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JoshuaBaron 02-09-2009 09:16 AM

Removing a stud, not damaging "back" wall
Hi there...
I am a newbie DIYer, having recently purchased a nearly 100-year-old house (we are coming up on celebrating the centennial of our house, along with the centennial year of the Titanic maiden and final voyage). The age of our house has brought out the DIYer in me, and I have cut my teeth on a number of both small and large projects.

My question is this... I am doing a full renovation of my bathroom, and my wife has decided that she would like me to convert a conventional door to a pocket door to maximize space in our small bathroom. The walls are drywall over plaster and lath on one side of the wall and simply plaster on the opposite side (i.e. the next room over). To install the pocket door I will need to cut out a stud, thereby taking the adjacent room's lath off of the stud. How do I do this without damaging the adjacent/ back wall's plaster and proving enough "support" for the lath and plaster on the back wall. This project, at least in my mind, is a no-go if I can't do this without renovating the wall in the adjacent room.

Thanks a bunch...

Willie T 02-09-2009 09:37 AM

Sounds like a job a Milwaukee Sawzall fitted with a 5" (# 40-00-5052) plaster blade might handle well. They cut a pretty clean line without tearing up too much of the wall... cuts on both forward and back strokes, and that seems to help in reducing the vibration.

If you have to buy one, purchase only Milwaukee. The rest are kind of inadequate compared to the original Sawzall.

JoshuaBaron 02-09-2009 10:31 AM

Thanks for the suggestion!

Will the plaster wall on "the other side" be stable if I do not reattach the lathe and plaster to a stud? Since this is for a pocket door, I would need to remove probably 2 studs (16 in x 2 = 32 inch width).

Thanks again... just want to be sure.

Willie T 02-09-2009 10:40 AM


Originally Posted by JoshuaBaron (Post 227662)
Thanks for the suggestion!

Will the plaster wall on "the other side" be stable if I do not reattach the lathe and plaster to a stud? Since this is for a pocket door, I would need to remove probably 2 studs (16 in x 2 = 32 inch width).

Thanks again... just want to be sure.

Although you may have a lot of nails/screws sticking through the backside of the adjacent wall's lath boards... and you WILL have a fair amount of hard plaster blobs weeping through the same lath, you should be able to tap and clip enough of those off to screw the pocket door frame cross members to that other wall from the back side. That will keep the other wall steady and relatively solid. Just be CERTAIN to get all your new screws sunk real good so they won't scratch the door as it slides. This happens a lot!!

jogr 02-09-2009 11:10 AM

I don't see this happening without totally screwing up the plaster wall you're trying to save. If you remove the two studs supporting the plaster lath that supports the plaster then the plaster will crack in the best case scenario that I can imagine.

12penny 02-09-2009 11:21 AM

Josh.... I know you want this to be easy but I'm afraid it wont be. I would try a fine tooth blade. Also make sure you take out enough to get a header and jack stud in.

JoshuaBaron 02-09-2009 11:55 AM

Uh-oh... dissenting opinions. When you suggest I could ruin the wall, are we talking about chunks of plaster falling down on the "good" side of the wall or hairline cracks?

PaliBob 02-09-2009 12:21 PM

A pocket door may not be the only solution. Is there room to change the swing of the existing door so that it swings out instead of into the Bathroom?

12penny 02-09-2009 01:26 PM

Josh, heres the thing.....if its wood lath under the plaster, how to you get the stud out? The lath strips are nailed to it. I dont see how you can do it without damaging plaster. My house was built brand new with an outswing door in the powder room. I like PaliBobs idea best.

JoshuaBaron 02-09-2009 03:24 PM

Thank you all very much for your take on this. As much as I would love to have my pocket door, I don't want to sabotage the integrity of the adjacent room. The prospect of having plaster raining down is too scary...

Thurman 02-10-2009 12:49 AM

Josh, I'm a little confused as to what you are actually trying to accomplish. I'm thinking you are wanting to remove one or more studs that have wood lathing attached to them and NOT cut out the plaster or lathing. This I have done. If I can see the back side of the plaster wall and the wooden lathing strips I have tapped each strip to try and move it just enough to get a hacksaw blade between the stud and lathing. Sometimes a three inch wide, stiff scraper helps to do this also. IF I can get this clearance then I use one of those hacksaw frames that hold half of the blade in the handle and go down the stud and cut any nails that were used to nail the lathing on. I have removed bad studs this way to replace them, you have a different situation. You are not wanting to replace the studs. Personally, I think you could remove no more than two adjacent studs without compromising the plaster wall. Or, you could install a 1 x 4 or 1 x 6 flat to the wall to give strength between the floor and top plate. This should clear your new pocket door as most of these houses used true 2 x 4 studs. I hope this helps, Good Luck. Thanks, David

wombosi 02-10-2009 07:32 AM

hey man,
just gut both sides of the wall as much as you need.
there's nothig sacred about a small piece of plaster there, and you might as well leave yourself a lot of space for working. then just drywall it over.
except for skimminng and painting, this is the easiest part of the job - muchc easier than installing the pocket door.

just chop it out.

Willie T 02-10-2009 07:56 AM

There are three 9" Sawzall blades I find work super well for cutting nails behind studs:


The first one is my favorite. They will all cost you about $5 each. (The way they are listed here are packs of 5) They get behind studs, and cut the nails like butter.

I put in a pocket door on my bathroom too. And I had plaster on both sides. No problems other than having to relocate an electrical box on the side I took out. Trust me, on a typical small (5' x 7') bath, pocket doors make all the difference... especially if two of you are bouncing off each other in there.

JoshuaBaron 02-23-2009 09:28 AM

OK... so the verdict is in. I spent all yesterday taking down the lathe and plaster from the bathroom side of the wall (what a mess!) before I borrowed my neighbor's Sawzall and bought the recommended blades.

I am sorry to say that the plaster wall on the other side cracked in a major way, in spite of taking things slowly and using as clean an approach as possible. Interestingly, that wall had drywall next to plaster, and it appears that the buckling occurred where the drywall met the plaster. It makes me wonder if someone tried to fool with the plaster once before and ended up ruining it, thereafter replacing a piece with drywall.

The good news is that we are hiring someone to drywall the bathroom and will have him just throw up a couple more pieces on the other side of the wall. It was worth a try though.

Oh... one last question, for Willie. When you put up the split jambs, how do you affix the jambs to the header on the occluded side of the wall? Did you just put in one nail that went through one jamb, through the header and across to other jamb?

Thank you all for your suggestions!

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