Removing an Old Ceiling

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Remodeling    by: ITC

Taking down an old lath-and-plaster ceiling is an extremely dirty and dusty job, so before you start you must take the necessary action to protect both yourself and the other rooms in the house.

Protective clothing is essential and you will need to wear overalls, safety goggles, a facemask and thick gloves. But the most important item is a construction worker’s hard hat, which you can rent or buy. Hopefully the ceiling will come down under your control, but it is as well to be prepared for unexpected falls.

Because so much dust will be flying about, strip the room of all furnishings and seal the connecting doors to other rooms with plastic sheets or old blankets. It is a good idea to spread a large, thick plastic sheet across the floor to make collecting the debris easier, and you should have a good supply of thick plastic sacks to hand for bagging up the rubbish. If the ceiling is very large, it may be worthwhile renting a small container to dispose of the old ceiling.

You need to be able to reach the ceiling easily so that you can lever sections of it away from the joists. For simplicity, place a scaffold board between two step ladders so that your head will be about 6in from the ceiling — a ladder on its own is not suitable. An alternative is to rent sections of scaffold tower to make small access platforms, but this is probably only worthwhile if the job is large.

Any ceiling-mounted lighting fittings must be

removed (after turning off the power at the service panel or removing the appropriate fuse). Pull the supply cable back above the ceiling if you can get to it; if not tape up the ends and leave it hanging.

If the ceiling is immediately below the roof space, check that there are no other electricity cables lying across the top of the ceiling which you may snag as you remove it. Clip these to the joists.

Any dirt and dust above the ceiling should be removed with a vacuum cleaner.

Many attics are insulated with various materials laid across the top of the ceiling and obviously, these must be removed. Roll up glass fiber mat insulation and put into plastic garbage bags stacked in an unaffected part of the attic until it can be replaced. Loose-fill insulation should be scooped up and poured into garbage bags; or suck it up with an industrial vacuum cleaner before bagging it.

You can use a large claw hammer or a flat chisel and hammer to remove the old ceiling, although you might find the former easier as the latter will mean holding both arms above your head, which can be very tiring.

Hack into the plaster, levering pieces away until you have exposed a large area of laths. Prise these from the joists, always working away from yourself so that any falls will not be on top of you.

Continue working across the room until the entire ceiling is removed. Using pincers, pull out all the lath-fixing nails from the joists. Work round the edges of the ceiling with a chisel to clean up the plaster on the walls.

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