How to Remove the Tile Off Hard Wood Floors and Refinish

Hardwood floors are durable, and they add warmth and color to any room.

Remove the Tile

Restore the beauty of the wood beneath the tile.Restore the beauty of the wood beneath the tile.
If someone installed tile over the hardwood floor, you may be able to remove the tiles and restore the look of the floor beneath. This project is time-consuming and requires a little elbow grease. The tiles may come off without too much work, however, because the hardwood wasn't an optimal surface on which to install them in the first place.

Chip off one floor tile, using a hammer and chisel. Position the sharp edge of the chisel in a grout line and tap with the hammer until the grout breaks. Then, wedge the edge of the chisel under the tile edge and tap with the hammer until the tile pops up.

Use a tile removal machine to loosen the rest of the tiles. Available from construction rental stores, these machines come in hand-held and walk-behind models, and they have a rapidly vibrating plate that strips the tiles from the floor.

Remove lingering chunks of dried grout with a scraper. Tap the scraper end with a hammer to remove reluctant bits.

Prep the Hardwood Floor

Use a hammer and nail set to re-set any nails that have worked out of the floor.

Grind off the top layer of the hardwood floor with a random orbital sander, fitted with a coarse-grit sanding disk. You may go through numerous sanding disks during this step if tiny bits of grout remain on the floor.

Switch to a finish-grit disk after you've sanded off all the old hardwood finish and the grain of the wood is bare. Sand by hand in hard-to-reach areas.

Fill gaps in the wood and small holes with wood filler that matches the color of stain you will apply, and sand it smooth.

Vacuum up all dust and wipe off the floor and walls with a tack cloth to create a dust-free zone for the finishing phase.

Apply the New Finish

Brush on wood stain, if desired, in the direction of the wood grain and wipe off with absorbent rags. The longer you leave the stain on, the more intense the color.

Apply a thin finish coat to the floor. Standard wood finish coating products include polyurethane, varnish, shellac and lacquer. Brush on the finish coat with a quality natural-bristle brush, using long uniform strokes in the same direction of the wood grain.

Finish-sand the floor with 220-grit sandpaper, by hand, after the first finish coat dries, to remove miniscule bits of dust. This is a microgrit sanding paper and it won't remove the sheen from the floor.

Apply one or more additional finish coats, letting the floor dry completely between coats.

Things You Will Need

  • Tile removal machine
  • Hammer and chisel
  • Scraper
  • Random orbital sander
  • Nail set
  • Wood filler
  • Sandpaper (various grits)
  • Wood stain (optional)
  • Finish coat
  • Paintbrush
  • Rags
  • Protective eyewear
  • Respirator mask

Tip

  • Once you turn on the orbital sander, keep it moving constantly to avoid over-sanding in any one spot.

Warnings

  • Wear protective goggles, long sleeves, gloves and long pants when removing tile, which can project bits of chipped tile in any direction.
  • Dry out rags used to wipe off wood stain in a single layer and dispose of outdoors. Wet stain rags can burst into flame spontaneously.

About the Author

Glenda Taylor is a contractor and a full-time writer specializing in construction writing. She also enjoys writing business and finance, food and drink and pet-related articles. Her education includes marketing and a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.