How to Remove & Replace Tile in a Shower

If your old tile shower wall is falling apart, moldy or simply in need of a update, removing and replacing the tile can be a lengthy and daunting process.

Removing or replacing the tile in a shower is a big project that requires removing all the tiles and backing.Removing or replacing the tile in a shower is a big project that requires removing all the tiles and backing.
A new shower wall involves removing all the old existing tile as well as removing the backer-board behind, which the tiles are fixed to. Once you have removed all the old tiling and structure, you can begin rebuilding your shower tiling to any color, design or formation you desire. While there is a lot of work involved, it is a project you can do without the need of a multitude of complex tools or expertise.

Lay cardboard on the floor of the shower to protect it from any falling tile before beginning your work. Take out the shower-head and shower handle, removing any screws as needed with a screwdriver.

Place the edge of a chisel next to the bottom of the most exterior piece of tile in the shower. Hit the chisel with a hammer in an effort to push the chisel down under the tile and lift it away from the wall. A flatbar may be more convenient to use around the corners of the shower, where you cannot get a good angle with a chisel. Continue chiseling away each piece of tile, working your way around the shower until all the tile has been removed. All that will remain is the backer-board.

Remove the screws holding the old backboard to the wall. Using a drill in a reverse position, unscrew all the screws. If some screws are behind the old mortar, tap it away using the hammer until you can reach and unscrew them. Cut the very top of the backer-board with a knife so that you can remove it neatly from the wall without ripping at the ceiling or paint. Using the flatbar, pull the old backer-board off the walls.

Install new backer-board. Place the new boards in place and screw them to the wall. Apply backer-board tape to the seams in the pieces of backer-board. Cover the tape with a thin layer of mortar, using a scraper to smooth it out. Let the mortar dry.

Apply mortar to the backer-board with a trowel, working four rows' worth of tile at a time. Place tiles onto the mortar by pressing them into place row by row. Working four rows of tile at a time ensures the mortar will not dry as you work. Use tile spacers to ensure that there is a 1/8th-inch space between each tile. Remove the spacers once the tile is in place and let the mortar dry; there is no need to cover the spaces where the tiles spacers were with more mortar.

Apply tile grout to the entire shower to prevent mold buildup between the tiles, and caulk the edges of the tile where they meet the wall to avoid further mildew and water buildup.

Things You Will Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Flatbar
  • Cardboard
  • Backer-board
  • Tile spacers
  • Knife
  • Drill
  • Mortar mix
  • Scraper
  • Trowel
  • Tile grout
  • Caulk
  • Caulking gun
  • Goggles
  • Work gloves

Tip

  • If the tile goes right to the ceiling, use a knife to cut along the caulking at the top of the shower before chiseling. This will prevent the tile from tearing away at the ceiling when you chisel it off.

About the Author

Jayme Richards has been writing since 2005, and also works in radio. His writing has been published in a variety of university newspapers, such as "The Uniter" and "The Projector." Richards has a diploma in creative communications from Red River College in Winnipeg and a joint degree in communications from the University of Winnipeg.