If you’re trying to make improvements to your home, updating your tiles is a fantastic way to give the room a facelift while avoiding an entire remodel. Tiles, whether they’re on the floor or wall, set the feeling for the rest of your interior design style, and dated tiles can make your room look old-fashioned, even if you update everything but the tile.
If your tiles start to chip or they’re damaged, or they’ve worn down and become slippery and hazardous to walk on, you’ll need to replace them. Having new tiles laid can be a very expensive project to take on, but a large portion of the cost will be what the company or professional charges you to remove and dispose of the current tile. If you can remove the tiles yourself using some of the best tile removal tools, you can save a decent amount of money. Removing your tiles can seem like a messy and huge project, but the right tile removal tools can make the whole process go smoothly.
If you’re considering removing the tiles from your home before having new ones fitted, you’ll want a list of the best tile removal tools to have on hand to help you accomplish this project effectively. You may already have the necessary tools, but you may need to purchase specialist tools if you have a large area to work with. You’ll also want to have the correct safety equipment to help protect you during the home or kitchen renovation project.
Depending on the tools you pick, it can dictate how long and labor-intensive your project is from start to finish. Manual tools will take longer, but they give you more control over powered items. Vacation by John Loo / CC BY 2.0
1. Air Hammer
An air hammer is a pneumatic hand tool that makes it quick and easy to remove tile. It uses pressurized air to swing the hammer’s head back and forth in a very quick manner. You get a forceful hammer with no effort on your part. A typical air hammer can swing up to 5,000 times per second. Also, it’s possible for you to buy chisel heads to put onto your air hammer that chips away at the grout of tiles very easily and quickly. They are less precise than manual tools, but they work with little effort.
The benefits of this tile removal tool is the speed and the ease of use. Using one of these tools over a manual chisel or hammer will let you remove your tiles much easier, and you won’t be nearly as worn out after you finish since you don’t need to exert any real effort other than holding the tool in the correct place.
2. Demolition Fork
A demolition fork is a tile removal tool you can use in place of a traditional pry bar. It looks very similar to what you’d get with a pry bar, but there is a solid fork on one end. They are made completely from steel, and this makes them very sturdy and reliable for use in renovation projects and demolishing tiles. To use this tool to effectively remove your tiles, you would insert the fork right under the raw edge of the tile, apply pressure to the handle, and this will cause the fork section to point up and lift the tile as it moves. It’s an extremely useful tool for removing tiles, and you could easily finish a whole room by lifting the tile. However, you do need to exert a large amount of manual force.
Demolition forks come in a broad range of sizes, and you’ll have to pick the size that suits your project to prevent shoulder and back pain. The fork should be as long as any shovel that you would use out in your garden. If you’re expecting to take on other demolition projects in the future, this would be a useful purchase. They can also help you pull down drywall or knock down walls.
3. Drill with Tile Drill Bit
A drill outfitted with a tile drill bit can allow you to drill holes into stubborn tiles. When you drill holes in these tiles, the integrity and structure of the tile will be compromised. In turn, this makes them easier to remove with a different tile removal tool. You can also drill holes through the grout around the tile to give you holes to insert your chisel. This gives you a starting point to try and lift up the tile.
Depending on which material you have for your tiles, you may need to get a different type of drill bit. For example, any ceramic tiles are very difficult to drill through, and you may need to get a diamond drill bit. This tile removal tool is usually only necessary if you have tiles that are proving to be very difficult to remove with other tools. This is usually a last resort.
4. Floor Scraper
If you have tiles that aren’t stuck too tightly to your floor or shower wall, you could remove them using a floor scraper. This is a hand tool that has an angled scraper on one end. It offers a razor-thin edge that pokes under your tile, and you then press down on the handle to get the blade to lift up the tile. This tile removal tool is very inexpensive and sturdy, but it’s only meant for scraping grout and tile up. You most likely won’t be able to use it for other projects around the house.
You can buy these scrapers with short handles that you would use while you’re on the floor on your hands and knees, or you can get standing models with longer handles that look like a shovel. After you use this tool to remove the tiles, you can use it to scrape any lumps of tile adhesive or grout from the floor to give yourself a smooth surface for your new flooring to go over.
If you’re on a budget but you want to remove your tiles, a hammer is a great tile removal tool to have if you don’t own proper demolition tools. Most people already have a hammer lying around their home somewhere, but, if you don’t, you can buy a decent quality one at your local hardware store for a few dollars. Hammers are a great tool to have because they can help you take on a broad range of projects around the home and garden, so you’re almost guaranteed to use them in the future instead of them being a specialist tool that you only use once.
For removing tiles, you’ll want to find or buy a mallet hammer. If you have a traditional claw hammer already, this can work well too. A mallet hammer is preferable because you’ll use it to force a chisel beneath your tiles to pry them up from the floor. The mallet hammer has a bigger surface that allows you to be much more accurate. A claw hammer will also work, but you’ll have to be more careful with it.
A hammer is also useful for smashing your floor tiles because bigger tiles might not come up in a single piece. Breaking them up with your hammer can enable you to pick them up due to the smaller pieces.
A jackhammer is a much larger version of your air hammer, and it works in a very similar way by using forced air. However, it’s a much more powerful tile removal tool. Jackhammers are very popular for use in commercial applications, including digging up roads or paths. If you have a very large area of tile to remove, you can use a jackhammer to accomplish this task in no time. However, there are many things you want to consider before you run out to buy or lease one of these powerful tools.
First off, the sheer power level of this piece of equipment means that only experienced professionals should use it. If you’ve never used one of these machines before, using them for the first time in your home isn’t a great idea. If you do use this tile removal tool, you’ll have to work to ensure that you don’t compromise the floor’s integrity below the tile. If you make the wrong move, you could end up with expensive damage.
This piece of equipment won’t work well for every tile removal project, and you’ll have to assess your needs carefully. Understanding your space issues is top of the list. The cost of this tool may also be a roadblock for some people because they’re expensive.
7. Manual Grout Removal Tool
This tile removal tool resembles a screwdriver, but instead of having a drive on one end, you get a triangular-shaped part made out of metal that has a sharp point. You can use this end to dig out the grout, and it works well for tighter areas. If you’re watching your budget, you could also use this tool on bigger spaces. However, be prepared to spend hours stripping the grout from your tile. If you do plan on buying this tile removal tool, you want to pay close attention to the handle and find one that comes with an ergonomic grip. Using this tool for an extended period will result in sore hands.
8. Masonry Chisel
You can use a masonry chisel side-by-side with a hammer. It’s especially useful in areas that are hard to reach like corners where it can be hard to get at the tile and lift it up. To use this tile removal tool, you’ll need to take the pointed end and angle it at the edge where your tile meets the surface under it. You hit the back end of your masonry chisel with a hammer to encourage the tile to lift from the floor or wall and grout.
This tile removal tool works well for lifting tiles if you’re on a budget, and you can pick one up for a small price to use on a broad range of projects. You could use a hammer and chisel to remove all of the tiles without using another tool. The job could take longer to finish, but it’ll help save money. It’s also useful to use this tool to remove any grout that is still on the floor once you remove the tiles. This will work to give you a smooth surface, and this can help your new floor or medium go on quickly and easily.
9. Multi-Purpose Oscillating Tool
You may hear this tile removal tool referred to as a power grout removal tool, and this tells you exactly what you should use it for. Since this is a multi-purpose tool, it comes equipped with several attachments. One of these attachments allows you to grind down the grout and remove it from between your tiles.
Since this works well for grout removal, it can take away a lot of the work that comes with removing tile. Even if you manage to get the tile off easily, you might have lines of grout leftover, and you’ll have to remove these lines to ensure that you have a flat surface for your new medium to go down. You can try to remove the grout using a hammer and chisel, but if you have a bigger area to cover, this can be very frustrating and time-consuming.
This tile removal tool can take all of this effort and time and get rid of it. It can be a good investment to have alongside your other tools if you’re a frequent DIYer. You may also get saw blades and sanding pads for taking on projects or cutting wood.
10. Noise-Canceling Headphones
If you’re using power tools to remove your tiles, it’s a good idea to wear noise canceling headphones. Not only will these stop you from enduring a constant assault on your ears, but it’ll also help to make the project more pleasant. They’ll work well to protect your hearing.
Using loud power tools over and over again without having ear protection will cause irreversible damage to your long-term hearing. You can prevent this by wearing these headphones every time you use your louder power tools. They’re decently priced, and they’re a great way to protect yourself.
Many people don’t think of their hearing when they work with loud power tools, however you should really get in the habit of wearing them to protect your hearing in the long-term. Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 by Aaron Yoo / CC BY-ND 2.0
11. Power Grout Removal Tool
Grout is arguably one of the most annoying aspects of removing tile. The grout that the tile leaves on your surface can be annoying to remove by hand. As we touched on earlier, a lot of people use a masonry chisel to remove smaller areas of grout, but this can be monotonous and time-consuming. Buying a grout removal tool is one way to significantly speed up the process. You will be able to remove your grout a lot more quickly than you would if you had a masonry chisel for this project.
Some of the grout removal tools on the market are multi-tools. They’re excellent for cutting or sanding drywall and wood too. If you purchase one of these tools, they’re easy to use in other projects around the house, and this makes it a more valuable tool to have in your arsenal. It’s also a great way to justify the price.
You can buy handheld grout removal tools. This tile removal tool will work well, but they won’t work as quickly as this one. If you want to save yourself some effort and time when you remove tyou tiles, go with a powered option over a manual one.
12. Pry Bar
A pry bar works a lot like a tile scraper does, but it comes designed for more general use. Pry bars usually feature a chunky steel design, and this makes them very strong, sturdy, and long-lasting. This tile removal tool comes with a foot at one end of the bar with an angled edge, and this allows you to slide it under the edge of the tile. You then apply force to the handle to lift the tile up. You can also use it like a chisel if you don’t have one on hand, pointing your blade under the tile and hammering the back end of the pry bar to force it under the tile to lift it.
This is a nice multi-use tool to keep in your garage because you can use it in a host of projects outside of removing tiles. You can easily find them in any hardware or home improvement store, and you can pick up a decent one without paying a lot. When you buy this tile removal tool, you’ll want to pick out one that looks solid. Doing so will ensure that you get a tool that will last for years.
13. Safety Goggles
In addition to the tile removal tools you should have on hand to help you complete this project, you also want to consider what accessories you need to keep yourself safe. One of the best pieces of equipment you can have are safety goggles. This is generally an inexpensive item that will help to protect your eyes and vision from flying pieces of tile, grout, and general debris.
This is a very effective but simple way to improve your safety levels. When you remove the tiles, small pieces of chipped grout or tile can fly up into your face and get into your eyes. The goggles will also work to shield your eyes from dust that could get into the air when you pry the tile off.
14. Safety Mask
A safety mask is a smart purchase to make because smashing up tile with your tile removal tools will cause dust to fly. You don’t want to breathe in this dust because it has the potential to make you sick, and it’s not good for your respiratory tract to breathe them in. A safety mask is one way to keep your safe and avoid irritation to your lungs.
The safety mask is quick and easy to put on. It covers your mouth and nose without making it too difficult to breathe. Some people don’t like wearing these masks because they find them constricting. However, if wearing one of these masks can keep you protected, you may need to find a way to wear it for the duration of your project.
A sledgehammer is arguably one of the best tile removal tools to manually use to demolish tile before you remove them. It can break your tiles up more easily and quickly, but it’s not perfect for all situations. This is a longer tool, and you need to have space to swing it. So, if you’re removing tile from a limited space, this may not be the best option available to you.
You’ll have to be very careful to not damage any items around you, especially if your project is in somewhere like the kitchen where you’re not remodeling it. This strong tile removal tool can cause a lot of damage, and not all sledgehammers are equal. So, if you’re buying this tool specifically to remove tiles, it’s worth taking your time on picking one.
Additionally, a heavier sledgehammer gives you more power but it’s also heavier and more tiresome to operate. Some come with special features that can reduce the strain on your body when you hit the tile. This can be a physically demanding tool to use, so if you have a large area to cover, you may be better off paying for a power tool that can do the job faster and with less effort on your part.
A vacuum fits nicely into any worksite. Since removing tiles can be a dirty and dusty job, you want to vacuum up the dust as you go to prevent it from accumulating in the air. Vacuuming at different times during your project can also stop the dust from getting into other areas of your home, and a shop vac is the perfect tool to have on hand. It’ll work through a lot of debris and thicker dust without clogging, and it can also pick up grout and tile shards with ease.
A wheelbarrow can be a useful tile removal tool to help collect all of the grout debris and broken tiles and transport them outside to get rid of them. Without using a wheelbarrow, you could end up taking multiple trips carrying sharp and heavy removed tile pieces. A wheelbarrow simplifies this process without costing you anything because most people have this essential tool in their home, especially if they DIY projects frequently.
If you don’t have a wheelbarrow on hand, you should consider purchasing one because they can help with dozens of jobs around the house and garden. You could also ask a neighbor to borrow one until you finish your project.
18. Work Gloves
The final tile removal tool on the list is work gloves. They feature a thicker fabric that works to protect your hands from injury. They often have rubber reinforced fingers, or they can be made out of leather. You want to wear these gloves when you remove your tile because these tiles can have sharp edges or corners that can damage your hands. They also protect your hands from slipping as you grip your tile removal tool.
You can pick up a decent pair of work gloves for under $30.00 and you can use them over and over when you’re doing renovation projects around your home. When you pick them out, make sure that they have a good fit, thick fabric, and that they’re reliable while not interfering with your grip.
We’ve outlined 18 tile removal tools and personal safety equipment that you can use when you perform upgrades, remodels, or renovations around your home. It’s a good idea to have a few of these tools on hand to tackle large and small projects, and it’s easy to mix and match as you need. This way, you can do a lot of work on your own, save money, and finish your projects on time.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.