Tools to remove thinset from concrete floor

There’s one thing for certain when it comes to thinset- it’s absolutely tough to get it out and you’ll be lucky to make much headway without the similarly tough tools to remove thinset from concrete floor.

Whether you’re working on a slab, delicate surfaces such as wood floors, or even the sturdier cement floor of your bathroom retiling project, there are a variety of powerful instruments available to help you out.

Read more about them below.

Tools to remove thinset from concrete floor

The following list includes tools perfect even for removing the most stubborn thinset.

See what each offers and make your decision.

1.   Hammer drill

This thinset removal device generally removes thinset with ease and is way better than the slow, clumsy, and inefficient traditional methods of removing thinset. 

Be sure to add a quality thinset removal bit such as those made of hardened metals (look at this example) because they resist impact stresses brilliantly.

The leading models have premium features such as powerful brushless motors resulting in more running power and faster working speeds.

This DEWALT 20V Hammer Drill (3-Speed) is our top pick for clearing thinset and such stubborn adhesive.

2.   A putty knife

Occasionally, all you have to do is chip thinset off the floor with a putty knife.

If you take up this option, it’s advisable to take measures to decrease the integrity of the thinset.

For instance, pouring boiling water carefully over the surface could help weaken the thinset making it easier for your putty knife to break it up.

Like other concrete-based materials, applying vinegar to remove thinset can also be helpful as it dampens as well as hot water.

Let it soak for about an hour before getting to work.

The other solution, if you have the funds, is applying a thinset dissolver or any suitable thinset removal chemical before using the knife.

We, however, don’t recommend a putty knife for larger projects for obvious reasons.

3.   Power Chisel

Getting the strongest thinset out of the floor is a whole different story and you might need more than what tools like a putty knife offers.

A power chisel is another amazing instrument if you have stubborn thinset in mind as it excels at chiseling it off.

Of course, like other power tools, this thinset removal equipment is more expensive than simpler tools but it’s worth exploring for such circumstances.

We looked at what is available in the market and settled on this extremely powerful power chisel.

It’s a good alternative if you’re handling thicker thinset.

4.   Air hammer

Also known as air chisels, an air hammer breaks up old flooring like greased lightning and the thinset should come off the floor pretty easily.

For this, you’re going to require a high-capacity air compressor but it’s enough to get the otherwise intimidating task done in record time.

Thinking of investing in one? We love this model and you may want to try it.

5.   Demo hammer (demolition hammer)

Another tool to have more power and useful for tough materials like removing those tiles (plus the associated thinset) is demolition/ breaker hammer. 

And the good thing is that you can use it for tons of other chipping applications including ‘demoeing’ cinder block walls and digging post holes on rocky ground.

We encourage you to consider a heavy duty model because of the typically more forceful impact.

Here is a great example of models you can count on.

6.   Angle grinder

Angle Grinders are versatile and are ideal for a multitude of tasks including grinding, sharpening, cutting, and surface preparation. 

You may not need to spend again if you already own one.

In such cases, a superior diamond grinding wheel like this makes all the difference as they’re faster, more versatile, safer, and easier to use than traditional discs.

Another option would be to add a metal brush attachment (compatible with an angle grinder).

This combination clears thinset easily and won’t damage the concrete underneath it.

7.   Concrete scarifier 

Scarifiers (surface planers to some), cut up or scar the thinset using cutting accessories rotating around a drum and remove materials more aggressively than tools like grinders.

Scarifiers are configured to only clear a set amount of material per pass depending on the size of the motor mounted in the thinset removal machine and variables like the thinset hardness.

What we love most about these beasts is that you have the choice of renting or buying easier walk-behind or self-propelled types for an effortless operation.

The major downside to achieving your sought-after outcome is the dust cloud these machines produce.

To overcome this, go for a machine with a handy vacuum port as you can fit a dust collection bag.

The Tomahawk 8 in. Gas-powered Concrete Scarifier is one such machine.

8.   Floor buffer/maintainer

This is mostly available for rental from home improvement store and it’s again for situations where the thinset might not come off easily.

For it to go smoothly, make gentle movements to give the machine enough time to sufficiently grind down the difficult thinset.

Useful Tips

This section educates you on some steps you can implement during the process for the best results and safety:

  • Exercise caution- Be mindful of tools such as electric/pneumatic chipping hammers as they can easily ruin the underlying slab creating a bigger problem.
  • Wet the thinset- As hinted earlier, you can speed up the removal process with tools such as chisel and hammer drill by softening the surface before starting using substances such as boiled water.
  • Wear protection- Put on the protective gear such as a N95 respirator (or at the worst a standard dust mask) along with safety glasses when sanding or cutting thinset. You may also want to have your leather gloves on to prevent blisters.
  • Master the tool first- Also important for your safety (and that of your property) is making sure that you’ve trained and mastered how the tool is operated before embarking on the job.

Wrapping it up

There are a couple of main ways to quickly remove thinset without destroying any surfaces or hurting yourself.

The above tools to remove thinset from concrete floor are certainly among the best methods to use for this most dreaded renovation chore.

Pick the tool that will work best depending on the type of surface you have the thinset on to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

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