How to Remove Wall Tile Mortar and Wire Mesh

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Things You'll Need

  • Hammer

  • Chisel

  • Pry bar

Removing wall tile mortar and mesh can range from hard to very hard. This goes back to the day when metal lath was nailed to all the studs in the house and then plaster was applied to that to create the walls. The plaster could be from 1/2 inch to an inch or more in thickness. In areas where tile was to be installed, the plaster was left off and the tile installer used mortar to a thickness of 1/2 inch thicker than the plaster. This means you have anywhere from an inch or more of mortar to remove.


Step 1

Place the chisel at the top of the tile where the trim meets the plaster and hammer down along the edge. These pieces should break off fairly easy and give you access to the mortar. Chisel into the mortar in the gap between it and the plaster. You are trying to clear an area of mortar back to the lath and studs.


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Step 2

Place the pry bar against one of the studs you have exposed and pry the lath away from it. Work from the top of the mortar down, finding and prying at the point where the nails attach the lath to the stud. Using work gloves, grab the mortar and lath and peel it down away from the wall as it breaks away.


Step 3

Chisel the mortar and lath from behind as you expose and pull down sections to break it up into smaller pieces. This will help with removing the lath and mortar from the room. It should come off in sections of lath with the mortar and sometimes the tile still attached.

Step 4

Break the tile and mortar at the bottom where it meets the floor with the hammer. This will separate this mortar from the mortar that was likely used under the floor tiles.


In some cases, an electric chipping hammer can get through the mortar easier than a hammer and chisel, but if you are able to get behind the lath with the pry bar and the mortar isn’t too thick the method described will be quicker.

If the mortar is very thick you may need a small sledge hammer to make your initial break through the mortar.


Wear safety equipment, including eye wear, gloves and a dust mask while removing the wall. The tile shards and the cut lath are very sharp and you will be creating a lot of cement dust.


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