Old House Remodeling: Removing Old Tile and Glue

Dean Novosat
 


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When you live in old house like I do, remodeling is always a challenge and a surprise. I am currently involved in a major kitchen remodel. Our kitchen like many kitchens, has seen better days. It was installed in the house was built back in 1945 and I'm sure it's has served its previous owners well. However, modern kitchens are large and open. This kitchen, like most kitchens of its era, a small enclosed off. We decided to open the kitchen out by removing part of the wall, removing old tile from the walls, and updating the entire kitchen with new cabinets and appliances.

Our first surprise came when we moved the refrigerator from its current location. The refrigerator sat up on a platform about 1 inch off the kitchen floor. We never gave it much thought and assumed that it had always been like that. When I move the refrigerator and lifted up the old flooring, I discovered why. Plumbing from the sink did not go through the floor to join a drain pipe in the basement. It did, however, run across the floor and under the refrigerator. This required some major engineering to move the drain line for the new sink and dishwasher.

Surprise number two was the ceramic tile on the walls. The ceramic tile wound up not being ceramic tile at all! It was tin tile that was glued to a masonite backing board. The backing board was itself glued to the plaster walls and nailed every eight to 10 inches. So while the tiles came down very easily using just a screwdriver, getting they masonite backing board off the plaster was a nightmare. Not only were the plaster walls full of holes from the nails, big globs of glue was smeared all over the walls. At first I tried sanding. All that did was create a cloud of dust. After two hours of creating dust clouds I had only managed in clearing off a 2’ x 2’ square area. I talked to a number of contractors who only shook their heads and offered me luck in removing the glue from the walls. Someone suggested I use glue remover but I didn't want the fumes in the house. Someone else suggested a strong scraper but I wasn't strong enough to remove this glue. Finally, someone suggested a heat gun. I was skeptical. How would a little heat gun remove 60 years of hard and glue? Much to my surprise, it worked! Now it didn't work easily. It was still a lot of hard work, but by working slowly, and steadily, I was able to remove all remnants of glue in about four days.

I hope this tip and technique helps you if you ever encounter a similar situation. I know what I first started removing the glue from the wall, I would get discouraged thinking it would never end. However, by working slowly and steadily, I managed to get a little bit done each and every hour. I took frequent breaks, and went outside for a breather every couple of hours. It didn't help that I was doing this in the middle of summer when the temperature was in the 90s. However with perseverance, this task can be finished easily. And if you do it yourself, you'll save all the money that you would pay contractor to do the exact same thing.

Dean Novosat is an avid do-it-yourselfer and remodeler. He writes for http://build-decks-patios.com , http://for-gadget-guys.com , and http://www.the-kitchen-designer.com

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