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Unread 01-10-2020, 06:52 PM   #1
Sam Splash
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Am I asking for trouble - removing set tiles?

Hi All - This week finished up a shower - walls and floors on Schluter. The 1-1/2" square tiles on a 12x12 mesh that I used on the floor are bugging me. Well one square in particular (around the drain of course) and right in front of the door. This mat obviously slipped somewhere along and I ended up with some misalignment one mat to the other. I really want to remove the errant section and
pop a new one in its place being more careful with straight lines. Of course the rest of the floor looks fine, but in a 4' x 3' shower, one square feet is not insignificant.

SO - question - anyway to safely remove one section without creating a nightmare of rework? The tiles will have been set for less than a week by the time I can get to it. No grout yet. I can work very carefully but how to start/proceed? I think I can do this without compromising the drain and the Schluter substrate but am I kidding myself? Maybe I should just squelch my OCD. Still, if I can see it and don't like it ...

Thanks for your help or a dope slap, if that is more appropriate.
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Unread 01-10-2020, 08:50 PM   #2
cx
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Welcome back, Sam.

If you wait a week you can forget about a successful removal without effectively destroying your waterproofing (presumably Kerdi?) membrane.

What's wrong with removing the tiles right now?

How long have they been set?

With what bonding mortar did you set the tiles?
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Unread 01-10-2020, 09:01 PM   #3
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Just to clarify, are we talking about a full sheet of tile, or a single 1 1/2" square?

If it's a single square, I'd take a hammer and nail set and break the tile into several pieces to facilitate easier removal. Keep in mind, this isn't smashing it like with a wrecking ball, but more like dental work. You start tapping and increase the force until the tile breaks up.

Wear some leather gloves to get the pieces out, as they'll be sharp. Very carefully chip away just enough of mortar to allow the new tile to set in the right position.

I'd allow 15-20 minutes or so to get the tile and mortar removed. Don't rush it. Maybe if you're lucky, it'll pop right up with little effort. You just don't want to risk pulling the membrane loose from the floor below.

If it's a full sheet, multiply the above by 40.
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Unread 01-10-2020, 09:02 PM   #4
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Oh, yeah. The sooner the better. Every day it sits will make your work a little more difficult.
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Unread 01-10-2020, 09:08 PM   #5
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The last time I attempted the removal of tile from Kerdi after being set for 6 days with DitraSet was the annihilation of the Kerdi and chunks pulled from the drywall. In my case, I was grateful this was outside the wet shower footprint. If the tiles were set with best practices, I don’t think I’d monk with them.

I don’t want to doubt your setting skills...but unless the tiles were set a little sloppy (mortar mixed too dry, tiles not wiped clean of dust before installing, low mortar coverage, not embedding the tiles), I would leave them alone. A week is a long, long time to wait before removing tiles from a membrane.

Sorry.

...Although I’m weirdly hoping that the tiles weren’t set well so that you had a shot at removing them without wrecking the membrane.



EDIT: P.S. If you spend 18 minutes typing a post, you can figure 3 posts will beat you to the punch.
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Unread 01-11-2020, 08:07 AM   #6
Sam Splash
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OK folks, thanks for the replies.

• Tile was set late Thursday afternoon. It is now Saturday morning.

• Mortar was Schulter ALL SET - properly & precisely mixed following manufacturers specs - time, speed etc.

• One 12 x12 sheet

• Don't know why I didn't pull it up that day - end of day clean up mode
Anyway - yesterday morning I looked and thought OH CRAP that doesn't look so good. Then commenced to install the main floor tiles. Those came out good.

• Sounds like I should head over this morning if there is any hope of saving these.

• ANOTHER QUESTION - will I need to get back down to substrate or will it be good enough to just get a pretty clean & flat surface of the mortar bed on top of which I can apply new?

Thanks again for all your help.

Welcome back, thanks cx - yeah I don't do much tile work but very now and then I get called in. Surprising very very few dependable pros in our area. The best have all retired. I'm not the best but I'm careful, methodical, particular and a good learner. Still though, as you have read, I have moments of errors despite my best efforts/intentions.
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Unread 01-11-2020, 08:16 AM   #7
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You're gonna need to get down low enough to allow for enough new mortar under the tile to hold them in place while being even with the tops of the remaining tile. If you are able to get them out without hurting the membrane you should be able to carefully scrape off the mortar. If you remove a whole sheet a rub brick, carefully used, will get most of it, or a 3-4" putty knife. I'd consider rounding off the ends of a putty knife though. You don't want to go too low, 'else you risk removing the fleece.
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Unread 01-11-2020, 09:12 AM   #8
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If it's a single 1 1/2" tile, I doubt either of those will work in that tiny space.
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Unread 01-11-2020, 09:27 AM   #9
Tool Guy - Kg
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He’s talking about 64 tiles.

Sam, if it’s been something like 43 hours, and you’ve got hard deck mud (as opposed to a soft foam tray) under there, I’d carefully give it a shot at removal.

I have a different opinion than Dan on the putty knife. If you can remove the tiles, I’d personally not dare use a putty knife to remove the mortar because it only takes the blade one simple catch during a forward push and you could puncture the membrane. I’d install a worn carbide grit (rasp) flat finger on the business end of an oscillating tool and gently grind down the mortar. It would be very controlled if you: used a small flat finger rasp (not the big triangular rasp), turned the the tool down to mid speed, and ran a vacuum to continuously give you clear vision as to when you were approaching the depth of the orange membrane. You need to be very focused if you’re going to attempt this.


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Unread 01-11-2020, 12:29 PM   #10
Sam Splash
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OK - 1 PM & mission accomplished.

Once I tapped on and broke a row of tiles and took out those pieces it was surprisingly easy to work with a 2" cold chisel, as a not so sharp scraper, to lift out remaining tile pieces whole leaving the mesh behind.

Name:  Drain-Patch-1.jpg
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Then with a 2 wide not so sharp beater woodworking butt chisel I carefully scraped away the mesh and mortar. Discovered that if I cross hatched the mortar with the chisel I could pretty safely remove pieces of it without damaging the substrate. Enough cross hatching and pieces broke away.

You can see the finished results here.

Name:  Drain-Patch-2.jpg
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The gray area immediately around the drain is mortar. I got it thin but did not want to work any closer. Only one spot - bottom right - did I obviously get through the membrane. Otherwise, I did scratch through the very surface of the kerdi membrane in a few places. This is the secondary membrane that surrounds the drain - not through to the back of the membrane and certainly not to the board below. In any case, since there was some potential compromised waterproofing - SO - after I took the photo and cleaned again, I skim coated the entire opening with Kerdi Fix caulk. Pretty confident that the waterproof integrity has been maintained.


All in all I'm glad I took the 1-1/2 hours to do this job AND that you guys made me realize that the longer I waited the less likely of success. Thanks for the kick in the butt. Monday I will return to replace the tile section. Kill me please if I come back to you with the same problem.

Thanks everyone for taking the time to offer advice.


EDIT- MAYBE a big OOPS is coming. Will the new mortar stick to the KERDI FIX? On second thought I'm guessing NOT! One step forward and another back.

SO - scrape off the Kerdi Fix and thin set another KERDI membrane in the square?
Probably should have done that huh? I had Kerdi Fix but no Kerdi membrane (me-brain). I'm listening. Thanks again.

EDIT # 2 - I think edit # 1 is not such a concern based on this article I found by Kelly Chaplin who likely needs no intro on this forum - https://www.johnbridge.com/articles/showers/tiling-over-kerdi-fix/

OK - I think I can sleep soundly tonight.
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Last edited by Sam Splash; 01-11-2020 at 01:24 PM. Reason: Obvious with a reading.
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