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Removing Tile Easily and Cleanly

Julimor's picture

Not sure if this has been posted already...

Dry Ice.

Buy sheets of dry ice and place them on the individual tiles.  Wait about five or more minutes.  Smack them with a mallet.  If they are cold enough, they will pop off cleanly and sometimes in one piece.  I've done this with tile set directly on plywood and it takes up the tile AND grout completely.  But it makes it hard to throw away the many whole tiles you will get up with this method.

Start with 50 pounds and keep leap-frogging the pieces as you move to the next tile.  I've found having 3-4 rows of dry ice ahead of the tile you're working on allows you to keep going without needing to give the ice more time to freeze the tile.

In the attached pic I had started with 10 pounds.  You can see what's left.  Most of the tiles came up in one piece.  I ended up going back for another 40 pounds to finish the job. 

Did you do any bash the crap out of them w/o dry ice? (post #202791, reply #1 of 12)

I've demo'd a few tile counters, some on cement bd over ply, others direct to ply and it's no picnic.  Access to dry ice here is probably 30 mins each way, but if it shortened the job so you could go camping for a week with the scrap, what a deal.  I suppose everyone knows the danger of dry ice, that it can burn you if touched with the bare hand, but I just thought I'd mention it.


The mess would certainly be more contained with your method.  Have you used it b/4 for this application?


A Great Place for Information, Comraderie, and a Sucker Punch.

Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.


Yes, I used to bash the crap (post #202791, reply #2 of 12)

Yes, I used to bash the crap out of them and hope the flying shards don't imbed in my skin... or my eye!

I've used dry ice to remove tile from both countertops and floors, both on plywood sub bases.  Obviously, the wood base insulates the tile and grout, which both freeze before the wood.  It's amazing how cleanly it comes up.  One good whack with the hammer and most tiles just pop right off.  I've seen some come off so cleanly the plywood looks almost new.  If you're careful, you may be able to salvage most of the tiles.  With being careless I'd say about 10%-15% came up whole.  But you HAVE to make sure the dry ice has done its thing.  5 minutes minimum per tile.  If you're impatient, you won't have the same success.

On cement board you have the porosity of the board that might make things a little tougher.  And I don't know how the board itself would react, like plywood or like cement?  So it may break up as well.

If you're going to give this a try and dry ice is a 30 min+ drive, I would suggets buying at least 50 pounds for a small job and 2-3 times that for bigger jobs.  It's one of those labor vs. materials things.  What's the cost of your time vs. the cost of the dry ice?

And you can look at it this way: While the dry ice is freezing your tile, you can be making calls to set up your next camping trip.

Try it.  You'll like it.  You may never again remove tile any other way.

About Handling Dry Ice (post #202791, reply #3 of 12)

I forgto to mention...

It's not as dangerous as many believe.  I used to think if you touched it with bare skin, your skin would burn off.  The guys who I buy it from often handle the ice with their bare hands, though not for more than a few moments.  But then again, some guys demo walls with their bare hands.

I use regular leather work gloves.  I can handle the dry ice long enough to put it in place without feeling the freeze.

Thank you. (post #202791, reply #4 of 12)

I love it for the Halloween effect, and it makes a dull party a little more lively around the punch bowl.

And learning more about it's negative effects was good information, thanks.


Don't forget, keep an eye out for those electrical questions.


Speaking of which, I've got a customer that wants LED pucks under the cabinets.  He wants dimmable.  He also wants several switch options-a couple on in a run, all on in that run............and whatever else he can dream up.

There's some mystery to me in what';s available, you work with it b/4?


thanks again.

A Great Place for Information, Comraderie, and a Sucker Punch.

Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.


Yeah, the fun part about the (post #202791, reply #5 of 12)

Yeah, the fun part about the dry ice is when you're done removing the tile, you can put the rest in a glass of water! :)

You won't find dimmable LED at the 120V source.  Can't do it.  The problem is the transformer.  It needs 120V to work properly.  I ended up installing standard line-voltage pucks.  But they get hot.  Same experience with rope lighting - no LED if you want a wall switch.  If you want a 120V wall switch to control dimming, you have to have 120V lights.  If there's any sort of a transformer involved, you have to hope the manufacturer has their own dimmers and accept the fact the controls will be on the cord somewhere or on some specially made remote.

With the setup you're talking about, separate controls for different lights in a row, you will need a separate switch leg and a separate switch for each light set to be controlled.  You can use the same hot for all the switches, as long as you don't exceed the breaker ampacity.  Rule of thumb - don't exceed 80% of the rated ampacity of the breaker.  Watts = Volts x Amps.  A=W/V.  Then take a separate switch leg to the first light of each set and then to the next and so on.  

Thanks (post #202791, reply #6 of 12)

While I'm away in Tn. and NC, the electrical contractor, the sales rep and the homowner will iron this out.


I hope, my bid is incomplete w/o that portion.


Know anyone that needs granite.

My first granite counter demo-always thought it was everlasting.....................guess not when you want a new kitchen.


Hope the food tastes better.

A Great Place for Information, Comraderie, and a Sucker Punch.

Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.


dry ice (post #202791, reply #7 of 12)

Great tip. Do you cover the dry ice to get it to last longer? Plastic or bubble wrap or something else? I have 250 square feet of tile to remove. This sounds like something to try. Anyone else try this??

I've never covered it but (post #202791, reply #8 of 12)

I've never covered it but that could help make the ice last longer.  But you'll have to make sure you allow for the gas to escape, so don't seal it too tightly.  I'm thinking a thermal blanket might work well.

A lot of people think this method is too good to be true and never give it a try.  Don't deny yourself the opportunity to experience it yourself.  You'll never go back.  Here's a clip from

Dry Ice will loosen floor tile by freezing and slightly shrinking them allowing easier removal. The cold temperature of the Dry Ice will break the bond of the adhesive. Place the Dry Ice sheets centered on the tile to be removed and wait until it is completely frosted. If it has not popped off, slight tapping with a hammer or prying with a screwdriver will allow it to be lifted off easily.

For your square footage, I'd buy 50 pounds to start and see how you like it.  If it's going to slowly, rent a chipper hammer.  It's messy, dirty and loud, and you'll need ear, eye, respiratory and hearing protection, but it will get the job done faster, though not as well.  Dry ice leaves an almost pristine floor behind.

50 pounds for 250 sq feet: is (post #202791, reply #9 of 12)

50 pounds for 250 sq feet: is that a general rule of thumb? And second, is this for tiles affixed with quikset? What about mastics?



". . . and only the stump, or fishy part of him remained."

How much dry ice you'll need (post #202791, reply #10 of 12)

How much dry ice you'll need varies by the thickness of the tile, the thickness of the bonding agent, the substrate and the room temperature (or if you insulate it from the heat.)  I've used it to remove about 80 sq/ft of ceramic tile that was on a countertop.  The substrate was 3/4" plywood.  Room temp was about 70 and I didn't insulate it.  I used about 50 pounds for that project.  I used dry ice on a smaller project many years ago but don't remember the conditions or how much ice I used.  I suggested 50 pounds because the place I buy it from sells it in 50 pound packages but if you want less, they upcharge you.  Ideally, you'd like the ice to be about the same dimensions as the tile and to be sliced 1" thick or so.

For both projects I've used dry ice on, the tile was set with big box brand mortar that was laid with a 3/8" or 1/2" trowel.  And both times the tile and mortar separated almost completely from the substrate.  There was a small amount of mortar left but it was easy to remove.

I have read dry ice is a great solution for asbestos tiles because it freezes it so completely and pops off so cleanly that there is no airborne particles.  I have also read that dry ice takes off mastic cleanly as well.  But I haven't tried it myself.

That actually sounds like an (post #202791, reply #11 of 12)

That actually sounds like an amazing way to get rid of some title in the bathroom that I plan to renovate. Plus the extra effects that it is going to make my day. I was a little confused about holding the dry ice though, I thought it was extremely dangerous on your skin?

I feel so bad, someone deleted my scum sucking spam link............

I don't find "hold" anywhere (post #202791, reply #12 of 12)

While it is possible to treat dry ice like a hot potato, tossing it from hand to hand, and avoid serious injury, it's clearly better to use tongs or heavy gloves when manipulating it.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville