Cutting Out Drywall Plaster

This story shows you how to cut out drywall and plaster.


Remodeling work is more challenging than new construction because often you must cut the opening, reconfigure the framing, install the unit, then patch the walls on the inside and the outside to make it look like the new window or door was always there. The next six pages show some common demolition and patching methods.

Before you begin demolition, be sure to locate any electrical, plumbing, or low-voltage lines running through the section you plan to remove. If you are at all unsure of what you encounter, hire a professional contractor, at least as a consultant.

Electrical lines can usually be rerouted without a great deal of effort, but to do this yourself you must have an understanding of wiring methods. Shut off the power to the circuit before touching the lines.

Plumbing gets messier. Supply pipes can be moved fairly easily, but drain and vent pipes are usually difficult to reroute. The same applies for heating or air-conditioning ducts. If any of these obstacles are present, hire a plumber or find a new place to install the window or door.

Cutting out drywall: Step 1

Use a hand drywall saw to cut through drywall. (A circular saw cuts quickly but will raise clouds of dust; a jigsaw or reciprocating saw will raise less dust, but you will not be able to feel an electrical cable or plumbing pipe.) If you want a very clean cut, slice through the paper with a utility knife first, then cut along the inside of the knife line with the saw.

Cutting out drywall: Step 2

Punch a hole near a corner of the drywall with a hammer, then pry with a flat pry bar. Work carefully so you do not damage the adjoining wall. If the drywall was attached using construction adhesive, you may need to use a chisel to remove the drywall from the studs.

Cutting out drywall: Step 3

Once you have cut a hole or two, grab with your hands and pull. You may be able to remove the drywall in large pieces. Pull out or pound in all exposed nails. Remove insulation wearing gloves, long clothing, safety goggles, and a dust mask.

Cutting out plaster: Step 1

To help keep the adjoining wall from cracking, apply masking tape (not blue painter's tape, which does not stick as well) just outside the cutline. Use a straightedge and utility knife to score the cutline repeatedly until you have cut through the plaster. You'll need to change blades often.

Cutting out plaster: Step 2

Place a drop cloth on the floor because you will generate plenty of debris. Gently tap with a hammer to break the plaster away from the lath on the inside of the area to be removed. Tap out most of the plaster between the lath pieces. Remove the plaster to a garbage container.

Cutting out plaster: Step 3

Peer between the lath to make sure there are no utility lines. Cut the lath using a reciprocating saw or a jigsaw. To keep the lath from vibrating and cracking the adjoining wall, press firmly against the wall and cut slowly. Pry the lath from the studs, and pry out or pound in the nails.

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