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I have a wall that I want to knock out as part of a kitchen remodel. The wall is non load bearing, so its fine to take out. The question is, what's the best way to do it?

I imagine there's not a whole lot of finesse to it, but are there are some techniques to avoid wreaking the ceiling, floor and other connecting walls?

Also, the wall is lath-and-plaster and not the usual drywall. Will that affect things?

The wall has 1 electrical outlet in the lower corner, and no other electrical or plumbing runs through it.

My guess is it would go something like is:

  1. Cut power at breaker (duh)
  2. Remove plaster (how?)
  3. Remove electrical line.
  4. Remove wall frame (sawzal + pry bar?)

Is this about right?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Removing plaster can make tremendous amounts of dust, isolate the area with plastic to cut down on the spread, and get yourself a dust mask and a helmet is a good idea. Cover any cold air returns and heating vents. Once you're prepared, taking plaster walls down is pretty easy, whack it with a hammer to bust a hole, then you can usually get a shovel or pitchfork behind the plaster and it will pull away from the lathe easily as you break the keyway that holds it in. Clean up all the plaster and dust, then go after the lathe with a crowbar and/or hammers; then start cutting the vertical studs with a sawzall.

Double, triple, quadruple check that it's not load-bearing, if the blade is binding when cutting through a stud, there's downward pressure, and even if it's not structurally load bearing, things could've shifted over time above, and taking it out might make things drop or sag.

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+1 for covering the air returns, not an obvious step and could easily be missed. –  Tester101 Oct 29 '10 at 11:57
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Before removing the plaster it might be a good idea to score the plaster wherever it connects to other walls and the ceiling with a razor knife or the like, this will help prevent damage to connecting walls/ceiling. –  Tester101 Oct 29 '10 at 12:00
    
@tester101: I've used the pointy end of a flat pry bar for this; hold it at a 45 degree angle and tap it into the corner with a hammer. –  Niall C. Oct 29 '10 at 15:38
    
The walls are out! You were right about the dust. I put up plastic to isolate things, but it was far from 100% effective. One thing I did not expect was how heavy the plaster would be! The worst part of the whole operation was carting the heavy plaster out to the dumpster. –  bengineerd Jan 27 '11 at 23:21
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Admittedly, I haven't done this before but I have a few thoughts:

First, before beginning the project, you may want to check to see if there are any regional restrictions. If you're going to be relocating anything in the wall (gas, plumbing, electrical, etc) you may need permits.

Assuming that you're 100% certain that the wall isn't load bearing, you might want to review the following how-to procedure: http://www.hometips.com/diy-how-to/wall-open-up.html

With regard to removing plaster, check the following sites:

As a reminder, be sure to use necessary safety equipment (including a good respirator and eye protection). Plaster removal can get messy.

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I'd use a strong knife or small saw like a keyhole or drywall saw to more carefully cut lines in the plaster on the edges of the part you're removing (to avoid cracking the parts you do want to keep too much). Then, just start cutting the lath (with plaster still attached) into manageable pieces (in between the wall studs), trying to keep the plaster still attached to the lath. Then it won't crumble all over and you can just place the pieces in a trash can.

If the plaster is already separated from the lath (i.e. the plaster keys -- the plaster in between the lath pieces -- have broken off the surface) then use a large paint scraper or similar to scrape it off in chunks.

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Actually, I used a variation of this method the last time I knocked out a plaster wall. I knocked small holes at the top of the wall, and just ran my sawzall down the side of the studs on each side. This will leave you with nice big chunks of plaster, and a lot less dust overall. I have also knocked them down with just a hammer, and the sawzall is definitely easier and cleaner. –  James Van Huis Nov 30 '10 at 23:13
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I demoed out 2 pony walls and removed/rebuilt a furred down wall to contain a large "window" as part of my kitchen remodel - although it wasn't plaster/lath so I can't really speak to that removal process.

I do know it makes an unholy dusty mess (I've had plaster/lath removed in a rental by a contractor and we had to cover EVERYTHING).

Strongly advise you disassemble the wall slowly, going nuts with a sledge and crowbar tends to create damage someone has to repair later. (Basically I let the GF loose on some stuff and she caused a little "collateral damage" with her enthusiasm for demolishing our nasty old kitchen).

Basically once you have the plaster/lath removed, remove the electrical, then when you take the wall apart, start removing the inner members first and work outward. Even though your structure isn't load bearing, there may be some other "dependencies" which you could damage if you just go ripping into it.

Cliffs - once you're removed the plaster/lath and electrical, remove/cut out the inner studs first and work outward.

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Awww, but sledgehammers are so fun! –  Doresoom Oct 29 '10 at 13:46
    
Never said to not use the BFH - just be careful when you apply it! –  kkeilman Oct 29 '10 at 21:20
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