A Guide to Preserving and Repairing Lath and Plaster Walls

image of lath and plaster wall preparation

At Artisan Plastercraft, we are fully prepared for property owners and managers to come to us with a variety of construction, repair, and restoration needs. Often, this will involve requests for advice on keeping and repairing lath and plaster walls. In these cases, they can expect information and answers from experienced professionals, as well as restoration and repair work that will be undertaken by master craftsmen if this is necessary for the preservation of their property.

This is the type of service you can expect when you contact our office to discuss a project you would like made a reality. Alternatively, you can also read on and learn more about lath and plaster walls, as well as what it takes to repair and preserve them.

What is Lath and Plaster?

lathe and plasterLath and plaster is a traditional construction technique and finish commonly used for interior walls and ceilings. It is often found in use in the dividing walls of old properties, as the technique was most popular from the 1700s until the early 1900s. After this time it was supplanted in building and construction work by modern gypsum and plasterboard. The process itself was derived from the much older application process of wattle and daub, which may be considered ancient as it dates back 6,000 years.

Lath and plaster is applied by putting a coat of lime plaster onto lath strips. These are narrow, horizontal strips of wood that have been nailed onto a timber stud frame, which may also be known as “studwork”. Walls such as these are always non-loadbearing, because even though they will be rigid once set they will not be able to withstand the weight of an entire property by themselves.

For particularly old properties, you are likely to find that coarse animal hair, such as horse, goat, or donkey, has been used in the mortar to act as a reinforcing agent and thereby increase tensile strength. The hair also allows for greater flexibility in the material and assists in the prevention of cracks forming in the plaster.

What is the Lifespan of Lath and Plaster Walls?

It is possible for lath and plaster to have an extended lifespan, which may even reach across several centuries if the property is kept and maintained to appropriate standards. However, it is likely that the finish will require repair and restoration work over the course of this time to keep it in its most ideal and pristine condition.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Lath and Plaster

When preparing to work with a particular material, or to have it applied to your property on your behalf by specialist contractors, it is important to remember the advantages and disadvantages that will be present once the work is complete. For instance, while plaster walls offer rigidity and durability for a property, lath and plaster may also become brittle and cracks may form at the weakest points if exposed to vibration or water ingress.

It should be noted that lath and plaster walls are considered one of the better, more appropriate solutions to use for historical buildings. Not only will new plaster closely replicate the old features and materials it is replacing, it will also offer greater flexibility during the application process that can allow for the creation of intricate features and designs. It is also claimed to offer greater fire resistance for properties, as well as improved soundproofing.

Repairing or Replacing Lath and Plaster Walls

It must first be noted that if you own or manage a listed building any repair or restoration work that you intend to have carried out is likely to need special consideration, as well as involvement from the local conservation officer before and during the work.

When deciding if replacing or repairing lath and plaster walls is the correct course of action, you may first need to make an evaluation and check their condition. Discovering cracks, uneven or “bubbling” sections of plaster, damp patches, or even plaster that is crumbling away entirely may indicate that the walls should be repaired. However, if these are found in large sections which would require extensive repair work, replacing the walls may be the more suitable option.

You may benefit from having your property assessed and evaluated by a professional service, rather than attempting this work yourself. This ensures a comprehensive evaluation and reduces the risk of the observer overlooking any potential damage. At Artisan Plastercraft, we are more than capable of providing this service for you when required.

We would also highly recommend that only fully qualified contractors or plaster craftsmen with a specialist understanding of the subject undertake repair work on lath and plaster walls in your property interior. By doing this, you will be ensuring that the work is completed to the highest of standards, while preventing possible injury or further damage to your property should your attempt be unsuccessful.

For a Quote on Specialist Evaluation and Restoration Work

If you require the services of a reliable, specialist firm with many years of experience in the fine finishing, repair, and restoration of lath and plaster walls, please contact us  today. We are more than confident that we can provide the services you need for your owned or managed property, as we are often called to undertake work on a variety of building types and structures.

Each property we serve is also treated with individual care and consideration, with your requirements and specifications kept at paramount importance throughout. This will also extend to the budget you have in mind for the work we will carry out, as we will always provide an estimate before our team begins the repair or restoration process. Once this is agreed, we will do everything we can to return your property to the aesthetics of its golden age.

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We understand that choosing the right company for your project is important for project success, budget efficiency and your reputation.  We manufacture and install superior custom plaster mouldings, we re-create period plaster features as well as offering traditional lime plastering & lath and plaster.