How to remove plaster walls

How to remove plaster walls

Plaster walls are a timeless beauty that adds a touch of elegance and architectural significance to older homes. They look great and provide an excellent sound barrier when painted and kept in good condition. They have a unique feel that seems right in some homes and structures. 

However, maintaining plaster walls can be challenging, even for those with the best intentions. Although they can last for decades, they require frequent repair and repainting to keep them looking their best. And when removing old plaster, things can get particularly problematic.

Old plaster tends to crumble at the slightest touch, making it a delicate process to work with. If you’re not careful, you can easily damage the wall while trying to repair it. Working with plaster can also be intimidating for those new to it. 

Building your confidence and following a step-by-step guide is essential if you plan to tackle this home improvement project. Practice makes perfect when working with plaster walls, so take your time and don’t rush. Ultimately, whether or not you should remove lath and plaster depends on the condition of your wall.

Shopping list

To remove plaster walls, you will need a few tools, including:

  1. Safety gear: goggles, a respirator, ear protection, and clothes that cover your skin.
  2. Hammer or crowbar: to make a hole in the plaster and break the wood lathe.
  3. Crowbar or pry bar: to pry the wood lathe away from the wall.
  4. Saw or angle grinder equipped with a masonry blade to cut the plaster and minimize damage.
  5. Shovel and bucket: to clean up the debris.
  6. Protection for the floor, such as cardboard or plastic.
  7. Optional: multiple sizes of crowbar or hammer and drill to remove wire mesh.

For room:

Here are the steps you can follow to protect your floors and furniture when removing plaster walls:

  1. Cover your floors and furniture with cardboard or plastic sheets to prevent falling plaster and debris from damaging them.
  2. Use drop cloths or old sheets to protect your furniture.
  3. Secure the coverings with tape or weights to prevent them from moving during demolition.
  4. Remove any fragile or valuable items from the room before starting demolition to ensure they aren’t damaged.
Should I remove lath and plaster depends on the condition of your wall

Removing plaster walls

If you plan to remove plaster walls, it is essential to take proper precautions and follow a step-by-step process to ensure safety and efficiency. Here is a more detailed guide to help you through each step of the process:

Step 1: Preparing Yourself and the Room

Before beginning the task of plaster removal, it is crucial to take the necessary precautions to ensure safety. The first step is to prepare yourself with the proper safety gear.

This includes wearing goggles and a respirator, which is an advanced form of a dust mask that helps protect your lungs from dust particles and other harmful substances that might be present in the air.

It is also essential to wear clothes that cover as much skin as possible to protect yourself from sharp plaster parts and wood lathes that might fall during the process. Additionally, loud noises can cause damage to your ears, so it is recommended that you wear ear protection.

A hoodie can be an excellent choice to protect your head and prevent dust from getting under your shirt. It is important to note that the safety gear should fit snugly to your face and body to ensure maximum protection.

Once you have prepared yourself with the necessary safety gear, it’s time to prepare the room for plaster removal.

A crucial step is to put some protection on the floor, such as cardboard or plastic, to prevent damage from falling plaster. This will also make it easier to clean up afterward.

Covering any furniture or other items in the room with plastic sheets or drop cloths can also help protect them from damage.

It is important to note that plaster removal can be a messy and time-consuming task. Therefore, taking the necessary precautions to ensure safety and minimize damage is crucial.

By wearing the proper safety gear and preparing the room adequately, you can make the process of plaster removal safer and more efficient.

Step 2: Make a Hole in the Plaster

If you plan to remove plaster from a wall, the first step is to create a hole in the plaster. You can do this by using a hammer or a crowbar.

A few heavy hits should be enough to create a hole, as the wood lathe behind the plaster will give in a little, making it easier to remove.

Alternatively, you can remove the plaster on top of the wood lathe first and then create the hole. However, it’s important to note that there may be more efficient methods that could potentially cause damage to the wood lathe.

Step 3: Breaking the Wood Lathe

Now that you have created a hole in the plaster, the next step to remove the wall is to break the wood lathe behind it. The wood lathe is the material to which the plaster is attached and is nailed to the studs.

If the wood lathe is challenging to break through, insert a crowbar between the slats of the wood lathe and pry one piece away from the wall. When you do this, a considerable amount of plaster will likely fall off with it, so be careful when it pops away from the wall.

Once you have removed one section, removing the rest of the wall will be easier. You can use your hands to tear off the wood lathe or use your crowbar by pushing it through the gaps and using leverage to remove the lathe. Be cautious, as the plaster might come off in large pieces.

Note: Don’t break the wood lathe if you only want to remove the plaster. Instead, use something sharp and broad to hit between the wood lathe and plaster. A hammer drill might also work, as getting it off can be irritating if the plaster is sticking hard between wood lathe gaps. However, it is recommended to break the wood lathe for total demolition.

Step 4: Removing Nails from the Studs

When building a new wall, it’s essential to have clean studs to work with. This means that any nails currently in the studs must be removed. To do this, there are a few tools you can use. 

One of the best tools for the job is a crowbar with a head for nail removal. This tool will allow you to pry the nails out of the studs easily.

Another option is a nail removal tool with a long shaft. This tool is ideal for removing sturdy nails that are difficult to pull out with a standard hammer. 

Whatever tool you choose, take your time and remove all nails from the studs. This will ensure that your new wall is sturdy and secure.

Step 5: Cleaning Up

When cleaning up after a project involving plaster or similar materials, it’s essential to have a plan in place.

Covering the floor with a protective layer before beginning the project will make the cleanup process much easier and quicker. You can start by taking a shovel and scooping up any larger pieces of plaster that may be left on the floor.

Once you’ve collected these, you can carry them outside and dispose of them appropriately. For the smaller pieces that may be left behind, you can roll them up into the plastic you used to cover the floor.

This will help to contain any mess and make it easier to dispose of the debris. Remember to be thorough in your cleanup efforts, as leaving any plaster behind can create a safety hazard or damage the surrounding area.

Things worth noticing

If you plan to remove plaster from a wall but wish to preserve some of it, there are a few things worth noticing to ensure the process goes smoothly. Instead of removing all of the plaster, you can make joints in the wall, allowing you to control what comes off and stays.

However, you must be careful and avoid hitting the wood lathe too hard, as it can cause the remaining wall to come off. 

To limit the damage further, you can cut the plaster with a saw or an angle grinder equipped with a masonry blade.

An angle grinder, however, can produce a significant amount of dust, so you should prepare for that and take necessary precautions to minimize the dust. It is also important to note that using an angle grinder indoors without a vacuum can be unpleasant.

So, if you use an angle grinder, ensure you have proper ventilation and wear protective gear.

How to remove plaster walls with wire mesh

If you plan on removing plaster walls with wire mesh, it is essential to note that the process is similar to removing them without the wire mesh.

However, the wire mesh can make the process more challenging. One thing to keep in mind is that the wood lathe behind the plaster may differ depending on the wall you are working on. If it is a wooden lathe, make a hole and start demolishing the wood lathe-like before removing the plaster.

When it comes to removing the wire mesh, one way to do it is to remove the wire mesh and plaster from the wood lathe. To do this, you will need to hit the attachment points of the wire mesh to get them off the wood lathe.

You can use a hammer drill or a crowbar and hammer to get the job done. A big crowbar can work exceptionally well, allowing you to apply more leverage on the wire mesh attachment points. Ideally, having tools of multiple sizes would be helpful to make the job easier. 

Removing plaster walls with wire mesh is possible, but it requires more effort and patience. With the right tools and strategy, you can successfully remove the plaster and wire mesh without causing damage to the underlying wood lathe.

Conclusion

Removing plaster walls requires proper safety gear, tools, and preparation.

You should protect your floors and furniture, wear safety gear, and use tools like a hammer or crowbar, saw or angle grinder, shovel, and bucket to remove plaster walls.

It would help to be careful when breaking the wood lathe and removing nails from the studs.

Additionally, you can cut the plaster with a saw or angle grinder equipped with a masonry blade to minimize damage. By following these steps, you can safely and efficiently remove plaster walls.

If you have another kind of wall, here is how to remove plaster from concrete and brick walls. It can be a different process.

Also, think about the money you will save doing it yourself. It won’t be a small amount if it’s a day job. If you’re doing new walls, you can check this guide on doing knockdown texture and this one for ceiling medallions.