How to remove mortar from old tiles for reuse

Updated February 21, 2017

Reusing old tile on backsplashes, bathroom floors, or shower surrounds will save you a lot of money. However, many homeowners and tile experts opt to put in new tile instead of reusing old tile because carefully removing old tile is time consuming. To do this, homeowners must carefully remove each tile without breaking it. Once this is done they must remove the mortar from the tile before they can successfully set the tile into a floor or on a wall.

Loosen the grout between the tiles with a grout saw or a utility knife. Place the blade of the saw on top of the grout and apply pressure as you "cut" the grout. This will loosen the grout and allow it to be vacuumed away from the tile joints. Remove all of the grout from between the tiles. Be careful not to scratch the top of the tiles with the saw or utility knife.

Set the tip of a chisel between two tiles in the tile joint. Tap the chisel with a hammer until the first tile loosens. In many cases, the first tile will break before you can get it removed. Another way to loosen the tiles includes placing a putty knife under the tile and working it loose.

Remove the remainder of the tiles with a chisel, hammer and putty knife. Once the first tile has been removed it will be easier to loosen the rest of the tiles because there will be more space to work.

Clamp the removed tile to a workbench. The bottom side of the tile should be facing up. Carefully use a cement grinder to remove the dried mortar from the back of the tile. Do not grind too much from the back of the tile.

Wipe the tile with a damp cloth to remove the dust from the removed thin-set mortar.

Things You'll Need

  • Grout saw or utility knife
  • Vacuum
  • Chisel
  • Hammer
  • Putty knife
  • Clamps
  • Cement grinder
  • Damp cloth
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About the Author

Cadence Johansen is a freelance writer who enjoys writing about travel, marriage, family relationships, caregiver support, home improvement and money. Johansen has been writing professionally since 2008. She holds a master's degree in family studies from Utah State University.