A lot of information online about laying tile is specific for bathrooms (that need waterproofing), but in this case I want to remove carpet from a bedroom that is used as office space. This carpet is not only old but also quite thick and is extremely annoying to use with office chairs. Three people will be using this room and I believe a tile surface is best.

Removing the old carpet seems easy, but I do not want to start before I figured out all the details. However, in the next 3 years I plan to proceed with a whole house remodel, where I will change the layout of the rooms etc. This is not just a wish, I am working with architects right now. In the meanwhile, I just wanted to get rid of carpet and put tiles for before we go insane. For that reason, I wanted to do something relatively cheap and that is easy to remove in a few years.

Big box stores have tiles that cost around or less than a dollar/sq ft. I know it's not the best type of tile and not as durable but this is perfectly fine in my use case as described above. However the substrate is OSB and I understand I have two main options: - cement boards - decoupling membrane

Cement boards are relatively cheap, less than a dollar per square foot so in line with the cost of the tile. However it seems they require a huge amount of screws. Membranes are quite a buit more expensive, around 1.6$/sq ft so much more than the actual tiles. I am debating if they are really worth it given I plan to remove them relatively soon.

My question is: what is my best compromise for a cheap tile solution that will be easy to remove? Can I lay cement boards without the screws?

I also have a technical question: I understand how a decoupling membrane works by letting the substrate move independently from the tile, so cracks are less of an issue. But if cement board is cemented and screwed to the substrate, what is the actual difference compared to just cementing the tiles to the OSB?

  • Tile is not easy to remove, Some may be easier than others but never easy, in my experience . Once you get the tile up you still have the chore of the mastic stuck to the sub-floor. If you are going to be remodeling in the future then go with cheap pergo type floating floor or vinyl planks or even just plywood or osb with a durable finish on it.
    – Alaska Man
    Mar 5, 2020 at 21:30
  • I never considered something like this. I see this kind of material costs around 2.8$/sq ft (I did just a basic research, there might be cheaper non-name brand stuff out there). Will this work decently with office chairs? Mar 5, 2020 at 21:50
  • There's a potential for traffic to cause a loose substrate to ruck up. I'd be considering polyester. - just paint the subfloor. if needed put a wooden ramp in the doorway.
    – Jasen
    Mar 5, 2020 at 21:51
  • If you want a temporary surface (and, honestly, even if you don't) it will be an enormous pain to remove tiles if you've used adhesive to attach them directly to the subfloor. But ceramic tiles seem like a less-than-ideal solution to this problem (difficulty of installation, expensive for a temporary solution, and moving office chairs across them seems dicey at best). I'd recommend using vinyl tiles, or some sort of laminate, that won't have a lot of grout joints for your chairs and furniture to get stuck on. Mar 6, 2020 at 3:56

3 Answers 3


I would not tile for a temporary surface. I would get a sheet of sanded 3/4”. If you only need a 4x 6 or 4x 8 lay the sheet down and cut the carpet at the edge. Remove the cutout carpet and tack strip. Put plywood in the hole and use a few deck screws to hold the plywood in place. I might get some carpet threshold and lock the carpet down or use some screws and washers to hold the carpet in place.

The plywood will hold up for a few years and be easy to remove. Tile will be more expensive take longer to put down after that all the work to remove and dispose of the debris.

If you want a surface that will last a Formica sheet on top of the plywood will last a decade or more. And when pulled up could be used someplace else when done.

  • 1
    Couldn't you just survive on the OSB for a few years? Definitely don't tile for a temporary surface+
    – JACK
    Mar 5, 2020 at 22:11
  • 1
    I thought of that but OSB will start flaking where plywood would match the height of the carpet and last longer.
    – Ed Beal
    Mar 5, 2020 at 22:12
  • Honestly I'd like to have a slightly better appearance, if it were just few weeks I'd accept plywood but few years I think few hundred bucks for a better alternative are still well spent. Also, at least in my area plywood is not that cheap, 3/4" one is 70$/sq ft Mar 5, 2020 at 22:31
  • Are you trying to tell me a sheet of plywood is over 2000$ ? 4’x 8’= 32 sq ft 32 x 70= I don’t think so. And as I mentioned Formica on top would hold up. And not be that much, you could even use OSB and Formica , it’s your home I am just providing options that would be less work .
    – Ed Beal
    Mar 5, 2020 at 22:53
  • OK I meant 0.70$ / sq ft come on it was a typo. Mar 5, 2020 at 23:00

This sounds like an ideal place/situation to use "linoleum" (almost all some sort of sheet vinyl product for the last umpteen years, really.)

Can be had in many patterns/appearances. Inexpensive options are available. Either not adhered at all (just cut to fit the room - if room is more than 12 feet (or 13.2 ft = 4m for some varieties/brands) wide, seamed together and cut to fit the room) or taped around the edges only, so easy to remove. No particular need for another layer ($) under it.

While pricing info may be local and quickly out of date, the faux tile version shown here was priced at 59 cents per square foot when I looked locally just now.

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It will also be a LOT quieter than ceramic tile with office chairs rolling around on it.


Cement board will be an order of magnitude easier to remove than a uncoupling membrane since it'll be affixed using screws rather than a full thinset coat. Even if OSB were an acceptable substrate for tile, I'd recommend layering cement board on top it for much easier removal. If you screw cement board onto your OSB, all you have to do when time comes is break enough tiles to expose the screws and seams and pull up mostly cleanly with only a little scraping of thinset.

You want to put some thinset on the underside to prevent flexing and cracking instead of screwing it in "dry", but it'll still be easier to remove than a typical thick mortar bed for floor tile directly on a membrane or plywood. You could consider screwing it in without thinset underneath for even easier removal. My bathroom had this and there were discernible tile cracks when I ultimately ripped up the floor, but it's a risky move since the flex might be too great for floor tile especially with concentrated loads like casters.

That said, given your timeframe I'd personally consider putting in vinyl plank flooring. It'll only be $3/sqft for decent quality and casters will slide better than on tile + grout lines, plus you'll save hours (if you're a tiling wizard) to days (if not) and a bunch of mess on installation/removal.

  • My understanding is that cement board had to be cemented to the OSB with thinset AND screws. This means thinset both under the cement board and above, for the tiles. Am I wrong there? Anyway, yeah I am starting to consider other types of floor. Mar 5, 2020 at 22:01
  • Sorry I added to my answer. Yes a typical CBU install has thinset gluing it to the subfloor or whatever substrate, but that thin layer will be easier to ultimately rip up easier than a full thinset bed typical under larger floor tile. You can also skimp on it for easier uninstallation later.
    – Steven
    Mar 5, 2020 at 22:03
  • That said, from your other comment it looks like you haven't considered vinyl tile. If you don't have other reasons to rule it out (LVT is less durable and will leave dents when heavy furniture is moved on it), given that you know you'll be the one removing it, LVT is a way better choice. You could probably rip up a room's carpet and install LVT in a day's work with no prior experience, which is not something I'd say about tile.
    – Steven
    Mar 5, 2020 at 22:04
  • 1
    @ Alessio sangalli ,for a permanent floor using thinset to anchor the backer to the sub floor is the way to go with screws. Then thinset to tile is the best method, a solid base makes the best floor.
    – Ed Beal
    Mar 5, 2020 at 22:08

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