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Old 10-16-2006, 04:40 PM   #1
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Find and Remove Screws under Thinset


I need to remove about 1000sf of 1/4 inch plywood that was used as a backer under the old tile that I have just removed so that I may lay my new CBU.

The problem is that the plywood was glued and screwed down in a dense and somewhat random pattern (tons of those pesky screws) and they are covered by the old top layer of thinset. How can I best find those screws to speed up their removal? I've been using the little Stanley magnetic screw finder but it takes FOREVER.

Someone mentioned to me that i might get a jackhammer to lift the plywood and just power through the scews. Is this feasible? I fear not. Maybe if the plywood wasn't glued down. But it is and i just imagine significant gouging of the lower plywood subfloor.


Last edited by waig; 10-16-2006 at 05:00 PM.
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Old 10-16-2006, 06:24 PM   #2
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Find and Remove Screws under Thinset



Oooouch. Im not sure what to tell you. Just sort of sympathizing.
I had an area about 175 sq/ft where I had to do this and it just plain sucked...
Not sure if I would try to "power through" the screws though...like you said you will probably screw up the subfloor...

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Old 10-16-2006, 07:29 PM   #3
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Find and Remove Screws under Thinset


This is a

will be time consuming either way.

Not sure if this will help but if you had a hand grinder and just touch the area and when you see a spark then grind off the head of the screw. Then pry up the plywood.
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Old 10-17-2006, 10:06 AM   #4
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Find and Remove Screws under Thinset


Thank you both for the . That actually helps a lot to know that I'm not gonna be spending countles numbing hours because I missed an obvious solution.

As far as using the grinder goes I'm not sure I want to go as far as using it to locate and grind the heads off. What it may be most usefull for though is to use it to grind the thinset off to expose the screw after i've found and marked them. This step has been taking me just as long as the locating part--thanx for the thought.
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Old 10-17-2006, 11:27 AM   #5
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Find and Remove Screws under Thinset


What if you used a circular saw to cut the floor into small squares, then used a chisel to remove the small pieces, dealing with the screws as you go. I'm about to tile myself, but I'm already thinking about the eventuality of tearing it all out 10, 15, 20 years down the line. You could use a sawzall for the screws that are too damaged to remove.
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Old 10-17-2006, 01:06 PM   #6
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Find and Remove Screws under Thinset


Well, I tried my c-saw early on with that in mind but i guess the blade may have been wrong. Its kinda messy with the thinset plywood mix. I've been thinking I would check out blade options when I go to the store again. Maybe two passes--score it with a masonary balde and then follow with a wood blade. I think also if i do this i will get another flat board to run my saw along because the floor is fairly uneven with the thinset ridges. One of the things that i see might be a downside to doing this is that if i don't cut the plywood it works in my favor because i can pull the whole sheet up at once "if" i get "every" screw up first.. There is a little bit of delamination but not too bad.

Actually in my project I have a section in my entry way where the old tile floor was broken up into 40 2x2ft sections using 3" wide oak planks that went all the way to the sub floor. So the plywood backer is already divided up for me. But still the screws are only about 3" apart.

On another note the grinder is helping a ton. I'm using it to do locating after all. I basically grind the area where it looks like there might be a screw and because it removes the thinset so quick i can do a little fishing around. Anyway that gets me 70% of the screws uncovered .

Only problem with this solution is the dust it's creating...

I'll post back if I have any more c-saw experiences to share. Thanx for reminding me of that option.

Last edited by waig; 10-17-2006 at 01:16 PM.
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Old 10-17-2006, 10:29 PM   #7
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Find and Remove Screws under Thinset


Awful chore, buddy, may the force be with you. I guess it's too late to leave it there and deal with the transitions it will create?
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Old 10-18-2006, 09:40 AM   #8
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Find and Remove Screws under Thinset


Well, I haven't done too much in the kitchen yet where the plywood backer continues under the counters. I'm going to have transitions there regardless because I can't really cut right at the base with how shallow the toe kick areas are.

If I wanted to reuse the plywood in the kitchen how would I remove all of the thinset? I've already removed all of the tile.

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