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Question DetailsAsked on 4/17/2013

How difficult is it to remove Mexican style saltillo floor tile from a concrete floor?

These hexagonal tiles in our kitchen have been in place for about 30 years & are badly worn. One quote to strip, stain & reseal all tiles on our first floor to match was more than it would cost (I think) to remove and put in some type of wood or wood-look flooring.

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Having put in and taken out a number of quarry and terra-cotta tile floors while working with my dad (a tile contractor), I can confidently say you better be prepared for a real job if you do it yourself. However, as it is labor-intensive you can save a lot of the money if you don't mind losing the use of the room for a while, and don't mind getting good and dirty. The tile is either glued to the concrete below, or more likely if 30 years old, installed with thin-set mortar. Getting the tiles off intact is essentially impossible, so write off any thoughts of that. Chiselling or hammering the tiles off the mortar bed is actually not too tough - the tile does not generally stick overly well to the grout, which is why these types of floors commonly have problems with tiles coming loose over the years. There are several videos on Youtube showing how to do it.

The real job is removing the grout layer under the tiles, or at least grinding it down flat enough to put another floor surface over it. I can easily believe a removal qoute would bet more than a laminate floor installation.

Two possibilities come to mind - one is to remove only the really worn tiles, and replace them with complimentary (you will never "match" existing) colored or patterned tiles in the most trafficked areas - this is fairly common, as only 5-10% typically need replacement. Another possibility would be a tap test on every tile, and loose tile removal and mastic reseating with grout joint repair to ensure all tiles are firmly seated, then just overlaying with an isolation layer and "floating" laminate floor such as would normally be installed on a basement concrete floor. Of course, this means a 1/2-1" elevation difference between rooms being overlaid and others not being touched, like bathrooms and such.

You need to talk to a ceramic tile contractor for the first option. The overlay laminate you could go with a flooring contractor, or possibly do it yourself after having a serious talk (and probably get an estimate) from a flooring contractor.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD




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