LumberJocks Woodworking Forum banner

Old plasterboard. HELP!

17242 Views 15 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  dbray45
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!

Natural material Chemical compound Body jewelry Jewellery Art

Brown Wood Formation Landscape Hardwood

Rectangle Building material Composite material Wood Tints and shades

Road surface Asphalt Grey Building material Concrete

Water Cloud Road surface Freezing Wood


See less See more
1 - 16 of 16 Posts

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!

+1 -What Dave said about asbestos. Better safe than sorry. Around here you need to hire cleanup specialists with proper permits.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hi Seamus,
I just removed the exact same plasterboard in my parents home and was wondering about the materials. It looks exactly like your pictures and was very heavy. You mentioned that you were getting a piece tested, if you did can you tell me what was in it and did it have anything toxic in it. I did wear a mask but I am still worried.

Have the material tested. You cannot rely on asbestos to look "fibrous". A lot of old floor tiles contain asbestos as did brake pads. Neither look fibrous, but still pose a danger if disturbed.

Yes, the experts at asbestos removal will keep the material wet to minimize dust. They will also completely wall off the area with plastic sheeting and maintain a negative pressure to contain any dust, while filtering the exhaust through a hepa filter. They will also wear Tyvek suits with hoods and full face respirators. Rubber gloves sealed with tape at the wrists. They will continuously monitor the air outside the enclosure to ensure that no asbestos has escaped. Any material removed will be properly sealed for disposal in an appropriate landfill.

It it does contain asbestos, you do not want to have any dust spread throughout the house that your family will be living with for years to come. Have it tested.
See less See more
I never did get the material tested. A friend of mine who does remodels on older homes said that they would have basically used horse hair OR asbestos in plaster. Being that this is horse hair plaster board, he said it was incredibly unlikely. I used a round up sprayer filled with water while removing it and wore an Abatement mask just to be safe. Every contractor that I've talked with locally said the possibility of asbestos is slim to none, with a couple of guys saying that they have taken the same board out and had it tested(no asbestos). As far as toxicity, my house has layers of lead paint on the wall, so I know here was at least that.
In my experience (15 years as a commercial demolition estimator / PM) the asbestos found in plaster is usually in the scratch coat or brown coat. I would guess that material is asbestos free (it looks like gypsum to me) but a quick $100 sample would give you peace of mind. We have been finding that there are minimal amount of asbestos found in old taping compound as well. Typically less than 1%. Under 1% isn't regulated by the State here but it is governed by OSHA which says that the material needs to be removed by licensed asbestos personnel but can be disposed of as regular waste and not regulated asbestos waste.
That is the first drywall made by US Gypsum and it was called 'Sackett Board' for the company that invented it in England (US Gypsum acquired them).

From Wiki: Sackett Board was invented in 1894 by Augustine Sackett and Fred Kane. It was made by layering plaster within four plies of wool felt paper. Sheets were 36" × 36" × 1/4" thick with open (untaped) edges
Our house was build in 1941 and has wallboard with a thick browncoat and thin plaster coating.

That browncoat is like cement! Trying to use a carbide blade in circ saw was a mistake. it blunted it in 3 feet! I got a blade for cutting cement board and it cut it well.

The plasterers were pretty talented since the browncoat is 7/8 in some places and 1/4 in others, but it doesn't show as being off.

Brown Wood Rectangle Tints and shades Hardwood


See less See more
I have seen the stuff from the 50s in my daughter's house. It is a lot different from what have today. It is more of a cement board that they used metal lath for the corners. If you find some with lettering, you can find out what it really is and who made it. I did that on her house and found that the insulation and board was state of the art when put in and no asbestos.
1 - 16 of 16 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.