Tired of those old washroom or kitchen tiles? Need to liven up your shower stall? Want to remodel the fireplace in the living room?  Ceramic tiles are always a nice choice, they are resistant, hypoallergenic, easy to clean and are available in an infinite amount of colors, sizes, shapes and textures. 

If you’re thinking of replacing old tiles, renovating your bathroom, kitchen, or other tiled surfaces, doing it yourself can save you money, as long as you have the time and you know what you are doing. 

I’m about to move to a new home with a washroom floor that needs a total overhaul. I’ve done my share of home renovations over the years and am no stranger to power tools.

Having the right tools for the job, is always a good place to start and can make the difference between a job well done and an amateur job. The biggest part of renovating a tiled area is the removal of the old tiles. The first thing to figure out is the best way to remove the old tiles, without wasting too much time, energy and money. This will depend on the size of the renovation.


Using an air hammer to remove tiles will save you time over the more manual, hammer and chisel approach. I’ve used an air hammer with a compressor for carving rock. An air hammer is a versatile tool which can be used for a variety of jobs around the home, basically any job which involves, chipping, cutting, piercing, or scraping. An air hammer can be used on stone, laminated tiles and metal.

I’ve discovered a whole line of air hammers, for home renovations, which can be purchased online. These don’t need a compressor. They are compact electric, handheld air hammers. 


The electric motor in the air hammer, moves a piston or rod which, depending on the model, can produce anywhere from 1200 strokes per minute and upwards, with pro models. No need for an external compressor. These handheld air hammers generate enough power to cut without any external force needed. 


The size of the area you wish to renovate, will determine what kind of air hammer you will need and whether to buy or rent. 

For backsplash tiles and for vertical tile removal, electric handheld air hammers will do the job. For under $50, you can opt for a kit which includes different shaped and sized chisels. This is a good pick if you like to do a lot of small jobs around the home. If you already have chisels for the job, you can also purchase the air hammer and chisels separately.   

If you’re setting up to remove tiles from a large horizontal surface, such as a large kitchen  floor area, you’ll want to consider an alternate solution, such as a wide angled heavy duty electric hammer, which covers larger areas, and comes with a wide chisel, placed at the right angle to remove tiles from a large floor area, without breaking your back.

A small handheld air hammer is not suitable for removing tiles from large horizontal areas such as floors, unless you want to spend days, bent over, on your knees. For large areas you will need a more powerful tool designed for the job. Unless you plan on doing lots of floor renovations, a rental may be more economical than buying one of these.


There are videos, available online, that show you how to use an air hammer to remove tiles. It is important you set up for the job. Know what you’re getting into. Be prepared to make a hell of a mess, loads of dust and noise.  Removing old tiles is a dirty job. Keep a big bin nearby to clear the floor of old broken tiles as you keep working. A vacuum cleaner to keep the dust under control.

Before using any power tools, make sure you prep your work area, wear safety glasses, gloves, ear protection and a mask to protect your lungs.

  • Always make sure your working area is clear of debris and well lit
  • Remove baseboards and anything in the way
  • Loosen and remove old grout between tiles to make tile removal easier. This helps with the first few tiles, by making room to insert chisel and start removing large areas of tiles. You may or may not need to loosen grout on all tiles
  • Choose the right chisel for the job; for tile removal, use a flat wide chisel


When removing tiles from a floor, you may find surprises underneath, such as older tiles, which were not removed by the previous owner, before placing a new floor.  Always best to test a corner, to see what you’re dealing with, before moving ahead. 

Once all the tiles have been removed. You will need to smooth the surface before laying down new tiles. The work to be done will depend on how the tiles were attached, whether these were laid to bare cement, onto plywood or mason board. Then there is the unfortunate possibility that these were affixed to a previously installed floor, which means you have twice the amount of work you bargained for.

Determining whether or not your tile renovation project is suitable as a Do It Yourself job, will depend on what you’re dealing with, your level of skills with power tools, and most importantly, whether you have the staying power to get the job finished.

If you’ve never done tile renovation, start with a small project, like a backsplash. A large and time intensive project, such as a washroom or kitchen floor, can quickly become discouraging for a novice. You can either hire a professional or you might want to consider, other viable solutions, which don’t involve removing the old tiles, to give your home a new fresh feel.

Published by Maddalena Di Gregorio

“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in” Robert L. Stevenson

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