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Renovation - gut renovate or over lathe walls?

Renovation - gut renovate or over lathe walls?


Old 11-17-08, 10:09 AM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Posts: 2
Renovation - gut renovate or over lathe walls?

I'll preface my post with the fact that I'm new to these forums, and that I don't intend this to be a DIY repair. Just looking for some sound advice, as I've had some widely conflicting recommendations from a couple of professionals.

I have a two story brick home in NYC, just under 75 years old. We gut renovated the first floor when we bought it, but left the second floor as-is and rented it out to tenants.

My tenants have moved out, and I plan to keep the second floor for my own use. I had renovated the bathroom and kitchen for them, and what's left are bedrooms in the rear of the house and a living and dining room in the front. I'd like to renovate the older rooms and use them all as bedrooms. The electrical wiring is probably original in those rooms as well (although the panel on the second floor is new, as well as that in the kitchen and bathroom).

The rooms all have lathe walls, and there is no insulation between the lathe and the exterior brick (and really evident when it comes to heating or cooling the space). I've had two opinions thus far:

- Demo the rooms, removing all lathe and plaster, running new wiring to the rooms and throwing up drywall on metal studs, with fiberglass insulation on the walls.

Pros - all new construction, no lost space. Cons - costly, a great deal of garbage will be created (further adding to cost)

- Leave the lathe walls as is, breaking holes to run new wiring. Apply foam insulation inside the walls, and put drywall over the lathe walls.

Pros - cheaper, with same aesthetic result. Cons - kludgey, and might not be durable long term.

One thing I suggested to the contractor who suggested leaving the walls as-is was removing the plaster but not the wooden strips to the wall, and just installing drywall on top of it. He said there was no value to it, but I figured it might be worthwhile if only to cut down on the garbage and labor. In that case, we'd still likely be using foam insulation rather than fiberglass.

I don't have an estimate back from either contractor, so I can't say what the price differential is, but from what I gathered speaking to the advocate of leaving the walls up it'd be at least 40% cheaper than ripping out the walls entirely.

What says the forum community here? Any advice is greatly appreciated!

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Old 11-17-08, 03:09 PM
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 43,823
Welcome to the forums!

IMO ripping out the old and going back with new is best. You get to inspect all the framing, run elec the way it should be and insulate. You can even modify/move walls as needed. I'm sure it's more expensive and definetly a big mess to clean up after!

Depending on what it looks like and how it survives demo, you might could save 1 side of the interior walls, running your electrical from the other side. You could laminate the plaster side with drywall if needed.... but personally I'd rip it all out. Wow! that's easy to say when we're spending your money and not mine

As always be sure to check references before hiring a contractor. It also helps to have multiple bids for the same work - to compare prices.
Old 11-17-08, 05:46 PM
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: East Central Florida
Posts: 21
I'm with marksr. Gut and go with all new. You'll be glad you did.Beer 4U2
Old 11-17-08, 07:31 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Posts: 2
Thanks for the replies!

That's my gut as well (ugh, terrible pun not intended). At least I'll know that the work was done right and that the materials are all new. There's just something in me that feels bad; the workmanship in the lathe seems so much more elaborate than putting up some metal studs and drywall.
Old 11-18-08, 03:26 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: USA
Posts: 43,823
Yes, but that's basically all they had to work with when your house was built. Today when plaster is used on new construction - blue board is used instead of the wood lath and a veneer of plaster is applied over it.

One problem you might run into is on any wall where you reuse the original framing - they didn't always worry about 16" centers. You might have to add a stud here or there so the drywall will end on a stud at 4',8' and/or 12'
Old 11-18-08, 09:15 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: California
Posts: 1,722
Plaster is and was applied over lath. The lath could have been wood lath with spaces between them to hold the plaster. it could have been gypsum lath with a paper surface that had a high affinity toward water so that the gypsum crystals in the plaster bonded with the gypsum crystals in the lath. It could be metal lath which is not common but not unheard of in residential construction. The metal lath is mostly spaces for the plaster to lock itself to the metal.

Lathes are for turning metal and wood.

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