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Image of a bathroom wall with hard adhesive attached

I decided to take on the project of a DIY 1/2 bath renovation. We have burgundy wall tile in the bathroom that I had hoped would be easy to remove. The tile is original to the house built in 60s. The tile itself came off fairly easy but now I’m left with this hard cement-like adhesive that won't budge. I've tried sanding but it makes a big mess with little progress. A tried a goo gone type of solvent that did nothing. I need help and ideas. It's a hard adhesive not sticky or soft like a glue or putty.

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  • Drywall is the enemy. - How to remove hard adhesive from the back of the old tile? You don't. - How to remove hard adhesive left over on the drywall from bathroom wall tile? Also no.
    – Mazura
    Dec 12, 2022 at 21:23
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    The cured adhesive is probably stronger than the drywall, even free-standing you risk taking the drywall off the adhesive. Is this your only toilet in the house? If you have another, it will make access easier to remove this one temporarily and refit once all the tiling/flooring is done.
    – Criggie
    Dec 12, 2022 at 22:59
  • What are you hoping to refinish the wall with once you're done?
    – spuck
    Dec 13, 2022 at 16:52

3 Answers 3

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A bit late now, but adhesives/tile mastics from the 1960's often imply "check for asbestos before making dust out of them." It's not the "classic black mastic" but still...

Remove the drywall, adhesives and all, take care of anything needing fixed or updated while the wall cavities are open (insulation, electrical upgrades, etc.) and put on new drywall (or cement-board if re-tiling.)

Fighting with old dried mastic is a waste of effort .vs. rip and replace with new, plus you get to fix anything in the walls that needs fixing. But even if nothing in the walls needs fixing, replacing the drywall is far less effort than trying to scrape that junk off without destroying the wall, and gives a better surface for whatever you will be finishing with.

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  • Asbestos is not some type of magical toxin. It is BAD, yes, over a long period of time. One time, not great, but also unlikely to be fatal. Just don't go sanding it every week for couple years.
    – Nelson
    Dec 13, 2022 at 5:33
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    +1 if the plan is to put new tile on the wall, this is your chance to use a cement backer board instead of drywall.
    – spuck
    Dec 13, 2022 at 16:55
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Below are a bunch of options. Choose based on your budget or if you value your time then skip to option #4.

Option 1

You can try a coarser grit when sanding like 36. Particularly useful would be a random orbital sander. A belt sander would be far too uneven. Wear a respirator.

Option 2

Get an SDS chisel and the proper tool.

Option 3

Get an oscillating tool and hard scraper blade.

Option 4

You need to either find a good drywall finisher that can skim coat the entire wall or rip out and replace that sheetrock.

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  • skim coating seems like a terrible hack job to me. Replacing would be acceptable, though. So are the 3 other options
    – Jeffrey
    Dec 12, 2022 at 15:10
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    @Jeffrey Well if the finisher is "worth their salt" then they'll sand it down to be just as flat as drywall. It's only a hack if you do/hire a hack-job.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Dec 12, 2022 at 15:13
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Try warming it with a heat gun. It might soften enough that you can scrape it off with a putty knife

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