How to remove lath… so elegant

Elegant lath and it’s strong, solid brother plaster tend to go together hand in hand to form the foundations of a wall.

Good and bad news today – I’ll dive in with the bad news first to get it out of the way….

Bad news – I removed a slice of history, so very sad, I feel terrible!

Lath are beautiful thin strips of wood – long and elegant they stack up across walls (and sometimes ceilings), attaching to the joists by nails.  This forms the basis for plaster that is then put on top and oozes slightly through the gaps between the lath, forming ‘plaster keys’ that reinforce the strength.

I think they are so beautiful I was a little snappy happy!

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The ‘plaster keys’…

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oozing…

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The craftsmanship involved in putting up lath is incredible – each one carefully nailed in my hand, that is very time-consuming.  With the very best lath care is taken to make flush end on end strips of lath so effectively they form one horizontal lath across the entire wall – mine weren’t quite of that calibre with a few joint overlaps but nonetheless they were still very well attached and have helped hold up my walls for decades…. hence it felt a little sad today taking them all down.

Overlapping lath ends…

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Over time the lath shape warped slightly with the pressure of the plaster…

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Good news – Lath now removed, another layer peeled back to get closer to the shell

To remove lath you need:

  1. Tetanus injection – Seriously, ensure it’s up-to-date.  Lath is attached via a lot of nails.  A lot.  Some nails detach with the wood, some remain on the joists, others fly off onto the floor.  It is then very easy to accidentally step on a nail and pierce your foot
  2. Thick soled-shoes – Due to so many nails falling to the floor, I suggest the thickest and most robust shoes you possess
  3. PPE – Girls, time to get your kit out again, I know how much you love wearing it (eye goggles, face mask, gloves, old clothes, thick-soled shoes)
  4. Roughneck Cold Chisel with 1 inch blade – Remember if you use this one with a large surface area at the end then you don’t hit your hands so much, less ouch!
  5. Mallet
  6. Rubble sacks

The steps:

  1. Electrics – Turn them off at the mains
  2. Location – Remove 1 lath strip – The first lath I removed was about level with my shoulders – until I got into the knack of removing them, I practised with a few at shoulder height, then I moved to the top of the wall and worked from the top downwards so that any rubble or insulation did not fall on my head.  I suggest you do the same
  3. How – Remove 1 lath strip – Gently, the aim is to preserve the vertical joists robustness and structural strength.  Using the chisel and hammer if you need to close to the joist, carefully pull the lath away from the wall.  The wood might split, that does not matter
  4. Remove adjacent lath strips – Initially using a longer, larger piece of wood I tried to leverage prising the lath off around the joists.  However I wasn’t strong enough!  So I scrapped that and every single lath I used the chisel and mallet at every joist joint individually, carefully tapping the mallet to prise off the lath.
  5. Bundles – If you pile the lath into bundles on the floor, then easier to remove
  6. Nails in the joists – Next step is to remove them, the zillions that remain attached.  You’ll have to wait, I’ll share that with you another time.
  7. Rubble – Put debris and rubble collected at the bottom behind the lath into sacks for disposal.

Remove 1 lath first:

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Gently tap mallet at joists to prise next laths:

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The rubble fell to the bottom:

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Voilà, a sneaky peek of the end result

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