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Original lath under walls

Lessons from "1984," or Don't mend - Spend

If these walls could talk they would say, " We are plastered and we like to lath!"

 This is from a project I did on a home from the 20's with methods I have developed. The Plaster walls had extensive cracking.
All cracks have self adhesive fiberglass tape applied
Then three coats of setting type joint compound is applied
Walls are sanded with a random orbit sander hooked to a vaccum

I listen to audio books while I work. I recently listened to George Orwell's 1984. One of the slogans impressed on society while they sleep is "Don't mend- Spend". If something wears out or is damaged, why repair it when you can spend more money (consumerism) to replace it with something that is inferior and will not last as long. I think of this in terms of home renovation all the time. My preference has  always been to mend or repair (or renovate) on my projects.

I have recently been working on a house renovation on Pine Street in Nantucket town. On the project I have been working on the plaster has only been removed in very small areas to allow for new wiring and plumbing. These areas are then easily patched. The rest of the plaster throughout the house has been repaired. Across the street is a house that has been entirely gutted to the lath, a messy project that contributes to our landfill and that was largely unnecessary.  

Materials are expensive to bring to the island. It makes more sense to renovate, rehab, repair or reuse existing materials. It is far cheaper to bring several bags of plaster repair material to the island than bulky sheets of drywall and heavy boxes of screws. You could also build your own lime kiln and make lime plaster from oyster shells or limestone.   See the videos below for specific instructions.

 What follows is the text of an article from  The Craftsman Blog.

This is a subject that I have wanted to address but this article from The Crafstman Blog says all that I would want to say. So here it is:

"The walls of any pre-war house are most likely wood lath like in this picture covered with 3 coats of plaster. The work took a long time and was very labor intensive. Not to mention it required a skilled plasterer to make sure the plaster was properly applied and the wall was smooth and level.


A traditional 3-coat plaster is typically 7/8″ thick and when you add in the 1/4″ wood lath that supports the plaster wall you have a wall that is more than 1″ thick! Compared to today’s most common drywall thickness of only 1/2″, that is a difference worth noting.


Today the cost of a full 3-coat plaster wall is still expensive and timely to install, but when you live in an old house with one already installed you should try to reap the benefits of someone else’s labor all those years ago.


All too often we see historic houses gutted to the studs to install new drywall to replace the “outdated” plaster. Sometimes the plaster has been neglected past the point of no return, but most times it can be repaired. Usually it’s torn out in the name of insulating the wall cavities. But as with anything in the building trades, there is more than one way to skin a cat! In order to save folks the mess and expense of tearing out their walls we recommend removing a few clapboards on the exterior in order to insulate the house to modern standards. Remember, historic homes typically have no plywood sheathing under the siding so insulating with this method is just as effective plus it’s faster, cleaner, and much cheaper!


The Benefits


Here’s just a few of the benefits of having a real plaster wall to consider before you think about removing yours.

1.Thicker walls mean better sound dampening.

2.Thicker walls mean double the R-value of ordinary drywall.

3.Wood lath serves to strengthen the wall by adding additional racking resistance.

4.Plaster increases the historical authenticity and therefore resale value of a historic home.

5.It’s already there! It’s always “greener” and cheaper to retain existing elements.


Hopefully, this has given you some things to think about when it comes to your plaster walls. If you’d like to read more about repairing and maintaining your historic home’s walls check out our video post  or our other post   ." 

Me Again (Tom)

 I am extremely impressed with The Craftsman blog by Scott Sidler and encourage the historic homeowner or any homeowner to subscribe. I will be posting more excerpts from this blog as they relate to topics that I am writing about.

Let me know if you have any comments or questions, by filling in the box below.  I'd love to hear from you.