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Old 08-16-2009, 11:52 PM   #1
 
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Which side to cut from for overhead fixtures?


I'm looking to put up three overhead fixtures in our house - one each in three rooms.

Anyway, the ceilings are plaster and lathe, although I suspect drywall may have been put up over the plaster and lathe in one room, as was done in the kitchen and bathroom. I won't know for sure until I start investigating. From below, the ceilings all appear to be in good condition other than a little flaking paint in one room. No cracks, or sagging plaster. Haven't looked at the keys from above though.

But my question - since I have perfectly good access from both above and below, (and I'll be going up into the attic to run wire anyway) what's the best side to cut from?

Seems to me that it's easier to cut going down than hold a drill and hole saw over my head, and I could have a helper climb a ladder and press a bucket against the ceiling to catch debris while I cut. Also seems like working from above would let me have a better watchout for vibrating lathe that might result in cracking plaster keys, and I'll obviously have a better view of any other wires or obstructions on the other side of the ceiling.

So is it a good idea, or am I missing something?
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Old 08-17-2009, 01:06 AM   #2
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It may be easier for YOU to cut the plaster from above, but you will not be happy with the results! Drill a small pilot hole from above to locate the center of your hole, but do your cutting from below. Use a Rotozip or Dremel for a real nice cut, or score your hole with a knife before using a hand saw. And if you use a hand saw, be sure to use one with fine teeth. I have wrapped tape and cloth around a hacksaw blade as a handle to cut plaster. I don't really recommend a hole saw unless it is of the carbide grit variety. A toothed type may grab and bust more plaster than the hole size.
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Old 08-17-2009, 07:07 AM   #3
 
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Okay! Thanks very much for the advice.

I figured I was probably missing something, which is why I asked. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. I guess I should have known it was a bit silly idea!

I used a Dremel Multi-Max (which is a sort of oscillating saw similar to a bone saw) to cut a couple wall outlet box holes which worked okay. I wish I had though of using the Roto-zip, my father has one, and I've wanted an excuse to buy one for myself. Thanks for the warning about using a standard hole saw in plaster and lathe.

Although they're a bit pricey, I'm not adverse to buying the carbide grit hole saw if that's the best tool for the job, neither am I adverse to taking longer and using a handsaw if thats the best bet. Given the options you discuss, what would you say is "best", as far as quality of the finished job, and least likely-hood of damaging the surrounding plaster? ( I lived in an apartment where the landlords handyman put in new smokes in an neighboring unit which resulted in a new ceiling being put up, so I have a bit of nerves about this even though our ceilings are in good shape )

I have experience with all the mentioned tools, although not in this application. I'm not adverse to cleaning up messes, spending a little more, or taking my time if it gets the job done right.
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Old 08-17-2009, 11:41 AM   #4
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Some say to run the hole saw backwards. I have not tried this method though.
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Old 08-18-2009, 02:02 PM   #5
 
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I find using a drywall hole saw works pretty good in those situations. I used one for installing boxes in a new apartment hirise I was working on (the general contractor decided 2 weeks before occupancy that they wanted to move them to another location........for christ's sake, make up your mind during rough in!!!) and it did the job nicely. No big chunks ripped out, it makes a nice smooth hole, and they are not romotely as expensive as the carbide ones. I paid 30 buck Canadian for one at Home Depot, so you guys in the states should get them for a bit cheaper. And the ceilings I was installing them in were finished and final paint job was done, so I had no room for error. I totally recommend it if you had not thought of that route.
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Old 08-18-2009, 02:07 PM   #6
 
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It will say 4" recessed light hole saw on the package, come to think of it (it was a while ago that I purchased it, and my coffee hasn't hit me yet, come on brain, wake up) The one you use for cutting in pot lights. Finer teeth on it.
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Old 08-18-2009, 04:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BCSparkyGirl View Post
I find using a drywall hole saw works pretty good in those situations. I used one for installing boxes in a new apartment hirise I was working on (the general contractor decided 2 weeks before occupancy that they wanted to move them to another location........for christ's sake, make up your mind during rough in!!!) and it did the job nicely. No big chunks ripped out, it makes a nice smooth hole, and they are not romotely as expensive as the carbide ones. I paid 30 buck Canadian for one at Home Depot, so you guys in the states should get them for a bit cheaper. And the ceilings I was installing them in were finished and final paint job was done, so I had no room for error. I totally recommend it if you had not thought of that route.
You are talking about sheetrock if it is a new high rise. The OP is talking about plaster on lathe. One of those $30 drywall hole saws probably wouldn't do the trick in that case.
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Old 08-18-2009, 05:02 PM   #8
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For three holes just use a drywall saw carefully from below. You only get in trouble when you pull the saw backwards. That's when it tears out chunks.

If you run into metal lathe you just have to be more careful.

If you run into wood lathe, you are screwed without a rotozip or similar cutting tool.
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Old 08-19-2009, 12:58 AM   #9
 
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Yeah, it's wood lathe, not metal lathe. Rotozip is, I guess. I have a couple folks I can borrow one from.

A little exploratory work reveals that back room does have drywall over the plaster and lathe - I figure I'll start with that one and get a feel for things - I figure if I mess it up a bit, the drywall should keep things from falling apart. I'll see what the condition of the lathe seems like before and after I cut the hole. If it seems like I can't do the job without making a mess of things I'll see about calling in someone with more experience.

Thanks for all the assistance, folks. I hae recently stumbled across this forum and really appreciate everyones attempts to share information!
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Old 08-19-2009, 04:07 AM   #10
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My son bought an older house some years ago with plaster and metal lath and we had to do quite a bit of cutting for electrical boxes. I found a blade for "Sawzall" type saws that was for plaster and lath and it worked better than anything else I had tried. The metal lath will give you a fit when it catches in the teeth of most any other type blade. The only problem we didn't solve was the dust/small debris problem. Good Luck, David
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Old 08-19-2009, 03:59 PM   #11
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In an occupied/furnished house with lath/plaster, I have thrown down a drop and taped plastic, ceiling to floor in a 6" diameter to contain the dust. It's kind of brutal to work in there but it does contain the mess well.

Power tools like a roto zip blow dust EVERYWHERE.

I have also had someone hold a good vacuum while I am cutting.
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Old 08-19-2009, 04:49 PM   #12
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They make a vac attachment that fits the rotozip.
Works very well.
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