Shattered Glass: Less Fun Than You Might Think
July 16, 2005 11:03 AM   Subscribe

Home Improvement Filter: We are redoing a bathroom and have a mirror removal debacle. Specifically, how does one remove a large (say, 2.5'x3.5' or so) mirror that has been (apparenlty) LiquidNails'ed to the wall for approximately 20 years without killing oneself?

The mirror is old and looking icky around the edges, and it's really too big for the space that it's in. Any professional advice or personal experiences with removing great big pieces of glass welcome!
posted by Medieval Maven to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would crisscross the mirror with duct tape--cover the whole surface--Put down some drop cloths to catch the glass bits that fly off anyway, then get a pry bar behind it and start busting it off in chunks. This will make a mess of the underlying wallboard or plaster, but you can patch it. I can't think of a way to get the mirror off without breaking it in the process, unless you cut out the wallboard behind it.
posted by LarryC at 11:46 AM on July 16, 2005

wild guess - cover it with sticky tape or similar and then take a hammer to it. if it was glued, you'll end up with only the bits on top of the glue being stuck to the wall. with a bit of luck, those will be small regions that a chisel and mallet will ping off (protective clothing!). i can't imagine someone who glues things to walls making much of an attempt to spread the glue all over....
posted by andrew cooke at 11:58 AM on July 16, 2005

Is the wall behind it wallboard? If so, I would cut out everything down to the studs and pop the nails through. No sense trying to save the wallboard because the adhesive will destroy the surface (probably), and the cheaper fix is patching the 2.5' x 3.5' hole, a fairly minor ordeal.

Duct tape is one solution, but I would glue a thin sheet of plywood cut to fit over it instead. Breaking the mirror into small pieces is asking for trouble.
posted by mischief at 12:00 PM on July 16, 2005

Agreed on the duct tape. Use a whole roll. Then (as I see andrew cooke has beaten me to it) gently break the mirror with a hammer.

and keep this thread handy for after
posted by gleuschk at 12:02 PM on July 16, 2005

My mom had a mirror like this....get some super strong fishing line or such and slide it behind the mirror from the top (presuming there's a little unglued part at the top) then pull down straight against the wall to work the string between the wall and the mirror (breaking up the adhesive). Does this make sense? I'm not sure how to explain it.

The wall will be a mess of course.
posted by duck at 12:15 PM on July 16, 2005

So basically you have a piece of the string hanging out from each side of the mirror and you have a person on each side pulling the string down. Something to wrap your hands in so the fishing line doesn't dig in will be helpful.
posted by duck at 12:15 PM on July 16, 2005

I like duck's idea, but I'd use piano wire instead. Also, be sure to wear gloves and eye protection!
posted by Daddio at 12:36 PM on July 16, 2005

I like combining duck's idea with the duct tape. The duct tape is cheap insurance.
posted by SpecialK at 2:13 PM on July 16, 2005

i doubt you'll be able to saw through that glue with the wire...better to just try prying the thing off. maybe worth a shot though
posted by jacobsee at 2:34 PM on July 16, 2005

I'm going with mischief. Just cut out the mirror from the wall, go buy a piece of sheetrock, and just fit it in there, and patch it up.

It sounds intimidating, but it's actually very straightforward. You could have it removed and patched in a couple of hours and it would need a day or two for the plaster to dry.
posted by AaRdVarK at 2:37 PM on July 16, 2005

wow. neat idea. fighting kites use string that has powdered glass glued on. i wonder if that would work, somehow (it cuts).
posted by andrew cooke at 2:38 PM on July 16, 2005

I agree with the people saying you should just take out the wall. Wallboard can be cut with a utility knife or a keyhole saw. You don't want to use a real saw for risk of damaging the studs. Also, get something that will detect AC power and metal (pipes) behind walls, you don't want to saw through a live power line. Many better stud finders will also tell you about metal and power. It's also best to turn off the power to the house while you are doing this anyway...

Cut two all around the mirror an inch or two away from the edge. You want to make your cuts as straight as possible since this will make it easier to cut the replacement drywall to fit. Now on one side, probably the top is best, cut an additional line about two inches from the edge of the first, again as straight as possible. This strip that you have just cut out is where you will insert your crowbar to pry the old wallboard and mirror off. Place a bit of scrap wood, about a foot square behind the crowbar so it doesn't damage the wallboard you intend to keep. Pry only where studs are, not against unsupported wallboard.

If the old wallboard is screwed to the studs, as opposed to being nailed to the studs, this is going to be a lot of work and may damage the studs in removal.

The wallboard you get to replace it should probably be what is called greenboard, which is drywall that is a bit more moisture resistant, good thing to have in a bathroom. Get a sheet the same thickness as the old wall, probably 1/2". This is also a good time to consider if you want to put any additional electrical outlets in this wall, it's a whole lot easier now than it will be later. Remember, outlets within 3 feet of a source of water (sink) must be GFCI.

This is a good page on Cutting drywall, but the way he describes might be harder for a novice. The easier (but slower) way is to lay the drywall on a flat surface or a pair of sawhorses. Score where you want to cut with a utility knife. You only need to cut through the first layer of paper. The cut needs to be straight and all the way from one end to the other. Now lay the part to be broken off so it is hanging over the edge of your surface a few inches with the scored part facing up. Strike the bit to be removed with the heels of your hands sharply. Your hands need to hit at the same time and should be evenly distributed across the cut (ie: 3 foot cut, your hands hit at 1 foot and 2 feet). The board should crack cleanly and be left hanging off by the back layer of paper. You can cut the back layer of paper while it is still hanging.

Before hanging your new wall, use a pencil to mark where the studs are on the old wall at the top an bottom. This will help you place your new nails in the studs and not in some random place. Put your new board in the hole and insure it fits. It's best to leave an 1/16" to 1/8" gap between the old and new boards all around. This allows them to move slightly in relation to each other. The plaster will fill this and move a little too. If you don't do this, you may end up with cracks in your walls later.

Mud it up when you are done with 2 or 3 thin layers, waiting 24 hours between layers.

And don't worry, even if you really screw this up, you can always pay someone $100 to replace the wall for you.
posted by darkness at 4:40 PM on July 16, 2005

Point a space heater at the mirror and see if by heating the glass the glue softens up enough that the piano wire can cut thru.
posted by hortense at 6:12 PM on July 16, 2005

If you try piano wire, fishing line, or kite-fighting string, you can tie/wrap the ends around some handles (wooden spoons, screwdrivers, short pieces of 1"x2" wood) to keep it from cutting into your hands.
posted by amtho at 5:03 AM on July 17, 2005

This isn't the question you asked, and I apologize.
You could always find a slightly larger mirror, frame it, and just screw the frame into the wall around the mess you have.
It would not involve replacing the wall board behind your existing mirror. That's what I would do, but it's not what you asked.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 1:43 PM on July 17, 2005

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