Our “new” home – Part 5 – Tile demo… WITH power tools!

Naptime Gnome Idea #28

Tile demo – Bring on the big guns!!! DSCN7481So you’ve seen tile demo the hard way, now here’s the way I recommend… not as if I have any sort of credentials or licensing (or really any authority of any type) to recommend just about… well, anything, especially pertaining to demo and construction… BUUUHHHT, if you were looking to demo something, wouldn’t you want to know what the waify little Naptime Gnome thought was easiest? I mean, really, there’s not that much force behind these guns, THAT’s where the power tools come in!DSCN7478

Bring on the TOOLS

NAPTIMES TO COMPLETE: About 2000 sqft took a
long weekend with a mix of power tools and hand tools.
My guess is solid work with power tools, and two workers
you should have no problem knocking out
1000 square feet in a day.

Crafty Gnome Rating: 1
(requires NO artistic skill or creativity 🙂

Burly Gnome Rating: 2
(requires power tools, but not additional assistance)

Without power tools this much tile smashing would have taken me hours, but this is only about 30 minutes (above), or so, worth! Some areas definitely took a little more time than others (in some places this much space could take an hour or more, it just depends on how level the floor is and the materials used… and how they were used <;’). Those hollow tiles you’ve been cursing will become your favorites! But generally speaking, an electric chisel or hammer chisel like this one will speed things up substantially.DSCN7476 If you have access to a hand held grinder like this one, you’ll really be sailing.photo 3 The combination of the two can turn a several day job into a few hours, particularly if you have one or two helper gnomes. I did one portion of the house without the grinder, but with the chisel, the slowest portion of the job was removing thin-set. You can chisel it up, and scrape up whatever you “jump” over when you’re done. But the fastest, easiest way to get the job done seems to be to chisel up the tiles and not worry to much about the thin-set. Pick-up and remove all debris, first by hand to get the bigger stuff, then with a push-broom. photo 2(1)Then use your grinder affixed to a shop-vac to take the thin-set down to the sub-floor. Sweep. Scrape up any thing that may have been left behind that you can feel with your feet while wearing shoes. Vacuum. Call it a day! scraped floor

Here are a few pointers I can provide, but please don’t hesitate with any questions, because I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things!

  1. SAFETY!!! The chisel throws shards like nobody’s business. A brimmed hat will not only keep crud out of your hair and scalp, protecting you from micro cuts (on up) and several-hour long showers, but they also help shield your eyes. Other than that, each broken bit is like a freshly napped blade, so check out my safety post, read up online, and talk to anyone you know that’s already tackled a project like yours.
  2. Prep the space. Removing or draping belongings, taping off vents, and turning off HVAC units is even more critical when using power tool demo methods because you kick up a lot more dust.
  3. If you have the gnome-power, have one person cart out the tile and debris, while another chisels. If you have three people at your disposal, you may want to have one dedicated to grinding or scraping thin-set as well. I was racing against the clock with the chisel because I could toss stuff out while the babies slept, but I needed to chisel while I had daytime childcare. It went much smoother, and I did less damage to my boots, when I was able to clean up as I went.
  4. Be sure to keep your chisel well lubed. Use a high viscosity machine grease on the end of the bit where it meets the chuck. It will get dry quickly, so be sure to re-goop every time you take a break (and of course before you start).DSCN7474
  5. Start at the junction between two flooring types if possible.  I started between where the tile met the carpet in every room.  
  6. Get under the thin-set if you can. The more thin-set you get up with the tile, the less scraping and grinding you’ll have to do. But if you have a grinder, don’t waste time chiseling up thin-set you didn’t manage to get on the first try.
  7. Use a light touch. Most of the muscle necessary for this job is in the moving of tile and the steadying of the chisel. Your upper body will be sore, but this task is more like yoga than weight lifting. Most newer jack-hammer style chisels have a pressure trigger, this means the chisel bit will not hammer unless it is depressed (so be sure to point out its shortcomings whenever possible ;). This theoretically makes them a bit safer to handle as your leg or foot is fairly soft, but you still need to exercise the same caution you would if it lacked this function. The more steady you can keep the pressure, the smoother the demo will go.
  8. Use FORWARD motion.This being said, you want to use a slight forward pressure rather than downward. This will help the chisel pressure trigger depress, but you won’t be digging to China, rather just jetting across the floor to the neighbors. 🙂 Just kidding, in all honesty, it’s pretty stop and go, you will press forward at a 15 – 45 degree angle to the slab (you’ll figure out pretty quick what works best on what you’re trying to munch through) and the chisel will gnaw its way until your arms are nearly extended (a function of losing power behind the tool). Then you draw the unit back and start again, in the next spot. Some tiles will hang on like barnacles in the surf. For these, you will want to reduce your angle with the slab becoming more perpendicular, and wiggle the tile up with a prying motion. If all else fails, grab a hammer and give it a good whack in the center and chisel out the bits. You’ll notice you increase your angle sometimes past 45 degrees to work up the thicker patches of thin-set, just be careful to not get too aggressive and gouge a huge hole.
  9. Know your sub-floor. If you are working with a softer sub-floor (like concrete backer board) that you want to try and save, you’ll want to pay special attention that you’re not “digging.” I chose to only use hand-tools to chisel upstairs in our home, because I wanted to save the backer board. I did find the grinder to be quite handy though!  Similarly, you don’t want huge gouges out of your concrete slab… ESPECIALLY if you have a post-tension slab. NOTE: If your structure is built on a post-tension slab, NEVER drill, cut or chisel into it. If you damage the skeleton of the slab you will not only ruin the integrity of the building, it’s EXTREMELY dangerous. Not sure if your slab is post-tension? There is usually a stamp in the garage. Oh, and if you are ever manipulating a slab and you start to see colored plastic or shavings of plastic coming up… STOP! The tension cables used in post-tension slabs are sheathed in plastic (usually red, but certainly not always), so if you see plastic you may be in for trouble. Plus, plastic conduit and plumbing pipes are sure to be lurking beneath, so if you don’t really know what you’re doing… don’t do it, especially if you find something you weren’t expecting. If you REALLY need to gnomehandle your slab, get it x-rayed. It’s pricey, but well worth it. You shouldn’t need to worry about post-tension slab with this project, but I’m surprised how few people are familiar with the subject, and think it’s important for people to be aware of what lies beneath, especially here in Vegas, where so many new homes are built using this technique. Sorry, I’ll put my soapbox away now. <;’)
  10. Use a grinder, preferably with a shop-vac. You can try to chisel and scrape up all the thin-set and grout, but the faster, easier why, which actually yields beautiful results, is to use a grinder. A grinder with a guide will help prevent going overboard and making your floor terribly uneven. The shop-vac is SOO nice, because you will make more dust than you ever dreamed possible with a grinder. Be sure to empty the canister often, I was SHOCKED how quickly it filled up, the dust is extremely “fluffly” and mucks up the filter in no time, you’ll lose suction and be in a dust cloud if you don’t catch it before it’s full.
  11. Use a light touch with the grinder as well. Take your time. Use a circular motion (which the grinder usually promotes by its own motion). Try to keep the grinding surface completely parallel to the floor. You can always go back over a spot, but you can’t put the floor back… well, you can fix a lot with thin-set, but really who wants to use that much thin-set?
  12. Bask in your gnomey braun!


-The Naptime Gnome <;’)



One thought on “Our “new” home – Part 5 – Tile demo… WITH power tools!

  1. Pingback: Our “new” home – Part 6 – Removing baseboards | Mommy Vegas & the Naptime Gnome

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s