Shower being removedEverything I normally write is about building your brand new awesome shower. However, to do that you must first remove the old, outdated, non-awesome shower. There are several ways to do this, I’m gonna show you the easiest.

A lot of people will go in and chip every tile off the wall (don’t laugh, they do it…), then remove the drywall (or what’s left of it) to get down to the studs in order to build the new stuff. You don’t need to do that. It’s time-consuming, messy and will give you a fairly crappy attitude about the project right from the get-go. (Did I just type ‘get-go’??? I need a beer…)

 

tile with bullnose removedMost existing tiled showers being torn out are ‘builder’s grade’ showers, that means 4×4 or 6×6 tiles with a bullnose tile, normally 2″ wide, along the edges. Chipping each tile off the wall will waste an entire day. So you’re going to remove entire portions of the wall at a time.

The first thing you want to do is chip off the bullnose, or little rounded pieces, along the edges (and top, if you’re not going to the ceiling) of the shower. If you notice in the photo to the right I’ve already done this.

 

Cutting out existing drywallOnce you get all the bullnose tile removed you want to take your razor knife and cut all the way through the drywall along the edges of the shower tile. This gives you a fairly straight line for the existing drywall so you can butt your new substrate up to it easily. Normally this will also give you a line directly from the outside corner of the tub, so all your new substrate will sit inside your shower, where you want it.

If you are tiling all the way to the ceiling (which I always recommend) take a straight-edge and place it against the tile along the line you just cut and continue your cut all the way up to the ceiling. This should give you a nice straight line from the tub to the ceiling.

Prying the wall off the studsNext, take your crowbar and insert it into the line you just cut. You want to pry the entire tiled portion of the wall off the studs. You may not be able to ‘pry’ it! If there is not a stud directly behind the line you cut, or on one side or the other, you may have to just place the crowbar in there and ‘pull’ the wall off.

If there is not a stud behind that area you’ll need to add one to tie the existing wall to your new substrate. This will describe how to do that: Drywall to backerboard transitions for shower walls.

 

 

Peeling the wall off the studsThe drywall is normally put up with either nails or drywall screws. In either case you can pull those right through the back of the drywall when you pry. You’ll need to work it back and forth a little to get it loosened, but it will eventually peel off the studs normally in half-wall or whole-wall sized pieces, like the photo at the right.

 

Just grab that entire piece and haul it off. You can also bust that piece into smaller pieces by pressing against the back of it (after it’s off the wall) towards the tile where you want it to break. It should fold right over to make more manageable sizes.

Wall removedThen you can take your razor knife, clean up the edges around your shower and install your new (waterproof) substrate. It’s quicker, cleaner and much easier than trying to remove each individual tile, then removing the drywall. Try to make your project easier from the beginning.

If you are removing it all the way to the ceiling be sure to cut the transition from the wall to the ceiling with your razor knife. It is normally taped and mudded to the ceiling, which means if you don’t you’ll tear the face of the drywall off the ceiling board, requiring repair and repainting. If you cut that transition first it should come off cleanly.

I normally leave the caulk or silicone line in the corners as I’m doing this. The photo where the wall is hanging there – that’s just the silicone holding it up there. It gives you a bit more control and everything doesn’t come crashing down once you get it off the studs. Just grab and peel the wall out of the corner, it’ll come right off.

To remove the back wall you’ll need to create an open spot to grab and pull or pry. Take your hammer and bust out a vertical line of tiles in the middle of the wall so you can get your crowbar behind it. Always remove the side walls first, then the back. That is likely the reverse order they were installed and you won’t run into the drywall being hung up in the corner behind the adjacent piece.

This is the easiest and quickest way I’ve found to remove your old shower walls. Don’t waste time on demolition (unless you’re sadistic like that) when you can better spend that time building the new stuff. It’s still a bit messy – demolition always is, but it’s much less messy to have stacks of drywall with the tile still attached than to have buckets of old broken tile and a pile of old drywall.

This method works with nearly every old wall substrate, including cement backerboard, if you are lucky enough to actually have a shower with backer behind the tile. It’s a bit more messy, and a bit more difficult, but the same technique applies.

And if you’re removing carpet – cut it into manageable strips! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen people tear it out in one large piece, fold it, roll it, wrestle it through the house to get it out, knock stuff over because it’s still six feet wide and weighs 200lbs., knock over more stuff… You aren’t saving it, cut it up!

Or don’t cut it up and send me the video of you trying to get it out of your house – I could use the laugh.

{ 84 comments… add one }

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  • Jill Steele

    image attached

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Jill,

      I don’t see an image, but what you have there are mud walls. And they are built to be indestructible. The answer to your question, as strange as it may be, is yes – a sledgehammer is the best way to remove it. Actually, the best way to remove it is to hire someone else to remove it. :D Be careful too, behind that mud is wire lath and it’s sharp as hell.

      Reply
  • Jill Steele

    I have an old house (1947) and am discovering all kinds of fun things as I take on various projects. I want to retile this small bathroom – started like you outlined here and discovered more weirdness. It took me about 20 minutes to chip away at one bullnose tile and I have not got the whole time off yet. It looks like concrete behind it – how do I get rid of this? Sledgehammer? This porcelain tile covers 3/4 of the bathroom including the ceiling of the shower…I have only tested this wall which happens to be an exterior wall…but I am now thinking handyman. Thoughts? Advice? Help?

    Reply
  • Amy

    Hi Roger,

    We have a small tiled shower that needs to be updated. Is replacing the existing tile floor a simple thing to do or are we better off leaving it as it is and just redoing the walls?

    Thank you!
    Amy

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Amy,

      leaving it is absolutely easier, but you need to ensure that there are no issues with the base (leaks, etc.). In my opinion it is always better to tear out everything and begin anew. (And I just typed the word ‘anew’ – that means I have to drink a beer now…)

      Reply
  • Michael

    Hello Rodger – would these same procedures still apply if the shower tiles are attached via a fairly thick mudwall?

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Michael,

      Unfortunately (hell) no. If there is a mud wall behind the tile it will need to be busted out just like a concrete floor. That’s what it is, a vertical concrete floor. There is absolutely no easy way to remove them.

      Reply
  • Boris

    Roger,

    One more question. I noticed from watching youtube videos that many professionals dislike stones mosaic on the shower floor, in particular due to large chunks of grout that installation would involve – see an example attached. Do you agree with this point of view? Should I better use square 2″ or 4″ tile with 1/8 grout lines in between for the shower floor?

    Thanks!
    Boris

    Reply
    • Roger

      It doesn’t really matter, imo. If done correctly it’ll last just as long and be just as durable as the 2×2’s. I hate doing them, though, because of the amount of grout it takes and the time needed to get those large grout areas finished off correctly so it’s smooth and even. It’s just a pain in the ass.

      Reply
  • Boris

    Hi Roger,

    What’s the correct way to install curb made from 2x4s with kerdi membrane?
    It seems this is what you used for the corner shower depicted on a few pictures in your kerdi book. Do you apply kerdi directly to wood? It does not sound right.

    Thank you,
    Boris

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Boris,

      No, you need to put a substrate like backerboard over it to install the kerdi onto.

      Reply
      • Boris

        Ok, thank you, so let me just clarify it.

        I screw 2×4 to floor and each other, then screw backerboard strips to the top and sides of 2x4s (should I seal backerboard strips with mortar like I would do on the wall?). Then I apply unmodified thinset and kerdi membrane on top, correct?

        Thank you

        Reply
        • Roger

          That is correct. No need for the tape and mud, the kerdi takes care of that.

          Reply
  • Tom

    How would you attempt to take tile off a shower floor without too much distruction

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Tom,

      Replace the floor. :D Or…take a hammer and bust it into little pieces, then you can peel the individual pieces out.

      Reply
  • Boris

    Hi Roger,

    Thank you for fantastic blog and books (I bought three of them and found them very helpful) !

    Can you answer a few questions, please?

    – Wall tiles should overlap over floor tiles (floor tiled first and wall second), right?
    – Should I apply tape and waterproofing between wall/floor cement boards, or only in the wall corners?
    – Is is stupid to install linear drain shorter then the entire length of the shower curb? I am planning to use a linear drain from the Tile Shop and it comes with up to 32″ length, while the curb is going to be 40″? I want to use large 12″x12″ tile on the shower floor.
    – is it possible to tile on the drywall outside the shower, or should I replace it with cement board?

    Thanks a lot,
    Boris

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Boris,

      1. It really makes no difference in a properly waterproofed shower, I just think it looks better – more ‘natural’ with the wall tile overlapping the floor tile.
      2. No, only in the wall corners and in-plane seams on the wall.
      3. No if you have a design which contains the water and drives it to the drain on those extra 8″. Such as a 4″ curb on either side of the drain.
      4. You can tile drywall in any dry areas outside the shower with no issues.

      Reply
  • laurene

    My shower had hardware (faucet & spigot) to install a bathtub, I am not installing a bathtub. How do I ensure I don’t bust a water pipe when I remove the wall with the faucets and spigots? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Roger

      How do you plan on removing that wall??? :D Just take off the drywall or whatever substrate is covering the studs and you’ll be able to see all the pipes to work around them.

      Reply
  • Mack

    One thing I’ve seen conflicting info on, and I couldn’t find it in your manual, is what you do with the backerboard where it meets the tub. Some say overlap, some say stay off 1/8″. IF using cement board, do I then run my poly so it overlaps the tub lip to provide a path for water into the tub vice down to the flooring? (See figure 1) If I’m using some sort of topical, 1. do I still caulk the seam above the lip and 2. Do I overlap both that seam and the tub lip with the topical? (See figure 2)

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Mack,

      There are different ways you can do it, all correct. The way I do it with topical is to overlap the membrane over the flange, then stop the backer about 1/16″ above the flange. With topical I overlap the flange with the backer, silicone that seam at the bottom then install the topical all the way down, over the cured silicone, onto the tub about 1/8″.

      Reply
  • Richard Mermilliod

    My shower is cultured marble all around: Solid bottom pan, solid side walls and solid rear wall. Can these be removed from the sheetrock without destroying the wall? I do not intend to go all the way to the ceiling with the 9×14 (approx.) tiles and will have an open edge. Should I use the steel or aluminum end trim (as sold @ Home depot) on the edges or will grout suffice? Better to go pro I know, but the estimates I have gotten are astronomical, so DIY here I come.

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Richard,

      No, your wall will likely be destroyed. And why would you want to leave drywall up in a shower anyway? You can’t (properly) install tile over it unless you use kerdi. Always use some sort of an edge, grout looks like absolute shit.

      P.S. There is a reason the pro prices are what they are. :D

      Reply
  • Rob

    OMG – Thank you so much for this article! I want to update my main bath area myself, but I was worried about running out of gas halfway thru demolishing and chipping each tile out. It totally makes sense to just cut slabs of the wall out.

    Reply
  • Brigham

    Roger, I used your traditional manual to build a shower and had great success thanks. I’m building a new house now and the drywall guys had planned to install denshield in our shower enclosure. Is a tradition base the best way to go with denshield? I don’t see an option in your manuals for a liquid topical base in conjunction with a topical substrate, if that makes sense. Any advise is appreciated.

    Reply
    • Roger

      Hi Brigham,

      A liquid topical base is actually the best option with densshield. Have them install the densshield, then pack your pan right up against it. Once it cures install your liquid and paint it up the walls about a foot or so.

      Reply
      • Brigham

        Thanks Roger. One more quick question: shower is about 4 feet square with 10 foot ceilings. Walk in with no door. Would you recommend Dens Shield all the way to the top and ceiling? The drywall guys planned to run it 8 feet up or something like that. We haven’t decided whether to tile the entire top and the ceiling yet.

        Reply
        • Roger

          It needs to go a minimum of 2″ above the top of the shower head. Anything above that you can do whatever you want. The only exception is if there is a header across the entrance of the shower.

          Reply
          • Brigham

            Thanks again Roger. So I’m building a liquid topical pan with DensShield walls. I have your liquid topical manual and your traditional manual (from a past job). The DensShield is up, the only thing I’m not sure of is finishing the DensShield. I understand I need to seal the seams and corners with a flexible sealant and tape and thinset the seams. Should I just pony up for the other manual to get that information? (I know, I’m asking the wrong guy that question but I’m trying to save money here!) Only things I’m unsure of are what type of sealant to use (seen lots of opinions) and how to handle the DensShield corner transitions from the wall to the doorway and from the wall to the window seal (the convex corners, for lack of a better way to describe them). thanks again.

            Reply
            • Roger

              Hi Brigham,

              You can use regular silicone for all those transitions. Then tape and mud the corners and changes of plane and paint over them with redgard.

              Reply
          • Brigham

            Roger, what are your thoughts on pre-made curbs you can buy, such as the Durock curb home depot sells? Thx.

            Reply
            • Roger

              They work well, you just need to take care around them until you get them covered with tile.

              Reply
              • thinkwithink@hotmail.com

                Awesome. Would you thinset the ends of the curb to the DensShield, or should I cut the DensShield around the ends of the curb and have the curb go under the DensShield? Can I just tile directly to the premade curb?

                Reply
                • Roger

                  You can do either one, they both work. Tile is bonded directly to most premade curbs.

                  Reply
  • Glenn

    Can I tile over top of existing linoleum?) It is in great shape and only 7 years old. It is on a wood floor.

    Reply