How to Remove Thinset from Concrete: 3 Best Ways

How to Remove Thinset from Concrete: 3 Best Ways

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So you’ve got some old thinset that needs to be removed from the concrete below. For instance, if you are planning to install a new tile floor or wall, you’ll have to remove the old tiles first, and this also goes for the adhesive used, which is generally going to be thinset or thinset mortar.

Today, we are going to cover the different methods of removing this substance from concrete.

Can You Remove Thinset From Concrete Without Damage?

Technically speaking, yes, it is possible to remove thinset from concrete without causing damage, or at least not very much damage. The reason for this is that this adhesive is generally much weaker than actual concrete.

This means that whatever tools you use to remove the thinset, the amount of pressure and force required to remove it t is not nearly as much as would be required to break and remove the concrete. Therefore, you should be able to remove the old adhesive without damaging the concrete below.

That said, depending on the tool that you are using, particularly if you use something like a hammer drill, and you don’t hold it at the right angle, then yes, you may damage the concrete below.

However, if you work carefully and follow all of the tips that we are about to provide, you should be able to get rid of all the old thinset mortar without damaging the concrete.

How to Remove Thinset From Concrete: 3 Best Ways

There are three main ways to remove thinset from concrete, including using a hammer and chisel, a hammer drill with a chisel attachment, and an angle grinder. However, before we focus on individual methods, let’s start with the preparation, which will be the same for all three.

Before you move on to any of the solutions below we are about to look at, you will want to pour a good bit of boiling hot water onto the thinset. Once you have applied a generous quantity of boiling water, let it sit for up to an hour. This will greatly reduce the strength and integrity of the substance, and will also help to loosen the bond between it and the concrete, therefore making it much easier to remove.

1. Using a Hammer and Chisel

This first method of removing thinset from concrete involves just two simple hand tools, the hammer, and the chisel. If you just have a bit of adhesive that needs removing, and the layer isn’t too thick, then this will work just fine.

Moreover, if you don’t have much space to work in, then this method is also ideal. That said, of course, a hammer and chisel will require you to use those muscles, so it is a hard and labor-intensive process, but also cost-effective as you don’t need to buy any special tools.

To remove thinset from concrete with this method, follow the process below:

  1. Gather your tools: You will need to get a good hammer and a chisel for this job, preferably a masonry chisel.
  2. Get a grip and start chiseling: Now, hold the chisel at a 45-degree angle to the thinset and hit the rear with your hammer. Don’t hit too hard as you may break the chisel. If the substance is not breaking apart yet, hit it with some more boiling water.
  3. Sharpen the chisel and continue: If you have a lot of thinset to remove, you will need to use a sharpening stone or grinder to sharpen your chisel when it starts to get dull. So, sharpen your chisel and then continue until you have hammered away all of the adhesives from the concrete.

2. Using a Hammer Drill

If you have a lot of thinset that needs to be removed, and you want to make quick work of it, then using a hammer drill with a chisel attachment is recommended. Yes, realistically, this is just like using a hammer and chisel, although much faster and easier.

Here, the hammer drill is going to do all of the hard work for you, so you don’t need to use those muscles and fatigue yourself.

This is a much better choice if you have a large area to cover. Of course, you will need a hammer drill for this job. Hammer drills can be expensive, so carefully consider whether or not you want to purchase one, although it will certainly make life a lot easier.

Follow the directions listed below to remove thinset from concrete using a hammer drill:

  1. Get the right chisel and prepare the tool: You will need to have the right kind of chisel for your hammer drill, which in this case means using a very wide masonry chisel. The wider it is the faster it will work. Also, remember that hammer drills usually also rotate, which you don’t want here. So, before moving on, turn off the rotation on your tool.
  2. Chisel the thinset away: All you need to do here is hold the hammer drill so that the chisel is at a 45-degree angle to the thinset, then pull the trigger, let the hammer drill do the work, and simply move it along the adhesive. Work in straight lines that are about 1’ to 2’ in length. Remember to let the tool do the work for you. If the substance you are removing happens to be very thick, try decreasing the angle of the chisel in relation to the thinset.

3. Using an Angle Grinder

The last way to remove thinset from concrete we are going to talk about here is by using an angle grinder. If you have a large surface area you need to cover, and the layer of adhesive isn’t too thick, then this makes for a good option. Just beware that this method does produce a lot of dust.

It’s simple to execute, though:

  1. Prepare your tool: You will need to attach a diamond abrasive wheel to perform this task. Once you have attached this, you want to hook the grinder up to a dust vacuum system to suck up all of that toxic dust that will be created.
  2. Grind the thinset: You now want to turn your angle grinder on, get it up to full speed, and move it along the old adhesive in vertical lines that are about 2’ long. You will need to do several passes over the same spot to remove all of the thinset.

What Is the Best Way to Get Thinset Off Concrete?

When it comes down to it, if you have a lot of thick Thinset that needs removal, using a hammer drill with a masonry chisel will work the fastest. However, if you just need to remove some remnants, then an angle grinder is fine too.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

Let’s go over a few tips to help make this process as easy and safe as possible:

  • Always wear eye protection as shards of old adhesive flying at you can be dangerous for your eyes.
  • If using an angle grinder, make sure to wear adequate breathing protection to avoid the inhalation of dust.
  • If the thinset is hard and won’t break, apply more boiling water to the area, wait half an hour, and try again.
  • Only use the hammer and chisel method for small areas, as larger areas will just take too long.


You should now have all of the information you need to remove thinset from concrete using the method that works best for you.