View Full Version : Getting tile off the wall.

C Scott McDonald
05-23-2010, 11:28 PM
So I tiled the large wall of a bath tub surround with 6x6 tiles and mastic using a 1/4 in notch towel. Well after getting most of the wall done I decided I don't like the color. It looks lighter in the store but really brown in the bathroom. There a way to get the tile off with out damageing the tile backer board? I would hate to have to tear it all down again to start over.

Any info helps.


Ben Franz
05-23-2010, 11:53 PM
If you really used mastic, you may be able to chip the tiles off using the claw end of a wonder-bar and a hammer. Be sure to protect the tub and wear safety glasses.

Usually, tile is installed on backer board with thinset adhesive, esp. in wet areas. Never heard of using mastic for this application. Whichever you used, there will be residue left on the backer board that needs to be fairly smooth so the next tile will lay flat. Lots of scraping and chipping - it may be easier to pull down the backer board and replace it. Good luck.

Gary Click
05-24-2010, 1:02 AM
If you actually used a water or solvent based mastic to set the tile rather than thinset you can remove the tile easily without damage. I have used a heat gun to soften the mastic on tile enough to allow a putty knife to be worked under the tiles. Just be patience and make sure the tiles are hot all the way through to get the mastic to release.

If you used thinset, well the backer board is going to die. I use a diamond blade in a right angle grinder or small Skill Saw and saw the grout lines out through the backer board. The tile can then be removed with the backer board attached. The tile can be saved this way if you have to (can't be matched for example) by grinding the backer and thinset off of the back of the tiles using a right angle and a diamond grinder wheel. DeWalt sells both a 4-1/2" and a 7" in the box stores. Messy, loud but you do save the tile.

I had to do this recently to repair a shower pan liner that was leaking, I didn't want to rip out and retile the entire shower and matching tile was not available. Was a lot of work but worked well.

BTW - don't be tempted to use a Fein Mult-Tool to cut the grout lines like they show on TV. The grout lines in the commerical must be plaster of paris. While I really like my Multi-Tool I don't have enough time or money for cutters to attack a tile repair with this tool. It is fine for cutting the corners where the grinder can't get to but the grinder or saw with a diamond blade is at least a hundred million times faster and less expensive.


C Scott McDonald
05-24-2010, 9:51 AM
Thanks for the input. It is indeed mastic. Both Lowes and Home Depot said it was good to go as it would not let the tile slide down as bad when setting them. I have a heat gun so I will give it try. I have not grouted it yet. In fact it is just the field tiles as I have not cut in tiles for the edges. If it comes off with a reasonable amount of work it is coming down. If not I will just live with it.

It's amazing how different the color is from the store to the house. I thought it would grow on me but it is too brown for my taste.


Prashun Patel
05-24-2010, 10:39 AM
You might ask the folks at John Bridge (a tiler's forum). Beware though that you will get a huge tongue lashing for using mastic in a wet location.

My advice is to use thinset next time. I tiled a shower with 6x6 marble tiles - doesn't get much heavier than that in 6x6. I used Versabond and got no slide. Besides, if you work from the bottom up using a batten and spacers, you shouldn't be worried about slide anyway.

You might find it easier to replace the cement board than to chip off the tiles and remove all the mastic enough to make the surface smooth again.

Mike Cutler
05-24-2010, 1:57 PM

The advice to hit John Bridge's forum is great advice. The best actually.
After the first tile is removed, you'd be surprised at how easy they will come off. But, I'm fairly certain that your larger problem will be correctly setting tile with the proper thinset on top of the mastic that remains on the backer board.
I've seen this similar question on John's forum come up, and the advice is pretty unifrom. You're looking at removing the backerboard to ensure a proper bond between the newly installed tile and the backerboard. Sorry, I know how much work you just got done with. I just finished a shower also.

PS. The Versabond will give you no problems whatsoever setting tile on a wall, or a ceiling.

C Scott McDonald
05-24-2010, 4:02 PM
Thanks for the information I will head over there and poke around. After giving it some thought I think I will try the heat method to get the tiles off. Then unscrew all the backer board and try it again. I dont want to be slugging away in there with a sledge hammer or something. All the walls are taped, primed textured etc.

This time I am going to buy several of the tiles I like and lean them up in there to make sure they color works for me. :o If I dont fix it, it will bug me every time i look at it.

Thanks again,