How to remove mirror glued to the wall

Updated 6/12/2011 8:48 AM

Q. I would like to remove the mirror in our bathroom that is glued to the wall. I do not want to destroy the wall and have read a few suggestions on the Internet. Do you have any excellent ideas on how to do this without killing the drywall?

A. How large is your mirror? Does it go from wall to wall? Or do you have space on each side to wiggle a cutout wire from side to side? If you do, you can buy a wire and two dowel-like handles from an auto-parts store. You can also use a guitar string and use two short pieces of half- or three-quarter-inch dowel, and wrap the wire around them.

Next, try softening the adhesive with a heat gun held a couple of inches from the glass. Start in one corner, and slide the wire back and forth, working about one square foot at a time. You may also find that the adhesive is only in a few spots. It may be impossible to remove the mirror without damaging the drywall, which can be repaired with joint compound. If the mirror covers the entire wall, you will have a much more difficult job removing it. Try the heat gun, and see if you can pry it from the wall anywhere you have access to one of its edges, using a flat bar or the curved claw of a hammer.

Q. I hope you can settle an argument my husband and I are having about painting interior wood doors with panels. The one who wins gets to paint the next door. He says that the top and bottom of the door should be left unpainted so that the door can "breathe." I said the top and bottom of a door should be painted so that moisture and/or dryness can't get in to expand or contract the panels. Actually, I think I read that somewhere, but he doesn't believe me.

A. Oh Boy! I hope I don't get anyone in trouble, including me! You are right; all surfaces of doors must be painted to prevent expansion and contraction from variations in interior moisture. Unless both of you enjoy painting, did you mean that the next door will be painted by the one who lost the bet?

Q. We have a new house, with a mound septic system. At the pumping station for the mound system, there is a vent pipe, about three feet high. We want to plant some bushes around the pipe, to hide it, but wondered if the roots from the bushes would eventually get into the sewer pipes and cause problems. What are your recommendations on this? Are there certain types of bushes that we should lean toward or stay away from?

A. Planting of evergreens is recommended on mound systems to encourage evapotranspiration, the process of evaporation from the soil and transpiration from the leaves of plants.

Q. I plan on doing a major painting job on my two-story house this summer. The problem I am wondering about is how to carry the paint and the rest of the supplies I need with me so I don't have to go up and down the ladder as often. In your bag of tricks, is there a way to minimize the ups and downs?

A. Actually, there is. Byers makes PLUS (Professional Ladder Utility System),, which offers several accessories -- a paint tray, a tool holder and utility bucket -- that are hooked onto any ladder at any level. I find it invaluable for many tasks; all you need is to set it up and stay on the ladder.

Q. I read your column religiously every week but never thought I would be writing you. I have had some extensive work done on my camp at Lake Salem in Derby, Vt., and this spring I will have the porch taken off and a new enclosed porch added. I am also adding two outside decks, and that is where I need some help.

The cement support posts have already been poured, but now I need to know what is the best kind of wood to use and whether I should paint or stain them. The first attached picture shows the screened-in front porch and the side of the camp where one of the decks will go. It will extend from the side window all the way to the front edge of the porch, which has been extended 4 feet closer to the lake. The second picture shows the back of the camp with the small side entrance porch, which will be replaced by another porch that will extend from the lake side of the door all the way back to the back corner of the camp.

Both decks will be 12-feet wide from the side of camp to the edge of the decks. I should add that the camp has been raised another 2 feet so both decks will be off the ground. Clearly, the decks will be exposed to the elements year-round, and especially during winter when they will be covered with snow. Strong winds blow off the lake year-round, and in the winter, snow 3- to 4-feet deep will cover the decks and the back lawn. I don't want to be replacing boards or restaining or repainting them every year or two. I am looking for something that will last and is not labor intensive. Would it be best to screw the boards down, making it easier to take them up when they need to be replaced? Is this the best way to attach them?

A. The best value, and a true and tested material, is pressure-treated southern yellow pine. This goes for the framing, railings and the deck boards. There are a number of plastic deck boards on the market, but some have had problems that may be expensive to fix. You should screw the boards down so they can be easily replaced or taken up if needed. Screws will also not work up, as nails will, with the changes in the seasons. Although we have 20-year-old, pressure-treated deck boards that have received no finish and are fine, it is not a bad idea to coat them with one of the products made expressly for the purpose. Wolman ( makes deck-treatment products. There are others as well, but avoid any paint or solid stains, as they will peel.

Q. I'm writing you to see if you can shed some light on a problem we've been having. We bought our condo (fourth floor of a four-floor building) in July 2009 -- 44 units total. No problems until January 2011. There was a lot of snow on the roof, so we figured when that melted, things would be fine again. But we were wrong. We get horrible smells in one room.

Our unit is split into three rooms. The front door enters into the living room, dining room and kitchen. There's one bedroom on either side of this. We are having problems with the room to the left of the front door, which we use as a den. There is an elevator in the hall. There is no venting on this, the top floor, other than three hall windows by the elevator that are usually closed. We are to the side of the elevator, like with an upside down "T." We are where the stem of the T meets the top part. The elevator is in the middle of the stem.

We have been getting horrible smells in here that leave a metallic taste on the tongue, burning eyes and our cat pulls out her fur. Bad episodes seem to be spaced maybe a month apart. We had a bad smell in here two nights ago that started around 8 p.m. and ended around 11 p.m., but the smells lingered past 1:30 a.m. Usually, the smells come midmorning or in the evening.

We have an HVAC system, but there's no room to add a positive-air exchanger. Sometimes it feels as if we are living in a vacuum, even with the windows open (true of all three rooms). Due to nice weather, the HVAC is off and has been for at least two weeks. There is a hall bath that is next to but not attached to the room with the problem. We think our neighbor's bathroom exhaust vent vents into our bathroom or into the attic (which is two feet above us), because I have smelled Febreze in our hall bath and have gotten a sense of really fresh air once. I've never smelled Febreze in our den or the fresh air from the bathroom.

We wonder if something comes from the toilet vent or the exhaust vent, gets into the attic, and comes through the vent into our den. We have had our air tested. It shows a lot of methane and other gases, as well as a lot of benzene, if that is of any help. We have had our dryer vent cleaned out and our vents checked on the roof. We are asking the condo if the vents of the person next door can also be checked. We would be grateful for any help you can provide. We don't know what else to do or check. Our building manager has been supportive.

A. Because you smell Febreze, which you think is coming from your neighbor's bathroom, it is possible that several bathroom vents are tied together into a larger one. I have encountered that problem several times in condos. In such a case, when your neighbors turn on their fan, it may push their air into your vent if the outside pressure or wind makes it difficult to vent outside. In one case I investigated, the bathroom of one unit became befouled with mold over several months, even though the owners had been away for all of that time. They found the mess when they returned home. Methane gas found in the testing of your unit may indicate that sewer gases are getting inside your unit. This can be from a toilet seal failing, but you would smell it in your bathroom first and more strongly. I have no idea where the benzene is coming from. An environmental engineering firm may be able to help with all of your problems, which the condo association should be responsible for.

Q. What brand of polyurethane caulk do you recommend for exterior caulking, and where can it be purchased? I am about to restain our cedar-sided house and want to have a polyurethane caulk; however, when I ask for it from the floor people at Menards, Lowe's or Home Depot, they act as if they have never heard of it.

A. The brand of polyurethane caulking compound I have been using for 50 years is Sikaflex-1a, a Swiss product with international distribution and licensed to be manufactured in the United States. You can order it from any A.H. Harris store, I am surprised that Home Depot does not carry a polyurethane caulk; I thought they carried a different brand.

• Henri de Marne was a remodeling contractor in Washington, D.C., for many years, and is now a consultant. Write to him in care of the Daily Herald, P.O. Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006, or via email at

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