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Removing Interior Plaster From a Victorian House

From Queen Victoria’s succession to the throne in 1837 to her death in 1901, architects invented new building vocabularies and builders created technologies that made their imaginative designs possible. During the 19th century, centuries-old plastering conventions, such as wood lath covered by horse hair mud and lime putty-sugar sand skim coats were gradually replaced by lighter, more flexible metal or rock lath and gypsum plaster. Your Victorian’s plasterwork is part of her historic fabric -- work carefully and remove it only when repair is impossible.

Things You'll Need

  • Construction dust mask
  • Work gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Buckets
  • Sponges
  • Spray bottles
  • Rubber-headed mallet
  • Screwdriver
  • Chisel
  • Nail puller
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    • 1

      Consult with an asbestos or restoration specialist to locate and evaluate any asbestos in your walls. Follow his recommendations regarding removal.

    • 2

      Mask all of the woodwork, doors, windows and floors to protect against flying chunks of plaster and control chalky dust migration. Don a dust mask, work gloves and safety glasses -- plaster dust is alkaline and gritty.

    • 3

      Wet the area where you will start thoroughly. Moisture will help limit airborne dust.

    • 4

      Knock a hole in the plaster with a screwdriver and begin pulling plaster away from the lath. Work out toward the edges and toward the floor and ceiling. Wet plaster with a sponge or spray bottle as you pull pieces off.

    • 5

      Clean out areas near woodwork with a chisel. Early Victorians applied woodwork and then plastered. If your woodwork is later and you encounter plaster behind the woodwork, you’ll have to remove the woodwork to get a clean wall. Later Victorians plastered first and put wood pieces called grounds to anchor woodwork.

    • 6

      Remove keys -- the chunks of plaster that hold the base coat between the lath. Again, work carefully and use the spray bottle to keep dust down. Many of the keys will butt up against keys from adjoining walls. Also, keep in mind that the keys are part of the mud coat and they probably contain animal hair that makes them less easily fractured than modern plaster.

    • 7

      Sweep up and vacuum carefully before uncovering the doors, windows, woodwork and floors.