Monday, February 9, 2009

How To Remove A Large Bathroom Mirror

A few weeks back I posted a quick tour of my master bedroom and bathroom and Jamie left a comment asking for more details on how we removed the large unframed mirrors and replaced them with more updated framed mirrors. In light of the rather comical way we ended up going about removing the mirrors (and the after shots that I'm actually pretty proud of), I thought the answer merited its own post.

As an attorney (albeit one completely uneducated in personal liability), I do feel a duty to warn the general public that the way we went about removing these mirrors was, while in keeping with all the best HGTV has to offer, dangerous. After all, we're talking about breaking glass here. Accordingly, the general counsel (me) here at Odi et Amo advises you to consult a professional and, should you elect to undertake this project without the aid of such professional, proceed with caution at your own risk.

With that out of the way, let's get down to business. When undertaking any home improvement project, it's imperative that you outfit yourself accordingly:

This is what my husband wore the day we removed the giant mirror in our guest bathroom. Because you'll be dealing with a mirror that may (either intentionally or unintentionally) break, it's important to wear long clothing (samurai print optional), close-toed shoes, gloves and protective eye gear (which I promise Dave did wear, but is not modeling for us here). Because we had to break our mirror due to its weight, Dave also wore his Bose noise-cancelling earphones to reduce any hearing damage -- I suspect you could get a similar effect with plain old earplugs, or even earmuffs.

Now that you're looking professional, you can move on to the task at hand. You'll first need to determine how much glue is holding the mirror in place. If there's a lot of glue, you may need a crowbar (in which case you'll need to tape the mirror in a cross-hatch pattern first to reduce breakage). With the mirrors in both our bathrooms, there appeared to be little, if any, glue in place so it was mostly just a matter of unscrewing the brackets (easily done with a screwdriver). If our mirrors had been scaled normally, we would have simply unscrewed the mirrors, removed them, and replaced them with the mirrors of our choice -- unfortunately, the course of home improvement projects never does run smooth.

For us, the snag came in the sheer size and weight of our mirrors. The mirror in our upstairs' bathroom was approximately 7 feet long and 3 feet high.
I'm not sure how that works out in terms of weight, but I'd imagine several hundred pounds as the combined force of David and I couldn't so much as lift the mirror an inch, let alone lift it off the wall, onto the ground, down the stairs and out the door. Since we're both rather impatient and disinclined to seek outside assistance (even when required), we pushed on undeterred and decided we would just break the mirror into pieces and transport those pieces outside for disposal. As when you have to resort to a crowbar to pry a mirror off the wall, whenever you decide to break a large mirror up into smaller pieces, it is wise (a relative term here) to first tape the mirror -- we used blue painters' tape -- in a cross-hatch pattern to prevent splintering and help the mirror break up into larger pieces. I'm not familiar with the science of it, but trust me, it makes a difference.

Of course, when breaking a 21 square-foot mirror, it's best to keep pets and children as far away from the chaos as possible (our animals were all safely in the backyard). Dave also broke the mirrors with the doors closed to avoid any pieces unintentionally flying into the hallways. After a break or two, Dave and I would stop and clean up the pieces as we went. All told, it took us several hours to break the mirror in the guest bathroom (and another afternoon a few weekends later to break the two mirrors in the master bath). We ended up storing the mirror shards in the boxes that the new mirrors came in for disposal (particularly convenient since those boxes were lined in Styrofoam, thus reducing the likelihood any jagged edge would poke through).

A word of warning: While I am not particularly superstitious, Dave and I did break these mirrors just a few weeks before Hurricane Ike hit Houston and Lehman's bankruptcy hit the nation. While I'd posit the classic statistical maxim that "correlation does not equal causation", I feel compelled to confess this unfortunate bit of timing lest further mirror breaking by well-intentioned DIYers triggers some sort of apocalypse.

But let's move on from such depressing topics and take a look at the guest bathroom "after" shots, which were well worth a few minor cuts and some sore muscles (though quite obviously not hurricanes or economic meltdowns):

The mirrors we replaced our contractor-grade mirror with are the Hutton mirrors (size small) from Restoration Hardware and are the same mirrors we used in our master bath. The hanging equipment and instructions included by RH are very detailed and easy to follow and hanging these up was no big deal. Also, since RH has been running pretty steep discounts and shopping incentives almost continuously since last summer, you can probably score them at a substantial discount (we gout ours for $100 off). At the same time we did this mirror project, we also painted the bathroom from a dull beige to a light blue-gray (Benjamin Moore's Feather Gray). Bath towels are just basic black towels from Pottery Barn -- a hint from Martha actually, who argues that darker towels and linens are great for guests as they hide stains and look fresher longer. The shower curtain is the Dobby-Stripe shower curtain in ash from Restoration Hardware. The canisters on the counter and the large canvas print of the stack of art books are all from Pottery Barn's summer 2008 collection and the artwork (entitled "Bird in E Minor") between the mirrors is via Wall Blank.


Anonymous said...

we sell mirrors but after reading your article I now release that we have no guides on how to put up, or take down, mirrors (and chandeliers). thanks for your truely useful article.

Jamie said...

Thank you!!!!

Anonymous said...

After removal of the mirror, do you have a ton of patch work with fixing the drywall? Does it have to be replaced?

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Averill said...

Anon: I didn't have any issues fixing the drywall, but there was actually very little glue holding the mirrors in place, so it was mostly just a matter of filling a few screw holes and sanding down what little paste was on the wall.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Your procedure worked perfectly for removing my 12' long X 3.5' tall mirror. I added a 4x4 sheet of cardboard as a shield for the falling pieces and used a 8' long piece of sharpened steel rebar as the poker instead of a hammer. I was lucky, it wasn't glued to the wall. Tape is a MUST to hold the pieces together!! Thanks again.

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