How to Remove Saltillo Tile

by Gonyea Home

Saltillo Tile is typically installed using a mortar base which makes it very durable, but also very permanent.  Removal is a difficult, time consuming process.  My wife and I like and appreciate modern design, and, unfortunately, the saltillo tile that has cozily resided in our project home for the better part of 20 years was irreconcilable with the direction we wanted to take the home.  It met its demise over the weekend.  The following is a step by step guide on the removal process.

Step 1:  Don’t do it.  It’s harder than you think and you’ll be shocked, disgusted, and depressed by the pathetic excuse of a floor waiting for you underneath.

Step 2:  See Step 1.

Step 3:  If you ignore  all sound advice  and your better judgment, and you feel as though you must remove saltillo tile, then you’ll need the following tools:

Electric Tile Stripper – It turns out that this tool is pretty much useless, but I wasted a lot of money renting it, and you should too so I can feel better about myself.

Crowbars – At least one short length crowbar and one medium length.

Hand-held sledge hammers – Don’t bother with the long handle, this is finesse work.

Shovel –  Preferably one with a sharp front edge.

Dust Masks and Goggles – You are going to create dust, a lot of it.  Also, every time you hit the tile, it will send pieces flying in all directions.  Goggles will help protect your eyes, but they may damage your street cred.  That’s a cost/benefit you’ll have to weigh on your own.

Friends Who Suffer From Dementia And/Or Have Otherwise Distorted Ideas About Their Self-Worth – It’s probably not necessary that your friends are mentally infirm, but mine are and we got the job done.

Step 4:   Hammer the flat end of the crowbar under the mortar thinset and start prying it up.  Don’t attempt to remove the tiles and then the thin set, the tiles will come up much easier if you get under the mortar.  When you get a few pieces up, use the shovel instead of the crowbar to clear a larger area at a time.   Repeat ad nauseam.   Don’t be discouraged when the individual tiles shatter into a million pieces, making it nearly impossible to remove.  That’s just part of the fun.  Chip away at each little piece until it comes up.  It will … eventually.

Step 5:  Complain, a lot.  It sucks.

Step 6:  Run the Electric Tile Stripper over the areas where you have removed tile so you can claim that you used the very expensive and very unnecessary tool.

Allen using the Electric Tile Stripper

Step 7:  The worst part is gathering all of the individual pieces of shattered tile and taking them to the dumpster.  Your wife and the wives of your friends will volunteer to help.  Delegate this task to them.  They will be happy that they are included.  You’ll be happy that you don’t have to do this back-breaking labor.  It’s win/win …until you blog about it and they realize that they spent all afternoon doing the most difficult part of the job while you were laughing about it behind their backs.  Then it’s lose/lose.


Step 8:   Once you’ve finished or given up, drink beer, hit the pool, and try not to let your wife take a photo of you passed out in the sauna with another guy.