How can I remove this tile from the plywood?

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Forum topic by king_nickizzle posted 05-03-2016 12:45 AM 614 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View king_nickizzle's profile


11 posts in 332 days

05-03-2016 12:45 AM

Topic tags/keywords: parquet tile glue

This may fall more into carpentry than fine woodworking, but I figured I would ask. I just bought a new house, and am redoing the floors. I ran into an issue… We have this parquet tile attached to the plywood sub floor. I am having a heck of a time getting it off. I tried cutting all the way around the tile section, in hopes that I could pop it out and simply cut a new piece of plywood to size. But the plywood is nailed many times underneath the tiles. So that method didn’t work, now I just want to try removing the tile. The top layer of the tile comes off pretty easy, but the glued MDF or whatever is stuck on there very well.

Is this something that a novice/intermediate could do? Or is this something I’m just better off hiring someone for? And if that is the case, is this like a $100 job, or $1000 job? Thanks!

20 replies so far

View Harry's profile


67 posts in 600 days

#1 posted 05-03-2016 01:01 AM

My guys do this all the time for my remediation business. Just take the plywood off too. You will never get it level for your new floor.

-- Harry - Professional amateur

View nailbanger2's profile


1041 posts in 2564 days

#2 posted 05-03-2016 01:22 AM

Harry is right. But you will need two good prybars. Work your way from one side to the other. When you get a bite with one bar and have gotten all you will get with that one, leave it in place and use the other to get just a little more. Rinse and repeat. Be patient and carefull. If there is a lot of force coming back down, use some blocks of wood to make sure your hand doesn’t become a pin cushion. Good luck!

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

View conifur's profile


955 posts in 572 days

#3 posted 05-03-2016 01:23 AM

I had a tiling business for 20 years, first agree with the first poster, second to pop the tile of the plywood you are using the wrong tool, you want a wider blade to get under the whole piece of tile, to pop the whole piece, the installer used a good thin set mortar, so it has strong adhesion to both. You need about a 4-6” stiff blade under the tile to pop it. Then the plywood needs to be removed, then add a new subflooring in thickness to mate up with adjacent floors to have a nice height matching and what are you going to put down on this floor for the top surface?

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View conifur's profile


955 posts in 572 days

#4 posted 05-03-2016 01:37 AM

OBTW, tiling over plywood is not approved or recommended, and for your sake I hoped they nailed it down, not screwed it down, you will never find the screw heads to unscrew it do to the thin set, then if you do, the screw heads will be filled with thin set, witch is a concrete like product, if nailed, you can get under it and pry it up, if screwed it will tear apart at every joist line.

-- Knowledge and experience equals Wisdom, Michael Frankowski

View runswithscissors's profile


2127 posts in 1445 days

#5 posted 05-03-2016 02:19 AM

A cheap 4 1/2” angle grinder with a cutoff blade will cut screws off. I agree with conifur that screws will be impossible to extract. Once exposed, just cut them off flush. Very quick and easy to do. You weren’t going to save the screws for future use were you?

Have you tried loosening the tiles with heat? A heat gun or propane torch will soften some kinds of adhesives. Don’t set the house on fire.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View bigblockyeti's profile


3572 posts in 1141 days

#6 posted 05-03-2016 02:26 AM

You need to get yur self onea these:

They can suck down a bit of air so a decent compressor is needed to run it continually which can be rented if need be and indoors you’ll need good hearing protection too!

View HerbC's profile


1568 posts in 2280 days

#7 posted 05-03-2016 02:55 AM


I think you jumped the gun on deciding this job was tile (I assume you mean ceramic or stone) installed with thinset. The OP clearly states it is parquet tile and the photo shows wood parquet flooring and you can see the old black tar based mastic that was used to install the parquet tiles.


-- Herb, Florida - Here's why I close most messages with "Be Careful!"

View clin's profile


485 posts in 416 days

#8 posted 05-03-2016 03:20 AM

Another vote for just removing the whole works and putting down new plywood. I can’t imagine you could get the flooring off the plywood without damaging the plywood so much, you’d want new ply anyway.

I realize the OP said the plywood was nailed down in many places. But it is plywood and should be pretty easy to rip it off with a good size pry bar. Heck you might even be able to shear off the nails or screws with the pry bar. Then cutoff or otherwise deal with the nails sticking out of the concrete (or whatever that is under it).

-- Clin

View splatman's profile


544 posts in 819 days

#9 posted 05-03-2016 03:53 AM

Get out the circ saw, put a junk or cheap blade on it, set the depth of cut to match the thickness of the tile + substrate plywood, and make a cut every foot or so, essentially dicing up the floor into squares. Prying the squares one at a time will be easy peasy.

How old is the house? I hope that black stuff is not cutback adhesive. Cutback = Asbestos.

View a1Jim's profile


115177 posts in 2998 days

#10 posted 05-03-2016 04:16 AM

I agree with removing the ply and all, quicker and better end project.

-- Custom furniture

View devann's profile


2199 posts in 2113 days

#11 posted 05-03-2016 04:40 AM

Another vote for removing & replacing the plywood. However even that will not be easy. You see, the plywood is probably glued & nailed to the joist. Or at least it is supposed to be.

I can’t tell from your second picture, but is the plywood laid on top of a concrete surface? If it is it’s your lucky day. replace the plywood, scrape away the glue.

I’ve found that a multi-tool works well for glue, etc, removal. You can get a stiff or a flexible scrapper attachments or do what I use. An old used up wood cutting multi-tool blade.

If you have to remove plywood from the floor joist a multi-tool with a bi-metal blade will be the easiest way to go for cutting nails & scrapping glue off the tops of the joist. You might get away with using a sawzall with a metal cutting blade but control will be more difficult in some areas.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View BurlyBob's profile


3466 posts in 1686 days

#12 posted 05-03-2016 04:49 AM

I had the same problem in a bathroom. Ended cutting out a bunch of plywood and starting over. It turned out pretty decent.

View king_nickizzle's profile


11 posts in 332 days

#13 posted 05-03-2016 04:57 PM

Thanks for the tips everyone! I’ve really learned a lot :)

Splatman you mentioned the potential for asbestos. Is there a way I can tell? Should I just get the plywood off immediately, clean up, open the windows and stay somewhere else for the night? Or am I just screwed if it is indeed asbestos?

View king_nickizzle's profile


11 posts in 332 days

#14 posted 05-03-2016 04:58 PM

The house is 1910 era

View chrisstef's profile


15465 posts in 2427 days

#15 posted 05-03-2016 05:25 PM

Nick – there’s no certain way to tell for asbestos in mastic by naked eye, it would need to be analyzed by a lab under a microscope. If you can see fibers in the black mastic, its probably asbestos though. There’s a fair possibility that it is asbestos given the age of the home and the purpose it was used for. Id give it 60-70%. Id call an abatement contractor. Most likely they’ll need to wipe down the whole room, HEPA vac it, put up a containment and remove the flooring and the plywood. That mastic never comes off plywood unless you start peeling the layers of ply.

Id throw what ever waste you’ve got into a doubled up plastic garbage back and seal it with duct tape and wait for the cavalry to arrive. Shut the door and seal off the bottom. Same for any vents that may be in the room.

You probably haven’t disturbed a ton of it and are at little health risk but I would put the brakes on doing any more cutting or scraping.

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

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