Up until about the 1950s, houses were constructed with wood lath and plaster instead of more lightweight and efficient drywall. The plaster was comprised of three layers, each rock-hard and difficult to saw through. Chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’ve found yourself squaring off against one of these formidable plaster walls that needs to come down, or maybe you just want to blast through it to build a window or door. Whatever your battle, cutting plaster can be a challenge, especially if you need to preserve any of the wall you’re cutting around. You’ll need to be careful about creating too much vibration, which can crumble or crack the plaster. But fear not. Your internet-scouring has led you to the answers you need. Below are the best ways to tackle plaster without breaking the wall, your back or the bank. We’ve even included the top products of 2020 to help you get the job done.
|Rank||Model||Our Favorite Product|
|#1||A Medium Angle Grinder||DEWALT DW840 7-Inch Medium Angle Grinder
|#2||A Reciprocating Saw||Makita JR3050T 11 Amp Reciprocating Saw
|#3||A Percussion Masonry Drill Bit Set||DEWALT DW5207 7-Piece Premium Percussion Masonry Drill Bit Set
The high speed of an angle grinder is perfect for cutting through plaster without causing too much vibration. Before you get started, you’ll want to mark off the area with masking tape and draw your cut lines over the tape. This will help reinforce the plaster while you’re working. You won’t need to apply much force, just let the tool do the work. Once you’ve made your cut lines, you can then remove the plaster and cut the wood lath behind it, if needed. Keep in mind, cutting plaster will generate significant dust and might even throw silicates or lead into the air. You’ll need to wear a respirator and goggles while you’re working and clean up with a HEPA-filtered vacuum or wet mop. We recommend you wear the Gerson Silica & Concrete Dust Respirator Kit with Pancake Filters – Signature Pro Series for the best protection. Check out our recommendation below for the best angle grinder to get your job done.
As mentioned above, tools with high vibration are not great options for detailed plasterwork. You can easily crumble or crack the surrounding plaster. But if you’re planning to topple an entire wall, a reciprocating saw can you give you great power and efficiency. They’re not completely destructive to smaller projects either. If you mark off the cutting area with masking tape to reinforce the plaster and use a high-powered saw (like the one we recommend below), you can make successful cuts. You’ll want to start by punching a small hole in the middle of your cutting area with a drill bit (see our number 3 recommendation). Don’t use a hammer, or you’ll get cracks spidering in every direction. Once you’ve made your hole, insert the saw blade and cut outward to your line. Use a 6-inch demolition blade for best results, and take precautions for dust as mentioned above, including a respirator. Check out the model below for our top pick of reciprocating saws.
Cutting plaster isn’t always about removing squares. You may need to drill a hole for multiple reasons, such as anchoring screws or starting a hole to install an electrical plate (or if you’re using a reciprocating saw). The best way to cut holes in plaster is to use a carbide drill bit. As with the other methods above, you’ll want to use masking tape to cover the area first, which will reinforce the plaster. When you make your hole, drill right into the masking tape. You’ll want to use a low speed to prevent cracking and damage. Avoid pushing on the drill, as well. Let the power do its thing or you’ll risk cracking. Below is our top pick for carbide drill bits that’ll melt right through plaster.
Cutting plaster can be a hairy business, especially with the wrong tools. Whichever option you choose, make sure to avoid too much vibration against the walls. Handsaws and hammering can especially cause instantaneous chipping and fracturing. Look for high-powered tools that will gradually work into the plaster and avoid short blades. The angle grinder is really your best bet among the options above, as it will give you the ability to monitor the amount of force going into the wall. All the methods above can cause damage to the surrounding plaster if you don’t use making tape for reinforcement, so be sure to tape off the area thoroughly before you start cutting. It’s also crucial that you protect your lungs with a respirator (again, we recommend the Gerson Silica & Concrete Dust Respirator Kit with Pancake Filters – Signature Pro Series). Use care cleaning up the dust afterward, as well. You’ll need a HEPA-filtered shop vac or wet mop to keep from kicking the dust up in the air.
Cutting options are sparse when it comes to ripping through plaster. It’s a delicate process, and you’ll want to use care to preserve the remaining structure. Remember to go for high power, long blades, and carbide or diamond blades to make sure you get a clean cut. A lot of information is swimming around out there on the internet, so we hope this guide has narrowed your options, and helped you decide on the perfect tool and method to get your project done efficiently, cleanly, and without damage. Good luck tackling that plaster!
Ryan is a freelance writer from Arizona. When he's not blogging about his favorite hobbies, he's writing fiction, hiking or running in the great outdoors, and spending time with family.