How to remove and reuse ceramic tile

Updated November 21, 2016

Removing ceramic tiles to reuse them requires time and patience. No special tools will guarantee that you can remove the tiles without breaking them. You must always plan the job as if you will need a different floor covering in case you cannot save enough tiles for your new project. If possible, begin your removal in an entryway, or the top of a wall. A cracked tile is also another possible starting point.

Lay a rag over a cracked tile, and hit the tile with the hammer to break it into pieces. Remove the rag and clean up the broken tile. This will give you access to the edges of the surrounding tiles.

Hold the flat-tip screwdriver at a 45-degree angle in the centre of the grout line. Hit the screwdriver handle with the hammer to break up the grout. Continue this process around an entire tile. Clean up the chipped grout with the shop vacuum.

Slide the edge of the 3-inch putty knife under the edge of the tile you chipped the grout away from. Tap the handle of the putty knife with the hammer so that it slides under the tile. Pull the putty knife out from under the tile without lifting up on it, and repeat this step all the way around the tile. When you reach the end, carefully lift up on the putty knife. The tile should come up in one piece. If you feel resistance when you lift up on the putty knife, work your way around the tile again until you can get it to come up. Repeat this step for each tile you plan to remove.

Place the section of 2-by-4-inch board on the edge of a work table with the 4-inch side facing up. Clamp the ends of the board to the table so that it cannot move. The board provides a stop for the tiles when you sand them.

Lay a tile on the table with the back facing up, and one edge of the tile resting against the board.

Sand the thinset mortar or mastic off the back of the tile, using a belt sander with an 80-grit sanding belt. Repeat this step for each tile you saved. Thinset must be removed before you can reset the tiles in a new area.


Take your time. The slower you work on removing the tile, the more likely you are to succeed.

Things You'll Need

  • Flat-tip screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Rag
  • Shop vacuum
  • 3-inch thin-blade putty knife
  • 2-by-4-inch board, 2 feet long
  • 2 clamps
  • Belt sander
  • 80-grit sanding belt
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About the Author

Based in Oklahoma City, Debbie Tolle has been working in the home-improvement industry since 2001 and writing since 1998. Tolle holds a Master of Science in psychology from Eastern Illinois University and is also a Cisco-certified network associate (CCNA) and a Microsoft-certified systems engineer (MCSE).