How To Salvage Old Ceramic Tiles
If you’re planning a kitchen or bathroom renovation, you can save yourself a lot of money by salvaging existing ceramic tiles instead of throwing them away. Here’s how.
How to remove ceramic tiles
Ceramic tiles require careful handling. Although ceramic has good compressive strength, its tensile strength is comparably low. This means that although you can gently place heavy objects onto ceramic tile without damaging it, the material won’t withstand bending or twisting.
Your first job is to remove any existing grout from around the tiles. Tile grout effectively connects all the individual tiles into one sheet. If you stress just one of the tiles with the grout still in situ, you’ll stress those adjacent to it and risk breaking them.
What you’ll need
- flathead screwdriver
- thin putty knife
- Work on one tile at a time. Place the screwdriver against the grout and tap it gently with the hammer to create a small void. Angle the screwdriver so that you are chipping at the grout in the direction of the void you’ve made. Take your time and gradually get rid of all the grout around the tile.
- Now you need to remove any trim that’s concealing the edges of the tile. Do so by prising it loose using your flathead screwdriver, taking care not to twist the tile as you do so.
- Once the grout is gone, place the putty knife at a slight angle to the tile and the surface to which it’s affixed, and tap it gently with the hammer. Begin at one corner and work your way along the edge of the tile. Try to keep the knife as flat as possible so as to avoid bending the tile and cracking it.
- Gradually tap the putty knife further under the tile. When the knife will go halfway under, apply a firm upward pressure. This should be sufficient to release the tile.
Removing tile adhesive
When you’ve removed the tiles, you’ll need to get rid of any mastic or old tile adhesive that is still clinging to the back of them. It’s very important the the backs of the tiles are completely smooth, otherwise any new tile adhesive that’s applied won’t achieve full coverage, and the tiles will not lay flat when your builder attempts to re-fix them.
What you’ll need
- adhesive remover (available from good DIY stores)
- coarse grain sandpaper
- Lay all the tiles out flat with the back side uppermost. It’s a good idea to lay the tiles on an old towel or cloth so that the good sides don’t get scratched.
- Apply a proprietary adhesive remover product as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Wipe the tiles clean using an old rag.
- Any remaining scraps of proud adhesive should be sanded off using coarse grain sandpaper.
- Wash the tiles in a mild solution of washing-up liquid and warm water to get rid of any dust, and dry them off.
By taking the trouble to salvage your old ceramic tiles you’ll be saving money both on new tiles and on your building contractor’s time.