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Remove Plaster and Lath Like a DIY Pro

Whether your plaster is damaged or you need to install insulation, our step-by-step process will help you modernize your home.

ByRachel Lee| Last Updated:02/28/2023
An old wall with antique wallpaper and damaged plaster for removal.

Your Guide to Replacing Plaster with Drywall

Plaster walls became less popular after drywall availability exploded in the 1950s, but they’re still commonly found in older homes. You may want to get rid of crumbling plaster that hasn’t held up as your home settles, or maybe you need to install new electrical wiring or insulation. In any case, removing plaster is easy with the right tools and enough time.

Note that if your home is historical, you should consider repairing the plaster instead of tearing it down. If you decide to replace the plaster with drywall, be sure to get permission from local organizations as you would when making any major change to a historic home.

FAQs for Plaster Walls

When should I call a professional?

How much does it cost to remove plaster walls?

Do I need to check for lead or asbestos in lath and plaster?

Is it safe to remove old plaster walls?

Are lath and plaster walls load bearing?

How to Remove Old Plaster Walls in 5 Steps

Once you’ve decided to replace your plaster walls, you’ll need to identify the wall studs, scrape away the plaster, pry off the lath and remove your debris to clear the way for drywall installation. We’ll break it down step-by-step.

1. Prepare to Remove Plaster Walls

Before you start, make sure that you have enough energy or extra hands to finish this job. Removing plaster can take hours of work and cleanup. Have multiple people work with you if you're looking to get the job done all at once.

To get the space ready, you’ll need to remove all the furniture from the room and store it. If the room is large enough, you can move heavy items to the center and cover them with an old sheet or tarp to protect them from debris.

Next, remove light fixtures, electrical plates and anything else that might be installed in the wall, such as hooks, shelving or television mounts.

A old home interior's plaster walls being prepped for renovation.

Gather Tools

Once the room is clear, it’s time to get all the necessary supplies. Take a quick trip to your local home improvement store to find the items listed below.

Tool and Supply List





Broom and dustpan


Pry bar

Close-toed shoes

Shovel (preferably flat)

Work clothes

Roll off dumpster

Plan for Debris Disposal

Before you start, it's important to know what you plan to do with the dust and debris that will accumulate from the job. Decide on the best removal option for your project's waste with our disposal guides.

Use Safety Precautions

The main safety concern of this project is dust from the plaster and interior of the wall; this is a very dusty and dirty job that will create a mess. Everyone in the room should wear a respirator and appropriate safety gear at all times. Also, use heavy tools with caution.

 A hand holding a plaster knife removing plaster from a wall.

2. Remove the Plaster

It might be tempting to swing a sledgehammer at the wall, but if you’re trying to keep the framework intact, you’ll want to err on the side of caution and be a little more delicate.

Find the Studs

Listen for the wall studs — the vertical wooden beams in the wall — by lightly knocking on the wall with a hammer. If the tapping sound is solid, then you're approaching a stud. If it sounds hollow, you are moving away from a stud. Then, use the hammer to poke holes in the parts of the plaster that aren’t supported by studs. If you’re having trouble listening for studs, you can buy a wall scanner to make your work easier.

Scrape off the Plaster

Use a shovel to scrape off chunks of plaster. Some plaster might stick to the lath, but try to expose as much of the wood framework as possible. Make sure not to destroy the lath during this step. You’ll want to take apart the plaster and lath separately for easier cleanup.

If your wall contains horsehair plaster, it’s likely very old so the wall could crumble easily. Be careful because this will likely result in a messier cleanup.

Remove the Remaining Plaster

Get rid of any stuck chunks of plaster by knocking them free of the lath with a hammer or scraping tool.

Pro Tip

If you’re working on this step with multiple people, give plenty of space between one another to safely use the hammer. You can also use a putty knife to break off the remaining plaster.

A man removing lath from a ceiling with a crowbar.

3. Remove the Lath

With the plaster out of the way, you can now remove the lath that was supporting it. Start with the horizontal strips and use a hammer or pry bar to break and remove pieces of lath.

Make sure to wear gloves during this stage to protect your hands from loose nails or wood splinters. Also, be mindful not to remove or damage the studs. Even if the wall isn’t load-bearing, the studs should be preserved in order to act as a frame for insulation and drywall.

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4. Clean Up the Debris

Next, get rid of any dust and dirt in the exposed wall, especially if you plan to install insulation. Some wall interiors are dirtier than others, depending on the age of the home and how it was built. A large broom and dustpan can work for the majority of your debris, but if your wall is especially dusty or if there are hard-to-reach spots, rent a shop vac to simplify the process.

Most areas won't accept remodeling debris as part of regular trash pickup. Fill a wheelbarrow or large garbage bin with loose materials as you work to keep your space clean, then load them in a roll off dumpster.

A red broom sweeping up demolished plaster and lath.
Find a Dumpster for Plaster and Lath Debris
A wall frame being prepped for drywall.

5. Prep for Drywall

To get ready for drywall installation, you need to check that your studs aren’t damaged or bent. Use a straight edge to ensure the walls aren’t more than a quarter-inch out of alignment, then re-nail or replace the studs before adding drywall.

What to Do After the Plaster Is Gone

Now that your old plaster is removed, it’s time to take the next steps to modernize your home. You might need to hire an electrician to rewire your old fixtures or install new insulation before putting up fresh drywall. Whatever project is coming up on your to-do list, we’re here to help you clear the way for what’s next.

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