How to Remove Thinset from Plywood: The Steps and Different Methods

Knowing how to remove thinset from plywood properly (and effectively) can be helpful if you have a flooring project. Instead of tearing apart the existing floors, removing the thinset can help you save money for the project. However, not everyone is familiar with such a method. The best thing that you can do is to learn the proper ways correctly. 

how to remove thinset from plywood
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Knowing More about the Thinset

Thinset refers to a glue-like material. It is used to ‘stick’ the tiles (and other flooring types) to the plywood subflooring right beneath it. When you have a flooring project (meaning that you want to place new floors at home), you will have to remove the old ones and the thinset (from the plywood). It’s impossible to put the new flooring on dry (and hard) thinset. 

Doing the Work

So, how to remove thinset from plywood? The first thing to do is remove the upper floor layer, which may be the stone or tile. You should use a dust mask and eye protection when doing the work. Don’t forget to also use hearing protection and work gloves. The hearing protection gear can protect your ears against loud noise. 

After the upper floor layer has been thoroughly removed, clean the area. To remove the debris, use the broom for the sweeping. Also, use a vacuum cleaner to deal with fine dust. This process can help you see whether you have removed the thinset successfully or not. 

Most people use the chisel and hammer because it is considered the most common method. This can be tricky because you need to make sure that you have applied the proper amount of pressure. More petite than required won’t do you any good to remove the thinset. If you apply too much stress (and hit the floor too hard), you may damage the subfloor. You want to keep a bucket or garbage bag ready, so you can deal with the loose thinset pieces. 

Scrape the thinset, especially following the gaps where pieces break off. Hammer and chisel to scrape the material, scrape everything, and then clean up. It is helpful when you use a special (thinset) removal blade or a sharp-edge scrape when dealing with tough thinset. If you are left with stubborn thinset, use rough sandpaper to grind the wood down. Feel free to use it with a power sander or by hand to do the grinding. Remember: you want your subfloor to be extremely clear of anything before replacing the floor. 

Different Ways to Remove the Thinset

You may be surprised to know that there are many various ways to remove thinset from plywood. There is a traditional way, and there are several alternative methods. 

1. Putty Knife

This is the first and also the simplest method to remove the thinset. But it works like a charm if it only involves a small amount of the thinset or if the thinset has been loosened quite significantly. Use a putty scraper or a putty knife to do the work efficiently. If you don’t know it, a putty knife is a small (handheld) tool used to apply putty or plaster to walls. However, the agency also has another function: it can be a scraper. 

Hold the scraper at a certain angle (around 45 degrees) to the thinset. Apply enough pressure to remove it. It requires a lot of effort, muscle work, and time for the job to work. Keep in mind that this method only works for small removal work, not big projects. Scrapers are pretty tiny, and the process can take forever. 

2. Chisel and Hammer

Another alternative way to remove thinset from plywood is to use a chisel and hammer. This is considered more effective than a scraper or a putty knife. This one will be perfect for more extensive work or if the thinset hasn’t been loose. As you can guess, the method is done by hitting the chisel with a hammer. Hold the chosel within an angle of less than 45 degrees and apply enough pressure. 

3. Hammer Drill

This is a powerful tool that is fast and reliable. For many people, it’s the easiest way to remove the thinset. You use the chisel head attachment, and you should be good. Hold it within a certain angle and then pull the trigger. It’s faster to do, although you may damage the underneath plywood slightly. This is the alternative if you want speed. 

4. Angle Driver

An angle driver is another possible option to remove the thinset. Use a diamond cutting wheel (sizing between 5 and 7 inches). For some people, this way is relatively more accessible and faster than the hammer drill. But it would be best if you remembered that this method is messier. You want another dust shroud attached to the (angle) grinder so that the dust can be sucked away. Make sure that you hold flat the wheel, do it against the existing thinset and start grinding. 


I don’t have the tools. What should I do?

You can buy them as they are easy to find and buy. But you can also rent them if you are only dealing with small and minor work. 

Should I do the work on my own or hire a professional?

It’s up to you. Having a DIY is possible if you are confident enough with your skills and abilities. If not, then hiring a pro may be the best option.

Does it take a long time to complete the work?

It depends on the area. If it is extensive, it may take a long time. But if it’s small, then several hours will do. 

Is the protective gear a must?

A: Yes. You don’t want to risk your safety and life over this work. Ensure that you wear the protective safety gear correctly before starting the job. 


You can’t rush things when you want to do this project correctly and adequately. Make sure that you understand the steps to remove thinset from plywood so you can finish the job successfully. 

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Jack Robert

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