I began demolition of a bathroom today and ran into an unusual (for me) flooring issue. The floor is tiled and it's set on a 1.5" thick bed of mortar. The mortar was spread directly onto the 2x8 subfloor. I don't see any evidence of wire mesh between the mortar and subfloor.

(Tried to upload a pic, but SE doesn't seem to like iPads...neither do I, but that's what I'm on right now)

What's the best way to break the floor up? It's a smallish bathroom (~70sf), but that's still a lot of concrete. Use a concrete saw and cut the tile/mortar into small pieces and load them out? Maybe an air powered chisel? I've used the latter many times for removing tile, but I'm not at all sure it can handle this material....it's a pretty small chisel.

Also, I don't want to create vibrations that may damage the ceiling below (pop drywall nails, etc.) The house was built in the 50's.

Any ideas are appreciated. Many thanks in advance.



  • A air powered chipper with a wide blade will break it up, make sure to wear a dust mask and eye protection. When you get close to the wood back off and if there are large chunks left hit them with a heavy framing hammer , I.E. Don't cut into the wood. Because that will transfer the force to the floor below. I chip at a 30/45 angle depending on how well it breaks up.
    – Ed Beal
    Apr 2, 2016 at 23:18
  • @Ed Beal - As I mentioned, I have a pneumatic chipper/chisel, but I'm not sure it can handle 1.5" of mortar. The largest thing I've removed with it was 3/4" natural stone tile. That was really pushing it. The cement/mortar would have to be softer than the stone for my tool to work (I think). I wear a respirator when I use it. It creates a massive amount of dust. Apr 3, 2016 at 0:23
  • @ojait: I think I'm going to give the masonry blade a try. I was at again today and it's a BUNCH of work hacking at it with a cold chisel and sledge. Didn't break out my air chisel, but I'll have help tomorrow and busting it out in 2x2 chunks will give the boys something to do. I removed a vanity, so there are a couple of places where the subfloor is exposed to get started. Apr 4, 2016 at 0:02

2 Answers 2


Like you stated: masonry bladed saw set to cut just above or below the concrete base. If you snap lines to show a 2 foot x 2 foot quadrant to cut with the saw will make it much easier to remove concrete. You will need to expose the sub-floor to begin so that a pinch bar or long pry bar can be slid under each section and fulcrumed up. Have several abrasive masonry wheels on hand as they wear-out quickly. Hint: if you pry the concrete slab off the sub-floor slightly than it only takes a slight tap to break it apart with minimal shock to the floor framing.


just go rent or buy a demolition hammer with a concrete chisel. they are small enough to not make too much vibration to damage whats below, but large enough and enough power that you dont turn a 20 minute job into a 20 day job. hitachi dh40fa is the best one i have used, but they dont make it anymore. anything like this will work:


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