The recycling of ceramic tiles provides the opportunity to restore antique, rare or unique tiles. The process is tedious and time-consuming and can't be considered cost-effective if duplicate ceramic tiles are readily available or if time is not an issue. Some tiles may become damaged regardless of the amount of care taken on removal. This will depend upon the type of glazing on the tiles, their condition and the length of time they have been installed.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
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Things you need
- Tile scraper
- Grout removal tool
- 5-gallon bucket
- Pry bar
- Plastic scraper
Protect delicate areas. Lay down a dust sheet over any areas you do not want damaged or scratched.
Choose a place to start. There are three choices. You may begin tile removal on either an exposed edge of a tile, a randomly selected tile, or a broken or damaged tile. If begin on a damaged tile, then you can skip Step 3 by completely breaking the tile with the hammer to expose the surface underneath.
Remove the grout. Using the grout removal tool, place the tip of the working edge against the grout and push forward. This must be done until all grout is removed from all tile edges.
Loosen the first tile. Place the edge of the tile scraper between the substrate and the bottom of the tile, and gently hit the end of the handle with the hammer. This should be performed completely along one edge of the tile, holding the scraper at an angle of approximately 30 degrees to the tile surface.
Remove the first tile. Once the tile is loose from Step 1, use the pry bar to lift it from the substrate. If the surface is vertical, then begin this step as soon as the tile begins to lift from the substrate to prevent it from falling and becoming damaged.
Remove the remaining tiles, following Step 2 for each tile until all are removed. Securely store the tiles for reuse, so that their surfaces cannot be scratched or damaged.
Remove adhesive. There will be remnants of tile adhesive either in the form of thin set or mastic on the back of each tile. This adhesive must be removed until the back of each tile is uniformly flat. Place each tile facedown on a soft surface such as a cloth. Holding the tile scraper at approximately a 30-degree angle, begin removing this adhesive by gently hitting the end of the scraper handle with the hammer.
Prepare tiles for further processing. After the back of each tile is relatively flat, place it in a pail of warm water for 45 to 60 minutes to loosen up any grout that may still be adhering to it. (It is not necessary that all of the adhesive is removed if the surface is relatively flat and uniform.)
Inspect each tile carefully for signs of damage from the removal process. If any of the tile edges or surface are chipped, then discard or save for use as partials in future remodelling efforts.
Clean tile edges. It is likely grout will still adhere to the edges of each tile. Using your fingers, pry off remaining grout. Remove any remaining grout, using the plastic scraper. (You may have to repeat Step 2 to further loosen the grout from the tile edges.)
Wash and store the tiles. Once all of the grout has been removed from the tiles, wash each one with clean, potable water. Thoroughly dry the face of each tile with a clean cloth and allow the back to air dry. Once the remnants of the adhesive have completely dried, then the tiles can be stored for future remodelling projects. Store the tiles so that the surfaces cannot be damaged, placing paper towels or cloth between them.
Preparation of Tiles for Reuse
Tips and warnings
- A stiff steel spatula can be used in place of a tile scraper. However, it may become damaged from the repeated impact of the hammer.
- Once the first tile is removed, it will not be necessary to remove the grout from the remaining tiles unless you come to a corner that is tiled on both sides, in which case return to Section 1, Step 2, concerning grout removal from a randomly selected tile.
- Set each tile in a bucket of water (or a larger vessel if necessary) so that the outer surface doesn't contact the back of another tile.
- If the surface in which the tiles were removed is to be re-tiled, then it may be necessary to remove the substrate for replacement. The remaining adhesive can be removed using the tile scraper, but this process is not recommended due to the time required.
- Always wear safety glasses when removing tile or using the tile scraper.
- It is critical that all loose pieces of tile or adhesive are removed from delicate surfaces to prevent them from becoming scratched or damaged.
- Do not allow any debris to go down drains, as this could block your drainage system.
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