If your wall of choice was constructed before 1946 or so, we suggest you choose a different wall. Before wallboard, walls were constructed using three layers of plaster over wood strips, called “lath.” To create a plaster and lath wall, builders tack strips of wood (about ¼ in. thick) horizontally across the wall studs, leaving small gaps between the slats.
Next, two layers of rough, granular plaster — reinforced with horse hair for added strength — are spread over the lath in succession. The plaster squeezes through the gaps in the lath and hardens, creating a “key” that anchors the plaster. A final, smooth coat of plaster follows, resulting in a hardened wall that’s almost an inch thick.
That’s why punching a wall made more than 60 years ago is unlikely to deliver the effects you’re looking for. Even if you get lucky and miss the studs, you’re almost guaranteed to cut up your knuckles on the plaster. If your hands are so tough that the plaster doesn’t rough them up — and let’s be honest, Dorothy, your hands are not that tough — the splintering lath will.
Worse, your bloodied, broken hand might be the least of your problems. Hundred-year-old plaster is hard, but it’s delicate; often, paint is the only thing holding it together. One well-placed punch can cause the lath to bounce, bringing down a slab of wall the size of a manhole cover, and blanketing your living room with 10 pounds of plaster, horse hair, and fine dust.