I am in the process of purchasing a townhome and I am looking to tear up the existing 12" ceramic tile that covers the entire main level... an area close to 600 sq. ft. to make way for laminate flooring. Thinset has been used to bond the tile to the cement backer board, and the backer board has been screwed to the wooden subfloor. There is also some sort of adhesive/mortar bonding the cement board to the wooden subfloor.
What tools will I need. Are there any techniques that would make it easier? Would trying to remove the cement board damage the subfloor? If so, would it be acceptable to repair damage with some sort of floor leveling compound?

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    Well, it was installed right, I guess. Grab a sledgehammer... – Ecnerwal Mar 26 '14 at 3:26

Here is an idea to consider. If the tile comes off the cement board fairly easy, you could leave the cement board, scrape off the thinset and lay your foam and laminate over the cement board. Just a thought depending on the overall thickness you need to achieve.


If it was installed correctly, the cement between cementboard and wood will be thinset and it will break off the wood fairly easily - it's put there to fill the space well, not to actually bond it particularly. If it was glued down with construction adhesive you might be in for a more miserable time. Safety glasses, gloves, and a sledgehammer to get started. You'll probably have to break the board around the screws and remove them with locking pliers - the screwheads will be full of thinset and it would be tedious to get them to the point you can use a screwdriver on them again. Beware of screws that break off - they can be sharp if you don't immediately remove the stub from the floor.

You can try driving a wide (4" or so) flat chisel under the edge to pop sections off, but straight sledgehammering will probably be faster.

  • Thanks, I'm pretty sure that it is just the thinset in between the cement board and subfloor. It is good to know that it should come off with not too much trouble. Your saying its best to approach it by breaking the board with the sledge? Would it be possible to use a prybar to take it up faster? – shocking Mar 26 '14 at 4:00
  • You could certainly try a heavy crowbar/ripping bar on it, and see which is more effective. A thin prybar (wonderbar) will probably get bent. Depending how the tile comes off, @shirlock homes has a good point - cement board, if you can get the thinset off (a silicon carbide rubbing block may be handy for the last bits) is a perfectly good base for laminate. That might make the wide chisel for popping tile off make more sense. – Ecnerwal Mar 26 '14 at 14:02
  • Thanks for the input, definitely something to think about - leaving the cement board and putting the laminate on the cement board. How hard do you guys think it would be to remove the thinset from the cement board? – shocking Mar 27 '14 at 0:42

I have the same problem and need to remove the tile, durock / cement board as well as the subfloor due to water leaks and mold. Nothing is easy about this job, but scoring the floor with a skill saw cement blade has certainly helped by making the job a little more manageable. Open windows, block all vents and mask required! Back to work. . .

  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. Thanks for the answer; keep 'em coming. And, you should probably take our tour so you'll know how best to contribute here. – Daniel Griscom Oct 6 '19 at 16:42

It's best as a 2 person job with one person busting and one removing ideally. Just did one today.

How to to do it? An electric chipping hammer to take off the tile first. Then a 2 lb hammer to knock some holes, then just pull off the durock in fairly big pieces, like 3 x 3. Don't kill yourself,.....have 2 people carry it out.

  • I thought this was a shower demo,....sorry. On a floor I'd try to leave the durock if possible. Wide blade chipping hammer and / or maybe rent a machine. That's a lot of tile to use a chipping hammer on. – Joe Jul 23 '17 at 3:59
  • I'd also consider going with a wood look tile. It would be easier since laminate snap together flooring requires a very flat surface or it will not work. With tile you have the thinset as a buffer. I personally would not do laminate in that situation due to the tile unless I could go on top of the tile. – Joe Jul 23 '17 at 4:02

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