Removing Ceramic Tile Flooring and Screwed Down Backerboard

How to Remove Ceramic Tile Flooring and Backerboard Screwed Down to Subfloor

By Mark J. Donovan

How to remove tile without damaging backer board is also discussed later in article.

I recently had to remove some old ceramic floor tile and backerboard that was screwed down to the subfloor. Suffice it to say that removing ceramic tile and backerboard that has been nailed to the subfloor is much easier.

Described below are the steps I successfully took for removing the ceramic tile and screwed down backerboard.

Necessary Safety Equipment

When it comes to removing ceramic tiles there is high risk of eye and body injury from flying bits of ceramic tiles. 

Consequently it is critical that you wear wrap-around safety glasses, or preferably goggles, along with work gloves and long sleeve shirts and pants.

Tools Required for Removing Tile without Damaging Backer Board

Before starting a ceramic tile removal process begin by gathering all of the necessary tools. Most importantly you will need a hammer and chisel. In addition, you will need a screw gun, a broom and dustpan, a long handle floor scraper, and a shop-vac.

Removing Ceramic Tile Flooring

First, it is critical to put on your eye and body protection before starting.

Next, use your chisel to work out the grout around several of the ceramic tiles near the edge of the tile area.

Once you have removed the grout around a few ceramic tiles, position your chisel at a low angle underneath the base of a tile (preferably a tile near the edge).

Use your hammer to hit the blunt end of the chisel.


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Making repeated blows with the hammer work the chisel underneath the tile. Sometimes the tile will easily pop up, and other times it will fracture and splinter.

In the situation where the ceramic tile fractures and splinters just continue to re-position the chisel underneath the remaining tile piece and continue to work the tile up off of the backerboard.

Continue this process over the entire ceramic floor tile area, occasionally stopping to pick up loose tiles and sweep away some of the debris.

removing ceramic tile Removing cement backerboard

If your goal was to remove tile without damaging backer board material, so that you can re-tile the backer board stop here.

Removing Screwed Down Backerboard

Once you have removed all of the ceramic floor tiles, use a screw gun to remove as many of the screws as you can from the backerboard. It is important to get as many as possible, particularly around the edge of the backerboard.

Some of the screws may not be visible as they are hidden under the remaining mortar/mastic material. By using your hammer and striking it on the backerboard many times, you can loosen up some of the mortar/mastic material to expose additional screws.

Once you have removed as many of the screws as possible, use your long handle floor scraper to pry up the backerboard.

To remove the backerboard with your floor scraper, position the floor scraper at a low angle underneath the edge of the backerboard and push and twist the handle so that you lift up the backerboard.

Continue with this process until you have completely removed the backerboard from the subfloor.

Once you have removed the backerboard, any remaining screws will be fully exposed on the subfloor. Remove these with your screw gun.

Finally, dispose of the old ceramic floor tile and subfloor, and sweep and vacuum the area.

If the subfloor has significant damage due to the screw holes you can patch them if desired.

Finally repair the subfloor if necessary by patching nail or screw holes, and applying a floor leveling compound if necessary.

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See’s Ceramic Tile Calculator

See my “How to Tile a Custom Ceramic Tile Shower” Ebook to learn how to tile your own shower:  For a detailed set of instructions on tiling a shower floor and walls, including pictures for every step in the process, see my “How to Tile Custom Ceramic Tile Shower Ebook”.

Related Information

Additional Ceramic Tile Resources from


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