1" concrete backer behind 1964 tile in bath

8 Replies

We are about to renovate a 1964 house in Florida. 

When we began chipping off the old 4x4 tile on the bathroom walls we found a slab behind each wall about an inch thick of concrete to which the tiles are adhered to directly.

Is there an easy way to remove the tiles or should be just demo the entire slab, tile and all and just replace with 1/4" concrete board on the remodel?


I had a similar situation with a bathroom reno at my own house @Christopher Bayes  . About an inch of concrete behind the tile walls with metal lathe embedded into the concrete. No easy way to remove it except sledge hammers and crow bars and sweat. Wear really good gloves if you have the metal lathe. It's real sharp. Once all the concrete is out, start fresh with modern backer board. 

It in very difficult to remove tile without breaking is. Removing all the tile without breaking or damaging some of them is next to impossible. Then you have the problem of matching the tile. All of this for less than $150 in tile.. You would spend more than this in labor trying to reclaim the tile. Better to just tear out.

If the tiles are not coming off easily then you could always tile on top of the tile.  Use the more expensive modified thinset. The 1" backer will hold up better than 1/4" backer anyway probably.

Just take the thing out. Use a demolition hammer if you're fancy, or a deadblow hammer and a chisel if you're not. 

If you're very cool, you've got a 4' flat demolition crowbar which you will drive behind the entire slab (Up against a stud) using a sledge or a deadblow hammer, and then pry the whole thing off the stud in large chunks. 

Pull it all out down to the studs. No easy way to do it... Get started at the top, using a pry bar work your way down trying to get the metal lath away from the studs.  When you are prying on the studs watch for deflection that can damage the plaster walls on the other side of the wall you are working on.  Studs drilled for plumbing pipes will deflect more then others.  Likewise if you are hammering on the walls keep in mind the plaster on the other side. 

For those of you that have never dealt with a tile floor in older homes expect a 4-5" layer of cinders filling the floor joist under the tile and cement.  Typically 1x4's were attached to the sides of the floor joist flush with the bottom. 1x material was bridged across those 1x4's to form a space for the cinders. Cinders were then placed in the floor joist and cement, then tile over that.  

It is a messy job and generates a large amount of debris that usually needs to be bucketed out by hand.

All great replies, thanks everyone.

We will take out the entire slabs.

Originally posted by @Christopher Bayes :

All great replies, thanks everyone.

We will take out the entire slabs.

 That's your best bet.  The only thing I might do different is use 1/2" backer rather than 1/4".  The 1/2" will be even the same thickness as the drywall and gives a better look in my opinion.  

Quick update. We rented a Bosch heavy duty hammer drill with tile and mortar blades. Demo'd the two baths in 4 hours. A lot of work but it went smoothly.

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