How to remove tiled shower walls

by Roger

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 However, to do that you must first remove the old, outdated, non-awesome shower.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.

Previous post:

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

Leave a Comment

;) :wtf: :wink: :whistle: :twisted: :suspect: :shades: :roll: :rockon: :oops: :lol: :lol2: :lol1: :idea: :guedo: :evilb: :evil: :eek: :dance: :cry: :corn: :cool: :censored: :bonk: :arrow: :D :?: :-| :-o :-P :-D :-? :) :( :!: 8)