How to Remove Thinset: The Ultimate DustRam® Guide
So, you want to know how to remove thinset mortar dust-free. At this point, you have decided to take the plunge and do some home remodeling and maybe a new tile installation or install some wood flooring. You want to get rid of the leftover free tile your friends gave you from their Angie’s List project or simply the dated-looking ceramic tile or Saltillo tile you’ve had forever.
That ghastly old floor tile was a beast to pull up, and the silica dust got everywhere; now you are left with a pile of rubble – an uneven stone floor, and what is the jagged stuffed underneath the tile mess? Even with certain tile removal tools like a floor scraper, it seems to be stuck fast. That, my friend, is thinset. Thinset holds the tile in place to hard surfaces like concrete with this adhesive mortar. Unlike epoxy and other tile glues, thin-set cures into a stone-like consistency and can be intimidating to remove if you do not know what you are doing—even with tile removal equipment.
Resist the urge to try to place a new layer over it for your ceramic tile floor installation since it is almost impossible to get a flat surface this way and will end up looking terrible and likely require concrete leveling when you are through. As daunting as the task of removing thin-set may seem this guide is here to walk you through all your options.
Interested in a Dustless Thinset Removal? Check Out Our Equipment!
Learn How to Remove Thinset From Concrete
With the Patented DustRam® System of tools and equipment, you can remove thin-set mortar without the dusty mess. Our vacuums capture any dust the moment it is created never expelling it into the air. The tile removal quality we offer through the use of our tools is unmatched. Our tools allow you to grind thin-set and give scarification for better floor bonding.
To learn more about our tools and equipment click below. We sell but do not rent out our system.
Remove Thinset Without The Dusty Mess! Our System Captures the Dust.
What You Should Know About Removing Thinset From Tile
In the pictures below you can see how our team grinded down the thinset and scarified it for better floor bonding. The subfloor is left smoother, flatter, and better prepared for the installation of your new flooring.
Scraping Chisel Tool
1. Heavy Duty Scraping Tool with the Nylon DustRam®
The cheapest way to deal with this set is to get a heavy-duty scraping tool, such as a chisel, and start going to town prying the stuff off the concrete before installing your ceramic tile floor. You can determine the effectiveness of this method by the strength of the bond between the thin-set and the concrete, as well as the strength of your own body. It is not for the faint of heart or those who do not like to put in a bit of elbow grease. The upside is that if you change your mind after giving it a go you do not have any major costs sunk into the project.
Cost-effective; good exercise
May take forever; physically demanding if there is a large amount of square foot to remove
2. Angle Grinder with the Small EdgeRam®
An angle grinder is one of the best thinset and tile removal tools around. If you happen to have an angle grinder on hand you have used before for concrete grinding, try pairing it up with the stiffest metal brush attachment you can find.
This method works best for softer thinset or workspaces where the majority of the thinset came up during tile removal, and some minor cleanup is needed. It may also be more effective if you heavily wet down the thinset first to try to soften it up.
If you are lucky enough to be dealing with thinset that responds well to the soaking, then this can be a speedy job with minimal mess, though some extra time will be needed on the front end to let the thinset soak.
Not physically demanding; minimal dust in the work area if properly soaked.
Effectiveness varies based on the type and sq ft of thinset; it can be messy as wet thin-set flings around.
Made from solid billet aluminum with a 3D printed air gate called the RimRam®, this device will quickly allow you to remove thin-set, mortar, paint, coatings, micro toppings, adhesive, and black glue, quickly and efficiently, while capturing all the dust as it is created.
3. Chipping Hammer with the ExoRam®
There are several types of power tools that will work as the ideal type of tile removal equipment and can chip the tile, remove thin-set, and self-leveling underlayment. These tools use a chipping hammer and a chisel bit and a rapid back and forth motion to chip away at the mortar. If you are using one of these tools, then goggles are a necessity as small pieces of tile shrapnel will fly away.
This method also tends to create a fair amount of dust that gets into the air, so a dust mask is also a good precaution. It is not usually necessary to wet down the thin-set to let the tool do its work. In fact, it is best not to use water because the mechanical action is to chip off the hard stone, not pry it up from the concrete. The mechanical method is usually best for contractors to turn to when the thinset does not soften up when it is soaked.
Requires little prep work so it can be started immediately after pulling up tile flooring; it can also be used for the removing tile; it requires only one tool for the job.
Can still be difficult if the bond between the thin-set and concrete is too strong; creates airborne dust.
4. Self Cleaning Vacuum - DustRam® System for Dustless Thinset Removal
Fastest method; results in the smoothest cleared subfloor; not physically difficult.
Creates large amounts of dust, with much of it going into the air.
The patented DustRam® PulseRam® is the only automatic self cleaning vacuum system designed specifically for dustless tile and flooring removal. Other vacuums that do not clean by themselves can quickly have HEPA filters that become so saturated with dust and debris that they become ineffective. Vacuums designed for concrete grinding are not the same as a vacuum for tile removal.
Dealing with the Dust from a Thinset Removal
Use DustRam® Tools for a Better, Faster, and Cleaner Thinset Removal
1. Dust gets created no matter the method you use
Some of the dust is unavoidable no matter what method you choose. Even if you are breaking off chunks of thinset, you will still need to deal with some dust during the process.
2. DustRam® captures the dust from a thinset removal
The DustRam® System makes every tile and thinset removal job significantly easier and cleaner by removing the tile better, faster, and cleaner!
3. Classic and free water tactic does not guarantee a dustless removal
While using water is a classic free tactic that you can try, it does not guarantee a completely dustless environment. Using water also adds time to the project as the thinset has to soak and then the area has to dry before laying down new tile.
4. Elevate your work with DustRam®
If you are going with either an electric chipping hammer or a grinder due to their speed and ease of use, then pairing them up with the very best dust commander components of the DustRam® System will elevate your work.
5. DustRam® System is second to none!
The DustRam® captures all dust when created so none of it can escape into the air. The DustRam® System is so good at controlling the inevitable construction dust that you do not have to move or protect anything in the room from dust. You can even remove tile and thin set in a pantry full of food and not have to worry about anything getting contaminated, as this video demonstrates:
Purchase the DustRam Attachment for Electric Chipping Hammers
Though you can purchase the DustRam® attachment for electric chipping hammers on its own, only DustRam® System partner contractors can purchase a full DustRam® System for removal services. If you are looking to get some work done in your house and would like to hire a certified DustRam® contractor who offers this dust-free service, then visit contact us for more information. Most if not all will have a high BBB rating.
Just like that saying, “there is more than one way to skin a cat,” there is more than one way to remove thinset. The methods laid out here are the most commonly recommended and used by professional home improvement contractors and DIYers alike.
If you are starting out with a thinset removal project and you are struggling to figure out how to remove thinset, feel free to try one or all of them or hire a certified DustRam® System Contractor to handle it for you without the mess.