Tearing Out Tile

The first time we ever tore out tile was in our second home. (The first one had linoleum, so we added tile but didn’t have to tear any out). I shouldn’t say “we.” The hubs did most of the work. With only a hammer and a chisel. Those were the days. Sweet memories, for sure.

I just asked him, “how long do you think it took you to tear out the tile at PR?” He said “WEEKS!” Ha. I’m not sure if that’s true or not. His memory is not what it used to be, not that it has ever been good. 😉 I don’t know if it took weeks or not, but I do recall it taking a very long time. It definitely took several nights and a couple of weekends at the least.

Money was tighter then, and therefore we were even cheaper than we are now. I don’t think we even looked into the cost of renting a jackhammer. He chiseled out the tile in that entire kitchen with a hammer. I remember that he had to keep taking breaks because his hand was sore from the vibration.

I also remember that our first son learned to walk during that project. The entire process. From standing on his own to taking his first steps to walking across the room. It all happened quickly (he waited until he was very ready…14 months old). He wanted in the kitchen so badly to see what was going on but he kept stopping because it hurt his little knees to crawl on the roughed up concrete. Then it occurred to him that he could WALK in there. And he just took off. Little cutie! I can still picture it in detail.

All that is just bonus info for the sake of my memories. I recall it all now, a decade later, but who knows if I’ll still remember a decade from now? Hopefully this whole internet thing will still be going strong when I’m old and senile and I can read back over all of this.

Anyway, let’s talk about the present.

We rented a jackhammer from Crosslands. They let you have it all weekend for the one-day rate, remember? I mentioned it when we rented a sander for our floors. It was only $40, and we could have it until they opened Tuesday morning since Monday was Memorial Day.

jackhammer chisel tip

The hubs started right in on the bathroom Friday night because we wanted to have a bit of time to just hang out with the kids on Saturday. We didn’t want to work EVERY second of the holiday weekend. Also, we decided to go ahead and tear the tile out of the kitchen, guest bathroom, and laundry room while we had the jackhammer rented. Forty bucks is not as much money as it used to be, but the cleanup is horrible! So for the sake of money AND cleanup time, we decided it would be a good idea to just do it all at once.

It took him less than an hour to tear out all of the bathroom tile.

little man

The four-year old couldn’t wait to get in there and survey the damage.

broken tile check out tile tile pieces tile dust tile broken

It’s a good idea to go back over the concrete after all of the old tile pieces are cleared away just to make sure you don’t have any remaining chunks of old mortar.


This can also be done with a floor scraper if you run out of time with a rented jackhammer. The mortar scrapes up pretty easily with a little elbow grease.

floor scraper

Of course things never go as smoothly as planned. Murphy’s Law is a for real thing, y’all.

The hubs and I were still in negotiations about the shower door. I wanted a new one. He still wasn’t sure. He thought it might be “good enough” to reuse with lots of cleaning, but I wanted frameless. He came out of the bathroom and said, “well, I guess we’re getting a new shower door.”

broken glass

The jackhammer throws tile pieces everywhere and one flew into the glass and shattered it.

tile chips

The bathtub shows very well how the tile chips go everywhere.

You definitely need to take safety precautions. Earplugs are needed, a dust mask is crucial, and safety goggles are an absolute must.

safety first

Gloves are also a good idea.


On Saturday, I worked in the flowerbeds with the four-year old while the hubs moved into the kitchen. The older boys were enjoying their first day of summer break and anticipating a trip to the pool.

Most of the kitchen tile was torn up before the chisel attachment BROKE. Yep. That’s just how these things go.

broken chisel

All that was left to tear out was underneath the refrigerator, and the hubs was able to do that with the remaining half of the chisel tip. He didn’t get a chance to scrape up the remaining mortar, though, before the rest of the chisel tip broke off completely.

He tried Lowe’s, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, Tractor Supply, and a local place called Steve’s Wholesale Tools for a new attachment. No luck. So, he didn’t get the guest bathroom or laundry room tile torn out, but he was able to scrape up the remaining mortar in the kitchen with the floor scraper.

tile scraper

When he returned the jackhammer Tuesday morning on his way to work, he was hoping for a credit or an offer of another day since the chisel broke before we even had it 24 hours. They thought that was ridiculous and also expected us to buy a new attachment. The hubs said, “Seriously? I couldn’t break a steal chisel if I wanted to. I didn’t break it. It broke on me. How old is that thing?!” So they didn’t make him buy a new one, but another day was out of the question. Oh well. We’ll get around to the guest bathroom and laundry room some other time.

We’ve done some nasty renovating, but none of it compares to cleaning up the dust that settles from tearing out tile. That might sound like an exaggeration, but as far as actual labor hours involved, the dust is the worst. Cat urine is nasty, but you pull out the carpet and throw it away and bleach the concrete. Scraping up human feces is nasty, but you do it and you’re done. I’ll be cleaning up dust for weeks. Or maybe I’m just an exaggerating whiny baby because dusting is the second worst chore ever (putting away laundry is the worst, of course).

We seal off the work area as best we can, but it never seems to work well enough.

seal room seal blinds pantry

The dust has some sort of magical way of finding its way all over the house. And it seems to settle for days. Can you see the dust on the screen below? Crazy, right?

dusty screen

True story: A former co-worker of mine was tearing out tile in his entryway once and his neighbors called the fire department. There was so much dust that they thought smoke was rolling out of his house.

I have no pictures of the jackhammer in use, because I didn’t even bother trying. You can barely even see, especially in a tiny area like a bathroom where the dust has nowhere to go.

So, if you’re planning to tear out tile, just be prepared. It’s really not THAT difficult if you use a jackhammer, but it’s a dusty job. I would not do it without a mask. It will definitely cause a sore throat (a lesson I learned a while back). How nasty is that? A sore throat from tile dust? Eek.

Or you could skip the jackhammer and bust it all out with a hammer. That method doesn’t cause as much dust.

Never mind. Don’t listen to that idea. I’m delusional due to my total abhorrence of dusting. Just rent the dang jackhammer. And maybe hire a dusting crew afterwards.