There is one job that almost everyone doing bathroom renovation dreads:
removing the mirror. Of course, the job would be much easier if the mirror itself were of no value. But considering how expensive new mirrors are, many people hope to salvage the one they already have.
Most bathroom mirrors are fairly large, and some even cover the length of a wall, so there are obvious risks involved in trying to take them down. Added to the difficulty of handling a large, heavy, and fragile mirror is the fact that many mirrors are not just mounted to the wall with brackets. Most installers choose to glue mirrors directly to the wall, which can multiply the dangers and difficulty associated with taking them down.
Therefore, it is important for the do-it-yourself home renovator to take the proper precautions, have the right tools for the job, and follow the necessary steps to complete this challenging task safely and with as little damage to the mirror as possible.
Before beginning any home renovation project, it is important to have all the necessary tools for the job. In the case of removing a wall mirror, there are only a few items that need be at hand, and they can be found at any home improvement store. The first is a five-in-one painter’s tool, which costs between $1 and $6. (A putty knife can also be used for the task at hand.) Next, you will need to have one or two flat pry bars, which can be purchased for about $5.
Other items you should have include duct tape, a blow dryer, stainless steel wire or a guitar string, and several soft towels. Be sure to have personal safety equipment such as goggles and gloves, which can protect eyes and hands in the event of broken glass. Another important part of safety is to dress in long sleeves, jeans, and closed-toed shoes.
Finally, you will most definitely want to have at least one helper on hand, since mirrors are heavy and difficult to handle, and because the process of taking them down requires an extra set of hands.
Your next step should be to prepare your mirror, bathroom, and entire work area, laying out all the supplies you will need before you get started. Use duct tape to cover the entire surface of your mirror. In the case of breakage, this will hold the mirror together and keep it from shattering and causing injury to you or damage to your bathroom. Also use the duct tape to fasten the mirror to the wall above, so that if it comes apart from the wall unexpectedly, it will not come crashing down.
Next, cover any surfaces below the mirror, such as the floor and sink, if you think they might be damaged by broken glass. Keep in mind that all this preparation is for the worst-case scenario, but it is far from impossible to take down your mirror without breaking it. It is simply better to be safe than sorry!
Once all these preparations have been made, it is time for you and your helper(s) to get to work. First, it might be a good idea to use a blow dryer to heat the glass evenly all over its surface. This is because it can help soften the glue, called mastic, which holds it to the wall. Next, using your painter’s tool or putty knife, gently separate the mirror from the wall, working it around and under the edge to cut through any paint that might have overlapped the mirror, thereby making a small crevice behind the mirror.
Now, while keeping a careful hold on the mirror, work the piano wire behind the mirror and bring it down in a sawing motion, with your helper holding onto the other end. The goal is to cut through the mastic, which is usually applied in dabs rather than along the whole surface. It might help to heat the mirror again before attempting this. With any luck, this will totally detach the mirror from the wall. But if it doesn’t, it is time to use the pry bars.
Use two at once along each side of the mirror to help distribute the pressure and reduce the risk of cracking, since this is the point at which the mirror is most likely to break. Also, be sure that your helper is ready to support the mirror, should it come loose. After gently prying and making more room between the mirror and the wall, try to fit your painter’s tool or putty knife between them to work away at the mastic.
Again, re-heating the mirror at this point will probably be helpful. Once the mirror is down, you and your helper should store it carefully, wrapping it between several towels for protection. The now bare wall will most likely have some damage, either because the mastic remains or because some of the surfaces have been torn away. Most experts recommend removing this section of the wall and replacing it, which is fairly simple and inexpensive.