man using reciprocating saw to remove lath and plaster for wall niche installation
Photo: Laura Moss

Step 7: Cut the Lath and Plaster

Using a drill/driver fitted with a 1/8-inch drill bit, make a vertical series of holes toward each side of the outline to locate the horizontal gaps between strips of wood lath. Use a straightedge to draw cut lines between holes where the bit punched through. Then, with a reciprocating saw, make horizontal relief cuts within the niche outline, but keep them shallow to avoid damaging any wires and such. This approach will allow the material to come out in clean sections and also prevent saw vibrations from causing plaster to crumble or crack beyond the outline. Now cut all the way through the perimeter of the outline, and remove the lath and plaster.

TOH Tip: Align the saw blade parallel with the wall, anchor the shoe, turn on the saw, and then dip the blade into the cut line. This should prevent the tip from bouncing off the wall.
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    Tools List

    • utility scissors
      Utility scissors
    • studfinder
      Stud finder
    • straightedge guide
      Straightedge, to mark cut lines between the lath pieces
    • utility knife
      Utility knife, to score the drywall
    • flat prybar
      Small pry bar
    • reciprocating saw
      Reciprocating saw, to cut any lath and plaster and to remove any obtrusive studs
    • circular saw
      Circular saw, to cut the 2x4 blocking
    • drill
      Drill/driver, fitted with a 1⁄8-inch drill bit
    • caulk gun
      Caulk gun
    • paintbrush

    Shopping List

    1. Niche
    Choose a dense polyurethane niche in a design that mimics surrounding moldings.

    2. Cardboard
    to create a template.

    3. Pole system
    (or painter's tape) to hold the plastic sheeting in place.4. Plastic sheeting

    5. Painter's tape
    to secure plastic around work window.

    6. Adhesive caulk

    7. Paint