Excerpt from my regular column in the Santa Barbara News-Press.
Question: We recently purchased a Santa Barbara home that was built in the early 60’s and we would like to remove the original wall to wall mirrors that the original owner had installed in the bathrooms. The mirrors seem to be supported by little plastic brackets that are screwed to the wall at the top and a shiny metal track at the bottom. Can we just lift the mirrors off the wall after unscrewing the brackets? I am concerned that the mirror will shatter while we are trying to get them off the wall.
Your Handyman: Large wall to wall mirrors over a vanity or on living area walls were a very popular feature in homes built in the 60’s and 70’s. The popular style now for a bathroom seems to be large mirrors that are framed with a heavy wood frame and hung on the wall like a picture. Removing the old wall mounted mirror is a job that may seem to be a simple task, but actually is a job that is potentially very dangerous and needs to be thought out before being attempted. A large mirror can be quite heavy and if broken while being removed can inflict saber like cuts to arms and legs while crashing to the floor creating a true medical emergency. Most large mirrors are supported by a stainless steel track along the base that is screwed to the wall studs and the plastic brackets that you described at the top, but more often than not the installer first applied adhesive to the wall board before setting the mirror in place. How much adhesive was used is not known until you start the removal process and usually the adhesive will tear off the top layer of the drywall, requiring drywall repair and painting for wall areas not covered by the new mirror.
Two capable adults will be needed for this job and both need to be wearing heavy gloves, eye protection, sturdy work pants and work shoes. Remove the top plastic brackets while supporting the mirror and try to work the mirror loose while both workers are very ready to jump back immediately to a safe distance if the mirror were to separate from the wall and fall. If you are lucky and there is a minimum of adhesive, the mirror may just easily be lifted up and out of the bottom bracket. If the mirror does not want to easily come loose you can carefully start working it away from the wall and start slipping several wedge shaped wooden carpenter shims in along the top edge which will slide down between the wall the mirror and wall as you pull the mirror off the wall. Most mirrors can be removed without breaking if this process is patiently followed and the mirror should then be carefully loaded into the back of a pickup truck and taken to the county dump. Breaking the mirror into smaller pieces that can be put into your trash bin is a bad idea and you will end up scattering glass shards around your yard that a child or pet may cut their foot on.
There are few first aid scenarios’ more urgent than severe bleeding, so don’t underestimate the potential for injury from glass cuts for this job. Call a contractor if you have any uncertainty that you and your helper can do the job safely.
Owner, YourHandyman & Construction
CA License #935259