PHOTO of hand split lath and plaster ca 1800 Types of Wood Lath Used for Plaster or Stucco
Photos & description of hand spit & sawn wooden lath strips

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Types of wooden lath used to support plaster or stucco:

This article describes and illustrates hand split wooden lath, straight-sawn or pit-sawn wood lath, and more modern circular-sawn wood lath that have been used in the construction of plaster or stucco-covered walls, ceilings, and some building exterior surfaces for hundreds of years. Recognizing the type of lath used to support plaster or stucco can help determine the age of a building.

This article series discusses the identification and history of older interior building surface materials such plaster and lath, Beaverboard, and Drywall - materials that were used to form the (usually) non-structural surface of building interior ceilings and walls. Our page top photo shows hand-split wooden lath backing for a plaster interior wall. At page top we show a photograph of hand-split wood lath and plaster wall, from the wall-cavity side. Ca 1800. There are several generations of plaster and lath, plaster board, and drywall which have been used in buildings.

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Wood Lath Systems Supporting Plaster or Stucco in Older Homes: Hand split vs. Sawn Wood Lath

PHOTO of hand split lath and plaster ca 1800Here and at the top of this article we include a photograph of hand-split wood lath and plaster wall, from the wall-cavity side of a U.S. home built around 1800.

[Click to enlarge any image]

There are several generations of plaster and lath, plaster board, and drywall which have been used in buildings. The irregular width and rough surface of the hand-split wood lath tells us that this building used wooden lath strips to support plaster (or sometimes stucco) on a building where hand-sawn lath was not yet available.

Below in our first photo we see regular width sawn lath from Brinstone Farm, Ste. Weonards, in Herefordshire in the U.K. Buildings in this area date from the 1600's.

Just when sawn lath replaced split lath in building construction depended on when sawmills were available in the area - a date that varies by more than 200 years depending on the country and province.

Below in our second photo showing both plaster and wooden lath, we see regular-width sawn lath strips supporting (now loose) plaster in a home constructed in the mid 1800's in New York.

Wood lath at Brinstone Farm at St. Weonards in Herefordshire, U.K., (C) Daniel Friedman Sawn wooden lath and loose plaster (C) Daniel Friedman

Watch out: loose plaster can be dangerous. See PLASTER, LOOSE FALL HAZARDS

You can detect the presence of wood lath behind some plastered surfaces even when the lath is not directly visible. Below: the regular, parallel, uniformly-spaced lines in this thin-coated plaster attic ceiling of a pre-1900 New York home (shown above) indicate the presence of sawn lath supporting this ceiling and wall plaster.

Plaster lines confirm that this is a wood-lath installation (C) Daniel Friedman

Three Generations of Wood Lath: hand split, pit sawn, circular-sawn.

Below: click to enlarge each of these wood lath photographs and you can see split marks (and raccoon claw scratches) on hand split wood lath.

Hand split wooden lath used for plaster or stucco (C) Daniel Friedman

Machine-Sawn Straight-Cut Wood Lath

In ou wood lath photos below on at least some of the lathing strips you can see parallel saw kerf marks telling us that this wood lath was cut by a machine-opeaterd vertically-reciprocating pit saw.

Pit-sawn wooden lath (C) Daniel Friedman Straight cut sawn wood lath (C) Daniel Friedman

Earlier wood lath that was hand sawn using a hand-saw or a hand-operated pit saw will have roughly parallel marks but cut at varying angles across the wood.

Machine Cut Circular Sawn Wood Lath

In the next close-up photo of wooden lath given just below you 'll notice the rounded kerf ridges left by a circular saw on this sawn wood lath.

Circular saw kerf marks on sawn wood lath supporting plaster (C) Daniel Friedman


Below all of the wood lath on this wall has been exposed by the author [DF] during renovations of 28 West Street in Wappingers Falls, NY. This home, located in "the bleachery" district of the village, was constructed in about 1880 or earlier.

Wood lath plaster demolition (C) Daniel Friedman

Inspecting old interior walls with care can yield interesting and perhaps useful historical information about the structure. Below I'm demonstrating that this plaster-lath wall also sported four layers of wallpaper atop the originally-plastered wall surface.

Multiple layers of wallpaper on an old plaster wall (C) Daniel Friedman


Continue reading at DRYWALL, FIBERBOARD, PLASTER INTERIORS - home, or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.



Or see PLASTER TYPES & METHODS in BUILDINGSfor details of gypsum board used as a plaster base


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WOOD LATH for PLASTER or STUCCO at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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