On Sunday at about 12:30 p.m., I took my first swing at a plaster wall on the basement stairwell.
By 9:30 p.m., I was finally done dumping the last bucket of plaster into the alley dumpster.
In nine hours, I removed every bit of plaster and lath in the stairwell to our basement. This task has been on our to-do list for nearly ten months, since the plaster here was heavily damaged by smoke and water related to the flash fire that started in the house's basement in 2003. The plaster in the stairwell has long reeked of smoke, smudged our clothing and crumbled further every time one of us shut the door to the stairwell.
An aside: I do not think that all old buildings need to be gutted to the point at which all plaster is removed; often, plaster is able to be restored. Just because there are few plasterers around does not mean that one should remove it. We are restoring plaster walls and ceilings in four rooms of our house, with the help of a craftsman. While plaster isn't impossible to learn, getting a good finish coat is a challenge and something that I have not mastered. I am not experimenting on our the remaining historic plaster in our house.
For the stairwell, we chose to remove the plaster. Obviously, we could put new plaster back in place but that is cost prohibitive to us. There is a huge cost difference between tracing and filling cracks and laying up new walls and ceilings. Thus, the stairwell will come back together in drywall.
In the meantime, we are so happy to have a stairwell that is clean and free from traces of the fire.
That is, until we have to get started on repairing the back staircase that runs above the stairwell. It needs to have a bowed stringer shimmed, and possible needs to be totally dismantled. This is before the drywall can be hung. So, the nine-hour filthy demolition day was only the beginning...