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Is There a Way to Remove Marble Tiles Without Breaking Them?

Updated February 21, 2017

When remodelling a bathroom or kitchen, removing your revered stone tiles is often necessary. Marble, for example, is a time-honoured, luxurious type of stone, and smashing marble tiles during their removal is an unfortunate waste of a precious material. Mortar and tile adhesive, however, have superior strength and saving tiles is difficult and requires time and care. Luckily, marble is less brittle than other types of tiles, such as ceramic and porcelain. Sacrificing some tiles is likely, but, with a little luck and a lot of patience, rescuing the majority of the tiles is possible.

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  1. Cut out any caulking along the edges of tiles with a razor blade or a utility knife.

  2. Pry off any moulding or trim that is nailed to an adjacent surface, resting on top of the tile, using a pry bar.

  3. Remove the grout from between the tiles. Grout is easiest removed using a rotary tool or a die grinder with a grout-removal bit. Wear protective glasses and run the spinning bit slowly back and forth along the grout lines until they are hollowed of all grout.

  4. Vacuum all residual grout dust.

  5. Spray white vinegar generously into the spaces between the tiles. The vinegar will seep beneath the tiles, and the acid in the vinegar will help soften the mortar. Leave the vinegar to soak for at least 45 minutes.

  6. Begin with a centre tile. Position the blade of a putty knife under the edge of the tile. Hold the handle at as low an angle as possible. Gently tap the back of the handle with a hammer to work the blade under, eventually releasing the tile. The centre tile may have to be broken to better access subsequent tiles.

  7. Continue extracting the surrounding tiles in the same manner. Now that one tile is removed, it will be easier to get a lower angle on the putty knife, increasing the likelihood of releasing tiles safely.

  8. Tip

    After the tiles are removed, remove any mortar or adhesive left on the backs with a grinder or with a semi-paste adhesive.

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Things You'll Need

  • Rotary tool or die grinder
  • Grout-removal bit
  • Shop vacuum
  • Razor blade or utility knife
  • Pry bar
  • White vinegar
  • Spray bottle
  • Putty knife
  • Hammer

About the Author

Mason Howard

Mason Howard is an artist and writer in Minneapolis. Howard's work has been published in the "Creative Quarterly Journal of Art & Design" and "New American Paintings." He has also written for art exhibition catalogs and publications. Howard's recent writing includes covering popular culture, home improvement, cooking, health and fitness. He received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota.

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