Pros and Cons of Lath and Plaster vs. Drywall for Home Renovation

Lath and Plaster vs Drywall
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Pros and cons of lath and plaster vs drywall..

Ever heard of plastering plaster? It is a common home renovation technique that has been around for hundreds of years. Homeowners use it to repair walls and ceilings damaged by moisture, fire, or insects.

Plastering plaster involves mixing plaster of paris with lath to create a strong wall. Lath is a metal mesh that supports plaster, while plaster provides strength and durability.

It is an old technique that can be used today in modern homes as well. Read to know the pros and cons of lath and plaster.

What is lath and plaster?

In finishing interior walls and ceilings, lath and plaster is a technique used. It’s made out of plaster-coated horizontal layers of wood (wood lath). A gap of at least 9mm must exist between the wood strips, which are put onto the joists one after the other. Extruded metal (metal lath) or stone (rock lath) may also be used to construct lath.

Plaster keys that strengthen the structural integrity of the wall are formed by gaps between the lath strips, which allow for plaster, a cement-based building material.

You can then apply two more coats of plaster once the plaster keys have been securely fixed to the wall, which takes approximately five days. Due to its soundproofing qualities, lath and plaster became more common in the construction sector.

Lath and Plaster vs. Drywall – Differences

Lath and Plaster vs Drywall
Lath and Plaster vs Drywall, Images /

1. Construction

Lath strips composed of wood, metal, or rock are used to construct lath and plaster walls. Drywall, on the other hand, has a gypsum core with two paper backings that encase it.

2. Durability

Compared to drywall, plaster is a more robust wall finishing material. That isn’t all-it is also superior in soundproofing, insulation, and fireproofing properties than ordinary drywall.

Since it is denser, plaster blocks sound transfer better than drywall. In terms of noise dampening and fire resistance, however, modern soundproof drywall and fire-rated drywall are equally effective as lath and plaster walls.

3. Ease of Installation

As compared to drywall panels, plaster finish installation requires more time and effort. Because the plaster keys need between five and seven days to set, properly applying plaster across the lath requires a lot of patience.

As a comparison, each coat of joint compound takes only 12-24 hours to dry up after hanging drywall sheets.

4. Costs

A lath and plaster wall costs more than a drywall wall in terms of materials and labor. Plaster walls, particularly in terms of visual aesthetics, are seen as more premium than drywall.

Additionally, since plaster wall finishing takes longer to install, it costs more if you don’t want to do any DIY work.

Although the cost of gypsum board panels and joint compound balances out against that of wood lath strips and plaster, there may not be any significant variances in material costs.

The distinctions between lath-and-plaster and drywall, as mentioned above, are summarized in the table below:

The table below provides a summary of the differences between lath-and-plaster and drywall, as discussed above:

Lath and plaster wallsDrywall walls
The walls are made of wood strips with a sand/cement plaster finish.Gypsum boards with paper backingings are used, and joint compound is used to strengthen them.
It takes a long time and a lot of effort to install properly.It is easier to apply and takes less time than plaster finishing.
Drywall stuff is structurally and physically stronger.In terms of hardness and durability, plaster can’t be beat.
Because of increased labor requirements, installing costs more.Because of the shorter installation time, it is less expensive to install.
It has soundproofing abilities, proofing capabilities, and mold-resistance.In terms of heat retention and noise cancellation, traditional drywalls can’t compare to plaster; however, contemporary drywalls may provide comparable or superior soundproofing and insulation qualities than plaster.

How lath and plaster walls are built

Wood strips one-inch wide and four-foot long are nailed down to the open wall studs to construct wood lath and plaster wall covering. One layer of wood strips is tacked above the other, with a narrow space in between.

For the wet plaster, the lath serves as a support structure. After that, three layers of moist plaster are applied to produce a firm yet smooth finish that may be finished with primer and paint.

The first coat, also known as the scratch coat, is usually hand-troweled onto the gaps between the lath strips to create the plaster keys. The plaster keys harden on the inner side of the wood lath, becoming grips that firmly hold the remaining layers of plaster to the lath.

The brown coat adds evenness to the finish layer. Finally, to create a smooth, flat surface for finishing, the final layer (white coat) is applied.

How drywall walls are built

Drywall is made by combining raw gypsum with crystalline water, as well as other additives such as paper pulp, starch, and a thickening ingredient. The outcome is a gummy mass that is applied in layers of 3/8-3/4-inch thickness on top of manila paper.

The top backing is then formed by placing another piece of manila paper. The material is dried up using a machine that heats it to approximately 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Following that, the gypsum boards or drywall panels are cut to size using long strips of dried wall finishing material. The wet work portion of drywall construction is pre-done in the factory, and since it’s already ‘dry,’ there are no long wait periods when installing it.

Drywall sheets may be put directly on the wall studs without the need for lath backing, which is why they can be done so quickly.

Should you remove lath before drywall?

Your plaster wall will eventually reveal signs of wear and remove in certain portions after a few years, resulting in unsightly patches. In most cases, such as in drywall installation- a common approach is to change.

When contemplating switching from plaster walls to drywall walls, many homeowners find themselves in a predicament of whether to remove just the plaster material or the wood lath backing.

We recommend removing the lath strips as well, since some remodelers may agree to install drywall over the lath for a lower fee. Since the wood lath may already be weak due to decades of rot, it would not offer a sturdy structural foundation for your drywall panels.

Furthermore, since the lath backing isn’t obstructing access to the interior part of the wall, it’s easier to install insulation features and wiring through it.

Pros and cons of lath and plaster

Pros of Lath and Plaster:

  1. Excellent heat insulation : Since plaster is a dense material, it has excellent insulation capabilities. The fact that the plaster is applied in three layers also helps with insulation. Soundproofing is also aided by the thickness.
  2. Contour-friendly : Pasting may be more simple to curve into various forms and designs when compared to stiff drywall panels. If you’re looking for elegant interior wall design with curving and arching features, it’s therefore the preferred options.
  3. Visually appealing : The surface has a smooth and flat appearance, making it easy to paint to a high-gloss finish for added visual allure. Plaster wall finishing has this appearance.

Cons of Lath and Plaster:

  1. Plaster can Crack and fall off : As they settle with time, plaster is a hard, brittle wall finishing material that will readily crack. Insufficient plaster cracking may cause plaster pieces to fall off the wall, resulting in unsightly patches that need to be replenished.
  2. Inhibits Future Wiring Upgrades : driving the cables or pipes through plaster and lath walls is difficult, since they carry fallen plaster at the bottom of the stud spaces, which blocks wire passage. if you want to install new electrical or plumbing wiring, it’s difficult.
  3. Prone to Moisture Damage : Moisture will cause severe rot of the wood lath if your plumbing system leaks through the lath and plaster wall. The plaster may begin to break away from the wood lath and fall off, thus causing more structural damage.

Pros and cons of drywall

Pros of Drywall:

  1. Easy to Install : Drywall has the benefit of being quicker and requiring less effort than lath and plaster wall finishing, which is perhaps its most notable feature. As a result, drywall is preferred over plaster by do-it-yourself enthusiasts.
  2. Great fire resistance : Gypsum mineral and crystalline water are used to make drywall. The crystalline water evaporates and cools the surrounding structure, preventing the fire from spreading to the rooms on the opposite side, when a fire breaks out.
  3. Cheaper to Install : Professional drywall installation is less expensive than professional lath and plaster wall finishing because hanging drywall panels is easier and quicker than installing lath and plaster wall finishing.

Cons of Drywall:

  1. Appearance limitations : The joins between the drywall sheets may be apparent if they are not properly installed. Drywall also has a less appealing visual aesthetic than smooth plaster walls.
  2. Not durable : Drywall is less robust than plaster and will readily display unsightly dents and marks when compared to plaster. Drywall damage, on the other hand, is simple to fix.

Is lath and plaster better than drywall?

It depends on what you want and how much time you have whether or not to choose between lath and plaster. Lath and plaster is the best option if you want interior walls with the warm ambiance of pre-1940 houses. However, if you want cheaper and quicker installation of wall coverings, drywall is the better option.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of using lath and plaster for home renovation?

If you’re thinking of using lath and plaster for your home renovation project, here are some of the benefits to consider:

1. Lath and plaster is an affordable and classic way to add walls to a home. It’s a time-consuming process, so it’s perfect for projects that require more time and patience than typical renovation tasks.

2. Lath and plaster is a reliable walling system that can be easily damaged. Special care must be taken when installing lath and plaster so that the adhesive and mortar don’t peel away or crack.

3. Lath and plaster is easy to change or update if you decide you’d like to revamp your walls in the future. Drywall is a more modern walling system that has emerged in recent years, but lath and plaster still has its supporters.

4. Drywall requires special tools and skills to install, so it may not be suitable for all home renovation projects. If you’re looking for a quicker turnaround, then lath and plaster may be a better option for you.

What are the benefits of using drywall for home renovation?

There are many benefits to using drywall for home renovation, including its aesthetic appeal.

Drywall is a relatively easy material to work with, and it has a low moisture absorption rate. This means that it is less likely to cause damage during installation.

Drywall is also fireproof and moisture resistant, meaning that it will resist damage from fire and moisture during your home renovation.

However, drywall has a high cost and may not be the best option if you’re looking for a budget-friendly solution. Additionally, drywall has a chance of being damaged during installation, so make sure to get a qualified contractor to do the job.


The wall is an essential building material in any house. It provides a protective layer against the elements and acts as insulation for the house. When homes are being renovated, wall walls can be replaced relatively easily with plaster or lath walls, which provide insulation and sound-proofing benefits.

They’re also cheaper to install compared to other wall materials. In addition, plaster is reusable when walls are being remodeled, allowing for the savings of time and material costs, while lath walls can be easily removed if you find yourself wanting to expand your home space.

If you’re looking for more information on plastering or lath plastering, we invite you to read our blog ‘How to Plaster a Wall Step by Step: The Complete Guide

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