How to cut through studs on a lathe and plaster wall?

artemis78February 24, 2013

We are widening the frame for a medicine cabinet and I would love advice on the best way to cut through a stud or a block (we have the option of either) with minimal damage to plaster on the other side. Our house originally had a medicine cabinet that was removed and drywalled over years ago (probably mid-70s based on fixtures), and we're finally replacing it (yay!) The good news is that when I cut the drywall patch off, the original framing was still intact. The bad news is that I am 3/4" shy of the width I need to fit the new cabinet.

We can either take the space from the block--when the house was built the stud must have been modified so the block is just the height of the cabinet opening--or from the stud on the other side. Taking it from the stud will get the cabinet close to centered over the sink, but I'm thinking that taking it from the block will be smarter as far as not damaging plaster on the opposite side of the wall--but maybe this isn't a huge concern? We can live with having the cabinet off center since someday we hope to redo the flooring and we can move the sink over an inch then.

Based on what I can find on how to do this, my tentative plan is to use a circular saw to cut most of the way through the wood and then use a chisel as I get close to the plaster keys for the opposite side of the wall. Any ideas on whether this will work, or if there's a better way to do it?

Thanks!

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sombreuil_mongrel

Hi,
Screw a piece of 3/4" plywood over the area on the other side of the wall to clamp the lath and plaster to the unaffected sections of the studs. This will stabilize it as a unit during the cutting/reframing process. You will only have to fix the screw holes.
Casey

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 10:09AM
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columbusguy1

Not quite sure what you mean by the 'block' location, but I'd leave the stud alone as a trickier option and mount the cabinet slightly off-center, especially since future plans involve reflooring and altering the sink!

Any chance of slightly reducing the width of the cabinet itself?

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 3:13PM
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artemis78

Thanks! I thought about trying to shave the cabinet, but it only has thin plywood sides to start with so was worried about doing damage there.

The block is basically just a piece of wood (probably the piece of stud that was cut out) nailed to a horizontal 2x4 that is in turn nailed to the remaining studs. It formed the left edge of the original cabinet. We could also take it out and just move it, but the lathe is nailed to it so that seemed to have the potential to do a lot more plaster damage. (We have a clear inch on both the block and the stud that could be shaved with no impact to lathe, probably because of the way the original cabinet was set in place.)

The plywood stabilizer is a great idea, though--thanks!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 4:26PM
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lazy_gardens

We are widening the frame for a medicine cabinet and I would love advice on the best way to cut through a stud or a block (we have the option of either) with minimal damage to plaster on the other side.

I would worry about weakening the wall if you are cutting through the studs, unless you are somehow going to add "sisters" to them.

Re-do the cabinet so it's narrower, make a custom one, or buy a skinnier one.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 4:33PM
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sombreuil_mongrel

In a load-bearing wall, you would treat this as a window opening with the appropriately-fitted header and jack studs; in a perfect world, that is.
Casey

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 7:21PM
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artemis78

Happily the wall is not load-bearing and there's already an additional cross support remaining from the original cabinet, so we're not too concerned about weakening it--it's actually been framed for a cabinet (albeit one that was 3/4" narrower!) for all of its almost-century-long life. Just trying to minimize cracks in the surrounding plaster when we modify the size of the framing. (It's also a pretty tiny room, so the space for the cabinet is only a few feet on either side from the studs and headers for the door and exterior wall.)

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 10:30PM
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