How to Remove Floor Tile Glue From Concrete

We’re living in the DIY age! Today, you can build or fix anything in your own home with the right tools at hand and the right articles on the World Wide Web. From how to screw on a light bulb to doing your own plumbing to creating a Ferrari out of Lego blocks, nothing is out of reach. And, of course, the focus for today, redecorating your floor.

There are plenty of options for floor tiling out there, and finding the right one for your floor is more a matter of personal preference than compatibility as most of these tiles are easy to fix and come with some pretty powerful adhesives. They’ll stick to just about anything. That’s all fine and dandy, but there’s one itsy bitsy problem: removing them later on.

The same quality that makes tile adhesive so reliable can make it a real pain in the rear end when you want to install new tiles, especially if the original floor is concrete. So how do you remove floor tile adhesive from a concrete floor?

The thing about tile adhesive is that there isn’t just one kind. There are a few, and each kind has its own nuances to be considered. There are basically four types of tile adhesives you’re likely to meet if you dig up those tiles on your floor:

  • Mastic: organic and water soluble. This one is the absolute easiest to remove.
  • Thin-set mortar: This great adhesive is based on Portland cement and kicks water’s ass. It doesn’t matter if you pour the Niagara Falls on it, it won’t budge. But it has its weaknesses, as we’ll see.
  • Vinyl adhesive: To me, vinyl sounds like a long lost cousin of vineyard. You know why? Because wine comes from vineyards, and just like wine, vinyl gets better with age. By better, I mean stronger. Try to take out your vinyl pasted tiles after 6 months and cleaning the vinyl off will be a breeze. Do the same after 10 years and I assure you, you will lose your temper.
  • Asbestos based adhesives: 1984 isn’t just the title of George Orwell’s dystopian novel, it’s also the year prior to which most tile adhesives contained this demon chemical. The long and short of it is that asbestos simply isn’t good for you. Stay as far away from it as you can! In fact, get a restraining order against it. If you need to remove it, get a professional. Don’t DIY yourself to your deathbed. Period.

How to Remove Different Kinds of Adhesive:

Mastic

Remember, mastic is soluble in water. So removing it is going to involve a lot of water. Simply soak up a lot of absorbent cloths or paper towels in water and cover the mastic with them. The mastic will soften, making it easier to remove with a scraper.

Thin-set Mortar

Thin-set mortar will not be moved by water. However, it has a weakness that makes that challenge rather moot: It’s brittle. In fact, large bits of it will come off with your tiles as you pry them up. How do you take it out? Well, an old-fashioned chisel will do. Simply place it at a 45 degree angle to the substrate and chisel away. Be careful not to ruin your floor though, or you won’t have anything to tile.

Vinyl Adhesive

Remember what we said about vinyl adhesive: it’s a tough cookie, and it only gets tougher with age. With vinyl, the answer is fire or heat if you will. Heat will soften vinyl enough for you to have a go at it with a putty knife. You can aim a blow gun at the vinyl or put it under several layers of paper and pass an iron over the top. Never allow for a hot object to come into actual contact with vinyl. Once it has softened enough, scrape it off with a scraping knife. If the heat doesn’t work, try a citrus-based solvent. These can be found at a nearby hardware store. Applying them will usually involve waiting between 30 minutes and 2 hours for the adhesive to dissolve completely before scraping it off. Whatever the case, make sure you follow the instructions on the solvent’s container carefully.

Asbestos

I think I made my point clear. With asbestos based adhesives, there is always the risk of getting the asbestos into the air, where it can easily be inhaled or ingested. It is harmful to your health so stay away from tiles that were installed before 1984. Best call a professional.

So there you have it guys! Removing tiles from your concrete floor should be a breeze as long as you are well equipped and well informed. And don’t forget to be well protected as well. Tile removing can be a dangerous job. So make sure you have safety goggles, a dust mask, overalls and gloves as you work. Remember: safety first.

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