How to remove plaster from concrete walls

How to remove plaster from concrete walls


If you want to remove plaster from concrete walls, there are a few special tricks. Only the good, old, and honest bodily work we have done for centuries exists.

The only difference is that now we can use machines that do the heavy lifting.

If you want to browse the steps quickly, move on below. First, I’ll sort out some basics about tools and priorities before I get there because I like knowing the logic behind the choices.

The last part is how I would go about it. You can quickly scroll to that part of the tools that are already in place.

In my opinion, you can remove plaster by using your hands and waving a hammer of different sizes or using a mechanical hammer drill like an SDS (slotted drive shaft) drill or air hammer.

I worked in a concrete frame factory as a foreman, and before that, as a man who renovated walls inside and outside of homes, and for 20 years, we have used all of them.

When plaster is at a falling point, only then I would use hand tools to bring it down a bit.

For that reason, I’d not go the hand route unless the plaster is already at the point that it almost falls to the ground if you look at it. I’d use an SDS drill with a broad chisel head slotted in on a small area like a regular home wall.

I’d use a long-reach pneumatic scaler when the surface area gets more expansive than the home wall. For the regular homeowner, this starts to be a scenario that isn’t probable, but the way to do it is out there. These do wonders for hollow core slab beds.

Old plaster is flaky, and painting will make it the same. New plaster on top might not work.

So why do we remove the plaster and not just fix them? There is often a reason it starts to crack.

Outside weather, freezing, and heat extension might be one. Fixing it is hard because it has to be made of material that is the same hardness as the surrounding plaster, as harder will pop off the surroundings again.

It lives a different life. I like to think cracked once, cracked always.

Patches might also show, and it’s something that only some would like. If more extensive surfaces start to fall, they might not be attached to concrete walls due to cement glue. We will get to that in tool choices.

List of tools and other things that you need

Here is a list of tools you need. Pick and consider your way of working.


  1. SDS Hammer drill with different sizes of slotted chisel heads, air-powered hammer with the same logic, or a regular hammer and concrete chisel
  2.  Angle grinder with vacuum cleaner attachment and diamond cup wheel
  3.  Protection to the floor. We have used cellular boards a lot, along with rigid and thin boards.
  4.  Bucket and wheelbarrow for the broken plaster
  5.  Broom or squeegee mop and shovel
  6.  Construction vacuum cleaner
  7.  Double-sided step ladder

Personal protection:

  1. Breathing mask that protects from dust
  2.  Safety glasses
  3.  Hearing protection
  4.  Cut-proof gloves, multiple pairs
  5.  Helmet
  6.  Protection shoes

Now, here I’ll explain my choices. Comprehensive area removal with hand tools like hammer and chisel can take time. Time is money, which I could use to do something else.

My hour is worth eating out in an ok restaurant. Rent for all of the tools totals two meals per day rent.

By hand, I might spend days doing the job, but with rented tools, I finish the job fast and efficiently. I don’t need to consider my choice, I’ll spend some extra time in my day job.

Some people recommend a hammer, chisel, and paint scraper. That kind of work is ok for small jobs, but I wouldn’t do even one room wall with them.

Regarding personal protection, breathing masks, safety glasses, and hearing protection are a must. A helmet is also good if you work from the ladder or remove plaster above you. The chin strap should be on as if you fall, and it’s not the helmet doesn’t protect you.

These cost nothing compared to a visit to the doctor. Cut-proof gloves are suitable for handling the fallen plaster.

There might be sharp corners, and they give ok, if not perfect, protection from the dust, which can also dry your skin to the point of cracking. It hurts, I can testify.

Protection shoes are costly, but if you own them or do lots of work at home, you should buy them. I use one that doesn’t let nails go through the feet, has enforced tips, and goes higher than the ankle to stop them from twisting.

There will be lots of plaster debris, and if you come down the ladder without looking, you might step into one and twist your ankle.

How to remove plaster from concrete walls

Carefull around old electricity parts, they might be hard to replace with same kind of product.

So now we get too quick and dirty. I’ll make it a step list again so it’s easy to follow.

  1. If there are electrical parts like light switches and electric outlets, remove the removable parts so that you won’t break them. Ensure the power is off when you do it and leave them so the wires can’t touch each other if you return the power to the room. Use professional if you feel unsure, and work carefully around electricity so that you won’t break anything.
  2.  Protect the floor. If the surface you are replacing simultaneously is not that important, use a cellular or rigid surface board to protect it if you intend to use it afterward. Plastic won’t do as it’s slippery and breaks too easily.
  3.  For me, the working order is always from top to bottom. First, if I work like this, nothing falls to my face. After starting, I can use Earth’s gravity to press the drill downwards. Up, I first do the whole length of the wall and then press downwards.
  4.  You should clean the thrash while you work. A bucket and wheelbarrow might be your friends if you live in your home. You could also use a vacuum extraction car, but then you need to make sure the plaster waste is small enough so they can vacuum it. Price and size are easy to know with one phone call.
  5.  Use an angle grinder and construction vacuum cleaner to remove leftover plaster from the concrete surface. The angle grinder should have a vacuum attachment so there won’t be much dust. I can tell from experience that the surroundings get intolerable quickly if you don’t use it.
  6.  Use the construction vacuum cleaner to clean the walls and floors after work.

Once again, I’ll write about my logic here. I like to work in a convenient way to save my own body, as construction is a very punishing career. I’ve been at it for 20 years now, and I have multiple work-related injuries that I could have avoided if I had been more thoughtful when I began.

Around electricity and water pipes, we have to be careful. It’s annoying and costly to fix them if things go wrong. Therefore, you should know where to turn both off if you can access them.

Floor protection is needed when there is something to protect. Still, somebody can also be used to collect the trash more easily. Plastic is easy to clean, and you can even carry small amounts of debris when you sack it.

When it comes to ergonomics, it’s essential to know how to work so you won’t break your body. Many professionals have to change careers later in life as their moving parts start to give in.

So try to find out how to do the job without breaking yourself. With SDS Hammer Drill, be careful around windows; if it slips, it goes nicely through them.

Stop the wheel with an angle grinder before letting it off your hands. The concrete wall suits that; turn off the switch and press it to the concrete wall.


There are a few things to consider when removing plaster. Most of us can do it; remember, it’s heavy work.

Check the concrete surface if you have plaster that comes off too quickly. Some people don’t know, and others don’t care that there will be cement glue on the surfaces after the concrete has been poured.

Cement glue makes other substances harder to get attached to it. When something needs an excellent finished surface in our factory, we grind it or sand blow it. It opens up the pores in the concrete surface, and plaster can attach to it, and it survives time a lot better.

I’ve seen apartment buildings where this still needs to be done, and during the next ten years, all of the outer surfaces will fall off when you knock it with a hammer.

There are choices people make, but if it’s for my home, I usually take the smart ones, so I don’t have to do it twice.