Removing Studs Without Damaging Back-Side Drywall

Here are tips for surgically removing a short section of wall stud from a bathroom wall to create space for installing a medicine cabinet, without damaging the artistically painted drywall in the adjoining room behind the wall. August 15, 2011

I have to install a medicine cabinet into a wall with removing 24'' inches of stud in the middle without damaging sheetrock in the other room. My concern in the sheetrock screws on the other side. What type of tools and procedure should I use?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor J:
Cut your hole carefully with a drywall saw and remove that piece. Cut the top and bottom of the stud with a Sawzall. If it is screwed from the other side and not nailed you may have to patch a couple holes but they may pull through clean. Just use a small pry bar and use as little force as necessary to pull the screws through the rock from the backside.

From contributor G:
The customer doesn’t have paint for the room behind the bathroom. It is a special paint with sponges that was done by someone else.

From contributor M:
You will want to try and rotate the stud as you pull it out. A little wiggle and pull. But as mentioned, you may pop a nail and will have to touch up.

From contributor K:
If you've never done this before, there are some safeguards you can use. After you've opened the wall in the bathroom, tape up a piece of aluminum where the Sawzall would hit the sheetrock as you are cutting the stud. You have 1/2" to work with, so as long as you don't pierce the sheetrock, you're ok. The aluminum will help deflect the blade, but is not impervious to it.

Even with a Multimaster or Sawzall, you must make the client aware that there will most likely need to be touch-up from vibration, as it is unlikely that in a 24" span you will not find a screw or nail to cause a pop. If it doesn't, you're the hero, if it does, they were warned.

Multimaster - use the Multimaster E-cut universal for wood/metal and cut behind the stud between the stud and the sheetrock from the opposite room. This is the easiest way to separate the stud from the sheetrock.

Sawzall - mark where the screw/nail enters the stud from the other room. Cut a semi-circle out to within 1/8" of where the stud meets the sheetrock. From there, gently pry the stud off against the aluminum as the nail/screw is cut, and will no longer have any hold. It is pine, and at 1/8" it should snap fairly easily. Either that, or ask the client if where the location of the nail pop will be is a good place for a picture - it's about the right height.

From contributor A:
If you have a good handsaw this will be the lease invasive. Using a Sawzall may damage the opposing wall in seconds from the shaking. I believe the real trick to this brain surgery is pulling the cut stud out - not cutting the stud.

1. Cut the stud without disturbing the sheetrock on the other side.

2. Screw another two more studs or scraps of wood to the stud horizontally spanning against your sheetrock.

3. Carefully use shingle wedges to evenly pull the cut stud out of the wall. Theoretically the screws will pull thru leaving the compound that covers them. Take your time.

From contributor W:
First, mark and score the area of drywall to be removed. Next, using a panel or skill saw, run a series of horizontal cuts through the drywall and the studs about an inch or two apart and all the way up to your marks The depth-of-cut is set at the required depth for the MC or as to not to hit any screws or nails that originate from the other side. Now begin removing the small pieces of drywall and wood with a chisel which break and fall off easily. The hole that is left should be deep enough to install your new MC without clipping or removing any opposing drywall screws or nails. A single medicine cabinet is usually not that deep as they are often installed back to back in adjoining bathrooms.

From contributor O:
Don't try to remove the 2x all in one go.

1. Remove drywall bath side.

2. Cut 2x at either end only half depth

3. Chisel out the piece (add additional half depth cuts as needed or desired. Be gentle!).

4. Go back and cut another half depth down and chisel out (gently) the strip of 2x.

5. Repeat until you run out of 2x.

6. Cut drywall screw(s) off with cutoff disk on a dremel tool real gently. (Or clip off with a hardened jaw Starrett music wire end nipper, if you have one.)

7. Add two hours to the cost plus reasonable part of tool costs.

8. Do not offer a guarantee on damage to the wall in the other room. Explain the process and tell them you will be super-careful, and will be charging for extra-careful abnormal work but that you will not absorb money for redoing the custom paint job on the other room wall and that if it is damaged they will have to pay for the redo. As an alternative with a right angle drill you may be able to remove the bulk of the stud with a drill, or hole saw.

From contributor R:
Use a magnet to locate the nails from the painted side. Measure and mark the location of them on the open side. Saw in-between the nails and remove the pieces of 2x4. Now you can get a hacksaw blade and handle to flush cut to the sheetrock. A dremel would also work. Handi shears might be used to split the wood off the nail.