Out with the Old
Start by pulling off loose tiles by hand. You'll probably have soggy chunks of drywall fall out, too. When you get to a tile that's firmly adhered, pry it off with a putty knife, wide chisel or flat pry bar (photo 1). Work carefully to keep from scratching or breaking the tiles you remove; finding replacements that match perfectly often is impossible.
soggy shower wall and scraper
Photos by: Merle Henkenius
To remove tiles that won't budge, reach into the wall and use a utility knife to score the drywall from behind. Then pull the tile and small squares of drywall out together. Drop those pieces into a bucket of hot water to separate the gypsum backing from the tiles. Leave some of the old drywall exposed where it will meet the new backerboard. That way, the top row of replaced tiles will bridge the two surfaces, making a stronger joint. You'll probably need to trim the jagged edge of the existing drywall with a drywall saw (photo 2) to create a straight, level line.
soggy shower wall
USE A FLAT PRY bar to remove tiles that are firmly stuck to the wall. Don't pry under the corner of a tile or you'll crack it.
trimming the edge of the gypsum wallboard
TRIM THE BROKEN edge of the existing gypsum wallboard with a drywall saw to create a neat, straight horizontal seam.
With the tiles removed and the drywall edge trimmed, slice all remaining caulk from the top edge of the tub or shower (photo 3). Then use a grout saw to scrape the grout from all joints immediately above the repair (photo 4). Also remove the grout from any joints that are cracked or discolored by mildew.
scraping caulk and soap residue from the shower base
USE A SHARP RAZOR knife to scrape off any old, dried caulk and soap residue from the top edge of the bath or shower base.
The next step is the most tedious: preparing the tiles you removed for reinstallation. It entails scraping off all the old grout and caulk and removing the mastic and drywall paper. Don't sand the mastic—it could contain asbestos. Instead, use a sharp knife to clean around the edges.
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