Old plasterboard. HELP!

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Forum topic by Seamus0559 posted 12-27-2013 02:46 AM 5235 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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22 posts in 1320 days

12-27-2013 02:46 AM

Topic tags/keywords: wall asbestos plaster drywall sheetrock demolition demo safety removal plasterboard question

Hi all, I am removing a wall in my 1909 four square. I was surprised when I hammered on the wall, to find no lath, but plasterboard. It is like this throughout the entire house. I didn’t know they had that ind of stuff back then. Anyway, I’m now worried about asbestos. I cannot find anything online about this stuff, and plan on taking a sample for testing. It is maybe 4-5 layers of brown paper looking material sandwiching plaster. It has what I’m guessing is horsehair in it. I’m curious to see if anyone has seen this or could tell me what this is. Thanks guys!

8 replies so far

View FirehouseWoodworking's profile


684 posts in 2697 days

#1 posted 12-27-2013 03:01 AM


While I have had no personal experience with what you have there, everything I’ve learned about plasterboard from back then, I too, would be concerned about asbestos. I would definitely have it tested before proceeding any further. Good luck!


-- Dave; Lansing, Kansas

View alohafromberkeley's profile


257 posts in 1828 days

#2 posted 12-27-2013 03:13 AM

+1 -What Dave said about asbestos. Better safe than sorry. Around here you need to hire cleanup specialists with proper permits.

-- "After a year of doing general farmwork, it was quite clear to me that chickens and I were not compatible"-George Nakashima

View Ralph's profile


166 posts in 1557 days

#3 posted 12-27-2013 03:13 AM

Following lifted from “How Stuff Works”....
The U.S. Gypsum Company (USG) invented drywall in 1916. It was originally called “Sackett Board,” after the Sackett plaster company, a USG subsidiary [Source: Allen]. The material was first sold in the form of small, fireproof tiles, but within a few years, it was sold in multi-layer gypsum and paper sheets. In less then a decade, it took on the form we know, consisting of a single layer of compressed gypsum sandwiched between two sheets of heavy paper.

While it only took a few years for this board to evolve into the material we know today, it took 25 years for builders to begin using drywall in any substantial quantity.
It sounds to me like the house was remodeled at some time.

Best of luck!

-- The greatest risk is not taking one...

View Craftsman70's profile


243 posts in 1549 days

#4 posted 12-27-2013 04:58 AM

I too believe it was probably remodeled at some point later on. My house from the 50’s looks like that. Doesn’t mean there isn’t asbestos in it, but I wouldn’t worry too much about it. If you are just doing a small section, break it in chunks rather than cut it and mist it with a sprayer to keep dust down.

View Craftsman70's profile


243 posts in 1549 days

#5 posted 12-27-2013 04:58 AM

Looking at those pictures again, I do not understand why there are so many layers of it behind the plaster. If just one wall is like that, they must have needed to build up the wall for a reason… but that is very strange if all your walls have that many layers.

View Shawn Masterson's profile

Shawn Masterson

1295 posts in 1372 days

#6 posted 12-27-2013 07:40 PM

I have demoed tons of that stuff. As for asbestos I can’t say. I will say if you cut it with a sawzall and keep it damp there will be almost no dust, and it should come off in huge pieces. I note that if you discover it does contain asbestos then you are legally responsible for a full disclosure. and it will cost a lot to fix. Some time ignorance is bliss.

View Don W's profile

Don W

17882 posts in 1991 days

#7 posted 12-27-2013 07:53 PM

When I first started reading my initial thoughts were just what Shawn wrote. I doubt its asbestos, but if it is and it was my house I wouldn’t want to know.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View dbray45's profile


3147 posts in 2200 days

#8 posted 12-27-2013 07:54 PM

Asbestos is fibrous – a lot like heavy cotton when used as insulation. As long as you keep the dust down – spray it with enough water to keep the dust down but not enough to make wet. Put down heavy plastic drop clothes so you don’t get dust in the floors.

If it doesn’t have asbestos insulation in the walls, you are probably ok. If you are worried about it. have it tested.

-- David in Damascus, MD

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