If you live in a home that is at least seventy years old, chances are that the interior walls are made of lathe and plaster. Lathe and plaster was a popular construction technique for homes until the 1950s and basically consisted of layers of plaster troweled onto a framework of thin wood strips.
Old house aficionados like my husband and I actually prefer plaster walls to the drywall. Plaster is thicker than contemporary drywall and has higher insulating value which is great when it comes to muffling sound. And because it is a historic building material, it simply looks better in older homes than drywall that has been skip troweled or textured. Of course, plaster doesn’t last forever and if some of the plaster in your home has failed, it needs to be removed. Here are some tips for prepping a room before tackling the job of removing plaster from the walls.
Empty the room out
Removing plaster cannot be done daintily which is why everything needs to be cleared out of the room before starting this DIY project. This goes for furnishings, ceiling fans, light fixtures (a bare bulb is OK), rugs, draperies or blinds, electronics, wall decor…basically everything. (Large furniture that can’t be moved should be completely covered with a drop cloth).
Remove all the millwork first
In old houses, the millwork (or trim) around the windows and door, baseboards, and ceiling was placed directly on semi-hardened plaster and nailed into position using very long nails. All this trim needs to come down before removing the plaster. Removing the trim first is more efficient and makes it easier to label the pieces sequentially so you’ll know where they belong when it’s time to reinstall them.
Tape over vents, cold air exchanges, and thermostat
To prevent plaster dust from clogging your HVAC system during removal, turn your furnace off. Cover the thermostat with plastic (to prevent plaster dust from damaging the sensor) and tape over all vents, grilles, and cold air returns.
Seal all openings
Plaster dust is ultra fine and will migrate throughout the entire house if the openings aren’t sealed in some way. If the room has doors, close them and place a rolled towel at the base. If there is an archway between two rooms, use a clear plastic drop cloth to create a curtain.
Protect the floors
If you have carpeting you want to keep, we recommend covering the floors with a thick canvas tarp. If the floors are made of hardwood or tile, thick cardboard or a thick piece of used carpeting will protect the finish and prevent deep gouges from falling plaster. (You can usually find free used carpeting on Craigslist).
Set up a disposal chute
The last step in prepping a room for plaster removal is by figuring out the easiest way to get the plaster out of the room and outdoors. If the room has a window, open the window, remove the screen, and set up a chute so that the plaster can be easily transported outside. If the room is an interior room with no windows, figure out the quickest path to the outdoors and keep it clear of debris.
These are the basic steps in prepping a room before trying to pull down the plaster. Taking care of these little details before tackling this DIY project will minimize damage to your home and make the job more efficient.
More by this contributor:
How to patch insulation holes in plaster
How to remove old picture rail and trim from plaster walls
Things to watch for when removing old lathe and plaster