Wednesday, 11 November 2015

A new old lath and plaster ceiling

I anticipate that this is going to be a short blog post this time, so don't bother putting the kettle on.

I've re-lathed part of the Living Room ceiling.

"Gaffer, there's a big hole in the ceiling"
"Ah, slap a lump of wood over it - nobody'll notice"
This section of the ceiling, between the main room and the nook area, has never actually been plastered before because it used to feature a brick wall separating what were originally two rooms.
When the wall was removed to create the dog-leg the resulting hole in the ceiling was simply covered over with a slab of wood, possibly pine, that was then stained and varnished with a hideous shade of orangebrown.

We wanted to incorporate the nook in to the Living Room properly, which means plastering the ceiling. And because we'll be lime plastering it when the time comes we needed the hole tidying up and re-lathing so the plaster can be 'hooked' on to it, rather than bodge it with plasterboard and a gypsum skim.

Beneath the wood was a gaping hole that
once contained a brick wall. The laths on
either side were attached to thin air.
The first stage was to widen the hole until I could find joists to attach the laths to, but that was a simple case of using a tenon saw and chopping back through the original-but-ragged lath and lime until I found the beams, then trimming the old unattached lath off laterally. With the plaster being soft and the original laths being wafer thin it was like the proverbial knife through butter, leaving nice tidy edges.

Next came a couple of lengths of timber that Trevor just happened to have lying in the boot of his car, which were sawn to size and screwed on to the insides of the joists so, in turn, the laths could be nailed across them.

Fortunately, during one of my more lucid moments, I had decided to save as many of the original laths as possible from when I had uncovered the plastered-over oak beams in the Living Room and Hallway, but because they weren't all in tip-top condition we threw in some new riven oak laths for added strength.
Trimming each lath in turn as I went along I drilled pilot holes in each end to stop them splitting and simply tapped them on to the extended joists with galvanised nails.

Widened, cleaned and ready for
a new lease of life
I had managed to rescue half a dozen of the original hand-made square iron nails from the beams, so I also reused them spread evenly across the row in case one or two fail in the future where they'll still be held up by the stronger laths to either side.

Finally, partly because I'm dead clever and partly because it looks pretty I ended up alternating the row with new lath/old lath/new lath/old lath.

It's a nice feeling when you reclaim and reuse original building materials without them even leaving the property they came from, and much better than dumping everything in a skip just because it's not new.

See? This is what happens when you write a third as much as normal - not enough room for photos. I'm going to have to just stick a few at the end now. I don't like it one bit.

Old vs new

Six hand-made nails from the laths on the beams were saved and reused. The rest had snapped in situ.
All done.
Ignore the battens on the walls - they're the subject of an as-yet unwritten blog post


  1. Hope you two are going along ok read your blog very interesting, foxhunters are *********
    all the best

  2. Aren't they, though? I can't be bothered to update the post but we've been told they've got permission so that's my hunt saboteur career over before it's really begun.
    Thanks for the kind words and thanks for reading!

  3. Let me know why nowadays most of them preferring lath and plaster ceiling? Is there any other reason behind them.

  4. Hiya.
    I'm not really sure I understand the question (sorry), but where we're concerned we've patched the hole with materials which are faithful to the original building and, besides, lath and lime plaster will help the house breathe a little better. Strictly speaking we *could* have used plain old gypsum if we wanted because the ceiling is between the ground floor and the first floor so it shouldn't have to cope with *too* much moisture other than that which is generated inside the building.
    Nevertheless, every little helps and all that.

  5. Wow its just perfect now and what a good idea to reuse the hand-made square iron nails. I am glad you have shared your own idea with us as well. Thank you.


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