Removing tile mortared to plaster over brick


I have a 1940s house in Tucson, kitchen of which was redone in the early 70s. The walls are, near as I can tell, brick with plaster over them (not drywall).
There's a lot of ceramic tile on the walls, which is somehow built out so it protrudes a full inch from the rest of the wall. We're remodeling (doing it ourselves). I just tried prying off some tile, and it's extremely difficult, and then there's the problem of the 3/4 inch of gray mortar behind it before I get to the plaster.
I think I know the answer to this question, but ... is there any reasonably easy way to get this stuff off? If not, I'll have to hire a contractor, or we'll build out the rest of the walls to be even with the tile (a lot of it will get covered by the new cabinets). The kitchen is small enough that I don't want to lose the width the latter would entail, but I really don't want to have weeks of clouds of dust in the house (it's still hot, house is AC cooled).
We had planned on doing the remodel one qnadrant of the kitchen at a time, to keep it partially functional throughout. This obviously would be impossible if e're doing concrete demolition with jackhammers.
Thanks - Andy Barss
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do you care if the plaster gets scarred up? if not, i've found that if you use a 5" dry diamond blade on a side grinder, you can use the face of it to remove thinset or mortar from tiles. if you have a light touch, you can do this almost with no affect on the underlying surface. get a harbor fright grinder for $15 as it's going to be chewed up by the dust.
it does generate a LOT of dust, and you DO NOT want to breathe this. you'd have to have a positive ventilation system, and mask off the rest of the house with plastic sheets to avoid filling up everything with the dust.
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It's not a jack hammer, but a air powered zip gun with a spade bit will do the job quickly. Buy an air hammer kit (#92037, $7) from Harbor Freight and rent a small air compressor if you don't own one. Wet down the work area for dust control. Your biggest problem is accepting the fact that removal by whatever means is going to be messy even if a contractor does it. So deal with it, get down and dirty, use respirators, seal off some areas with polyfilm and generally use common sense. Too many DIY projects never work right because the people involved set up too many silly rules, just like at work, "we can't do that because..." As Larry says, "Git 'er done, jes' do it!"
Joe
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