Tile flooring can make your floors stand out from regular wooden planks but can be hard to maintain. In many cases, your tiles may get damaged by accidentally dropping things on them, getting stained, or other reasons. In situations like these, you have no choice but to remove the existing tile flooring and install new. Removal costs, however, can be high. Knowing the most efficient and effective way to remove the tile floor can be beneficial.
Tile flooring is made of small, thin pieces of wood, stone, ceramic, or glass. The tiles are usually put together in a pattern and then the joints are sealed, except for wood, with cement-based grout. Tile flooring is popular because it is easy to clean and maintain. It can, however, be costly to install. We find it essential to know how to remove it properly, and the best tool for removing tile from concrete floors, if you ever need to.
The Challenges of Tile Removal
You wouldn’t think so, but removing floor tile is an incredibly difficult and insanely time-consuming process unless you have the appropriate removal equipment. The major issues are the ones you don’t know about until the project starts. Depending on the construction type, the tile could be attached to anything from concrete, masonry cement board underlayment, cement mortar bed, or wood underlayment. So, what exactly does this mean?
It means that whatever is beneath the surface will determine how long the project will take and how hard the tiles are to remove. You’re not just popping tiles out and setting them aside to reveal a smooth, ready-for-use floor underneath. Floor tile removal involves a lot of chiseling, breaking, hauling, dusting producing procedures. Plus, there is always the added risk of damaging the underlayment or subfloor.
There are a few ways to adhere tile to the substrate, whether it be concrete or wood. You can use cement-based tile setting mortar or an adhesive. If there is a cement board or wood underlayment over a wood or concrete base, a screw could have been used. All these factors come into play when determining the best tool for tile removal.
Around 4.6 million U.S. workers sustain injuries on the job every year. As if that’s not enough, these workplace injuries lead to a whopping 104 million days away from work! Many of these injuries are non-life threatening such as cuts, lacerations, and punctures. A huge number of them are preventable, if the workers had been wearing the appropriate protective gear. That’s why personal protective equipment (PPE) is crucial for your tile removal project. You’ll be handling cutting and drilling tools for the project. Also, you’ll be dealing with a lot of dust as you tear away those floor tiles. A pair of safety goggles or face mask should be worn if you are performing handwork, close to the floor. Gloves will protect your hands and let you grip the hand tools better. Durable footwear that is puncture and abrasion-resistant will minimize foot injuries. Whether you are a first-time DIYer or a seasoned professional on your 100th job site, you should always make sure you have the proper PPE and work site necessities for removing tile from concrete floors.
Exploring Tile Removal Tools
The tool or machine that will be used for removal is dictated by several factors. What is being removed, what is it being removed from, how it is adhered to the floor, what is going back down on the floor after removal, and how large the area is are just a few. Room access, when looking into using a ride-on piece of equipment, needs to be discussed. Will it fit and can the floor you are working on handle the weight and vibration the machine will create? No matter which method is going to be used, an efficient, construction-quality, dust extractor needs to be used when dust is being generated and to remove small debris from the floor.
Pry Bar: Before you dive into the project, you might need to remove wall baseboards. The residential base is usually attached with nails, commercial base is adhered with an adhesive. A pry bar works well for this and can also be used to remove nails or screws that might have been used to attach the subfloor material.
Hammer and Chisel: A hammer and chisel will most likely be used on every project no matter the size and the material being removed. It is used in small, hard-to-access areas, around pipe protrusions, inside corners, or on the entire floor such as a bathroom.
The hammer type needs to be designed to strike another metal surface. The cold chisel used should be made of a softer metal than the hammer. Striking a hard metal chisel with a hard metal hammer can be dangerous. Chisels are available in a multitude of blade widths. Having two or more widths will come in handy.
Demolition Chipping Hammer: Chipping hammers are lightweight, hand-held concrete breakers easily positioned to lift and remove tile. By offering a controlled chipping action, these hammers allow operators to precisely chip away only specific areas. The smallest chipping hammers, powered electrically, pneumatically, or hydraulically, usually weigh between 5 and 30 pounds. A good indication of the power of the tools is their weight. The heavier the tool, the more powerful it will be. The chipping action of this type of equipment is rapid, ranging from 900 to 3,000 blows per minute. They are fitted with a chisel bit of different widths to perform the work.
Demolition Hammer: Demolition hammers are like a chipping hammer but much larger. What demolition hammers lack in this regard in terms of versatility, however, they make up in punch. The demolition hammer can deliver more powerful blows than chipping hammers since they typically have about 35% more power. This is due to the fewer parts in a demolition hammer, and sometimes a longer piston stroke, as well. While the demolition hammer delivers fewer blows per minute than a chipping hammer, the increased strength of the tool makes it a quicker and more efficient means of demolishing concrete and masonry. Due to its size and power, there are wheeled carts they can be inserted into to allow ease of use. These are typically used on large, commercial projects.
Walk-behind Floor Scraper: Walk-behind floor scrapers for tile removal are a versatile, lightweight solution when working on light commercial, residential, and DIY removal jobs. DiamaPro Systems Floor Scrapers are a typical example of a walk-behind scraper. They are durable and built to withstand tough job sites. These light to medium-use floor scrapers are an ideal choice for many tile removal projects. They perform well when removing a variety of materials - adhesive, carpet, VCT, tape, and gum - paint epoxy, rubber coating, and mastic!
Floor scraping doesn't have to be a labor-intensive job. For a smaller job that doesn't require a large ride-on scraper but too large to use a chipping hammer, a walk-behind floor scraper is an excellent solution!
Ride-on-Floor Scraper: A ride-on floor scraper is a machine used to remove flooring materials, such as tile, carpet, or linoleum, from concrete or other hard surfaces. It typically consists of a platform with a driver's seat, handlebars, or steering wheel for control, and a scraping blade or multiple scraping blades mounted on the underside of the platform. It is used to remove flooring from commercial and industrial buildings. It can remove many types of flooring quickly, however, when used in the wrong conditions it can cause catastrophic damage to concrete and surrounding objects.
Availability: Except for hammers, chisels, and pry bars, all the equipment above can be rented or purchased. Sunbelt Rentals is a great resource when renting and Niagara Machine sells what Sunbelt rents.
Evaluating the Best Tools
When evaluating the best tile removal method, it’s recommended to determine the ability of the operator. If the operator has minimal to no experience in handling a power-type chipping hammer, a hammer and chisel might be your best selection. All power chippers/scrapers can be dangerous in inexperienced hands not only to the operator but also cause damage to the substrate if not used properly. With the proper training, any of the above methods can be used effectively to remove tile.
When evaluating a tile removal project, several items need to be considered. The substrate composition the tile is adhered to should be high on the list. This will help in determining the aggressiveness of the removal process. If you have a wood base, it’s better to select a tool that is easy to control such as a hammer and chisel. Wood is soft and can be damaged easily.
If you are removing tile from a concrete floor, a power tool is a great option. A demolition chipping hammer would be an option for a small to medium size area (200 – 500 sq.ft.). The next step up would be the Demolition Hammer in a cart or walk-behind scraper for those projects between 500 – +2,000 sq. ft. With large areas with a concrete substrate, a ride-on-scraper will increase your production rate.
The type of tile being removed and how it has been adhered to the floor could also help determine the type and width of the chipping blade. This will be a trial-and-error process. Test several styles of chipping blades to determine the highest level of production.
If you are unsure which tile removal method is best for your project, reach out to your local Niagara Machine office or Sales Rep for assistance! We have decades of knowledge and hands-on experience and would be happy to help you find the best tool for removing tile from concrete floors