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  1. #1
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    Sep 2012
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    Default Cut out from behind plaster walls

    I'm looking for advice on doing a cutout from behind a plaster wall. The bees are coming into a crack in between bricks on a second story building, at about the level of the floor. Getting to them from the outside won't be possible. From the inside, prying up some of the old floorboards right next to the wall, and pushing aside the insulation in that floor, I was able to see the bottom of the hive, it is surely in the wall. The owner is okay with me cutting up his wall but I would like to minimize the mess and damage done.

    The house is about 90 years old I reckon, and I am pretty sure the lathe is wood. It looks like the electricity was actually added later. . . there is a socket which was clearly installed afterwards. I understand I should cut the electricity off but any tips for not accidentally cutting through any wires? Also, can I use the location of this socket to locate the wall studs? There is also a dryer exhaust vent going plumb through the wall, if that matters. Next, where do I determine the top of this hive? Is there likely to be some kind of cross bar? Maybe under the window? Anyway of locating the top of the hive easily?

    Finally, what should I actually use to cut the plaster away? I was thinking circular saw set just deep enough to get through the plaster, and then a second pass to go through the lathe, with a shop vac right behind the cut to suck up the dust. . . am I going to fill the bee cavity with plaster dust using a circular saw? Any tips, stories, advice, anecdotes to share about getting bees out from behind plaster walls? Thanks yall!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
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    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
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    5,956

    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    I suggest that you might want to find a good "stud sensor". I have one that also has a setting for identifying "hot" house wiring. (While it works pretty well and is a great tool, it still makes sense to turn off the power when cutting the wall.)

    More here: http://www.zorotools.com/g/00059991/...FUdk7AodbU4ANg
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  3. #3
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    Feb 2012
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    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    A hole saw will let you investigate the size of hive. A thermal scan would let you know where the brood is, but that is probably overkill.
    A sawzall with a medium or fine blade will make less of a mess than circular. Finer blade = more work, less mess. Depending on the plaster and how it is coated dampening with water for several hours down your cut line can cut down on the dust. If you cannot wet it, cut between tape. Wall paper can hold plaster together pretty well sometimes, you might even slap some on before hand.The really old method had a second plaster wall inside the studs.

    Cut down the side of the studs and add doublers to patch the hole. Use a sheetrock hand saw to make your cross cuts. Start small and see if you can remove comb through cut.
    Close off the room and put a box fan in the nearest window before you start. If painted, it is lead based until proven otherwise.

    Doing a trap out before the removal might make the job easier inside.
    4 yrs, Peak 14, back to zip, T lite; godfather to brother's 3.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Richmond, VA UNITED STATES
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    163

    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    At least you're picking the right time of year. The hive should be the smallest right now. The way I do it is to drill a couple holes to figure out where the studs are, then snap vertical lines with a chalk line after marking with a straight edge. Then, I take my hive tool or a wonder bar and lay it on the line and hammer down the length. Then, I take a hammer and break the plaster down until I can see the wood lathe. Then, it's a wood blade in my sawzall, and final removal of the lathe and plaster. I usually wall off the room with plastic floor to ceiling, and use a bee vac. Normally, you could drill several holes and stick a dowel in the hole. If there's honey, there's honeycomb, but at this time of year there won't be much.

    A thermal scan can be done with your bare hand, or the back of it. Slowly sweep back and forth. I use an infrared scanner but my hand works almost as well. Don't trust your ears. The buzzing seems to echo through the walls. The heat though will be minor unless there is brood.

    The problem with blades and plaster is that plast can dull a blade really fast. I usually like to clear the plaster away first before starting with a blade. When you go to put the wall back together, have your drywall handy, and I like to set the drywall flush or just a little lower than the sheetrock, then use a 5 minute setting type mixable drywall. I use self adhesive thin fiberglass tape. Most times you can't tell anything ever was done, other than the spot looks better. I have even been able to mimic textured plaster with the fast setting drywall compound and made it virtually undetectable.

    Rob

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 1999
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    DuPage County, Illinois USA
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    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    As Rob says, knock the plaster off the lath with a hammer. You'll be able to see into the stud cavity between the lath and figure things out. Start small and enlarge as you go.
    Regards, Barry

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    Sorry but I have to disagree. When I was young and foolish I took down many a plaster wall by knocking a hole and sliding a 2x4 in and popping the lath off. Now that I am old and foolish I never would repeat that method. I would even use a dust mask.(maybe)

    When horse hair became harder to get it was common to add asbestos as a substitute. That maybe because of the easy availability in a shipyard town, maybe it was not done in your local. It is not hard to take the time to control dust, probably faster than cleaning up after a small job. Sawzall with a short blade, tipped at as steep an angle as you can, held tight against the wall to control bounce. HEPA bag in a shop vac chasing the cut is not a bad idea either.

    Being neat in someone else's house never hurts your reputation.
    4 yrs, Peak 14, back to zip, T lite; godfather to brother's 3.

  7. #7
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    Sep 2012
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    Lynchburg, Virginia
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    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    Thank you very much folks some great advice here. I think, in order to control dust and mitigate the effects of dusty lead paint I will in fact try chipping away the plaster and then attacking the lath with a sawzall. It just seems like it will be the best way to determine where the boundaries/studs of the hive are, and produce the least mess. I think the windows in the room are, sadly, sealed. I will report back to let yall know how it went.

  8. #8
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    Dec 1999
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    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    If it were me, a dust mask wouldn't be optional.
    Regards, Barry

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    We all like pictures too.
    4 yrs, Peak 14, back to zip, T lite; godfather to brother's 3.

  10. #10
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    Feb 2012
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    Ft Myers, Fl 33967
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    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    When you do a removal from the inside, you will fill the house with bees. Warn the people not to enter the room. Seal the room as best you can and cover everything, even the floor. Bees poop -- a lot. Asbestos was used in a lot of places and it is nasty stuff, wear a resperator not a paper mask. The damage never heals.

  11. #11
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    Apr 2013
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    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    An asbestos removal pro told me you should wet everything down. Of course you probably can't use much water in a finished room, but maybe a little might help.

  12. #12
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    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    45,925

    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    There will be bees inside, but when I've done this I was always surprised how few. It seems they still tend to fly outside instead. You will want to keep that room closed, of course. Cutouts are messy. A plastic drop cloth on the floor would be helpful, but keep in mind honey on plastic is very slippery...
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    Quote Originally Posted by jredburn View Post
    Asbestos was used in a lot of places and it is nasty stuff, wear a resperator not a paper mask. The damage never heals.
    Like other hot topics (CCD, GMO, etc.), the truth about asbestos is not always clear. Read up on it so the hype is removed and you know what you're dealing with.
    Regards, Barry

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    Make sure the money is right.


    Don

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    I knew men who worked WW11 engine rooms where the dust was so thick you could not see across the room. Spent their whole lives in it without a problem. On the other hand, friends who died from working out of an office next to a shop where wire brushes were used to remove gaskets & repair valves. Friable seems to be the key, that and who you are. Respect the dust is all I am saying. Silica is pretty nasty stuff itself. As is lead.
    Personally, I knew more men who worked in the offices and shops that were radar mast height who died from brain tumors than those who died from asbestos.
    4 yrs, Peak 14, back to zip, T lite; godfather to brother's 3.

  16. #16
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    Jul 2011
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    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    AChabot, I just have a couple of thoughts here. I cut a colony out of a wall last summer. A "simple" cutout from between board sheeting and sheetrock. I used a temperature gun sensor from Harbor Freight to get the location of the brood cluster...fairly easy to pinpoint the high temp area through the wall...works better if the ambient temperature is below cluster temperature as you're looking for an increase in temp reading. Once I found the cluster I dropped down the wall a couple of feet and cut into it with one of those little oscillating cutters (again from HF)...only to find the comb extending further downward. So I cut another square out of the wall below the first one. As it turned out that comb went all the way from the top plate to the bottom plate of the wall...be prepared.

    Close all the doors leading out of the room that you're working in. Open any windows that you can being as the bees will seek the light. Cover the fixed windows with shades or whatever to keep a bunch of bees from beating their brains out trying to get through the glass (lots will still get around the blinds/shades), but having a big, lighted opening for them will help move them on out of the room.

    Finding the studs... If the dryer vent is inline with where you think the bees are located pick a spot several inches directly above the vent and cut an exploratory hole to peer through...no guarantees, but there really shouldn't be a stud above the vent hole. The electrical receptacle *should* be inside of a box attached to a stud so you might can get some orientation from that...again, no guarantees. Another option is to take a drill and start drilling in the area that you're going to cut out...easy to tell when you drill through into empty space and when you don't...you could plot out the stud spacing with this.

    Keep a bucket of water close by for washing hands...keep some towels close by.

    I'm not sure about knocking the plaster off with a hammer...seems that banging on the side of a hive of bees might agitate them a bit. But...if it's worked for others...

    Be very careful with the dust...asbestos is nobody's friend. I have taped dryer vent hose tightly to the exhaust on my shopvac and hung the end of the hose out a window on occasion. There is lots of fine dust that gets through the shopvac filters.

    The oscillating tool would probably cause the least amount of dust but I'm not sure about cutting through the plaster and lathe. Checkout some of JP and Schawee's videos as I know that they deal with a lot of plaster and lathe down in south Louisiana. A sawzall might be the best. I think the circular saw is going to throw the dust harder/further than the sawzall or oscillating tool will, but I've never used a sawzall so I may be off base on that statement.

    Give yourself plenty of time for the job...it will probably take longer than your imagine.

    Read and re-read Don's statement below about the money.

    Read and re-read Don's statement...again.

    I agree with Saltybee about the pictures.

    Don't forget breakfast.

    Have you done cutouts before?

    Best wishes,
    Ed

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    My aunt died from the kind of cancer you only get from asbestos. She apparently was exposed to itfrom her husband's clothes. He never had problems. He was an electrician. I'd take precautions for your self and the people who will be using the room after you are done.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    Quote Originally Posted by Intheswamp View Post
    I'm not sure about knocking the plaster off with a hammer...seems that banging on the side of a hive of bees might agitate them a bit. But...if it's worked for others...
    Just need to get through the plaster with the hammer claw and then you can peel the plaster off the wood lath. No pounding needed.

    I have taped dryer vent hose tightly to the exhaust on my shopvac and hung the end of the hose out a window on occasion. There is lots of fine dust that gets through the shopvac filters.
    This is what I do. Use a shop vac with a hepa filter but also run a long section of hose to the outside from the exhaust port

    An older house like this may still have some knob and tube wiring in it, so don't assume the electrical is all in protective pipe.
    Regards, Barry

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    Quote Originally Posted by Barry View Post
    <snip>
    An older house like this may still have some knob and tube wiring in it, so don't assume the electrical is all in protective pipe.
    Absolutely. I'm not sure when electrical code specified the use of conduit to run eletrical wire in, but it is a relatively new requirement....'70s?....'80s.......'90s???

    The house that I did the cutout in last year did not have conduit...I'd say it was a 1960's vintage house. Anybody know when the code requiring conduit installation came to be?

    Ed

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Cut out from behind plaster walls

    That's why I like to remove the plaster from the lath first before cutting into a wall of this vintage.
    Regards, Barry

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