1. Protect Surrounding Areas

Before beginning demolition, take steps to protect surrounding areas from damage. Cover nearby walls, floors, and furniture with plastic sheeting or tarps. Seal off doorways with plastic as well to contain debris and dust within the workspace. Wear appropriate safety gear like gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask.

2. Remove Fixtures and Furniture

Clear the area of any fixtures, furniture, or appliances that are sitting on the existing tile. Removing these items will provide complete access to the floor and prevent any damage to the items during demolition.

3. Check for Asbestos

Asbestos was commonly used in floor tiles and adhesives before the 1980s. Before beginning demolition, have a sample of the tile and adhesive tested by an asbestos professional to ensure safety during removal.

4. Score the Tile Surface

Use a carbide-tipped grout saw or utility knife to score cut lines through the tile and into the mortar below. Space the cut lines about 6 inches apart throughout the whole tiled area. This scoring allows the tile to break cleanly along these lines.

5. Chip Away Tile

With a hammer and chisel, begin breaking up the tile along the scored cut lines. Wear safety goggles and work carefully to avoid causing damage beneath the tile layer. Continue breaking and prying up pieces across the whole floor.

6. Remove Remaining Mortar Bed

Once all tile pieces are removed, use a scraper, grinder, or chisel to remove the remaining thinset mortar adhered to the subfloor. Ensure no traces of the old mortar are left behind. Vacuum up all remaining debris.

7. Clean and Inspect the Subfloor

With the old tile and mortar removed, thoroughly clean the exposed subfloor. Inspect it closely for any cracks, damage, or uneven areas needing repair prior to new tile prep.

8. Make Subfloor Repairs

Use floor leveling compound to fill any dips or gouges in the subfloor. Cut back and replace any sections with severe cracks or damage. The subfloor needs to be in good, flat condition for proper new tile installation.

Following these steps carefully will help you safely demolish old tile and ensure the subfloor is ready for fresh tile installation. Be sure to use the proper safety equipment and disposal techniques throughout the process. With some time and diligent prep work, you’ll have the clean foundation needed to give your space a brand new tiled look.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I remove old tile that contains asbestos?

A: Asbestos tile removal requires special precautions. Contract a certified asbestos abatement company to handle the removal and disposal safely and legally. Do not attempt to remove asbestos tile on your own.

Q: What tools do I need to demolish tile?

A: Common tile demolition tools include a cold chisel, hammer, carbide-tipped grout saw, putty knives, pry bar, gloves, eye protection, and dust mask. Power tools like oscillating multi-tools can also help.

Q: How do I dispose of demolished tile and mortar?

A: Old tile pieces and mortar are considered construction debris. You can legally dispose of them in heavy duty contractor bags at a construction and demolition landfill in your area.

Q: Is it OK to leave the old thinset mortar in place?

A: It’s best to scrape and remove all old thinset adhesive down to the bare subfloor. Leaving any behind can prevent proper bonding of new mortar and lead to tile failure.

Q: Can I put new tile on top of old tile?

A: Directly installing over existing tile is not recommended. The mortar below older tile is likely compromised and can’t support new tile long-term. Removing the old layer is advised.

Q: What’s the easiest way to break up large tile?

A: Scoring the tile surface into a grid pattern with deep cuts makes the tile much easier to break apart. Chip out one piece at a time along the scored lines.

Q: How flat and smooth should the subfloor be before new installation?

A: The subfloor surface should be flattened to a tolerance of 1/8 inch over 10 feet. Fill dips and smooth any ridges to ensure proper bonding of the new tile mortar.


Demolishing old tile takes time and elbow grease, but the effort pays off when you can start fresh with a perfectly prepped subfloor. By protecting surrounding areas, using proper tools, and carefully following demolition and cleanup steps, you can remove worn-out tile and leave the space ready for new tile materials. Be sure to handle any asbestos professionally and make repairs to the subfloor before starting your exciting new tiling project. With the proper prep work finished, you can install replacement tile that transforms the space with a stylish new look and lasting quality.