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I have a lath and plaster ceiling to remove, but it is quite large, and my first attempts have created masses of dust. Is there some way to take it down easily? (For example, would lifting the floorboards above make it easier?).

Also, is there some way to reduce the dust produced? Maybe with some hose set up?

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I have done it, there is no way around dust. You MAY be able to alleviate it a bit if you have someone operating a shop vac during demolition but I wouldn't count on it much. You will need to evacuate the area and wear a respirator and preferably a hard hat while doing it. The best tool to use is a crow bar for ripping the laths out of the ceiling beams.

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  • I can't even think of a good way to take out larger sections, as I would with wallboard. THEORETICALLY a shallow cut alongside each joist would let you do that (and then come back for the bits which are nailed in), but I'd be Really Nervous about hitting wiring or piping someone "creatively " routed through that space. I suppose after prying open a hole one could check... But then there's still be the need to make Absolutely Sure your cut doesn't go into the joists. Theoretically possible, probably impractical ...
    – keshlam
    Nov 10 '14 at 18:39
  • it is actually easier to demolish than drywall as most nails come off when you tear the laths. with drywall, you have to remove the fasteners manually. however, drywall demo causes much less dust
    – amphibient
    Nov 10 '14 at 18:58
  • If you have a worm drive circular saw you can cut it into sections without having to remove all the plaster first. That should help keep the dust down a little. You can set the depth of the blade to just cut through the lath so you don't have to risk damaging something else. Nov 10 '14 at 21:50
  • ^^ except that running a saw through plaster will generate even more dust...
    – amphibient
    Nov 10 '14 at 22:03
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I'm in the process of a large plaster-and-lath removal; my methods have evolved over the course of the project, maybe these tips will help others who find this question.

I found that it's easiest to peel the lath one or two pieces at a time. Pull it with a pry bar or crowbar exactly where it's nailed to the joist (in my case this meant four places), and then pull down the wood piece itself and set it aside. The plaster will bend as you're bending the wood; it will peel off the ceiling and fall to the floor. You can then shovel the plaster into containers and cart to a dumpster, e.g. The hardest part of this process is getting a line started: it takes some digging with a pry bar to get your first piece. Once you get going it goes quickly.

It's easy and very effective to just smash everything down but then you have a big mess: the lath won't cooperate with bagging or shoveling and so has to be picked out. Maybe this is my OCD but I bundled most of mine and posted it to Craigslist and it was gone over the weekend--evidently some DIYers are doing the opposite of you and me.

I didn't find an effective way to keep the dust out of the air, instead just wore a respirator. I found that the plaster dust dries out the eyes too. The hose method you mention might be worth trying.

A few other tips:

  • This will be obvious but don't expect to be able to carry a big contractor bag full of plaster; a 5-gallon (e.g. homer) bucket holds about 30 lbs.
  • My plaster varied in quality: some finer porcelain-like plaster would not admit bending and had to be smashed down.
  • I did not have the opportunity to remove floorboards above but when demolishing from the other side of a wall, yes it's easier to simply punch out the lath close to the joists, so that the line of nails squeaks out in unison. I would estimate that it cuts the time in three.
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  • An assistant with a weed sprayer or mister of some sort could mist the area as work progressed. You could certainly mist the debris before bagging and hauling. It might help a little. It's been a while since I've removed plaster and lath...
    – Tim Nevins
    Jan 17 '19 at 20:48
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My plan for My Old (neglected) House is to run a rope over the top, say from North to South.

Take the North end and fix it to South Wall.

Take the South end and put it out a North window. You now have a large loop going over the top of the ceiling, between the rafters/joists.

Go outside, grab the rope, and start pulling. Not sure if a winch is a good idea...

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  • Your plan is to use rope to pull the lath down from the ceiling joists? I guess if that works. What about places where there isn't a window in a convenient location? How do you get the rope over the top? I'm not really sure how this actually answers the question (which is expected, as noted in the tour) or helps keep the dust down.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 14 '21 at 11:50
  • This is one of those WhatAbout responses, isn't it ;-) I'm not suggesting anything more dangerous than being under a ceiling being pulled down. I'm suggesting being prudent, by being away from the falling debris. If the technique won't work for you, don't use it. Jul 15 '21 at 13:07
  • So, this site enforces run-on sentences, no paraphs allowed? Jul 15 '21 at 13:12
  • If I want a paragraph, just close the comment and start another? Jul 15 '21 at 13:14
  • Well okay then... Jul 15 '21 at 13:14
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You will always have dust, but standing outside the room will minimize the inhalation and debris hazards.

Electrical installers (cameras, alarms, power) use extensible fiberglass rods to "fish" their wires over ceilings, thru crawl spaces, etc.

Harbor Freight has a couple of options: Fiberglass Wire Running

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