Tile-Removal Tuesday

So I removed tiles on Tuesday (I think I told you that already, but now I am going to tell you in detail.)

our church key, showing the signs of its use by Janet on the tiles

our kitchen — the tiles ran along the top of the countertop

We had three tools (in the end) for our tile removal project (discounting the electric hair-dryer, which was used to heat the tiles/wall/backsplash). Janet started last weekend using something (maybe the paint spatula/putty knife) but found the tool awkward and unusable (for her), so she switched to (of all improbable things) the church key. Yes, our old-fashioned metal bottle opener (which we actually need to open large cans of tomato juice). Janet found it nearby when she got frustrated because it lives right in the front of our silverware drawer, so it was only a step or two from where she started working. She favored the pointy end to pry behind (I think) the tiles and thus jack them off the wall. and it was the tool she used as we tried the application of heat on Sunday. I on the other hand preferred the putty knife as I gave it a go on Sunday, while she applied the hair dryer. After all, its blade was distinctly thinner than the can opener! Once we had removed a few more tiles than she had initially gathered from the wall (and scattered a good deal of ceramic dust and glue and paint scraps in the process), I agreed to give it a go on Monday. And I forgot all about it, pretty much (too much reading, looking around the internet, writing posts), and only did about another five or six tiles, noticing that I was leaving a scarred wall behind (and removing the silicone caulk at the top of the backsplash). I wisely/lazily decided to check with her that evening before continuing this exhausting process and promptly returned to the book(s) and computer.

the vile corner

tiles went into the yellow container, using the putty knife — notice the three tiles

Unfortunately (I guess), she decided  that I wasnʼt doing all that badly and said I should continue. Rats! However, I did indeed do so, starting right upon her departure for work Tuesday morning. I got out her hair dryer and lambasted the east wall for a few minutes with high heat, then went at the little tiles with the putty knife. It was work. I tried more heat, and keeping the dryer on with my left hand while I jimmied and pried with the right, I started moving along better. In an hour or so I was approaching the first corner, deep (I hadnʼt realized how deep) under the corner cupboards. But I reached my arms and used what little leverage and delicacy I could muster hunched over, face on the countertop (and bashed my bald skull twice going out from under), and in about twenty minutes the corner was turned and I was proceeding along the north wall toward the sink.

notice the “narrow gap” between the windowsill and the backsplash

At the sink, which sits underneath a window, things got interesting. The tiles were in the inch-and-a-half gap between the backsplash and the windowsill, and I knew in advance that my clumsy old putty knife wasnʼt going to do the trick, at least not as I had been operating. I had been pushing my blade into the upper side or the open side of each tile and tying to pry them loose — and scraping the wall pretty nicely pretty frequently as well. Working from the top was how I had started, but I noticed that sometimes the tiles seemed more loose on the free side, the one from which the last tile had been removed. Since we were working from right to left around the kitchen, that meant the right side of the tile. And sometimes working the edge in underneath that upper right corner worked the best (in fact often), and the tiles — which often split under the pressure, preferring to crack the face of the tile free rather than release the omnipotent hold of the glue — didnʼt break as often from the corner. However, that trick was not going to work in the narrow space under the window. So I started experimenting with wedging in underneath the tile, along the top surface of the backsplash, and prying upward. I had a theory (if you wish to be scientific — an hypothesis) that with the pry-upwards system I might salvage some of the silicone caulk along the top back of the backsplash. It was a foolish theory, even though I did avoid prying caulk out with paint, glue and tile: weʼre going to have to remove all the grungy caulk anyway and replace it. Janetʼs glue (or caulk) on the tiles somehow wedded with the backsplashʼs caulk.

the thin region that inspired use of the knife — also a good view of the damage done

Anyway, as I neared the window/sink, the prying upwards got more iffy (I was worried I was scratching the top surface of the backsplash), and once I got underneath the windowsill, my putty knife, as I had anticipated, was just too large. So I went for a new tool — a kitchen knife, a dinner knife. But not one of the nice ones in the silverware drawer right beside where I was working (silverware, in our house, yeah, right): I went down to the basement (which has a full sink) for one of the old ones Janet probably would prefer I threw away. And the knife was the perfect tool. I could work from the side or the bottom, and the tiles fairly flew off the wall (sometimes even literally, but they had literally flown several times under the putty knife). I wrapped the job by noon. However, looking back on my remnants, I realized we were going to have to redo the drywall where the tiles had been. I had scratched at the paint, and sometimes the tiles had clung to more than just their glue and some of the layers of paint. Little craters in the wall would need to be filled and primed before we started painting. So I located some sandpaper and got started trying to smooth the wall again. This effort was not very successful, and I began to fear I was scratching the top of the backsplash again. So instead I cleaned up the mess I had created — lots of dust and rags of glue and paint all over the countertop and the floor (and in the sink). At least I had possessed the foresight to remove all the objects Janet likes to keep on the surface as decoration. The vacuum cleaner (hose attachment) and some damp rags removed the ugliness (after all, the cleaning lady was coming the next day). Now all both of us have to do is work on the wall repair process, and then it will be painting time. I just hope I have a blog post all prepared in advance for that day because whenever it arrives, on painting day I will be busy! Again.

whatʼs left over — the tiles

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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