How to Remove Tile Mortar Wire Mesh

Written by larry simmons
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The large majority of tiled surfaces lie on an adhesive spread directly over a subsurface, such as plywood or cement backerboard. Removing these surfaces is simply a matter of prying up the tile and then breaking away the mortar. Many tile contractors, however, use a mortar bed for supporting tile installations. These beds consist of a felt material covered with wire mesh and then layered in mortar. The combination of materials creates a strong supportive backing for the tiles, but adds difficulty to tile surface removal. With the right tools, even this tough underlayment is removable along with the tile covering, leaving your subsurface free and clear for recovering.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Dust sheets
  • Masking tape
  • Putty knife
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Pry bar
  • Screwdriver
  • Rotary tool
  • Carbide grout blade
  • Vacuum with hose attachment
  • 4-inch grinder
  • Diamond dry saw blade

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  1. 1

    Cover any areas bordering the tiled surface with a dust sheet, taped down securely with masking tape to protect from flying debris caused scratches.

  2. 2

    Turn off all power and water leading to the tiled surface. Cut the power from the main junction box in your home, and the water from the nearest water cut-off valve.

  3. 3

    Remove any fixtures or appliances attached to or covering the edges of the tiles. Remove any caulking around sinks or bathtubs with the edge of a putty knife. Remove pipe and drainage attachments to sinks with an adjustable wrench and remove sinks from the area. Remove any wall outlet covers obscuring tile edges by unscrewing the screws holding them in place and setting the covers aside.

  4. 4

    Remove grout placed in the joints between tiles leaving large 2 square foot tiled sections. Use a hand-held rotary tool with a carbide grout blade attached to cut through the grout to the mortar bed below. Use a vacuum with a hose attachment to remove the dust raised from cutting away the grout.

  5. 5

    Cut the mortar bed through the cut grout lines using a 4-inch grinder with a diamond dry saw blade. Be careful not to cut through into the subsurface beneath the mortar.

  6. 6

    Place a pry bar into the gap between tiles where you made your cut through the mortar bed. Apply firm force to the end of the pry bar to pry up the bed of mortar along with the tiles on top.

Tips and warnings

  • Work gloves, safety goggles and a face mask should be worn throughout the removal process for safety from flying debris and dust particles.
  • If you cannot find a gap large enough to place the pry bar, shatter a single tile at the edge of a cut line with a hammer to make room.

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