If you’re looking to open up an interior space in your home or changing the layout in any way you might be considering removing a lath and plaster wall.
You can always get a handyman (or handywoman) in to do the job for you if you have any doubts. But, if you’ve got the time and the energy and you would like to save a bit of money then you can remove a lathe and plaster wall yourself.
Once you’re sure that you have the relevant permissions (if the task requires them) and you’re sure that the wall is not load bearing in any way you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for the task.
Tips to keep in mind
- Prepare for a LOT of mess! If you’ve never taken a lathe and plaster wall down before, you will probably be aware it will make a huge amount of dust and rubble. In reality it will probably be even worse than you think. Make sure you seal of any rooms you can and invest in dust sheets and polythene covers for just about everything!
- Deconstruct, don’t just destroy. The wall was assembled in stages, take it apart in a similar way. Going at it with a sledgehammer is dangerous and will not save you any time as the clear up stage will be at least doubled.
- Many hands make light work. If you can, get a team of people to assist you. Keeping someone on mess control will save you a lot of stress.
- Invest in good filtering masks. The amount of dust that will be in the air is very dangerous and proper dust filtration will help you massively.
- After the wall is removed an amount of “making good” will be required. This might be a job for a plasterer.
- If you are not comfortable taking on any aspect of this job then hire a professional. Even if it’s just for a second opinion before you begin.
12 basic steps to removing your lath and plaster wall
- Turn off the electricity in the room where you will be working. If you’re confident the wall you’re taking down contains no cables this may not be necessary.
- Remove the electrical plugs and electrical outlet and switch covers with a flat head screwdriver. If you plan on using these face plates again be sure that you keep them safe along with their accompanying plugs.
- Pry off any trim molding. Including skirting boards, door trim and picture and dado rails, with the flat end of a crow bar. If you plan to reuse the molding it a good idea to number the pieces as they are removed and keep them safe.
- Make sure you have rubble bags within easy access and put as many dust sheets down as you can get your hands on – this is going to make a mess!
- You and any people assisting you should now put on eye protection, heavy work gloves, sturdy work boots and dust masks or respirator-style masks. If there are windows in the room, open them for ventilation. A great deal of fine-particle dust is kicked up while demolishing plaster, and be aware of mold spores that could be in the walls.
- Finding where the studs are within the wall and tap the plaster with a claw hammer or sledgehammer until it cracks. A small sledgehammer makes the job easier, but it requires some caution. If you use a sledge, tap the wall lightly; don’t bash it as you’ll put yourself in danger. Stand to the side of where you are breaking up the plaster. Wood lath under the plaster is often springy and can cause the hammer or sledge to bounce back and hit you.
- Pull away the shattered plaster as you work and place it into the rubble bags. This can be done with a spade. Continue until all plaster is broken off the wood lath strips underneath.
- Collect loose plaster from the floor and place it into the rubble bags. Plaster is very heavy, so be careful not to overfill them and cause tears.
- Pry the wood lath strips off the wall studs with a pry bar or the claw end of a hammer. This is the point where any extra helpers come in very handy as they can stay on top of the laths on the floor. Try to keep them all in line as it will make collecting them up easier.
- Pull out as many of the nails that held the lath strips as you can with the claw of a hammer. This is another painstaking job and depending on the age of your wall may result in lots of broken nails. Any which break when you attempt to remove them can be hammered further into the stud to be out of the way.
- Have a serious tidy up of the floor around your deconstructed wall.
- Fold up the drop cloths, vacuum the debris out of the walls and off the floor, then make another pass over the walls to check for overlooked nails.