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Shower tile removal/demolition

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  • Shower tile removal/demolition

    In the near future I plan to redo my shower. It is a tub/shower combo - not a stand alone shower unit. It currently has some ugly white tile (4" X 4"). I will be replacing with either natural stone tiles or possible stone slab.

    Now I estimated that there is about 300 tiles to be removed by eyeballing the no of tiles in the rows and colums. What would be the fastest way of removing them without damaging the backer board. I'm assuming the setup behind the current set of tiles is in good shape (cement board with vapor barrier).

    Breaking each tile will be time consuming as well as the possible risk of damaging the backing material. Is it possible to use a gas torch with the flame sprading attachment to heat the adhesive/thinset and to peel the tiles that way.

    Any other suggestions?

  • #2
    Re: Shower tile removal/demolition

    I had a simalar situation in my master bath. I tried remove each tile carefully because I needed to re-use the tub. I placed felt paper over the tub for protection. I made a complete mess and the drywall was damaged on the perimeter during demo. The wire mesh was nailed directly to the studs. On the second bath I cut out the perimeter drywall with a knife and pulled the entire section of the wall tile (with some good leather gloves on). I was able to get the entire tile surround off in about 6 sections. Less mess and less time. I installed the green board, cleaned up the seams with mud and used mastic to set the new tile. Hope this helps.
    Last edited by arwood; 05-27-2009, 11:29 AM.

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    • #3
      Re: Shower tile removal/demolition

      Good luck saving the drywall or cement board! If the job was done well with good adhesive, you will never get them off fully, leaving an uneven surface on the cement board and days of work. If its drywall, you will NOT be able to get them off without ruining the drywall. At 16 bucks a sheet best to just pull eveything off (and faster).

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      • #4
        Re: Shower tile removal/demolition

        Like Chemeng said, they will leave unevenness behind on any surface when broken with a hammer. I worked on a demo job doing this for months. On drywall you could try a sawzall with a diamond blade, or a grinder with a suitable disk. The grinder would work on most substrates but if its drywall gut it right down to the studs and start new. Drywall is cheap.

        Good luck.

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        • #5
          Re: Shower tile removal/demolition

          Thanks for the replies. Assumng the backer cannot be saved what would be the fastest way to remove the tiles. Breaking each one one at a time sounds tedious and time consuming. I guess I was not fully clear on Marklar89's suggestion about the grinder - are you suggesting using it to cut in between the tiles to be able to pull them out.

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          • #6
            Re: Shower tile removal/demolition

            Originally posted by blue_can View Post
            I'm assuming the setup behind the current set of tiles is in good shape (cement board with vapor barrier).
            I wouldn't assume anything as far as your situation goes. You can use a hammer and a flat bar to knock some holes through the tile and backer and try to take them both out in manageable pieces. I wouldn't try to save the backerboard whether it is cement backer or drywall. Take the demolition down to the studs, verify you have good insulation if the area is on an outside wall and make sure your framing is plumb, level and square before you start re-construction. Nothing is worse than tile on a wall out of plumb; it draws your eye right to it. Look into Schluter-Kerdi or Widi (you can google) for some of the latest solutions for tile in a wet environment. They're not cheap but neither is dealing with a water leak after finishing your job with $18/sq. ft stone or tile.

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            • #7
              Re: Shower tile removal/demolition

              Don't even consider trying to save the tile backing. It's really not what you want to do at all. The backing, whether tile backer board or floated mud wall, absorbs moisture that seeps through the tile grout and NEEDS to be replaced. It harbors mold/mildew growth. I completely agree with Killavolt on this - a proper job means taking it all down to the studs. Especially in a shower, there's a chance - and it's a pretty good chance - that you might even find water damage to the studs. Again, either backer board or mud is porous and absolutely NOT moisture-tight.

              Getting the tiles off is very likely to be easier than you might think, unless you have a very thick floated mud type installation. Put plywood over the tub to protect it from chipping. Then start at an edge with a prybar and with gentle force the tile will probably start coming off in big chunks. If it's not cooperating, protect the rest of the house from dust with plastic sheets in the doorway and use an angle grinder with a diamond blade (Home depot - cheap) to cut the tile walls into 2 foot by 2 foot squares. Cut all the way through the tile and cement behind, (whether backer or mud wall). then bust out one square. Once you get the first square off, it gets easier.

              Traditional showers are made with 15# roofing felt, then tile backer (or floated mud wall) over that, then thinset the tile to that. Again, I would strongly advise you to follow Killavolt's advice and look into Kerdi. This is a waterproof roll material that goes over your substrate with thinset (substrate can be regular drywall) and then the tile goes directly on the membrane with thinset. The Kerdi keeps water from saturating the substrate. It's a vastly more sensible approach to building showers.

              Don't use greenboard (ever!) as a backer for tile in a shower... no exceptions. Greenboard used to be approved for showers but it just doesn't work and is no longer approved. Water goes right through the grout and saturates the greenboard. Use your greenboard, if you must, in the rest of the bathroom - it is fine for high humidity environments but not for direct water exposure like a shower. If you use Kerdi you can (and should) use regular white sheetrock because the Kerdi, if properly done, is a complete waterproofing solution. Don't use greenboard under Kerdi (the Kerdi doesn't stick well to greenboard).

              Check out the Schluter website and also visit the John Bridge tile forum. You'll learn a lot about the right and wrong way to do showers.

              BTW, I'm currently installing slab granite tub surround walls on a cast iron tub using Kerdi. THe Kerdi is available for about $1.60 a square foot, and there are places online that sell it in partial rolls so you can buy just what you need. Not cheap, but the last thing you want to do is have damage under your expensive finish material. The thing to keep in mind is that with showers in general you can't tell it's gone bad until it has gone REALLY bad. Plenty of people tell you their greenboard showers are working well. It's like the guy that jumps out of the skyscraper window and says to himself all the way down..."so far, so good".

              Good Luck. Visit the John Bridge forum!!

              -Andy

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              • #8
                Re: Shower tile removal/demolition

                Originally posted by Andy_M View Post
                It's like the guy that jumps out of the skyscraper window and says to himself all the way down..."so far, so good".
                -Andy
                Well said!

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                • #9
                  Re: Shower tile removal/demolition

                  Thanks for the detailed replies from Andy and Killavolt. I had not plans of using Greenboard given what I’ve heard about it. It seems like the recommended backer is cement board. Can you use cement board with Kerdi.

                  I also briefly visited the forum suggested by Andy – seems like lots of good into on building showers. I will read some of the posts when I have time.

                  I actually do my own stone fabrication so I have all kinds of diamond blades although for this application the cheap ones form HD are probably best. Proper stone blades are expensive and is variable by bond type and manufacturing process depending on the type of stone being cut. I also have a wet angle grinder which I can use for the cutting operation as it will keep the dust down to a minimum.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Shower tile removal/demolition

                    Sorry about the incoherent-ness man. Ill try and clarify. You're correct on what I meant to use the sawzall/grinder to cut the grout around the tiles. you cannot save the tiles usually because they are glued to whatever they are mounted to (aka substrate) like drywall, plywood etc. If they are on a material like drywall or plywood you can make long cuts from the top to the bottom of the surround and after removing a course of tiles pry off a large section of tile covered plywood or drywall to throw in a bin. Hope this helps! And good luck with the renos man, they can be stressfull as all get-out. Keep on truckin!

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                    • #11
                      Re: Shower tile removal/demolition

                      >> "Can you use cement board with Kerdi. "

                      Yes, you can. The manufacturere does not recommend it, though. Regular white drywall is what they recommend. If you do the Kerdi EXACTLY as they specify, it will be waterproof and therefore no water ever gets to the drywall. So, there is no advantage to cement board.

                      Even so, some guys feel better using cement board with Kerdi. Be advised, cement board is more money and a lot harder to deal with than drywall. Also, importantly, cement board (ESPECIALLY Hardibacker) is "thirsty" and tends to pull moisture out of the thinset (which should be UNMODIFIED thinset per Schluter) too quickly during installation. This isn't what you want, as it affects the curing and strength. Getting the thinset mixed correctly and applied to properly "stick" the Kerdi down to the drywall is probably the hardest part of the whole process. Kerdi has a fleece-like covering on both sides that the thinset adheres to... in my view you are best off doing exactly what is recommended by the manufacturer, as they've invested effort in developing the system. It works... change the program at your own risk!

                      Glad you visited the John Bridge site. Lots and lots oof very useful information there. Like this forum, the pros are great guys and while they don't always agree, you can usually see what the majority of them recommend.

                      Good luck,

                      -Andy

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                      • #12
                        Re: Shower tile removal/demolition

                        Cool. A couple of guys at the Stone Fabricator's Alliance (of which I'm a member) also recommended Kerdi so I'm sure it is a good product. In the light of the positive comments about it, it is highly likely I will use it.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Shower tile removal/demolition

                          You can also use DensShield as a tile backer. It is moisture and mold resistant, lighter than cement backer and cuts are as easy as with drywall. http://www.gp.com/build/product.aspx?pid=6388

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                          • #14
                            Re: Shower tile removal/demolition

                            I have a question removing some very stubborn tile. Long story short, my stand alone shower has ceramic wall tile and a fiberglass shower pan. The pan has leaked and needs to be replaced. We are also going to replace the tile in the shower and around the tub surround adjacent to the shower.

                            I am having a terrible time getting the tile off. The tile is bonded to a double layer underneath. The layers are green board on the studs, wunderboard nailed and bonded to the green board, tile on the wunderboard (mastic). Obviously I am taking it down to the studs (I have a minor mold issue). The problem I am having is that there does not seem to be any way to get the tile/wunderboard/green board off quickly. I have been knocking away at it with a hammer and flat blade but the tile just breaks into tiny pieces and the wunderboard will no allow anything to come off quickly. Can I use a recipricating saw or a spiral saw to cut off larger sections in between the studs? Both of the underlayer boards are 1/2" thick.

                            Any ideas on how to get this down any quicker than hammering away an inch at a time would be greatly appreciated. The bond between the tile and the wonder board does not allow the tile to come off in anything bigger than quarter size pieces. At this point I do not care about the dust or anything else, I just need to get this stuff out so I can get the rest of the project going.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Shower tile removal/demolition

                              When I demo showers and tubs with tile surrounds I usually cut along the edge of the tile surround with a sawzall. Then find the studs and pry from the top down from where I cut the wall. Almost always I can have a entire surround out in less than a 1/2 hour! When you cut the substrate right at the outer edge of the tile, it makes it pretty easy to tear out, as you end up prying on the tile and substrate as one. It usually holds together quite well, and if its drywall/greenboard it even comes out easier! Now, cement board that was screwed to the wall.... thats a different story, have fun!

                              I personally use 1/2" USG Fiberock for ALL of my tile installs, floors & walls. I use to use Hardibacker but after I found the USG Fiberock I havent gone back! The Hardibacker is notorious for being inconsistent in gauge and I have yet to find the product without waves and cupped ends. The Fiberock has been consistently flat and is always 1/2" on the nose. (Almost every sheet of Hardi I bought was 7/16, close but when your butting up against existing rock for example in a remodel, it makes things more difficult.) I fiber tape all my seams and thinset them. I try and stay away from mastic setting materials (I make an exception for back splashes) and have found TEC's Full-Light and Custom Building Products Mega-lite thinsets to be great to work with. These thinsets are easy to work with, and have properties similar to mastic but with the advantages of a cement based thinset. I have used the Kerdi system, and to be honest, for most home owners, I dont think its that necessary. Very cool system, but for a do it yourselfer at home, I wouldnt recommend it.

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