How to remove tiles
I have a big tiling job to do, including floors and walls. I don’t want to just tile over the previous tiles. What is the best way to remove old tiles?
Isabelle, by email
Ed replies: Proper preparation will ensure that you end up with a finished job which you can be proud of. Removing the tiles will be the toughest part of the job, but it is essential. The right tools will make things easier and speed up the process. If you are going to remove tiles from a large area, consider using power tools.
Follow these steps:
Step 1: Health and safety
• Wear protective gear including overalls or long pants, knee pads and a long-sleeve shirt, leather gloves, wraparound eye protection and ear protection if you are using power tools.
• Place drop sheets or old towels over the section of tiles you want to remove to prevent shards from flying up.
Step 2: Break up old tiles
• Break up the tiles using a hand tool like the Tilemate Heavy Duty Tile Remover or a sledgehammer. Strike the tiles through the drop sheets or towels to prevent them from flying up. For very large areas it may be a good idea to hire a power scraper or an electric demolition chipping hammer from a reputable tool hire company.
• To loosen any remaining tiles or adhesive, use a hand scraper, hammer and chisel or tile remover. A power scraper can also be used for this step. It has a sharp blade that reaches underneath the tiles and breaks up the tiles and adhesive.
Step 3: Clean up and final check
Use a broom to sweep up tile shards and loose particles or vacuum them up with an industrial vacuum cleaner. Use a flashlight and shine it parallel to the floor to check for bumps that you may have missed. The bumps will cast shadows. Scrape or grind the bumps away and then remove all traces of debris, dust and loose particles by thoroughly sweeping and/or vacuuming the floor again.
My outside entertainment area is tiled with non-slip ceramic tiles that have small granules in the ceramic. Over the years the tiles have accumulated some very stubborn dirt, especially around our pot plants, which have left circular stains that the traditional tile cleaner does not remove. What other cleaning methods can be used?
Stains caused by pots containing plants are difficult to remove. I suggest that you try Grout Off, diluted 5:1 (five parts Grout Off to one part water). Apply using a scrubbing brush and ensure that you clean the entire tile and not only part of it. Then rinse the area thoroughly using clean water.
Then neutralise the surface area with Easy Clean, diluted 5:1 (five parts Easy Clean to one part water). Apply using a scrubbing brush and rinse areas thoroughly using fresh water.
These products are available at leading hardware stores nationally.
For more information contact Chantal Pretorius at Tile and Floor Care on 011-822-6901.
I have slate tiles in my bathrooms and inside my shower which aren't sealed. This causes a lot of grime build-up in the shower and the floors to are easily stained. What product can I use to clean this off as the grouting has also stained, and what product can I use to seal the tiles to get a matt and non-slip finish in the shower?
Jeremy Jewell, Johannesburg
Plan this project carefully, as it takes two days to complete the cleaning and sealing process, and your bathroom will be out of bounds for this period. To remove grime build-up in the shower and on floors, use Easy Clean, which is a neutraliser and degreaser. Use a hand pad and scrub the affected area till clean. The hand pad is similar to Goldilocks but a little harder and is preferable since it goes into all the pores. Remember to rinse the area thoroughly using fresh, clean water.
For mouldy and discoloured grout in the shower area, you can also use Mould Buster. This is sprayed onto the affected areas, which will bubble, releasing the dirt and mould. Then scrub the area using Easy Clean to neutralise the acid. Again, remember to rinse the area thoroughly with clean water. Allow to dry for two days.
If your slate tiles are black (medium porosity), use Deep Seal to seal the tiles. Apply using a sheepskin applicator, which is flat and woolly - similar to mutton cloth.
Apply thin coats at all times. The first coat should be applied in one direction - north to south. Allow to dry for 20 minutes.
Also apply the second coat in one direction - east to west. Allow to dry for 20 minutes. Test after the second coat to see whether you require a third coat. To do this, pour two tablespoons of water onto the sealed tiles; if the water penetrates after one minute, you need to apply a third coat.
If your slate tiles are brown or red (high porosity), use HP Sealer, which is applied using the same method as Deep Seal. Apply thin coats of sealant.
For more information, contact Tile and Floor Care toll free on 0800 006 173 or visit
The tiles on our veranda become extremely slippery when it rains. Is there any product I can use to make the tiles non-slip?
Richard O’Donnell, Wilderness
Chantal Pretorius from Tile and Floor Care (TFC) replies:
Anti Slip Treatment is an option, however this is not a DIY-friendly solution. I suggest you consult TFC, which has an in-house contracts team who will supply and apply the product. Contact TFC on 0800-006-173 to arrange.
Ed replies: Kate van Niekerk from Tile Africa replied to a similar query in 2009, where TFC’s Anti-Slip Treatment was recommended and the process explained as follows: This is a permanent treatment for tiles that are slippery and wet. The treatment works immediately and the process is irreversible and therefore TFC only allow trained professional contractors to do the application.
The contractor will do a sample tile, get your approval and then do the treatment. After treating the tile, the contractor will leave a guarantee and give advice on how to clean and maintain the tile.
The treatment is a two-part process and, when complete, the surface is neutral and hygienic. No damage is caused to the tile during the process. Very simply, the treatment creates microscopic mountains and valleys on the tile by rearranging the existing glaze on the surface of the tile. By creating these mountains and valleys, the surface allows for water to disperse and prevents the occurrence of hydroplaning.
Another feature is that tiny cup holes occur on the surface and these act like suction cups when treading on the floor. So you end up with a surface that disperses water and has a minute vacuum, basically the same principle as a good car tyre.
The advantages are many, the most obvious being safety and cost savings (versus ripping and replacing). The disadvantages are virtually nil. Bear in mind that there will be a change in the gloss level of the tile and a slight colour change. (The colour change is more prominent on dark tiles than light tiles.) It is impossible to change the physical characteristics of the surface of the tile without changing the aesthetic characteristics.
The tile does become slightly more difficult to clean after treatment, however, it will become slippery again if not cleaned properly.
For further information, phone Tile and Floor Care’s toll free line on 0800-006-173. All Tile and Floor Care products are available from Tile Africa branches, contact Tile Africa’s toll free number on 0800-002-783 or visit