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Pulling Plaster: How to Decide

988 Views 13 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  MittensCat
Can anyone share how they determine whether or not to pull plaster and replace with drywall. Beyond the basic push test to see if the keys are still intact, what factors determine your decision. I have a few issues to deal with but I'm not sure if it justifies ripping out the plaster. I've done a few rooms and it's not something I look forward to.

My Pros and Cons of removing plaster

Dirty Heavy Labor
Need dumpster or dump site
Might be an asbestos danger
Must purchase material to replace

Ease of access for updated wiring and insulation
Eliminates need to deal with surfactant leaching in bathroom and kitchen
Allows assessment of framing
Eliminates need to repair or hide cracks

I've pulled plaster before and it sucks. That being said, I'm not sure it would suck more than the effort required to achieve a smooth surface on a wavy ceiling that's layered with wallpaper and paint. Because the ceilings are so low on the second floor of my home, I was planning on installing recessed lighting. I thought that having bare ceiling joists could make the wire and light install go a lot easier. I'd have to clear the insulation from above as well and replace with new (which it needs anyway). The bathroom ceiling has bad surfactant leaching and I don't know if sanding or stripping it is worth it. If I was sleeping it would be a nightmare...

So for any of you who have been through a renovation before or work in the plaster/ drywall business, what would you recommend. Is there anything you would add to my pros/cons list? Thanks for any advice.
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I'm not a drywall nor a plaster guy, so take what I say below with a big grain of salt!

I have lots of experience opening walls in old Detroit commercial buildings to install conduit. I'd always hang around when the plasterers or drywall installers worked so I could learn. (And pester them to death with my questions...)
It sure is an art to make beautiful drywall & plaster!

I figured that plaster and lathe wood add significant strength to a structure but my engineer father in law didn't think it would be so significant.
I'd have to think the lath, plus the resultant keys, would have a whole lot more stability than drywall, screws and mud. As I remember, plaster itself is stronger than even setting mud. (Ask my sandpaper)

A substitute for the solidity & durability of plaster, which I learned long ago from a plasterer, was to put cement backer board on the studs, then thin drywall over it. (Using something like Wonderboard for the backer- not Hardie board) He would use setting mud to adhere the drywall to the backer board.
You end up with a very solid wall with much of the sound deadening properties of plaster & lath.

If you do remove the plaster, be sure to work safely and be certain that your vacuum can filter the dust very well. (And mask on!)

I've wrecked a lot of vacuums where the dust gets through the filter and into the motor, thus grinding the insulation off the windings. (Worst one was Stinger vac. Dust hit the motor & exploded from the carbon brush sparks. Exciting, but stinky!)

Currently I have a Vacmaster VF409 and it filters really well. The incoming air & dirt goes into a bag. If any gets through the bag wall it has to go through a cloth filter, then a cartridge filter, then a HEPA filter. Fine Dust filters are available, as are HEPA bags. The air path is so that even if dust escapes, nothing passes the motor. (Before using it on sanding dust, I tried it on talc. Nothing came out the exhaust air.)

Plan B-
(Especially helpful if you think asbestos or lead might be present)
When vacuuming the floor, rig up a water bucket, similar to the ones used for drywall sanding. (Like Magna Sand-And-Kleen) Most of the dust gets trapped in the water before it goes to the vacuum. It's not OSHA for asbestos or lead, but better than nothing.
Being a DIY forum, here's a DIY example I found on line:

I hope this helps & your project goes smoothly and enjoyably!
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I also exhaust the air (I realize the exhaust air needs filtered) and run air scrubbers made from 20x20 furnace filters taped to box fans.
What A Great Idea!

I work in a grade school that has asbestos everywhere.

Like you, I'm kind of at peace with it.
I grew up in a Detroit grade school where chunks of ceiling would fall often. It had to be loaded with the evil stuff.
Back in the 70's, in the factory where I was an electrician, we would have to take down overhead "slow burn" wire. it was insulated with asbestos. We'd yank it down with chains on fork lifts, then stand there smoking cigarettes while waiting for the dust to settle. Then we'd sweep up the mess. Who knew?

I hope your project goes great, MittensCat. Keep us posted!
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