How to remove plaster from different types of walls

How to Remove Plaster from Different Types of Walls

Removing plaster from walls is a task that requires a deft touch and an understanding of the material you’re dealing with.

Whether you’re faced with the challenge of the best way to remove plaster walls in a vintage home or updating a room with old plaster and lath walls, the process can be rewarding yet complex.

In homes where removing lath and plaster is necessary, perhaps due to damage or renovation plans, knowing how to get rid of plaster walls properly is essential.

This can range from how to cut plaster walls for alterations to the complete removal of old wall plaster for a thorough makeover.

The techniques to remove plaster from a wall vary, particularly when you’re dealing with different backings like brickwork or lath.

For those wondering how to remove plaster from brick, the approach is quite distinct from tackling plaster and lath walls, where the removal process must account for the wooden laths behind the plaster.

In structures with plaster and lath, such as 1930s plaster walls or even older ones, it’s important to respect the building’s historical fabric, making plaster removal from walls a task that combines care with practical know-how.

Additionally, for those considering the cost of replacing plaster with drywall, understanding the nuances of lath and plaster removal can influence both the approach taken and the financial implications.

Whether it’s a simple patch job or a full-scale renovation, from how to remove ceiling plaster to dealing with laden plaster, each step should be carried out with a thorough understanding of the techniques and potential hurdles.

Our guide will explore various scenarios and provide actionable advice, ensuring that your plaster removal project is executed efficiently and safely.

Tools and Materials Needed for Removing Plaster

Embarking on the journey of removing plaster from walls, whether it’s from plaster and lath walls or a plasterboard wall, requires gathering the right tools and materials.

For beginners, it’s crucial to start with the basics to ensure safety and efficiency. Here’s a carefully curated list that combines accessibility with the best way to take down drywall or plaster, tailored for those who might not have a professional toolkit at their disposal:

  1. Safety Gear: Before you start, equip yourself with heavy-duty work gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges and plaster debris. Safety goggles are a must to prevent dust or small particles from getting into your eyes. Also, consider a dust mask or respirator to avoid inhaling fine dust.
  2. Drop Cloths: Use heavy-duty drop cloths to protect your floors and furnishings from dust and debris. Plastic sheeting can also be used to seal off the work area, keeping the rest of your home clean.
  3. Hammer: A claw hammer can be used to remove lath strips after the plaster has been taken off. It’s also handy for pulling out nails.
  4. Pry Bar: A pry bar is essential for leverage when removing lath and plaster from walls and ceilings. It’s particularly useful when looking to remove plasterboard or drywall panels.
  5. Utility Knife: A sharp utility knife is perfect for scoring plaster, especially when you need to cut plaster walls for electrical work or to create a starting point for demolition.
  6. Chisel: A flat chisel can help chip away plaster, especially around the edges and in tight spaces where larger tools won’t fit.
  7. Ladder: For removing plaster ceilings or high areas, a stable ladder that can support your weight safely is indispensable.
  8. Buckets: Have a few buckets on hand to collect and carry out debris. This is crucial to keep your work area clean and manageable.
  9. Shop Vac: A shop vacuum with a fine dust bag can be a lifesaver when it comes to cleanup, helping to remove plaster dust and small debris.
  10. Screwdriver: This will help remove any fixtures, vent covers, or plates that are attached to the plaster wall or ceiling.
  11. Stiff Putty Knife: A putty knife or a painter’s 5-in-1 tool can be used for smaller plaster removal tasks or to pry off small areas of plaster.

Remember, while it’s possible to remove plaster walls on your own, it’s a labor-intensive process that can reveal unexpected issues, especially in older homes with lath plaster walls or laden plaster.

Be prepared for the physical effort and time commitment, and never hesitate to consult a professional if the project becomes overwhelming.

How to Remove Plaster from Drywall

Removing plaster from drywall requires a careful approach to avoid damaging the underlying drywall. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:

  1. Score the plaster: Use a utility knife to score the plaster in a diagonal pattern. This will help loosen the plaster and make it easier to remove.
  2. Pry off the plaster: Starting from the scored area, use a pry bar to pry off the plaster gently. Work in small sections and be mindful not to apply too much force to avoid damaging the drywall.
  3. Remove any remaining plaster: Once the larger sections of plaster are removed, use a chisel and hammer to chip away any remaining plaster carefully. Take your time and work slowly to prevent any accidental damage to the drywall.
  4. Clean up the debris: After all the plaster has been removed, use a vacuum cleaner to clean up the dust and debris. Be thorough in your cleaning to ensure a clean surface for the next steps in your renovation process.

By following these steps, you’ll be able to remove plaster from drywall without causing any significant damage.

Step-by-Step Guide to Removing Plaster from Brick Walls

Removing plaster from brick walls requires a careful approach to preserve the integrity of the bricks underneath.

Here is a step-by-step guide to help you through the process:

  1. Prepare the Workspace: As previously discussed, preparation is key. Ensure the area is clear of furniture, the floor is protected with drop cloths and the room is well-ventilated with any fixtures removed.
  2. Wear Safety Gear: Before you begin, equip yourself with safety goggles, a dust mask or respirator, and heavy-duty gloves to protect against dust and debris.
  3. Start Small: Begin by testing a small, inconspicuous area to get a feel for how the plaster and lath are attached to the brick. Use a chisel and hammer to tap away at the plaster gently. This will give you insight into how much force you’ll need to apply and how the plaster is coming off the brick.
  4. Chisel and Hammer: Place the chisel at the edge of the plaster and strike it gently with the hammer. Work at an angle to avoid damaging the bricks underneath. The goal is to chip away the plaster in manageable sections, not to force it off in large chunks, which could harm the brickwork.
  5. Pry and Peel: Once you have loosened the edges of the plaster with the chisel, you can begin to use the pry bar. Work it underneath the plaster and gently pry it away from the brick. Take care not to apply too much force, which could dislodge the bricks.
  6. Work in Sections: Continue to remove the plaster in small sections. This will help to minimize dust and debris and make the task less overwhelming. It’s the best way to remove plaster from a wall without causing damage to the bricks.
  7. Clean as You Go: Use a bucket or wheelbarrow to collect the plaster debris as you work. This helps to keep the workspace clean and safe.
  8. Brush Off Residue: Once the majority of the plaster is removed, use a stiff-bristled brush to remove any remaining plaster residue from the bricks. Be gentle to avoid scratching or chipping the bricks.
  9. Wash the Bricks: If allowed by the condition of the bricks and the indoor setting, you can use a damp sponge or cloth to wipe down the bricks and remove any residual dust. Be cautious with the amount of water used to avoid water damage.
  10. Inspect and Repair: After the plaster has been removed, inspect the bricks for any damage. If you find loose or damaged bricks, it may be best to call in a professional to ensure the integrity of the wall is maintained.
  11. Dispose of Debris Properly: Plaster can be heavy, so ensure that you dispose of it according to local regulations, keeping in mind that there may be limitations on what can be put in your regular trash pickup.

Remember, how to remove plaster from a wall, particularly a brick wall, requires patience and care.

Rushing the job can result in damage to the bricks and to yourself. If at any point the task seems too challenging, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional.

Tips for Removing Plaster from Plasterboard Walls

Removing plaster from plasterboard walls can be a delicate task, as plasterboard is more fragile than other substrates like brick or lath. Here are some tips to help you remove plaster while minimizing damage to the plasterboard underneath:

  1. Surface Assessment: Before you begin, assess the condition of the plaster. If it’s painted or has wallpaper, you may need to score the surface with a utility knife to help the removal process.
  2. Gentle Approach: Use a putty knife or a plasterboard wall scraper to lift the plaster off the plasterboard gently. Start at the edges or at a loose point of the plaster and carefully work your way inwards.
  3. Moisture Technique: If the plaster is stubborn, you can lightly dampen it with water using a spray bottle. This can soften the plaster and make it easier to remove. Avoid soaking the area, as too much water can damage the plasterboard.
  4. Heat Application: For especially tough sections, a heat gun can be used to loosen the plaster. However, this must be done cautiously to prevent damage to the plasterboard and to avoid any fire hazards.
  5. Avoid Power Tools: While power tools can speed up the process, they can also easily puncture or tear the plasterboard. Stick to hand tools unless you’re very confident in your ability to control the power tool’s intensity.
  6. Patch and Repair: After removing the plaster, the plasterboard will likely need patching. Use plasterboard tape and joint compound to cover any seams or holes. Sand the area smooth once the compound is dry.
  7. Dust Reduction: Keep the area as dust-free as possible by using a shop vac equipped with a fine dust bag while you work. This not only maintains a clean workspace but also reduces the amount of cleanup afterward.
  8. Proper Disposal: Place removed plaster into heavy-duty contractor bags as you work to keep your area tidy. Ensure that the bags are not too heavy to lift and that you dispose of the material according to local regulations.
  9. Safety Precautions: Always wear a dust mask or respirator, as well as safety goggles, when working with plaster to protect your lungs and eyes from fine particles.
  10. Consider Professional Help: If the plaster is on ceilings or in large, difficult-to-reach areas, consider hiring a professional to avoid potential injury or damage.

By following these tips, you can more effectively remove plaster from plasterboard walls. Keep in mind that if the plasterboard is significantly damaged during the process, it may be more efficient to remove the entire panel and replace it with a new one, especially if you’re considering the cost of replacing plaster with drywall as an alternative.

How to cut into plaster walls.

Removing Plaster and Lath: Techniques and Precautions

Removing plaster and lath is a more complex process compared to removing plaster alone. Here are some techniques and precautions on how to remove lath and plaster walls to consider:

  1. Start with scoring: Use a utility knife to score the plaster in a grid-like pattern. This will help loosen the plaster and make it easier to remove.
  2. Remove the plaster: Starting from the scored areas, use a pry bar or chisel to pry off the plaster and lath gently. Work in small sections and be cautious not to damage any underlying structures.
  3. Take breaks: Removing plaster and lath can be physically demanding. Take regular breaks to rest and avoid overexertion.
  4. Wear protective gear: As with any plaster removal project, wear protective gear such as safety goggles, gloves, and a dust mask to protect yourself from debris and dust.
  5. Clean up the debris: After all the plaster and lath have been removed, use a vacuum cleaner to clean up the dust and debris. Be thorough in your cleaning to prepare the wall for the next steps.

Removing plaster and lath can be a challenging task, especially in older homes. If you’re unsure about your abilities or encounter any structural issues, it’s best to consult a professional for assistance.

Repairing and Preparing the Wall After Plaster Removal

Removing plaster and lath can be a demanding task, and while there may be a fast and easy way to do it, it’s vital to balance speed with safety to prevent injury and unnecessary damage to your home.

Here’s a guide to techniques and precautions for removing plaster and lath:

Techniques for Removing Plaster and Lath

  1. Score the Plaster: Use a utility knife to score the plaster into sections. This helps control where the plaster breaks, making it easier to remove in chunks.
  2. Pry Off Plaster: Starting at the scoring lines, use a pry bar to loosen and lift the plaster away from the lath—work from top to bottom to use gravity to your advantage.
  3. Remove Lath Strips: Once the plaster is off, the lath strips can be pried away from the studs using the claw end of a hammer or a pry bar. Be careful of nails that may be left behind.
  4. Clean Up: As you work, continuously remove debris and vacuum dust to maintain a safe working environment.


  1. Protective Gear: Always wear heavy-duty gloves, eye protection, and a dust mask or respirator to protect yourself from sharp objects and dust inhalation.
  2. Beware of Hazards: Be aware of potential hazards such as electrical wiring, plumbing, and asbestos in older homes. If you encounter asbestos, stop work immediately and consult a professional.
  3. Structural Integrity: Be mindful of the structural integrity of the wall. Avoid removing structural beams or supports.
  4. Footwear: Wear sturdy boots to protect your feet from nails and debris.

Fast and Easy (But Risky) Way

Some may suggest simply taking a sledgehammer to the plaster and lath for a quicker demolition. However, this method is not recommended as it poses several risks:

  • Increased Injury Risk: Flying debris and exposed nails can lead to serious injuries.
  • Potential Structural Damage: Aggressive demolition can damage the underlying structure of your home.
  • Health Hazards: Quick demolition can release large amounts of dust and potential contaminants like lead or asbestos into the air.

Short and Unsafe Method

Using power tools to speed up the process might seem efficient, but without proper training and precautions, this approach can be dangerous. Power tools can quickly turn plaster and lath removal into a hazardous activity:

  • Excessive Dust: Power tools generate a lot of dust, which can be harmful if inhaled.
  • Loss of Control: The aggressive force of power tools can make it difficult to control the demolition, potentially leading to more significant damage.
  • Electrical and Plumbing Damage: Without careful removal, you might accidentally cut into live electrical wiring or plumbing.

For the sake of safety and maintaining the integrity of your home, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. A methodical, patient approach will ultimately be faster and safer and may even save you money on repairs and medical bills in the long run. If you’re unsure about any part of the process or if your home has hazardous materials like asbestos, it’s best to consult with a professional before proceeding.

Alternative Methods for Removing Plaster

While the methods mentioned above are commonly used for removing plaster, there are alternative methods you can explore. Here are a few options to consider:

  1. Chemical stripping: Chemical stripping involves using a chemical solution to dissolve the plaster, making it easier to remove. This method requires caution and proper ventilation due to the potentially harmful chemicals involved.
  2. Wet plaster removal: Wet plaster removal involves spraying water onto the plaster to soften it before removal. This method can be useful for stubborn or hard-to-remove plaster.
  3. Professional assistance: If you’re unsure about removing plaster yourself or encounter any structural issues, it’s best to seek professional assistance. A professional contractor will have the expertise and tools necessary to safely remove plaster from your walls.

When considering alternative methods, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons and choose the method that best suits your needs and capabilities.

Conclusion: Final Thoughts on Removing Plaster from Different Types of Walls

In conclusion, the task of removing plaster from walls, whether it’s from brick, plasterboard, or lath and plaster constructions, requires a measured approach that respects both the material and the structure of the building.

While there are various methods available, from manual chipping and prying to the use of chemical removers or heat application, each method must be chosen with consideration for the wall’s integrity and the safety of the remover.

The best way to remove plaster may vary depending on the specific circumstances. Still, the common thread across all methods is the need for careful planning, appropriate tools, and protective measures.

For those embarking on this task, it’s important to weigh the value of preserving underlying structures against the effort and cost of removal.

Alternatives to removal, such as skimming or overlaying with drywall, offer less invasive options and can be equally effective in achieving a refreshed look. The chosen approach should align with the project’s goals, whether it’s renovation, restoration, or repair.

Ultimately, the successful removal of plaster from walls can greatly impact the outcome of a renovation project. It’s a task that embodies a blend of craftsmanship and patience, and when done correctly, it paves the way for a revitalized space.

Whether you’re a DIY enthusiast or a professional, the key lies in respecting the process and proceeding with an informed and cautious strategy, always ready to adapt to the challenges that the unique character of each wall may present.