Whether you want a new look for your bathroom or just need to replace a single damaged tile, it's always important not to damage the wall underneath. It is possible to remove bathroom tiles without damaging your plaster walls, but it can be tricky, time-consuming and even a little frustrating. Following the correct steps can make things easier while ensuring that you achieve a satisfactory result.
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Prepping the Bathroom
Bathroom tile removal can be a messy process, so proper prep work is essential. You should first ensure your tiles are as clean as possible. This will help with the removal. You should take everything out of your bathroom that can be moved. You should also tape plastic sheeting around doorways to contain as much of the dust as possible. Don't forget to cover up any heaters or grates.
You need to make sure you're wearing the right safety gear for the job as well. Wear long sleeves and pants and closed-toe shoes. You'll also want to wear safety goggles, a dust mask, safety gloves and kneepads if your job involves lots of kneeling.
Cutting the Grout
The best way to remove bathroom tiles while protecting the plaster wall underneath is by cutting the grout first. This will help loosen the tile and make it easier to pry free. Depending on the type of grout, you may be able to remove it using a grout saw or chisel. If your grout is tougher, it may be better to use an oscillating cutting tool to remove it.
Work carefully with any of these methods to avoid cutting into the wall. Keep cutting away grouting until you can access the edge of the tile and slide a putty knife beneath it.
Removing the Tiles
You need to decide whether you want to try to reuse your tiles or don't mind tossing them out. Many ceramic tiles are expensive and of high quality, so you may wish to reinstall them elsewhere in your home. If this is the case, be extra careful not to damage the tiles as you lift them out.
First, slide your putty knife beneath one edge of the tile, easing it in as far as you can. Repeat the process around all four sides of the tile to loosen it uniformly. Use your putty knife as a lever, bringing the handle closer to the wall. This will help pry the tile away from the plaster gently but effectively. Repeat this loosening and prying process on each of your tiles.
Once you've successfully removed all of the tiles, take a good look at the plaster wall. Although this process shouldn't cause any real damage, there may be some cosmetic issues caused by tile removal. You'll probably have to chisel off some adhesive residue, and it may be a good idea to go over your wall with a putty knife and some spackle to smooth over any areas of slight texture. You can then sand down and clean your plaster walls to make them look brand new once more.