How to Replace a Ceramic Tile Floor Over a Mud Job

The phrase "mud job" refers to the process of creating a thick bed of mortar for strong support beneath a ceramic tile surface. Replacing a ceramic tile floor requires the messy and destructive removal of the existing tiles, after which you can install new tiles using modern thin-set installation techniques. Fortunately, only the removal of the tiles is necessary for the surface replacement. The mud job itself often lasts longer than the tile it supports. Because of this, you can still use the mud job as a strong support surface for the new tiles you install.

Things You'll Need

  • Pry bar
  • Dropcloth
  • Masking tape
  • Rotary tool with carbide blade
  • Cold chisel
  • Hammer
  • Long-handled floor scraper
  • Stiff-bristle broom
  • Concrete grinder
  • Measuring tape
  • Chalk
  • Chalk line
  • Thumb tack
  • Ceramic tiles
  • Tile spacers
  • Thin-set mortar
  • Bucket
  • Electric drill with paddle attachment
  • Notched trowel
  • Tile cutter
  • Carpenter's level
  • Rubber-headed mallet
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • Sponge
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Tile and grout sealant
  • Brush

Instructions

    • 1

      Remove any baseboard surrounding the edge of the tiles by prying each board from the wall with a pry bar. Slip the end of the pry bar beneath the top of a board where the nails secure it to the wall. Apply steady pressure to pull the nailed board from the wall. Work your way down the board until it's pulled completely away from the wall. Repeat for each baseboard.

    • 2

      Cover surfaces bordering the tile with a dropcloth to prevent broken tiles from causing damage. Secure the dropcloth edges with masking tape to prevent smaller pieces from working their way underneath.

    • 3

      Cut a line in the grout between the ceramic tiles, using a rotary tool equipped with a carbide blade. Start the toll, then run the blade through the joints to cut through the grout down to the bed of mud. Widen the cut line by placing the cold chisel at the top of the cut. Strike the chisel head with a hammer to force its point into the cut.

    • 4

      Break each tile into smaller, easier-to-remove pieces with the cold chisel and hammer. Place the chisel point onto the center of a tile. Hit the head of the chisel sharply with the hammer to break the tile. Be careful of flying tile pieces during the breaking process.

    • 5

      Remove the broken tile pieces, using a long-handled floor scraper to pry the pieces from the mud bed. Place the edge of the scraper under a piece at the edge of the surface. Push the scraper beneath the tiles, popping them up from thin-set mortar holding them in place. Remove and dispose of the broken tile pieces by sweeping them up with a stiff-bristle broom.

    • 6

      Remove the remaining thin-set from the mud bed with a concrete grinder to leave a level surface for the new tile.

    • 7

      Measure each wall in the room with a tape measure. Place a mark along the edge of the floor with a piece of chalk at the center of each wall.

    • 8

      String a chalk line between opposing center marks. Attach one end of the line to the floor with a thumbtack at the center mark, while holding the other end against the floor mark on the opposite wall. Raise the string slightly, then release it to leave a straight line of chalk through the center of the room. Repeat for the other two walls. The center point of the floor is where the chalk lines meet.

    • 9

      Arrange the new tiles on the floor in a row across the length of the room, using one of the chalk lines as a guide to determine tile placement. Leave a 1/4-inch space along all walls for tile expansion. Space the tiles evenly, placing tile spacers between tiles to provide uniform rows and grout joints. Use as many full tiles in the row as possible, leaving an equal space at each side for placing partial tiles. Mark the tile placements. Remove the tiles and spacers.

    • 10

      Mix a batch of thin-set mortar in a bucket according to the manufacturer's instructions, using an electric drill with paddle attachment. Spread the thin-set mortar with the flat of a notched trowel over the mud bed in a small section along your marked tile row, enough to hold 4 or 5 feet of tile. Tilt the trowel at a 45-degree angle and pass it over the surface of the mortar to raise ridges for better gripping on the tile backs.

    • 11

      Place the tiles into the thin-set, using a slight twisting motion to spread the mortar evenly. Follow the chalk guideline when placing the tiles to keep the row even. Place spacers between adjoining tiles. Set the tiles from the center of the room toward the wall, adding mortar as needed until you've finished the first row. Return to the center of the room and lay the second row. Maintain the proper spacing with the tile spacers.

    • 12

      Cut the partial tiles needed for the surface edge, using a tile cutter. Measure the distance from the last full tile to the wall edge, then subtract 1/4 inch for the expansion area near the wall. Cut the partial tile to this measurement. Repeat for each partial tile needed.

    • 13

      Tap any tiles that are sitting too high with a rubber-headed mallet. Remove low tiles and add more mortar to the bottom to raise them to the level of adjoining tiles. Wait two hours for the mortar holding the tiles to set.

    • 14

      Remove all tile spacers. Spread joint onto the tiles with a grout float, pushing it into the joints between the tiles to fill them. Wait 15 minutes. Wipe excess grout from the tile surfaces with a damp sponge.

    • 15

      Wait two hours longer. Wipe the remaining grout residue from the tiles with a clean, lint-free cloth. Allow the thin-set mortar to cure for seven to 10 days.

    • 16

      Seal the grout between the tiles by brushing on tile and grout sealer. Wait 24 hours for the sealant to dry before using the surface.

Tips & Warnings

  • Prevent any injuries from flying pieces of tile during removal by wearing protective clothing, including safety goggles, work gloves and a face mask.
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References

Resources

  • Photo Credit hard tile image by jimcox40 from Fotolia.com

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