How to Recycle Ceramic Tiles

Written by sarabeth asaff
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How to Recycle Ceramic Tiles
Recycle ceramic tiles for new uses. (ceramic tile floor or wall texture image by Ana de Sousa from

One practice in green building today is the use of salvaged and recycled tiles. While many of these tiles come from centuries-old farmhouses and some historic restoration jobs, some ceramic tiles are recycled by homeowners themselves. There are several outlets available for recycled tiles. Before the tiles can be recycled, they must be removed from the substrate carefully and cleaned up to allow for installation in a new tile job.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Rotary tool
  • Utility knife
  • Hammer
  • Angle grinder

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  1. 1

    Remove grout lines between the tiles to be salvaged and recycled using a rotary tool to dig up the grout. Start with the lowest speed possible, and move slowly; you can always increase the speed if possible. Avoid chipping or damaging the tiles as you remove the grout.

  2. 2

    Place a utility knife under the edge of a tile by utilising the area where the grout had been. Get the knife under the tile as much as possible, and hit the handle of the knife with a hammer very gently. Use small taps with the hammer to loosen and remove the tiles without cracking them. Keep the utility knife at as low an angle as possible, and hit it under the tiles. Ceramic tiles cannot bend; if you try to pull them up too quickly, they will crack.

  3. 3

    Grind off the old adhesive from the backs of the tiles using an angle grinder. Set the speed as low as possible to avoid damaging the tile, and increase speed as necessary until you find a speed that removes the adhesive without damage. Wash off the tiles to remove the adhesive dust.

  4. 4

    Sell architectural tiles of good quality to a salvage firm, such as those on SalvoWEB. Post other ceramic tiles on FreeCycle to see if another homeowner can use them in a new application. Find an association that uses old ceramic tiles for arts and crafts. Contact an art school for more information.

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