bathroom tile, you'll have to remove the old tile. It may seem like a time-consuming task, but you can cut down the effort and time required for this job if you use the right tools. You'll need just a few for removing grout and for lifting tile. If you are comfortable with power tools, the job will go even faster--but power tools are not necessary for removing grout or tile.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Metal putty knife
  • Rubber mallet
  • Grout removal tool (manual or power)
  • Safety glasses
  • Face mask
  • Work gloves
  • Canvas dust sheet

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  1. 1

    Place dust sheet on the floor. This will help protect the flooring from any tiles that fall. At this time, don a dust mask, work gloves and safety glasses as well.

  2. 2

    Remove the grout around one section of tiles (about four tiles, at least). Manual grout remover tools have a triangular-shaped blade. To use these, press the larger pointed end down into the grout and scrape between tiles. For faster removal you can also use a rotary tool, like a Dremmel, or a power drill. There are grout removal kits for rotary tools that include the proper bit and a guide to keep the tool at the correct angle and depth. You can also buy drill bits made for grout removal, but you must control the angle and depth of the bit manually. To use either tool, attach the bit and carefully push against the grout. Don't push too hard, and keep the drill at an angle or you may damage the wall behind the grout. Be sure to wear safety glasses and a dust mask to protect yourself from grout particles.

  3. 3

    Slide a putty knife to the edge of one tile of the now grout-free section. Working by sections helps you get a better angle for leverage, both for grout removal and tile removal. Once some tiles and grout are removed, it is easier to push the putty knife beneath the remaining tiles. Gripping the knife firmly, gently tap it with a rubber mallet to pry the first tile loose. Try to keep the knife angled so you don't make a hole in the underlying wall.

  4. 4

    Remove the grout around another section just as you did in the first section. Removing grout may go a little more quickly and easily now, because you'll have more room to manoeuvre the tools.

  5. 5

    Slide the putty knife under a tile in this section now. Tap the handle with the mallet, just like in Step 3. Continue in this way until you've removed all tiles you wish to remove.

Tips and warnings

  • Because tile is heavy, use several small waste bins for used tile rather than one large one--or you won't be able to easily remove it from the room.
  • A flat-edged chisel or screwdriver can be used in place of a putty knife.
  • When removing tile around a bathtub, place an additional dust sheet in the tub to protect it from falling tile.
  • Place old tiles in waste bins as you go. This keeps them out of your way, and will help protect any tiles you wish to keep.
  • Safety glasses are a must for this kind of job. Pieces of tile or grout easily fly up and can cause serious damage to your eyes. This can occur even if you are using a manual grout removal tool instead of a power tool.

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