Let’s Talk About Lath

Anatomy of A Rowhouse
Lath. The unsung hero of the home. The neglected lattice of the dwelling apparatus. Lath.


A lath is a thin strip of wood, used in tandem with other laths, as the foundation for plaster in a wall or ceiling. The word derives from the Old English word “laett” which has common etymological roots with the word “lattice”. Since the time of Shakespeare, laths have been associated as lowly materials: in Romeo and Juliet, Benvolio mentions a “Tartar’s painted bow of lath” to refer to a cheap, counterfeit weapon. And in Titus Andronicus, Demetrius contemptuously refers to a poor swordsman’s weapon as nothing more than an impotent lath, warning to “have your lath glued within your sheath/till you know better how to handle it.” Lath gets a bad wrap.

Benvolio (in red): a benevolent peacemaker in Romeo and Juliet, but a ruthless mocker of lath. (Photo courtesy of onlinegalleries.com)

But lath was crucial! Where plaster could not be applied directly to a solid surface (i.e. a brick wall), laths were fastened to studs or joists to catch plaster. Drywall has replaced lath and plaster construction, but we encounter it daily as we deconstruct Eager Street. In the photo below, Chanel, Bernadette and Wandesa remove plaster and lath from a wall in one of the houses. On the exposed studs, you can see white lines where the plaster seeped through the laths.
IMG_0984The lath we pull from Eager Street gets sorted and recycled- there’s not much of a salvage value to it. We usually end up hauling them out of houses in trash cans, or as we like to call them, Barrels of Laths.
BUT- lath cleans up real purty! Check out the entire line of products made from good old Baltimore lath over at Sandtown Millworks. Here’s an example:

Gorgeous table from Sandtown Millworks made from stuff most people throw away.



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