How to remove thinset from plywood

Removing thinset mortar from plywood can be a challenging task, but it's possible with the right tools and techniques. Thinset is a cement-based adhesive commonly used for setting tiles, and when it dries, it can bond strongly to surfaces. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to remove thinset from plywood:

Materials you will need:

  1. Safety goggles

  2. Safety gloves

  3. Dust mask (optional, for respiratory protection)

  4. Flat-edged shovel or floor scraper

  5. Hammer or mallet

  6. Chisel or putty knife

  7. Angle grinder with a diamond cup wheel attachment (optional)

  8. Heavy-duty adhesive remover (optional)

  9. Broom and dustpan

  10. Vacuum cleaner (optional)


  1. Safety precautions: Before you start, put on safety goggles, gloves, and a dust mask if desired to protect yourself from dust and debris.

  2. Prepare the work area: Clear the area around the plywood and ensure it's well-ventilated.

  3. Initial removal: Use a flat-edged shovel or floor scraper to start removing the bulk of the thinset. Place the edge of the shovel or scraper at a slight angle and tap it with a hammer or mallet to break the thinset loose from the plywood surface. Work in small sections, making sure to remove as much as possible.

  4. Chisel or putty knife: Once you've removed the bulk of the thinset, use a chisel or putty knife to carefully scrape off the remaining thinset. Be cautious not to gouge or damage the plywood. Work in small areas, applying moderate pressure to remove the adhesive.

  5. Angle grinder (optional): If the thinset is particularly stubborn or thick, you can use an angle grinder with a diamond cup wheel attachment. This can help you grind away the remaining thinset more efficiently. Use the grinder carefully and keep it level to avoid damaging the plywood.

  6. Adhesive remover (optional): If there are stubborn thinset remnants or adhesive residues left on the plywood, you can apply a heavy-duty adhesive remover following the manufacturer's instructions. This can soften the adhesive, making it easier to scrape or wipe away. Ensure proper ventilation when using such products.

  7. Clean the surface: Sweep up loose debris with a broom and dustpan, and use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to thoroughly clean the plywood surface.

  8. Inspect and prepare for new flooring: Once the plywood is clean and free of adhesive, inspect it for any damage or irregularities. Repair any damaged areas as needed and prepare the surface for new flooring installation.

  9. Dispose of debris: Properly dispose of the removed thinset and debris in accordance with local regulations.

Removing thinset from plywood can be a labor-intensive process, especially if the thinset is thick or firmly bonded. Be patient and take your time to ensure a clean and smooth surface for your new flooring installation. If you're unsure about tackling this task yourself, consider seeking the assistance of a professional flooring installer or contractor.


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