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Lath: Wikis


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Lath seen from the back with hardened plaster from the other side showing through

A lath is a thin, narrow strip of some straight-grained wood or other material, including metal or gypsum. A lattice, or lattice-work, is a criss-crossed or interlaced arrangement of laths, or the pattern made by such an arrangement. Lath is the basic material used in the formerly common building technique known as lath and plaster, which was used to make interior walls.



The word stems from Old English laett, Mid. Eng. lappe, a form possibly due to the Welsh liath; the word appears in many Teutonic languages, e.g. Dutch lat, German Latte, and has passed into Romanic, cf. Italian latta, French latte), denoting a thin, flat strip made of wood or possibly another material.


Today, laths are still used in building construction to form a base or groundwork for plaster (modern lath and plaster applications are mostly limited to conservation projects)[1], tiles, slates, and other coverings, e.g. roofing. Such strips of wood are also employed to form lattice-work, or are used as the bars of venetian blinds or shutters. Riven lath is the stronger forerunner to sawn lath, as it was traditionally split with the grain from chestnut, oak, or similar hardwoods. Laths were also used to fix reed to a timber structure before plastering.

Lath cut from spruce or balsam fir trees are used for building wooden lobster traps.

Historical significance

Inch-wide laths after the plaster has been knocked off (under stairs, Kent, UK)

A window with a lattice painted red was formerly a common inn-sign (cf. Shakespeare, 2 Hen. IV. ii. 2. 86); frequently the window was dispensed with, and the sign remained painted on a board.

Gypsum lath consists of gypsum plaster sandwiched between two sheets of absorbent paper. It was invented in 1910, and multiple variations were developed in the 1930's. Gypsum lath is commonly used in place of wood since it is noncombustible, easy to use, and gives better results. The lath and plaster method's popularity declined in the 1950s, as it was replaced by the more efficient drywall.

See also

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.



1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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