How to Cut a Hole in a Wood Lathe Ceiling

By Kimberly Johnson

Wood lathe consists of thin wooden slats that are installed closely together onto the studs of a wall or the joists of a ceiling. Lathe is the base for plaster, which is applied on top of the wooden slats. If you have wooden lathe under the surface of your plaster ceiling, cutting a hole in it, such as for a light fixture, requires planning and smooth cutting movements.

List of Items Needed

  • Nail
  • Hammer
  • Ladder
  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask
  • Tarps
  • Pencil
  • Hand-held rotary tool
  • Drywall saw, oscillating tool or power saber saw (optional)
  • Extension cord
  • Cutting wheel designed for wood
  1. Determine the general area of the ceiling where you want to create the hole. Go up into the attic to the same side of the room. Ensure there are no major pipes or wires that visibly run through that section of the ceiling, or ceiling joists in the way. If any of these items are present, choose a location to either the side of them and hammer a nail through the ceiling so you can locate it from the other side.

  2. Place a ladder under the ceiling below the location where the nail is visible. Put on safety glasses and a dust mask, and spread tarps over all objects in the room to protect them from dust.

  3. Draw an outline of the desired hole opening on the ceiling with a pencil. If you are installing a specific object, such as a light fixture, hold it up to the ceiling and trace around it.

  4. Insert a cutting accessory designed to cut wood into a hand-held rotary tool. Plug in the tool, using an extension cord if needed to reach the ceiling. You can also use a drywall saw, oscillating tool with a wood blade or a power saber saw to cut the hole.

  5. Hold the edge of the cutting wheel up to the pencil line and turn the device on to begin cutting through one of the boards. Continue around the perimeter of the pencil line until reaching the starting location.

  6. Reach in and gently pull out any pieces of lath that did not fall out as you cut through them.

Tips and Warnings

  • If the wooden lath is still covered in plaster, cut shallowly around the pencil line first, just to score the plaster. Then press the cutting wheel deeper to cut through the wood lath.
  • Use caution as you cut, since there may be wiring in the ceiling that was not visible from the attic.

© Demand Media 2011