lath & plaster or ?

aptoscaOctober 24, 2013

Getting ready for a big (for me) remodel and am spending countless hours on GardenWeb :-)

Probably naive, but my first question:

I'm trying to figure out what my walls are made of. Seems like this shouldn't be too hard to figure out but I haven't found an easy test. I've had various guesses, mostly lath and plaster and plaster/mud on some kind of backing board. But we really don't know. Nobody (including me) seems to think it's drywall. There's gotta be some easy way to tell?

The house was built in '48. The walls are notable that they have a smooth part (looks like a 2x4?) at the bottom:

I don't think it has any kind of plaster/mud on it. There are no baseboards (and never have been, I don't think.) Does this make it more/less likely to be lath and plaster?

There are no ventilation grates through the walls. Here's what the edge at an outlet looks like:

I suppose I'm mostly anticipating what it's going to take to redo the kitchen. Is lath and plaster a lot harder to work with that plaster over one of the other backing materials?


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Fori is not pleased

That looks like plaster in the outlet to me. It's possible you have some unconventional thing going though--the baseboard is unusual!

You'll probably have lead paint and some GCs care about that. (They all should of course...)

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 11:43PM
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California, right? The pictures remind me of houses I've seen in San Francisco. I'd guess the walls are stucco over concrete block. Anyway, why wonder? Be bold. Pick a spot on a wall you plan to tear out during your remodel and smack it with a hammer until you find out.

    Bookmark   October 24, 2013 at 11:59PM
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I would have it tested for asbestos first. I opened an account here at a testing lab and pay $6.00 a sample to have it tested. Why submit your lungs to harm?

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 8:47AM
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Regarding asbestos, just fyi, for what it's worth, when I was pulling up 1953 linoleum (I started it, then hired a contractor to finish it), I called a local agency about asbestos to see what precautions should be taken, etc.

They told me that the area has to be larger than a certain square footage for the guidelines re asbestos to apply. Since my area was smaller than that, I didn't have to have asbestos specialists do anything special.

Still, I wore one of those paper breathing masks when I was working with it. The contractors didn't wear masks. They used a chain saw to cut out the entire flooring in large squares.

That was about 10 years ago. I'm happy to report that neither I nor my pets have any respiratory problems, so I guess it was okay.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2013 at 9:02AM
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My guess is a 'fiber' type board that is nailed perpendicular to the studs. It's usually 24" by 96". This was used in the 50's instead of lath.

It is then coated with 1/2" of rough plaster, and then a finish coat of plaster.

The backing board is quite resliant. I don't reccomend using a hammer on it. Find a place in a closet and make a small hole with a 1" spade bit, to verify what you have.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2013 at 2:56PM
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That's plaster. I agree with Geoffrey B...Probably rock lathe guessing from the age.

If you want to cut or drill to check, do so in a closet where it will be unnoticeable.

My house was built in '52 and it's plaster over rock lathe. Makes for a very strong soundproof wall.

    Bookmark   November 8, 2013 at 11:27PM
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Thanks, folks. My guess is rock lath, too. Doing a little reading about the kinds of cracks you get in rock lath matches, too. As does the age of the house.

I can do a test hole somewhere. I also have to take out a door frame on an internal door. Might be able to tell from there? And even easier: should't I be able to tell my just looking at the ceiling from attic?

    Bookmark   November 9, 2013 at 10:04AM
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Just demoed the ceramic tile in the kitchen and found the same fibre board underneath the tile mud. Doesn't look like rock lath, though--house was built in 1954. Any cracks in the plaster are not vertical.....and not many of them, either.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2013 at 11:24PM
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I have seen celotex used instead of rocklath; worked on a house with a 1930 remodel that used both. Celotex was passable for walls, a disaster when used on the ceilings; sagged terribly, as not enough rigidity on it's own. Looked like a canvas ceiling.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2013 at 9:11AM
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