How to remove plaster from concrete

How to remove plaster from concrete

If you require guidance on removing old plaster from concrete walls, I can provide detailed information. The process may require tools and physical effort, depending on the condition of the concrete wall beneath the plaster.

If you prefer to skip the explanation of the reasoning behind my suggestions, you can jump to the end. I will provide a step-by-step list of instructions and describe each step afterward.

Concrete walls are typically precast elements or poured during the construction process. Afterward, a grinding tool or acid opens the concrete “cream” or mold surface pores.

When an element is poured, larger aggregates sink while wet sand and cement rise to the top. This results in a layer of concrete “cream,” which, although aesthetically pleasing as a floor finish, is unsuitable for adhesive purposes.

Sometimes, people disregard the process and plaster or render over the surface. This results in thick layers that may not adhere to the surface, becoming hollow over time. As a result, significant pieces may fall off, posing a safety hazard.

I need to know the type of wall you are working with to guide you in removing the plaster using electric and hand tools. My instructions will allow you to complete the process safely and efficiently.

Renovators best friend
A sledgehammer is a renovator’s best friend, so you have to be careful with it.

List of tools and safety gear you might need

Firstly, I would like to provide you with a comprehensive list of tools that would be useful for the job.

  1. This list includes a two-sided step ladder, which would provide sturdy support for the legs, unlike the A-ladders you often see.
  2. The A-ladders are not safe for this kind of work. Additionally, you would need an SDS hammer drill with a broad chisel head to help you remove the plaster and concrete cream.
  3. You would also require an extension cord to power your SDS hammer drill.
  4. A construction vacuum cleaner with bags that you can empty would also be necessary to keep the work area clean and tidy.
  5. Furthermore, an angle grinder with a diamond cup wheel would be required to grind the plaster and concrete cream.
  6. A sledgehammer and a smaller hammer would also be helpful if the plaster comes off easily. However, I still suggest using the hammer drill.
  7. A crowbar would also be an essential tool, as there is no job where you can’t find a use. Jokes aside, you might need leverage.
  8. Additionally, screwdrivers would be required as light switch covers and other fixtures need to be removed.
  9. Buckets and a wheelbarrow would also be necessary for moving debris. Lastly, you would need plastic, cellular, or hardboard to cover the floor and furniture.

Now, let’s talk about personal safety. As a foreman, I am big on personal safety. I like to see every one of my workers come home safely and without injuries. There are no compromises, as I have seen enough of those over the years. Therefore, I would suggest that you take the following safety precautions:

– Safety goggles: You would only have two eyes, and we like to keep it that way. Therefore, safety goggles would be necessary to protect your eyes from dust and debris.

– Hearing protection: Plaster removal can be loud, and ear damage is often permanent. Therefore, hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs, would be necessary to protect your ears.

– Gloves: Preferably, cut-proof gloves would be required to protect your hands from cuts and abrasions.

– Working clothes: Sturdy, comfortable, breathable working clothes would be necessary. You would be working with dust and debris, so you want to avoid wearing something that would make you feel hot or sweaty.

– Shoes: Shoes with toe and ankle protection would be necessary to protect your feet from falling debris. Consider wearing nail-proof shoes.

– Helmet: A helmet would be required to protect your head from falling debris. I worked a long time without one, but now that I’m used to it, I don’t mind it at all. It protects from falling debris but also from falling from ladders if you keep your chin strap on.

plaster ceiling
Plaster ceilings can have some juicy bits, so it is better be careful while removing those.

Removing plaster from concrete

Let’s dive into the exciting part of plaster removal. Before starting the process, it’s crucial to take a few precautions.

First, cover everything in the room with plastic and cellular board to prevent damage to windows, floors, or other areas. This includes any furniture, carpets, artwork, or other items that could get damaged during the process.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to remove any electric covers, light switches, or other necessary items that may get in the way during the process. You don’t want to risk damaging any electrical components or wiring.

Depending on the room, you may also need to cover the door frame, air vents, and other areas to prevent debris from spreading around. This is especially important if you’re working in a room with dust or debris, like a basement or attic.

Preparing the working area thoroughly is crucial to make the plaster removal process more accessible and safer. By preparing the room, you’ll be able to work more efficiently and avoid any accidents or mishaps.

When starting any renovation or repair work, it’s always best to begin from the top and work your way downwards. Starting from the ceiling is a good idea, especially if there is already damage, such as plaster falling off.

However, to prevent any accidents, it’s essential to be careful and avoid standing directly under the ceiling you’re working on. It’s also crucial to wear protective gear such as a helmet, goggles, and gloves to protect yourself from debris or injuries.

When working on the walls, starting at the top and proceeding downwards is best. If any part of the wall is loose, it’s best to begin there and work sideways.

It’s essential to take the path of least resistance and avoid any potential accidents. Check the wall condition thoroughly before starting any work, and use appropriate tools and equipment to complete the job safely and effectively.

Always be aware of your surroundings and take necessary precautions to ensure the safety of yourself and others.

Now comes the hard part. Try to keep your working area as debris-free as possible. Take one bucket or wheelbarrow of plaster at a time to the recycling spot. It’s easier to manage and doesn’t require much cleaning time. You can also take a breather while doing this.

Once all the plaster is removed, you can grind the surface for a smooth finish. Grinding the roof might require special tools, while walls are easier to work with. Be prepared for a workout, as it can be heavy on the arms, shoulders, and neck.

In conclusion, the plaster removal process requires careful planning and execution. Following the steps mentioned above can make the process more manageable and safer. Remember to take breaks, wear protective gear, and clean the working area.

It’s important to stress the proper use of power tools. Whether hand tools or power tools, the force applied is the same. It is essential to understand and respect this force to prevent accidents. 

When using hammers, you need to strike hard. Similarly, when using a hammer drill, you may need to apply significant pressure to get some pieces off. In such cases, it’s easy for the force to lead the worker, and you might fall from the ladder or hit something you shouldn’t.

Most accidents happen when we feel comfortable and safe in the situation. So, being cautious and aware of the force applied while using power tools is crucial to avoid mishaps.

What is the best way to remove plaster from a concrete wall?

It’s best to have a professional do this task. But if you’re determined to do it yourself, here are some tips. 

First, assess the condition of the plaster. If it’s loose and quickly falls off, you can use a hammer to remove it. However, if it’s attached firmly to the wall, you must use power tools. 

If you use power tools, wear protective gear, such as goggles and a mask, to avoid inhaling dust and debris. Use a chisel or scraper attachment on an electric or hammer drill to break up the plaster. Be careful not to damage the concrete wall underneath. 

Alternatively, you can use hand tools, such as a hammer and chisel, to remove the plaster. This method is slower but may be less messy and noisy. 

Before you start, cover the floors and furniture with drop cloths to protect them from dust and debris. 

Remember to work slowly and carefully and take breaks as needed. Removing plaster is time-consuming and physically demanding, so be prepared to put in some effort.


Removing plaster can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. While anyone with a tool can do it, doing it efficiently and skillfully is an art that can save you time and money.

If you want to remove plaster effectively, follow these steps:

  1. Ensure that you have suitable protection, saving you time cleaning up later.
  2. Work intelligently to minimize the amount of work you need to do. Take the debris with you whenever you leave the room, as this will help you clean without even realizing it.
  3. If you use high-quality tools, you’ll spend less time trying to make them work, saving you time and energy.

If you don’t have the right tools, don’t worry. Check out local tool rental prices. You’ll be pleasantly surprised that renting a regular SDS hammer drill with chisels costs less daily than working by hand if you value your time.

The same goes for other tools. So, don’t hesitate to rent the necessary equipment to make your plaster removal project successful.