Removing vinyl and ceramic tile using a heat gun

Vinyl and ceramic tiles are strong enough to withstand wear for years at a time, but they are not completely impervious to damage.

Replacing old tile with a new layer is a situation many homeowners are faced with. Removing the tile is the first step in this process and with the proper tools and preparation, it can be done efficiently and safely.

Things you will need

  • Knee pads or garden kneeler.
  • Work gloves.
  • Safety glasses.
  • Heat gun.
  • Fan.
  • Dust mask.
  • Pry bar.
  • Hammer.
  • Various sizes of metal blades and putty knives.

One important thing to note when removing any type of tile is that many older tiles created before the mid-1980s could contain asbestos. If you think the tiles in your home contain this very dangerous substance, hire a professional immediately to have them remove it.

Removing vinyl tile

Removing old tile can create quite a mess, so protecting yourself and the rest of your home from dust and debris is vital. Open windows and place a fan in the room to provide ventilation. Put on knee pads, safety glasses and a dust mask. Use a heat like the Master Appliance Proheat 1200 Varitemp Heat Gun, with a spreader or flat nozzle, and put the gun on the lowest setting.

Start at the area of the tiles already broken if possible. Turn on the heat gun and hold the nozzle 2 to 3 inches above tile surface. Move gun evenly back and forth across the seams of surrounding two tiles for a few short minutes.

The adhesive glue will melt under the heat and the tile will soften; then you can pry it up with a blade or putty knife. If the glue is still too solid to cut through, heat the seams a bit longer and turn the gun's heat up slightly.

Once the blade is beneath the tile, push it forward while slowly lifting the tile in a slightly angular motion towards the ceiling. After beginning, it's possible to heat large sections of tile and pull multiple pieces up at one time.

Removing ceramic tile

Ceramic tiles can be removed in largely the same way as vinyl tiles; however depending on the strength of the adhesive used, the tiles may not come off intact and will need to be broken while extracted. Removing broken ceramic tiles can sometimes require generous amounts of elbow grease, but it's important that when working on the second floor or above in a home that you are careful not to damage the ceiling of the level below. 

Before removing the tiles, the connecting grout and caulk must be removed. Grout can be removed by scraping it out with a utility knife. Caulking requires heat to soften, so use the heat gun to melt the material down before scraping it out.

Repeat this process to a section of multiple adjoining tiles. Once the adhesives have been removed, use the pry bar to lift the tiles up. If the slab breaks and cannot be removed whole, you must pry up each piece by either melting the underlying adhesive with the heat gun or hitting the pry bar with a hammer to dislodge more fixed tile.

When lifting either vinyl or ceramic tiles, the residual adhesive must be stripped from the floor once all tiles have been removed. This final task can be done by purchasing flooring adhesive remover at your local hardware outlet.

Contact the experts at Master Appliance today for access to the latest heat gun technology. With a multitude of options to choose from, there's a heat gun that's perfect for your application.

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