When choosing between drywall vs lath and plaster for your home’s walls, it’s essential to consider factors like the desired aesthetic, acoustics, and budget.
Drywall is a popular and cost-effective option, as it’s easy to install, repair, and offers good fire resistance.
However, if superior soundproofing and insulation are priorities, lath and plaster may be a better choice, despite being more expensive due to labor-intensive installation and higher material costs.
Ultimately, the decision depends on individual preferences and priorities.
Lath and plaster, while more time-consuming and difficult to install, provide a thicker, more durable, and more flexible finish that can be ideal for older homes or homes with unique architectural features.
In most cases, drywall is the preferred choice for new construction, while lath and plaster is often used to preserve the original character of older homes.
What Is a Lath and Plaster?
A lath and plaster wall is an older construction method used to build interior walls and ceilings.
It consists of thin wooden strips (lath) attached to a wooden frame and then coated with several layers of wet plaster.
The plaster hardens as it dries, forming a solid surface.
The final finish can be sanded smooth and painted or left as is, providing a natural, textured appearance.
This walls are often used in older homes or homes with unique architectural features to preserve the original character and appearance of the space.
However, the installation process is time-consuming and labor-intensive, and the walls can be more sensitive to moisture than modern drywall.
What Is a Drywalls?
Drywall, also known as gypsum board, is a common building material used to construct interior walls and ceilings.
It consists of a gypsum core sandwiched between two sheets of heavy paper.
The panels are cut to size, attached to wooden studs or joists, and then finished with joint compound and paint.
The process of installing drywall is quicker and less labor-intensive than lath and plaster, and it is a cost-effective alternative for new construction projects.
Drywall is smooth and easy to paint, but lacks natural appearance and acoustic qualities of lath and plaster.
Lath and Plaster vs Drywall
Lath and plaster is generally more expensive than drywall.
Lath and plaster is pricier due to labor-intensive installation and higher material costs, including wood lath and several plaster coats.
Drywall is quicker and easier to install, which reduces labor costs, and its materials are less expensive.
Lath and plaster costs 25-50% more than drywall, but varies based on project size, labor costs, and materials.
Lath and plaster walls are typically thicker than drywall walls.
A typical lath and plaster wall may have a total thickness of 1-1.5 inches, including the wooden lath and multiple coats of plaster.
In comparison, standard drywall has a thickness of 1/2 inch or 5/8 inch.
Thicker drywall options available, but still not as thick as lath and plaster walls.
The thickness of lath and plaster walls provides improved insulation and soundproofing compared to drywall, but it also increases the cost of the project and the amount of space taken up by the walls.
Repairing lath and plaster is difficult; it requires a skilled worker to match texture. Moisture damage makes repairs challenging.
Drywall repairs are straightforward and can be done by homeowners or handymen. Holes and dents are filled with joint compound, sanded, and painted.
Drywall is less susceptible to moisture damage, reducing the need for repairs. Lath and plaster have a natural look and better soundproofing, but drywall is more practical.
Soundproofing and Insulation
Lath and plaster provides better soundproofing and insulation than drywall.
Lath and plaster absorbs sound and reduces noise transmission and plaster creates an airtight seal for better insulation.
Drywall can still provide good soundproofing and insulation with soundproofing materials. Thicker drywall options offer better insulation.
In short, Lath and plaster is superior, but drywall can perform well with soundproofing materials or thicker options.
The benefits and drawbacks of Lath & Plaster vs Drywall are listed below
Lath & Plaster
|Durability: Lath and plaster is strong and durable, ideal for older homes and buildings with unique features.|
|Flexibility: Lath and plaster can be molded into complex shapes for intricate details and unique designs.|
|Natural Finish: Lath and plaster adds character and warmth with its natural, textured finish that can be painted or left as is.|
|Improved Acoustics: Lath and plaster walls improve room acoustics, ideal for home theaters or music rooms.|
|Cost: Lath and plaster is more expensive than drywall due to the higher cost of materials and the time-consuming installation process.|
|Difficult to Install: Installing lath and plaster is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process that requires skilled workers and specialized tools.|
|Difficult to Repair: Lath and plaster can be difficult to repair if it is damaged, as it requires a skilled worker to match the existing finish and make repairs.|
|Moisture Sensitivity: Lath and plaster is more sensitive to moisture than drywall, making it more susceptible to mold and mildew growth.|
|Cost-Effective: Drywall is less expensive than lath and plaster due to easier installation and lower material costs.|
|Easy to Install: Drywall is a simpler material to install than lath and plaster, making it a popular choice for new construction projects.|
|Easy to Repair: Drywall is practical as it can be easily repaired with minimal fuss.|
|Improved Fire Resistance: Drywall is a safer choice than lath and plaster, providing better fire resistance.|
|Limited Design Options: Drywall provides limited design options compared to lath and plaster, as it cannot be molded into complex shapes or curves.|
|Poor Acoustics: Drywall does not provide the same level of soundproofing as lath and plaster, making it less ideal for use in home theaters or music rooms.|
|Lack of Character: Drywall can have a flat and uninspiring appearance, lacking the character and warmth provided by lath and plaster.|
|Susceptibility to Damage: Drywall is more susceptible to damage from impact, such as holes or dents, compared to the more durable lath and plaster.|
How to Tell Whether Your Walls Are Lath & Plaster or Drywall in 4 Simple Ways
- Visual inspection: Look at the surface of the wall. Drywall has a smooth, uniform surface, while lath and plaster have a textured, irregular surface.
- Tap the wall: Drywall will have a dull, solid sound when tapped, while lath and plaster will have a hollow, echoing sound.
- Look for electrical outlets: Drywall has electrical outlets that are flush with the wall, while lath and plaster has electrical outlets that are set back into the wall.
- Check the age of the building: lath and plaster was commonly used in homes built before the 1950s, while drywall became more popular in the mid-20th century.
Note : Consult a professional to determine the wall structure in your home as these recommendations may not always be accurate.
Is lath & plaster stronger than drywall?
Walls made of plaster and lath are often more impact-resistant than walls made of drywall.
The ability of the structure to evenly transmit force throughout the wall and absorb impact reduces the likelihood of a lath and plaster wall cracking or breaking.
Lath and plaster are more prone to moisture damage than drywall, which is also simpler to fix.
Lath and plaster are more combustible and can easily catch fire in the event of a fire, but drywall includes a fire-resistant core that aids in slowing the spread of fire.
In short, drywall is easier to repair and has better fire resistance than lath and plaster walls, but lath and plaster walls have better impact resistance.
Both lath and plaster and drywall have their own unique advantages and disadvantages.
Lath and plaster walls offer improved impact resistance and soundproofing but are more difficult to repair and less fire-resistant.
Drywall is easier to repair, has a fire-resistant core, and is more commonly used in modern construction.
Choosing between lath and plaster vs drywall depends on needs and factors such as cost, appearance, soundproofing, insulation, fire resistance, and repair ease.
Why is lath and plaster no longer used?
Lath and plaster is no longer widely used because of its slow installation, frequent repairs, and tendency to crack.
Drywall is a quicker, more cost-effective alternative, making it a popular choice in modern construction.
Lath and plaster is still used for their durability and traditional look in some cases.
What are the two main types of plaster?
The two main types are traditional lime and modern gypsum.
Lime is more durable, but it takes longer to dry and is expensive.
Gypsum is easier to use, dries quickly, but is not as durable.
The choice depends on the project’s needs.
What is the best plaster for old houses?
For old houses, traditional lime plaster is often best.
Breathable and durable, but slow-drying and costly.