Bob Vila Radio: Plaster Wall Cutouts

It can be somewhat complicated to create plaster wall cutouts for light switches, electrical outlets, or recessed shelves, but following these simple steps can help you get the job done with minimal fuss.

By Roseann Foley Henry | Updated Feb 27, 2014 10:11 AM

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

It’s pretty straightforward to cut a hole in drywall to add a light switch, electrical outlet, or even a recessed shelf or niche. If your walls are made out of old plaster, the job is a little bit more complicated, but you can still do it yourself if you take proper precautions and have the right tools.


Listen to BOB VILA ON PLASTER WALL CUTOUTS or read the text below:

Plaster Wall Cutouts


The tricky part is that old plaster doesn’t necessarily want to come down in straight lines, and unless you’re gutting the whole room, you probably want a sharp outline between the plaster you’re removing and the wall you’re leaving up. So how can you get clean cuts in plaster?

One way is to pencil in your cutout first, then score the plaster surface with a utility knife or a rotary tool, penetrating a quarter-inch or so. Once you have a clean line scored all around the area you want to cut, use a reciprocating saw to cut along the line and take out both the plaster and underlying lath at once. Work slowly and carefully, and don’t force the blade.

Remember, wear a respirator mask, safety goggles, and thick work gloves. And if the plaster does crumble in a spot or two and create a jagged edge in your straight line, don’t worry—you can fill in small irregularities with drywall compound.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.