UK Cable pulling advice for plaster and lath walls


There are many fixings on the market today and yet, as far as we are aware, no fixing is available for a good, solid, reliable fix to lathe and plaster. It’s a popular question on DIYdoctor and our many years of experience have taught us not to take chances with wall plugs, toggles and plasterboard fixings. Please see our project on fixing to plasterboard for more information.

A section of a lathed wall with plaster removed.

Below is a section of a lath and plaster wall face on. You can see the pink plaster, which is pushed onto and into the yellow laths, which in turn are fixed at narrow spacing to the upright timber studs.

A section of the wall in the image above where you can see how the plaster is pushed into the laths.

Lath and plaster was used as a wall finish long before plasterboard took over from the centuries old Wattle and Daub finish. Wattle was the name for twigs and branches that were interwoven between the upright timber posts that formed...

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Stud finders help locate the solid wood boards that make the solid frame of a wall. When hanging shelves or mounting a television, these 2-by-4s provide significantly more strength and stability than drywall or plaster alone. However, locating these studs requires different methods and tools than when dealing with other building materials.

How Stud Finders Work

To understand why some stud finders work better on plaster or lathe, it is important to understand how these devices locate wall studs. When most any stud finder is laid against a wall and activated, it measures the density of roughly 6 inches into the wall. Once it has that measure, move it along the wall. When the density increases, it beeps to notify a stud (or something similar) has been located. If the stud finder is activated on a stud, and dragged to a less dense area, it gives an error.

How Plaster Differs from Drywall

Drywall is made from the mineral gypsum, compressed between sheets of...

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I have an old house with wood lath and plaster walls, and I need to cut out a lot holes in the walls for light switches, electrical outlet receptacles, etc.

Here is what I am doing now, and here is what the problem is:

I am just cutting them out by hand, one-by-one, using hand-held wallboard saws, etc. The problem is that it is hard to keep the underlying wood lath from vibrating and causing a wider area of plaster to crack and break out. I have tried making sure each hole is adjacent to one of the studs so at least one side of the hole has wood lath that is nailed down to the adjacent stud. And, I have tried being very careful, cutting out a little, reaching in to hold the rest of the wood lath stable, and then carefully cutting the wood lath. But it is still a mess, doesn't work very well, and takes a long time for each hole.

I don't think using any kind of powered reciprocating saw or saws-all would help and probably would only make the lath vibrate more...

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Professional plasterers will tell you a good chunk of their work comes from sorting out botch-job attempts at plastering walls or - even more calamitously - ceilings. So, we'd advise you to limit your repair efforts to hairline cracks and small holes and to seek professional advice for any walls where the plaster is "blown" (has come away from the wall behind) or damaged. Unless you fancy taking a course in plastering that is ...

For the jobs you do attempt, bear in mind that it's going to get messy. By the time you've cleaned out the hole, applied filler and sanded it down, you'll have created a thick layer of dust, so put down a large dust sheet before you begin.

Your filler options

Ready-mixed fillers: these are, of course, very convenient to use but they do have their limitations. They harden by evaporation and shrink as they dry out, so if you're using it to fill a deep hole it can take an age to set. And, when it finally does set, it may crack and end up...

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I think I know how you feel, because I used to feel that way about plaster. It seems so hard and brittle compared to drywall, and then there's the cracks.

Well, I've had a change of heart now that I've learned more about plaster and have come to have more experience with it. I've especially come to appreciate that solid FEEL of a lath and plaster wall done well. In fact, the biggest drawback to plaster for me, at this point, it the difficulty of getting the materials to properly patch it.

But that's all just opinion. To your specific questions - yes, removing plaster is a mess, and you'll have a surprising large pile of material to dispose of. It comes off pretty easy once you get behind it with a crowbar.

At first I did it with the "scorched earth" method, just smashing with a sledge and then prying off lath and plaster into one big mess. Because of disposal issues, however, I now take a the more controlled, but probably slower route of first removing the...

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If you live in an older home with sagging plaster on your walls and ceilings, you can fix it. Many older houses have plaster walls and ceilings with wood lath for a base. The wood lath was installed with gaps, called keys, between each piece of lath. The plaster was forced between spaced lath, and this keying action held the plaster in place.

As plaster ages, these keys may break away from the lath, and the plaster coating can come loose and sag away from the lath. Sagging is usually obvious. If you have sags in a plaster ceiling, press upward on the area with the flat of your hand. If the plaster feels spongy or gives under your hand pressure, it’s a sign that the key strength has been lost. If it’s not repaired, the plaster ceiling can collapse.

Whether you patch or replace the sagging plaster depends on the extent of the damage:

If the sagging is severe, meaning that it’s hanging an inch or more away from the lath base, or if it covers a large portion of...

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Plaster walls are some of the most misunderstood parts of an old home. And many homeowners are quick to tear them down and put up drywall. But replacing plaster walls with drywall is not only a major mess and expense, but it also destroys the character of your home. Each plaster wall is unique. You can truly see the hand of the plasterer who made the wall as opposed to monolithically boring drywall. Combine that with the extra strength and soundproofing a plaster wall provides and you now know why I won’t do drywall anymore.

The most common problem with plaster walls is cracking or pulling away from the lath behind it. If this is happening in your house there is a simple solution that you can do to save your plaster and your money. At my historic restoration company we started using Big Wally’s Plaster Magic for our plaster repairs. Funny name, serious product. The system is easy enough for anyone to use and works great! In my opinion, it’s a much a better system than the...

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Patching a plastered masonry wall

Use a bolster chisel and club hammer to remove all loose material round the area to be patched and undercut the edges. Then, wire brush the brickwork to remove all traces of loose material.

Mix the plaster according to the manufacturer's instructions. Use a gauging trowel to sprinkle the plaster powder into the water, while stirring with a clean stick.When the plaster is thick and creamy without lumps, turn it onto a dampened board.Thoroughly dampen the area to be plastered. Use the plastering trowel to slide a good amount of plaster onto the plasterer's hawk.Standing close to the patch, tilt the hawk towards you. With a continuous movement, lift half the plaster onto the trowel.Hold the trowel horizontally but slightly angled towards the wall. Press the plaster into the patch and move the trowel up the wall, gradually flattening it. Don't completely flatten the trowel against the wall. This causes suction and pulls the plaster off the...
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I'd use one of the cables approved by the CAI, such as ct100, pf100 instead of something thta you don't know the quality of... have a look at what you have got and see if it says anything like that on it?

Would try and put cable in oval conduit if it would fit

Mark the chase and the box cut out on the wall remember for the box that its smaller than the face plate, channel by holding the chisel vertical turning it at a sliught angle and cutting through the lines to get rid of the plaster, you then have a shallow channel... brick is a pig to channel in but it can be done, breeze block is easy, just put the chisel in the back corners of the channel, and hit it a few times and then move it more torwards the middle and work on removing the section... rinse and repeat.

For the box... set the depth stop on your drill (or wrap insulating tape round the bit!) gang drill along the edges of the box outline, chisel out the bit in the middle, kind of use the chisel to 'shave' the...

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Figure out how many layers there are.

One layer of dry-strippable wallpaper will take no more than a few hours to remove, but if you have more than one layer, things can start to get tricky. Peel back a corner of wallpaper and see what's behind it. Do you see plaster, or more wallpaper? Keep peeling until you reach the plaster, and count how many layers you've got to remove.

If you have more than 2 layers, it's going to be a very big job. You might want to consider getting someone to help you or renting wallpaper removal equipment to help the job along. If there's a layer of paint on top of one of the layers of wallpaper, that will make things tougher, too. Again, you might need to gear up for some extra...
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Running cable through walls covered with drywall or plaster is difficult. Plan the job carefully before starting.

Remodel boxes (also called cut-in or old-work boxes) clamp to the drywall or plaster rather than attach to a framing member, making the work easier. However, they are only as strong as the wall surface to which they are clamped. If the drywall or plaster is damaged, cut a larger hole and install a box that attaches directly to a stud or joist. Select boxes that meet local codes. For a ceiling fan or a heavy light fixture, buy a fixture box that attaches to a fan-rated brace.

Before cutting a hole, use a stud finder to make sure no joist or stud is in the way.


About 15 minutes to cut a hole and install a remodel box (not including cutting a pathway for the cable and patching walls)

Stud finder, torpedo level, utility knife, screwdriver, hammer, drill, drywall saw (or rotary cutter or...

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Interesting idea, though I appreciate the caution about breaking the keys. Many old plaster walls I have dealt with have broken keys already and this might bring about a lost of integrity of the plaster. You just need to use caution.

My foremost criticism, however, is the fact that I have rarely had a nice rectangular opening above the target opening in the wall below to allow access of a wide, narrow slat. Almost always, there is a solid plate. This usually means drilling a 3/4" hole that is too small to admit a slat. While a snake could fit in the hole, the keying could certainly prevent it from passing because of the stiffness of the snake. However, I have many times successfully used utility chain for hanging fluorescent fixtures to pull the wire from the receptacle hole. This easily fits through the hole drilled in the plate, and, by "jigging" the chain as you let it down, it can descend in the wall space. Obviously, this takes some planning and patience, but it does...

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Plaster vs Drywall, which is best? As many of you know by now, I’m a stickler for historic accuracy when it comes to remodeling. Some might describe me as obsessive or possibly deranged, but they’re just haters. I prefer to be described as “particular”, or “having high standards” – that just sounds less likely to get me locked up in a padded room. My “particularities” led me to choose plaster instead of drywall when we had to replace several walls in our 1930’s vintage home. Sure, drywall guys will tell you they can match any texture, but drywall is still very different from plaster. Before you dive into hanging drywall in a vintage or high-end home, consider the alternative of plaster.

Plaster vs Drywall

These days you have two general options when it comes to finishing walls: the first is standard drywall, which we’re all pretty familiar with. It’s everywhere, and so is the dust from installing, sanding and finishing it. Drywall consists of gypsum sheets...

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In old houses the ceilings could well be constructed from lath and plaster, while in modern houses they're more likely to be made of plasterboard. It's not difficult to repair small areas of damage on your ceiling, and it's well worth the effort - particularly before you start decorating a room.

Lath-and-plaster ceilings in older houses often crack with age, and the plaster can bulge where it begins to break away from the laths. If only a small area of your ceiling is affected, you can make a simple repair with a plasterboard patch using dry-lining techniques that you won't need plastering skills to use. Or it may be easier to overboard the entire ceiling with plasterboard...

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Masonry Definition

Masonry is easily described as anything a Mason puts down. In other words if it is laid by a stonemason or bricklayer it is Masonry. This includes brick, stone, and block walls. Blockwork walls are made of blocks also known as breeze block, Thermalite block, concrete blocks or cinder block. They are much quicker to lay than bricks so they are usually used for the interior walls of modern houses. The walls are then usually covered with plaster or plasterboard to give a smooth finish (although not always).

If you have a solid wall it could be brick, block or stone masonry.

Concrete is not masonry, but for the purposes of this project we have included it because the method of drilling into concrete and drilling into brick or stone are roughly the same. You will also use the same methods of fixing for concrete, stone, block or brick.

Drilling into Masonry

Masonry surfaces are hard if they are in good condition. To get through most...

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Since 1080p home theater projectors have dropped below $1,000, the demand for inexpensive screens is bigger than ever. When you spend less than $1,000 on a projector, you don't want to spend big bucks on a screen to go with it. So for hobbyists with a creative, DIY bent, let's focus on how to paint the perfect screen for under $100. We will look for a good paint solution because it is easy, cheap, and it doesn't warp and ripple over time like fabric screens can do.

First, if we are going to build a great screen, we need a standard of perfection to compare it to. That, to us, is the Stewart Studiotek 100, a perfectly neutral 1.0 gain white screen that reflects back exactly what the projector puts out. It has absolutely no color bias, no gain, with a pure smooth finish that reflects the maximum amount of image detail. Since white paint will have a gain of about 1.0, the Studiotek 100 is a good benchmark against which to compare our results.

What about gray...

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