Removing peel and stick tiles, also known as self-adhesive tiles, should be an easy task. Peel and stick tiles are the savior for the novice DIYer. Brilliant for quickly renovating walls and floors, peel and stick tiles are currently enjoying huge popularity on social media.
No longer just targeting tenants looking to enhance beige walls, recent improvements in the design and durability of peel-and-stick tiles are also increasingly appealing to homeowners.
While there are plenty of great reasons to check out the peel and stick tile trend, what happens when you crave a change? Or need to remove them before leaving a rental?
Easier than removing wall tiles, but not as easy as removing or applying peel and stick wallpaper, only a few peel and stick tile products are designed to be as easy to remove as they are to apply. In particular, those designed for use underfoot tend to be much more difficult to remove than those intended for walls. They cannot afford to move when they are being trampled.
Peel and stick tiles come in many forms, including glass, stone, and even metal, but vinyl is the most commonly available type of material because it’s inexpensive and comes in a ton of options. Design. Whatever peel and stick tiles you remove, most require a little effort to fully move, especially if you want to leave the surface completely smooth and adhesive-free.
Our step-by-step guide covers the most common scenarios, with tips throughout the process to ensure the best results.
How to remove peel and stick tiles
If you’ve ever thought about removing floor tiles that are stuck together with wet tile adhesive and grout, you’ll be aware of the extreme levels of mess involved. Fortunately, peel and stick tiles are much less messy to install, and that applies to the removal step as well. However, there are a few tools that will keep the mess to a minimum and help this DIY task go quickly and smoothly.
You might need:
1. Apply heat
Peel and stick tiles are generally glued the same way as double-sided tape, but the adhesive used is stronger and stickier! When removing peel and stick tiles, always aim to get each tile in one piece, two pieces at most, or you’ll end up spending hours chipping away tiny fragments of tile.
“The best way to peel and stick tiles in one go is to apply heat first,” says Harriet Goodacre, tile consultant, Topps Tiles. (opens in a new tab). “Heating the tiles can help as it softens the adhesive – try running a hair dryer over the tiles, an inch or two from the surface.”
If you have a large area of tile to remove, consider using an iron or heat gun instead to prevent your hair dryer from overheating and breaking. A heat gun can be used in the same way as a hair dryer, but be careful not to burn the tiles as the fumes could be unpleasant or even dangerous.
When using an iron, always place a towel between the iron and the tile, again to avoid harmful burns. Depending on the thickness of the tile and your method of heating, it shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds to a minute to melt the adhesive under a tile.
2. Lift from the corners
Once the glue has softened enough, the corners of the tile should lift easily when you insert a pry bar or chisel under the edge. Work from corner to corner, gently lifting the tile. Do not apply too much force or the tile may break, especially if it is old and brittle.
To speed up progress, you can take the flat end of your pry bar or chisel and gently hammer it under the tile at a slight angle, about 40 degrees, until the whole piece lifts. Be careful not to measure the floor or wall when hammering your tool.
3. Keep removing tiles
Continue the process of heating and setting one tile at a time until they have all been removed. It is wise to work methodically, from left to right or vice versa, clearing the raised tiles as you go.
If you spot a large amount of glue on the floor or wall, grab your scraper and try scraping it off while it’s still hot. An old piece of wood or sturdy cardboard will come in handy to remove this glue from your scraper!
4. Remove any remaining adhesive
Once all the tiles have been lifted and removed from the room, it’s time to assess the damage. What you do next will depend on your plans for your new tile-free surface.
If you cover the floor or the wall, either with fresh peel and stick tiles or alternatives, it is not always necessary to remove every last piece of adhesive. However, you’ll need to achieve a reasonably smooth surface, so focus your attention on the large chunks and use a scraper to get rid of them. A light sanding should remove small spots of glue. Any holes or raised plasterboard should be patched with an appropriate filler.
Some people choose to scatter baking soda on the floor and then vacuum to mop up any remaining adhesion before new flooring is installed. It’s a smart move if you’re laying carpet, click laminate or fresh peel and stick tiles.
In the case of ceramic/porcelain tile or any other flooring installed using wet cementitious adhesives, you will need to ensure that the subfloor is dust-free and non-porous, which means that it no more baking soda. ‘Instead, remove any remaining adhesive using a scraper. For excess glue left behind, use a good quality specialist glue remover and follow the instructions provided,” advises Mike Head, Director of Atlas Ceramics. (opens in a new tab).
How long do peel and stick tiles last?
Modern peel and stick tiles are designed to stick and stay stuck, which is one reason why removing them can be tricky. You can expect peel and stick tiles to last at least five years, if not longer. The longevity of peel and stick tiles depends on several factors.
Product quality will have the biggest impact on lifespan, and if you’re not aiming for a quick fix, it’s worth investing more in high-quality peel and stick tiles. Look for manufacturers that offer product warranties as standard. Thickness is also a good indicator of quality, and it’s worth reading customer reviews, if possible, to check for complaints about issues with tile lifting or installation.
Many peel and stick tiles are not suitable for use in moisture-rich environments or anywhere they will come into direct contact with water, such as around a sink. Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations before buying.
Does peel and stick tile damage floors?
Peel and stick tiles can usually be removed without excessive damage to the subfloor underneath. Any problems are likely to be caused by an overzealous installation, whereby extra adhesive was applied unnecessarily. There can also be issues if the subfloor has suffered water damage, with a significant amount of water (from a flooded washing machine, for example) settling under the self-adhesive tile.
As with any flooring removal, the success of stripping peel and stick tiles without damaging the surface underneath is highly dependent on how strong that subfloor is in the first place. A dry, level subfloor with no weak spots or dust should not be damaged when removing peel and stick tiles.
The good news is that any damage should be minimal and easily remedied with basic putty – applied with a putty knife or trowel. For added peace of mind before installing new solid flooring, many builders recommend applying a thin coat of leveling compound.