Everything 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 However, to do that you must first remove the old, outdated, non-awesome shower.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…)
Most 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.
Once 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.
Next, 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.
The 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.
Then 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.