On par with wallpaper removal for do-it-yourselfers, tile and corresponding thinset removal can be a real headache. In many cases removing tile is only half the work; the thinset under tiles requires just as much -- if not more -- work to remove. Several tool options are available to make removing thinset under tile more manageable and cost effective.
Hammer, Baby Sledge Hammer
Depending on the scope of the project, a simple carpenter's hammer and chisel may suffice for removal of thinset under tile. In other cases where the thinset is thicker, more dense or just more difficult to remove, a small sledge hammer, called a "baby sledge," is required in conjunction with a chisel.
Tool companies make extremely dense "cold" chisels for removing tile and thinset. Larger flat-headed chisels are recommended for removing thick thinset beds in larger areas on a variety of substrates. The head of larger-head flat-headed cold chisels may be up to several inches wide. Smaller chisel sizes are recommended for hard-to-reach corners where additional finesse is required.
The granddaddy tool for thinset removal is the rotary chipping hammer. Also known as a "chipping hammer" in the tile trade, a rotary chipping hammer negates the use of a traditional hammer and chisel, using a piston mechanism to repeatedly pound a chisel drill bit on the intended surface. Recommended for thinset removal on concrete substrates, chipping hammers speed up thinset removal, saving money, time and blisters from the hammer-and-chisel approach.
Floor scrapers clean up any remaining thinset left after the first stages of the demolition process. Floor scrapers designed for tile debris removal range from the small handheld 12-inch long models equipped with 4-inch blades to heavy-duty 8-inch-bladed stand-up models. Floor scrapers require a lot of labour, but the end result -- an extremely clean, thinset-free floor -- is more than worth the effort.
7-inch Electric Grinders
Seven-inch grinders equipped with either a composite or diamond grinding cup wheel may do the trick with thinset that is particularly well bonded to surfaces other than cement. Grinding the surface may be your only option if thinset is stubbornly bonded to drywall or cement backerboards.