Before sheet rock, builders once used a technique called lathe and plaster
to finish walls. This method of pre 1950 home construction used horizontal firring strips called “lathe” as a framework for supporting hand troweled plaster.
On older homes, it is not uncommon for lathe and plaster to fail when exposed to water (such as a water leak) or being shaken or vibrated by traffic, loud music, or even running down an upstairs hall. When large sections of plaster have fallen from a roof or a wall, it’s probably time to gut the room and have it replaced with sheet rock.
For most of us, removing lathe and plaster is a simple DIY project requiring little more than a crowbar, a shovel, and a wheelbarrow. However, before tackling a lathe and plaster removal in your home, you might read these tips for prepping your house before the demolition work begins.
Dealing with the dust
Plaster doesn’t come off the walls in huge, window sized chunks that can be carried outside. Instead, it has this tendency of dissolving into tiny fragments and dust that will permeate the entire home and everything in it. Preventing the dust from doing any damage is the first step in prepping your home for a lathe and plaster removal project.
Step 1: Since electronic equipment is so sensitive, it’s really best if all electronics are removed out of the room and stored elsewhere for the time. This includes television sets, telephones, DVDs, and stereo systems.
Step 2: Next, remove smaller furniture from the room as well. Furniture that can’t be removed should be covered with plastic tarps. If the thermostat is located in this room, cover it securely with plastic to prevent the plaster dust from damaging the sensors.
Step 3: Close up the room vents and cover the cold air return in the room.
Step 4: Seal interior doors leading to other rooms to prevent the plaster from drifting into other rooms.
Prying off the millwork
Millwork is that wood molding that surrounds your windows and doors, and trims out the floor and must be removed before you begin a lathe and plaster demolition. Why? Millwork is installed over lathe and plaster which can only be removed if the millwork is down.
It’s worth remembering that it’s very difficult to match up sheet rock to lathe and plaster, and trying to save time by leaving up the millwork never works.
Protecting the floors
Even if your floor is made of ceramic tile or linoleum, falling plaster can do a lot of damage to the surface. Covering the floor with sheets of cardboard and a painter’s tarp will protect the floor from dents and dings, and prevent the finish from being ground down.
Arranging for a dumpster
It doesn’t look like a lot on the walls, but lathe and plaster is not something you can put in a household trash can and stick out in the alley. Plaster is extremely heavy and most curbside services will refuse to pick up those 150 hefty bags of plaster sitting out on trash day. For a single room demolition, a three or five yard commercial dumpster is the best way to manage plaster and lathe disposal. In many communities, the trash people need about a week to process your rental order.
Yes, there’s a lot involved in prepping a home before removing lathe and plaster but it’s definitely worth it. With these tips, not only will you protect your home and belongings from plaster damage, but the cleanup will be so much easier as well.