Home Repair

How to remove 50-yr-old bathroom floor tile?

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Okay, I'm going in. To the bathroom that is. This is a remodeling project I've put off for several years, but I think I'm ready.

What is the best way to remove the old tile floor? It's in great shape since I don't like it, of course.

Same room, different question - how do I remove a soffit? I can see that some if it is not flush against the wall, if that's any help.

Well if the tile was 48 years old it would come right up. But since it's now 50 years old.... Smile
What kind of tile? ceramic? self stick on? 1/8" thick plastic like vinyl?

The sofit may be hiding some pipes or exaust venting. Do some investigatory work to see if there is anything inside before you rip it down!
Just carefully take it apart in reverse order of it being installed!
I knew I should have started this project sooner!! Laughing

It's ceramic, I believe, in lovely dark pink/light pink shades. Very fetching!

Since I've never installed a soffit, what was the order it was installed?! Razz

As for the soffit, the outside went on last. Wink
But seriously, pics might help. I'll add a "miscellaneous" section to the photo gallery for stuff like this. Upload the pics then link them into a post.

As for the tile, maybe TheGuru can supply a better answer, but are they little itty bitty pieces, or are they 4" or 8" tiles?
I'd try chipping one out with a screwdriver and then see if you can pry/pop the next one up with the screwdriver or a flat prybar and do it that way. If that goes well, it won't take anytime at all to get the whole floor done in a very neat way.

If it isn't going well, then you can try whacking each tile with a large weighted rubber mallet to try to get it to pop, or if all else fails, get out the claw hammer or sledge hammer and hit it just hard enough to break up the tile. Be careful with that sledge-- you don't want to hit it so hard that you damage the underlayment or even any pipes that may be under the floor.

If they are little pieces.... I don't know. Like I said, maybe TheGuru will weigh in with more experience and a better perspective.
Thanks Ron. I'll get some pictures of the soffit, good idea.

Yup, little tiles, four rectangles surrounding a square making a 2" square. The same tile that was probably in everyone's bathroom when they grew up. (Hmmm, maybe I'm dating myself with that one!)

I'll try the screwdriveer, but the idea of taking my frustrations out on the floor is oddly appealing! Very Happy

OHHHHHH sounds beautiful...send it to me!!! Very Happy Wish the stuff wasn't so heavy via mail!

You know you can do lots of little crafty things with the pieces of tile...stepping stones, outside table...that sort of thing. Yup ...but I know the feeling why you want/need a change although you may kick yourself next year if it comes back into style like most things do. Although there is that saying which I don't care for...(it is regarding clothes) if you remember wearing it the first time....you're too old to wear it the second time around. Crying or Very sad Luckily this doesn't apply to decors around the house!
Have you considered regrouting the tile to perhaps giving it a different look? Just a thought.

Good luck!

Marianne and the boys
If the creamic tile is 50 years old and is the small tiles you talked about it could be set into a 2" thick concrete steel reinforced base. That is a real pain to get up. There would be a lot of dust, heavy trash (the concrete) and sweat just breaking it up. Is there a loos one so you could look under to see if it concrete under? If they are set onto plywood they prob will 'pop' up like Ron said. If you can get under the floor (if this is the first floor and the basement is unfinished) look to see if the floor boards seem to be an inch or two lower that surrounding areas. This is a sign of the concrete 'mud' job.
Marianne, it isn't bad and I actually like it, but I want to replace the cabinets and the tile has been cut out around them. Between that and the location of the heat vent and the light switch, it's been a tough decision as to what to do. Replacing the tiles is the path of least resistance at this point. I found some seriously cool glass mosaic tiles that will look spectacular with the flamingo wallpaper Mom got me a few years ago and the pink wall tiles & blue tub. I'll send you some of the tiles if you want, after I use a few myself. A stepping stone would be a nice "memento".

Guru . . . . you just scared the heck out of me. I think a conversation with the neighbors is in order. I'm pretty sure that they've redone their bathroom floor and all the houses in the neighborhood are the same. There's not a loose tile to be found, of course. Unfortunately, the basement does have ceiling tiles, so I can't look there.

Nothing is easy, is it? Smile

Ahhh perfect solution... ask away! Try to find a similar house that was maybe built by the same builder too!

Do you think the tiles are original from when the house was built?
Ha! The neighbors did retile their bathroom, but it turns out they just put the new tile down over the old.


I'll have to check with another neighbor or go pull off one of the basement ceiling tiles.

Going over the old is OK too! As long as the 'old' is sound. No loose tiles or cracked areas that might transfer through to the new tiles. They make thinset just for this aplication too!
Okay, half the soffit was the original plaster and the other half was fabricated from wood. It turns out that they built additional cabinets, attached them to this wood soffit and then mounted the entire mess to the wall with mollies. I discovered this a short time ago and now it's all hanging by the two that I can't get loose.

What's the best way to get these buggers out of the wall? Don't worry, I'll have neighbor Bill help hold the cabinets. The screws just spin, and I can't get the vise grips in this one spot, they're too big.

How can I remove the plaster soffit? I think it's going to look weird just having it on a third of the wall.

Duh, the answer's obvious!


(Sorry, you left yourself open! Twisted Evil )
Are they mollies or toggle ? If they spin then they arent holding much of anything anyway.

Take another flat blade screwdriver and put it under the head of the screw while you are turning the screw with another screwdriver. Keep pressure trying to pry the screw out while you are turning.

If it's a toggle bolt then the wings are just spinning inside the wall. The above trick should work too.

Are you sure that those 2 screws are the only thing holding the cabinet up? You could always have someone (who is helping hold the cabinet) pull on the cabinet to give the screw the outward tension it needs to unscrew.
Hmm, I thought mollies & toggles were the same thing. I guess these are toggles then. The main problem with the one is that there's no room to maneuver. It's above the top shelf and the opening is only about 5" or so - such a useful storage space . . .

I know it;s just the two holding it up, I almost had a heart attack when the whole thing shifted last night and realized it was all one piece. It's the toggle bit that's holding it steady . . . maybe I should just use gravity to help hold the thing forward, as long as Bill's there to "catch" it when it falls.

Hey - I don't think I own a sledgehammer . . . and Home Depot's probably going to be swamped today.

I found two kinds of wallpaper under the moldings and some atrocious blue/gray paint. Could it be that they painted the walls AND the ceiling with this dark color? It makes me shudder.

floofdog wrote:
maybe I should just use gravity to help hold the thing forward, as long as Bill's there to "catch" it when it falls.

Yep! did you try since it 'shifted'? The toggle is probebly tight against the inside of the wall now and ready to unscrew!!

Good luck and don't forget your steel toe boots!
Didin't try since I knew I couldn't hold it. Now I'm just waiting for Bill . . . he's always willing to help me out, something which irritates his wife to no end since he's not so willing at home. Surprised Shocked
They're out! We started to try to unscrew the one and the whole thing shifted again so we just started yanking at it and down it came. The toggle on the one side just came out with the screw and on the other side we just pulled until the wood gave way.

Now, to figure out how the built-in stuff was built so I can take it apart.

The room looks bigger already!

Well, the floor cabinet is 99% out and I now can see the floor under the tile . . . concrete.

Oh wise Guru, you said earlier I could lay the new on top of the old. I hesitate to do this because of the wall tile that curves right into the floor. Another layer of tile would obviously be higher - I suppose I could just tile up to the wall . . . duh.

Also, there's water damage in the basement directly under the bathroom. Most of it is old but I know when the #$%^ toilet overflows it runs down there. I've examined the tile, found a few spots where the grout next to the wall had disintegrated and filled those holes. Still water in the basement; I'm guessing from the wax seal and general vicinity?

One last concern. I want to put down this seriously cool glass mosaic tile. Is that possible to do over the existing tile? So far I've just found one loose tile - where I was pulling up the built-in floor cabinet. That whole spot will need filling in. How do I do that?

Lotsa questions . . . I'm still having fun though and I haven't even bought that sledge hammer yet!

Maybe you should remove the old tile. There may be some water damage under the concrete from the leaking toilet...

Time to buy that big hammer!

Once the concrete starts to break up, it gets much easier. you can get a flat bar under the concrete and help pry it up too.

Wear safety glasses!!!!
It's me again!

I haven't started on the tile yet, but I'm wonderng if I have to take up the concrete too. What if I can somehow get the tile up without damaging the concrete?

Yes, I can hear you laughing. Laughing

Then . . . There's a lovely "hole" where the cabinet was built-in. I'm guessing that it will be the same under the vanity when I take that out too. No concrete there at all, just the 1x4s and I can see down into the basement. How do I handle this?

If you are replacing the vanity with a different size one, or something like a pedistal sink then I would take up the concrete. I wouldn't put it back though. I would build it back with plywood (not luan please) and then 1/2" Durock concrete backer board to get it to the desired height.

When figuring out the height don't forget to add for the thinset and tile on top!!


TheGuru wrote:
If you are replacing the vanity with a different size one, or something like a pedistal sink then I would take up the concrete. I wouldn't put it back though.
Why not just fill the hole with plywood? Or would that make the floor weak and subject to tiles popping up? Or was there some other reason?
Guru, I've decided that BillW is my new best friend! Wink

Seriously, what is wrong with his plan? Is it the possible water damage?

I know, I haven't even gotten to taking up the tiles yet. In my mind, they're going to come up relatively easily.

I hear you laughing again.

The seam is the weak spot.

Any new tiles on top of the seam where the old tile goes to the new plywood, will have the tendency to crack, right at the seam.

Even if you filled the space with concrete to make it the same height, there is still a seam there that will crack over time.

Plus you would stand right there while using the sink too.
I hate it when you make sense! It's always more work for me.


I discovered how to get up the tile & cement - hire someone!! Laughing Cool Laughing

I did some of it, but decided it was a job that needed to be done all at one time, not in bits & pieces like I was going to do it. So I found someone to do it at a very reasonable price.

What I did do came up fairly easily. A 2.5 lb. blacksmith hammer and some frustration at life was all it took. Oh, and a shovel. It's fun to watch it all bounce when you pound on it.
How's it all coming? Have you put the new tiles down yet? I'd love to see pictures!!!

Karen Smile
Karen, the new tiles won't be going in until at least the 17th. I did get all the cabinets out - the sink/vanity came out tonight. Doesn't it figure, the vanity was placed on TOP of the tile . . . oh well, at least by taking up the tile & cement I'll see what kind of water damage there is.

The tile isn't all up yet, just a couple square feet. That's the last of the demolition, so I'm starting to get excited about seeing the new stuff now.

The tiles were shipped and they are seriously cool!! You can bet I'll be posting pictures. I even remembered to take some "before" shots.
That was the best $100 I've ever spent! Plus I got to watch the guy work for a few minutes. Very invigorating, LOL.

The only damage is right in front of the tub - the wood is wet, but it will dry out.

Woo Hoo!

Subfloor & backerboard goes in on Sunday and the tiles go down on Monday!

Unless Bentley has other ideas, LOL!
Umm, so what happened? Where are the pics?
Um, I'll be posting pics this weekend . . . the whole project should be finished tomorrow night!
It is about time!!!!!
No argument here!
Pictures are up on the sheepie forum!!!

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