Sometimes, a situation arises where there is a need to reuse ceramic tiles, or any tiles for that matter. We’ve just had such a situation and felt it would be helpful to explain the reasons behind this, and what to do when you need to keep your existing bathroom tiles and reuse what is currently there.

Why would you reuse ceramic tiles?

Quite often the need to reuse ceramic tiles comes about when you’re undertaking minor works or adjustments in your bathroom or kitchen and its either not possible to get a good enough match to what you have, or you’re just needing to change or reuse one tile.

 Our need to reuse ceramic tiles arose when we were replacing a shower tray and cubicle for one of our customers.  Unfortunately over the years manufactures change things and on this occasion, as is often the case, it meant that the original tiles were no longer available as as such we had to try and reuse the tiles that were removed to keep the bathroom looking great.

Upon removing the shower cubicle, it became apparent that the old tiles had parted company with the wall behind and the adhesive was no longer attaching the tile to the wall. The customer wasn’t in a position to completely fully tile the bathroom again, so we went with the option to keep the existing bathroom tiles.

Where to start when you reuse ceramic tiles

Reuse Ceramic Tiles | Keep Existing Bathroom Tiles

In order to reuse ceramic tiles, you will need the following:

  • Large buckets for water
  • Stanley Knife
  • Wallpaper Scraper
  • Storage For The Tiles Overnight
  • Plenty Of Time

The first thing is to very carefully remove the existing tiles from the wall.  Remember, the tiles are not attached to the wall still and the ‘shelling peas’ effect comes into force.  This means that once you start removing one, the rest of the tiles come off the wall to and this can be really dangerous.

The best method we have found is to carefully cut the grout lines with a Stanley knife, or if needs be, you can use a specialist grout grinding disc in a grinder to multi-tool.

Most of the time, a Stanley knife is appropriate for the job.

By cutting the grout between the tiles, it enables you to carefully remove one tile at a time, and helps stem the ‘shelling peas’ effect where taking off one tile, leads to another and so on.

Once you’ve removed the tiles, you need to soak them in a large bucket to soften the adhesive.

When you reuse ceramic tiles, they need to be as clean as possible to enable you to re-fit them to the wall afterwards. By soaking the existing tiles in a large bucket full of water, the water reacts with the adhesive and after approximately 24 hours you are able to easily scrape the adhesive from the back of the tiles.  A suitable tool for removing adhesive off ceramic tiles is a wallpaper scraper or similar.

Unfortunately, because the grout is water resistant, it’s not possible to soak this off and this will need removing carefully after soaking the tiles.  The grout can be removed by using either a sharp scraper, such as a wall paper scraper, or again using a Stanley knife.

Once all the adhesive and grout has been scraped off the old tiles, you are then able to reuse ceramic tiles to retile your wall as needed.

How much Money can be saved when you reuse ceramic tiles?

Ceramic Tiles Cleaned

If you decide to reuse ceramic tiles, whilst there is a ‘cost’ saving to be had, in our opinion it’s more beneficial to the aesthetic appearance of the bathroom.

If you had to buy new tiles, they would cost anything from around £15 per metre upwards.  In all fairness to quantify the labour time taken in soaking the tiles overnight and cleaning them up would probably work out considerably more expensive.  As a general rule of thumb, most tilers would charge approximately £25 per metre to fix the tiles to the wall.

Reusing tiles in a standard bathroom with approximately 10m of tiles, would save you £400

The aesthetic gain of having all the tiles in your bathroom match each other far out ways any cost implication, especially if you are unable to find even a close match to the existing tiles.

Would we suggest you reuse ceramic tiles and keep your existing bathroom tiles?

In our opinion, the choice to reuse ceramic tiles is more suited to the DIYER that has a lots of time in their hands.  The work of slowly removing the tiles and cleaning them is laborious and you certainly don’t want to be paying a tradesman for this.  You can take your time cleaning the tiles and ensure they’re all suitably cleaned for refitting.  As this situation shows, we have done this under exceptional circumstances but it’s not something we would suggest is suitable for everyone.