Saturday, July 25, 2015

Plaster removal is......messy

Now that we have the financing on the house sorted we are able to really start tearing it apart! Finally, it is time for full scale demolition!   We began upstairs in the room that will be Wythe's room.  
Everyone will tell you that tearing out plaster is messy work but there really isn't a way to understand how messy it is without seeing it.  We seem to have a system that is working for us.  We smash and chisel the plaster off of the lath.  Then shovel the plaster into 5-gallon buckets to be hauled downstairs and around back to the ever-growing plaster pile.  
We had this idea for a chute that would run from the upstairs window down to the ground.  It seemed like a good idea, it probably was a good idea except for the logistics of getting it up to the window.   The idea was a frame built out of wood, with metal sheathing to form a chute for the plaster.  The problem was it had to be 32 feet long.  32 feet of wood and metal is difficult (impossible) for two people to manage.  So we tried to lift just the framing up to the 2nd story, thinking we could then nail the metal sheathing in place.  But we learned that we aren't as strong as we thought we were. We couldn't stand on the ground and lift 32 feet of wood into the air.  We tried using ladders to get more leverage, we tried jumping, we tried dragging it by rope from the 2nd story window.  Most everything we tried only resulted in me yelling at my husband "please don't die today!! don't you dare die and leave me with all this work!!"   So, we eventually abandoned the plaster chute and went back to the old fashioned method of hauling it out by the bucket full.  It is not a terrible option but you have to either go down 2 flights of stairs or one flight and then walk around the house to reach the plaster pile.  By the end of the day it feels as though you are walking up and down the steps of a high rise. 
Once the plaster is removed, then we start on the lath.  Once we have pried the lath off of the studs we stack it and carry it outside to be stacked on a pallet.  
The plaster removal on the ceiling is particularly messy because of the insulation in the ceiling.  Once you begin to pull down the lath large clumps of dusty, messy, insulation fall in your face, on your head, down your shirt, coating everything, turning your skin a greyish-black color.  

This is Wythe's room, before and after plaster removal. 

I'm excited about the space in the eves, I'm hoping to utilize as much as possible for closets, cupboards, or drawer space. 

We also learned a few more things about our electrical.  Namely, that the electric we had turned on upstairs believing it to be new wiring, was, in fact, the original wiring.  We had been using the overhead light fixtures until we saw what was behind the plaster.  Unbeknownst to us, the old outlets in the baseboards were also hot.  It was a little scary to see the old wiring behind the baseboard, the insulation is cracked and probably dry rotted.  There are singe marks on the wood from the wiring, it really makes you wonder how this house never burned down.
original outlet...still works...kind of scary

this is what the working switches look like

We moved onto Ainsley's future room, the room we will use for a time.  I was eager to uncover the section of chimney in that room to see what condition it is in.   We are hoping to leave the brick exposed on the chimney depending on the condition. 
first look at the chimney in the bedroom
Under a few layers of paint, over top of the plaster on the chimney, we found this wallpaper.  

knocking the plaster loose
one wall down to the lath
window in A's room
window in A's room
closet space in A's room
closet space in A's room

A's room, door to hallway
A's room, door to hallway

We were very grateful to have extra hands this past weekend!   My dad, his brother, and my brother-in-law all came to help!  My sister stayed at the house with the kids enabling me to work uninterrupted at the house.  It is amazing how much easier it is with extra hands, extra legs carrying loads of plaster up and down the flights of steps.  We were able to get the plaster and lath removed in the former upstairs kitchen and start on the hallway.  We have previously removed the tile floor from the upstairs kitchen but hadn't been able to get the sub-flooring up that was nailed into the original pine flooring. That job alone took several hours, Peter ended up having to cut it into strips in order to pry it up. 
This room was the kitchen for the upstairs unit.  We will use it for a bedroom for now, eventually it will be a laundry room and hallway to the master bedroom. 
Over the next few days we continued to work in the hallway removing the plaster and lath. 

Before-former upstairs kitchen
After plaster removal

before - former kitchen

After - will be converting into a bedroom

Before - upper hall
After - upper hall

Before - upper hall
After - upper hall, chimney exposed

upper hall

Removing plaster and lath isn't that hard.....just messy and time consuming.  But even 5 and 7 year olds can do it!
W & A, removing lath
Sometimes you have to pull really hard!
our little helpers!

  'til next time...


  1. Ooooo! My fingers are itching to get in there and help and you know I have first hand experience with all of that! As soon as school starts.... (This is Heidi, BTW)

  2. Hi! I just found your blog through Pinterest while looking up Lath and Plaster walls. We are currently living in a 1920s old farmhouse and have been running into a lot of the same problems you guys are. Can't wait to see the progress you guys make!!


    1. Thank you Amanda! We knew this was going to be a huge project but as we peel back the layers on this house we are finding more things to fix. Hopefully it won't take us too many years! Good luck on your project!


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