Lath on, Lath off

I ended my last entry by saying lath & plaster removal is not nearly as easy as those speedy home improvement shows make it look. So I began hunting on YouTube for how other people tear it off, and I did learn a few things.

I was simply going at it with a hammer and pry bar, inching my way up the wall, one lath board at a time. But the many video tutorials gave me some good pointers.

First, pound a hammer across the wall, working in 16″ wide swaths at a time. Hammering where there is a wall stud does no good, so find the “flexible” space between two studs and get to hammering. This forces the plaster “keys” to break off, and these are basically what give a plaster wall it’s adhesion to the lath boards.

plaster keys

As this photo shows, the plaster that squeezes through the lath boards when applied are called keys. While hammering, I can hear these falling down into the wall so I know they are breaking lose. Then begin a hole in the plaster with the claw end of the hammer.


Once a hole is started, a sidewalk ice scraper is the perfect tool. The long handle is a little wonky when I get close to the corners, but overall it works great. I stand close to the wall, and scrape the plaster right off in large pieces.


This is where I left off last night. These two walls are completely without plaster. The 3rd wall to the left that isn’t pictured above I only got about half removed.

I went ahead and also tore off all the lath boards on the wet wall (where all 3 fixtures will be, on the right) because I need to run the remaining drain vent pipes up through the ceiling. But on the other 2 walls, I’m debating leaving the lath in place. I don’t see any disadvantages to leaving it, and for the exterior wall around the window, it is holding in the cellulose insulation. I’ll continue to do some internet research on this and see what comes up.

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