The Before

We decided the best way to find out whether we needed to replace the exterior sheathing was to take down a wall and have a look. Back when we were getting rid of the cockroaches, I went through the first floor and hammered holes in the walls so the exterminator could spray into the wall cavities. We’ve been using the first floor living room to store empty boxes in various states of being broken down, along with the packing material that was in them. The first step was to clear all that stuff out.

Picked Up

Wouldn’t it be nice if it was as easy to pick up as just looking at the next picture in a series? But I digress. After things were picked up I put down heavy plastic so that cleaning up the ensuing mess would be easier. Our friend Mike gave us two huge rolls of leftover plastic and we’ve been using it for a variety of things, including temporary window shades, floor runners over the sticky floor (we pulled up the peel and stick tiles on the first floor), and now clean-up tarps. Who knows, we may actually use it for its intended purpose as a vapor barrier!

Plastic Sheeting

Now it was time to get to the meat of it: removing the wall. Almost immediately I discovered this was one of the walls that had been drywalled over. I tried to pull everything down at once, but quickly decided it was better to take it down in layers, if for no other reason then to take photos along the way.

Drywall Removed

It became clear that the reason for the drywall was a huge section of missing plaster in the center of the wall. In fact, the plaster across the whole middle area was incredibly brittle and fell off with the slightest touch. Toward the sides it was a bit more solid and required some prying and pounding with the crowbar. However, that’s only necessary if you’re taking it off in layers. Subsequent walls will use the 2×4 lever method that I used to remove the lath. The plaster is yellow because it has a couple layers of old wallpaper on it. It wasn’t clear what the original pattern was since it was all fairly deteriorated.


Removing the plaster left a giant cloud of dust in the room and I had to wait until morning to take the final picture with the lath removed. Taking down the lath started with me pulling off individual strips and trying to get them off in one piece. I quickly tired of this since it was slow and tedious. I remembered reading about a technique to remove plaster lath where you put a short 2×4 board into the wall behind the lath and then pry it forward, pulling all the lath free as you go. The spray of plaster bits and dust wasn’t the greatest, and I had to shampoo twice to get it all out of my hair, but it was effective at getting the lath off the wall.

Down to the Studs

The result of my work was a huge mess that I’ll have to clean up. I want to save the lath for burning in the fire pit, so I need to get the nails out of it. That will be fun. The drywall is already de-nailed and I just need to bag it up and throw it out as we did with the basement. I have plans in store for the plaster though. I’m going to fill a five gallon bucket and weigh it, then figure out how many five gallon buckets I have. Then I’ll use the size of this wall to extrapolate approximately how many tons of dumpster we’ll need.


6 Responses to Wall Dis-assembly

  1. jj says:

    Be careful burning the lath. Sometimes there’s asbestos in old plaster. Generally only in decorative stuff, but check before burning.

  2. I am amazed at your energy! Taking care of a 4 month old, working full time and renovating a house! It is going to look so great when it is done!

  3. Matt says:

    You’re correct that it is generally decorative plaster. It’s also mostly plaster from the 1940s and later, which should exclude our house by a safe margin.

    A bigger concern with our plaster is dust that can include lead from the paint. I used a mask during the demo for that reason. Burning the lath should be minimal exposure to anything harmful, but it’s sound advice. Thanks!

  4. jj says:

    Yup, dust during demo is a mess. I love my 3m 7500 mask w/ 2091 filters. It’s amazing how much plaster dust it keeps out of me. It even blocks smells pretty well. Which has been wonderful for cleaning the catchbasin and the like.

    Are you using any active filtration to keep the house habitable? I have a wood working .5micron filter that works wonders. Furnace blower & some filters in a nice plywood box.

  5. That is all very interesting – but what shape are the boards in? Rotten? Or not?

  6. Matt says:

    JJ, Yes we have a couple of Surround Air filters running upstairs, but since the house doesn’t have forced air the dust from the basement and first floor hasn’t gotten into the upstairs much.

    Marcus, I guess I didn’t really answer the question I started with. The exterior planks look about the same as the rest of the wood in the house, which is to say old, but not bad. Some look a bit worse than others, but if the rest of the house is like this wall then we’ll probably just leave it and put insulation over it. I was more concerned about a tight seal on the sheathing when we weren’t doing spray foam.

    The next question is: what’s under the vinyl siding? Right now we’re guessing one to two layers of older siding, hopefully none of which contains asbestos, but we won’t know unless we pull some off.

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