How to Remove a Ceramic Tile Countertop

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Things You'll Need

  • Overalls

  • Goggles

  • Plastic face mask

  • Heavy plastic or canvas tarps

  • Newspaper

  • Heavy cloth gloves with leather finger inserts

  • Heavy plastic hammer

  • Heavy-duty scoring knife

  • Chisel(s) (small and heavy)

  • Grout extraction tool

  • Broom

  • Trash cans


Special arrangements for the tile disposal should be made prior to starting the job, because the debris will be extremely heavy.


Removal of any plumbing pipes or electric outlets should be completed prior to starting on taking any tiles from the countertop.

Ceramic tile adds style to any home, but it eventually will become dated or damaged and will need to be replaced. Removing a ceramic tile countertop is messy but relatively easy. Before deciding on the removal, examine the way the tile is attached to the countertop. Open cabinets to see how the countertops are attached to the cabinets and whether the tile is attached to any plaster or wallboard. This will determine the best method for removal.


Step 1

Place the heavy canvas or plastic tarps on the floor. Lay newspapers on top of the tarps to absorb any impact from falling tiles.

Step 2

Remove the doors and drawers from the cabinets. Falling tile and grout will scratch and damage the finish of the cabinets.

Step 3

Remove trim tile from the edges of the countertop by first scoring and removing the grout. Once all the grout has been removed, carefully take a small chisel and place it in the grout groove. Hammer lightly to remove the trim tile.


Step 4

Remove the grout along the wall carefully with the either the small chisel or the scoring knife.

Step 5

Score the line of tiles closest to the wall with the knife. Put an X in each of the tiles along the edge. Continue to go over the X's to deepen the score marks.

Step 6

Use the grout extraction tool (chisel or knife) to chip out grout from between the row of tiles with the scored marks.

Step 7

Place the chisel point in the center of the first tile and hit the end with a heavy hammer. This should provide enough pressure to break the tile.


Step 8

Continue breaking each tile in the first row. Remove tile and grout as each tile is removed.

Step 9

Move to the next row of tiles and follow the same procedure as above.

Step 10

When all of the tiles are removed, examine the countertop for Wonderboard or plywood. (Wonderboard is a cement product insert that resembles a dense wallboard.) If either type of board is present, determine how it is attached to the countertop. Some installations will use adhesive or nails attached to the supports of the cabinets. The board may have been simply sitting on top of the countertop, held in place by the weight of the tiles. Remove any attachments holding the top board.


Step 11

Use the scoring knife to cut the tape, if pieces of the countertop are held with tape.

Step 12

Dust any grout or tile pieces off the countertop with a broom.

Step 13

Lift the countertop board sections from the cabinets.



Lee Grayson

Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.