How To: Remove a Wall Mirror
Safely get rid of floor-to-ceiling mirror to reveal ready-to-paint drywall following this step-by-step.
Covering your wall with floor-to-ceiling mirror (or, rather, mirror tiles) seemed like such a good idea back in the 1960s, but a lot has changed in the past half-century. Today, that expansive feature can really date an interior. Homeowners are even looking to do away with large, unframed mirrors in the bathroom that span from countertop to ceiling for something with more shape and personality.
The good news is that, with patience, homeowners interested in ripping out glued-on wall mirror to replace it with a different wall treatment or a smaller hanging mirror can do so themselves. The bad news is that it often entails repairing a lot of drywall damage wherever the mirror’s strong adhesive pulled off chunks of drywall. That repair work can range from patching divots to even skim coating and sanding the entire wall to get a smooth surface for painting, depending on how carefully you’ve removed the mirror.
Before You Begin
Typically, there are three go-to methods for how to remove a wall mirror that’s been mounted with glue, and they range from slow and neat to fast but dangerous and messy:
Option 1: Heat and pry.
Here, you’d heat the glass tile in order to soften the adhesive behind it before gently prying the tile off the wall. Though this method takes the longest, it results in less glass breakage and removes more adhesive.
Option 2: Saw and slice.
Starting at an outside corner, you’d slide a wire saw between the wall and the mirror and work the saw back and forth to cut through the adhesive. This method takes a lot more elbow grease and can be very frustrating because the wire clogs easily with adhesive.
Option 3: Smash and grab.
This third method assumes that, if you’re likely to break a mirror tile with one of the other options anyway, why not just get it over with up-front? You’d use a hammer to smash ‘em all, then deal with the leftover adhesive portions using a hairdryer and a 3-inch putty knife. It’s the fastest way, but it’s also the most dangerous and leaves the biggest mess. Even with careful vacuuming and cleanup, you may find glass pieces in the room months later.
We prefer the first slow and more deliberate method because it leaves your wall in the best shape, saving you time during the patching phase, so you’ll find it incorporated here. Plan to set aside a full day for your work, and don’t speed through these steps for how to remove a wall mirror. Slow and steady wins this race—and saves you time repairing the uncovered wall when all is said and done.
How to Remove a Wall Mirror
STEP 1: Dress appropriately to prevent any injuries.
Dress in long sleeves, long pants, and work boots to protect skin and feet from any flying/falling glass. Wear heavy leather work gloves and eye protection at all times, from start to final cleanup.
STEP 2: Prepare your work area for easier cleanup later.
Spread a heavy canvas drop cloth below the tiles, extending it far as possible into the room to catch any shards of glass. Relocate a metal garbage can to your work area and plan to empty it often throughout this process—glass is heavy, so you won’t want to wait to haul it all out at the end!
STEP 3: Cover the wall mirror tiles with self-adhesive contact paper.
Peel off the back of a self-adhesive shelf or drawer liner and apply the sticky vinyl film across the mirror, pressing it firmly against the glass. This should hold broken pieces together and greatly reduce the risk of flying glass. Plus, it provides a safer working environment and faster cleanup.
Then, if you are in fact dealing with tiles and not a single stretch of unframed mirror, slice around each tile with a utility knife to separate the tiles.
STEP 4: Heat and pry the tiles off.
Start in an area (either a side or corner) where you will have the most room to wedge a large drywall knife between the wall and the mirror. In other words, it’s easiest to pick a side of the mirror that doesn’t butt up against a wall or countertop. Then, heat one entire glass tile or, on a large bathroom mirror, the area closest to the prying edge with your hairdryer set on high heat for a few minutes so that it warms the adhesive behind the mirror.
Slide a 3-inch drywall knife behind the tile and move it around to help you locate the adhesive. Every installation is different, but glue typically goes on in five blobs per tile—one near each corner, and one in the middle of the glass—and not immediately around the edges because that would have risked adhesive bleeding out the seams. Once you’ve hit the patch of adhesive, then partially slip a 6-inch drywall knife slightly under the glass tile to start separating it from the wall enough to insert a small pry bar.
Carefully wedge the pry bar in near one adhesive area, and gently pry to force the tile out slightly. If you pry against the drywall knife rather than the wall, you’re less likely to scrape, scuff, or otherwise damage the wall behind the mirror with your tools. Add more heat to soften the glue as necessary.
Repeat at each adhesive location until you feel the entire tile has loosened. Once you pry it up enough to get your fingers under, you can grab its edges (carefully) with your hands and pop it off. From that point on, after you’ve established what pattern the glue went on in during the installation, heat the mirror only in the area directly above the adhesive. That’ll speed up the project.
STEP 5: Address whatever adhesive didn’t come off the wall with the mirror.
Inspect the wall that was once covered in mirror; chances are that some adhesive was not removed with the tiles you just peeled away. Use the hairdryer and your 3-inch knife to carefully scrape away all remaining adhesive, even if it tears off the drywall paper (you can patch that in the next step).
STEP 6: Repair the wall.
Partially fill the divots with lightweight, fast-setting joint compound like Easy Sand 45. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for application and drying to the letter.
Forty-five to 90 minutes later, after the setting compound has hardened, apply a layer of topping compound. Why switch? In short, a topping compound is easier to spread or “feather out” with a knife and sand than fast-setting compounds. Again, apply and let it dry fully for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer. Then, sand the wall in full.
If the wall surface looks terribly uneven, skim-coat the entire wall with a thin coating of lightweight joint compound and sand when dry.
With all mirror and adhesive removed and imperfections filled, your repaired wall is ready to prime the entire wall with a high-quality drywall primer and paint.