What to do with our lath landing ceiling as having trouble hiring a tradesperson to fix up a new one

6 Oct 2010
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United Kingdom
So some of you may have seen my other posts on our hallway rennovation of our 1920s semi.

Well it's been back to brick and laths for a couple of months now and we are not getting anywhere!

I had to let our agreed builder go, before he put it back together, as I learnt that it had lime mortar solid bricks and that dot and dab plasterboarding was seriously frowned upon by historical house tradespeople. As it would prevent the house breathing and cause damp, condensation and mould eventually, (at least on the external solid brick wall and downstairs walls, which are on wooden footings with suspended floors).

Yesterday, a family friend who's a 'new build' board and skim plasterer in the main, looked at the landing ceiling, and said that the demolision company we hired to do it, has not finished the job, as all the laths need taking down in order to get any plasterboards to sit evenly and not undulate. The laths overlap and are in bad shape.

The demolishion company also damaged the plaster in our front living room wall, from a double socket getting pushed through and also in the rear living room, by yanking off the skirting in the hall, that pulled the door architrave off from inside the living room around the doorway, and all the plaster skim, which I'd just painted.

They knocked out a stair spindle and trashed one side of the front door architrave, which we'll one day have to get remade, or else pull off all the architraves and buy new, which as timber is so expensive now means more cost.

My original intention of posting was... If you've taken down a lath and lime ceiling, would you consider the job to include removal of the laths too? Leaving the joists revealed and the floor above visible (in this case that would be the loft insulation and boarding above (very dusty and dirty with lime plaster debris loose everywhere - dropping all the time)?

My plasterer friend said we'll find it hard to get a Plasterer currently, who'll take them down, as they are all inundated with work and can pick and choose.

We had what seemed a fantastic lime plasterer/heritage House restorer, due to save us, booked for 31st May but he cancelled after been booked in for a month, 2 days before and hasn't recommitted to a new date. I trusted him too come through for us and now have lost 2 months on getting other guys in, and living with it is wearing us down badly now. We both work 5 days a week and have a young child and are knackered at the weekend, plus this is a job that's our of our remit being over a high ceiling staircase.

Do you think I should contact the demolition company and say I'm not happy with the laths having been left in place, and ask them to come back and re-sheet up everywhere and take them down?

We paid 2k for the demolishion, which was for to the artex coating containing asbestos to be removed and ceilings. The wall plaster had blown and cracked in several places so was unsafe in my mind.


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You can't hold the original contractor to account because your current plasterer has let you down.

It might be cheaper to get a quote from a builder to remove the laths and overboard, as it might not be a job a plasterer alone would want to do. You could remove them yourself working from the loft.

You can't hold the original contractor to account because your current plasterer has let you down.

It might be cheaper to get a quote from a builder to remove the laths and overboard, as it might not be a job a plasterer alone would want to do. You could remove them yourself working from the loft.


Well I think we're going to have to try and do it ourselves and ship out daughter out on a weekend!

The thing with the loft is it has old dusty fibreglass insulation in at the moment and we didn't want to move it until it starting sagging through having taking off some laths. I've seen a really long wrecking bar you can get but I still will need to invest in a few hundred worth of equipment such as stair platform, ladder, tarpourlin to catch the debris...

Just seems like part of the original job really, to take down the ceiling. The original contractor finished a day early yet charged us am extra day to do the ceilings of £600. We didn't know what state they needed to be in though for reboarding and we want to use wood wool board and lime.

Thanks anyway!
If your really against stripping the lot down yourself then you could possibly fit some timber along the tops of the walls then run new 'joists' across the old laths between the wall timbers and then use those to fit boards to, you'd end up with a lower ceiling height but I doubt you'd notice as there quite high currently
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Take a weekend, go in hard and get all the lathes down, and the old dirty insulation.
Go to town on it, get it into a burnables skip, and shower 5 times.

Then plasterboard it all (Or get a builder to), and roll out 100mm of new insulation out, and 200mm the other direction, early in the mornings before it gets hot. Or wait for autumn.... but ideally do it before it gets plastered in case of any accidents.

Trades do seem overloaded, and so can pick and choose.

It's tough with kids I know, but do-able, and the sooner you do it the better you will feel. If you get as far as plasterboarding and then can't get a plasterer, at least it will be clean and light. We had plasterboard exposed for 6 months in some places, you get used to it.
It is quite hard work and very dirty and dusty to remove lath and plaster ceilings. Really a job for a building labourer.

Most plasterers only want to be fitting new plasterboard and doing new plastering and not what they probably see as a labourer's job.

Many will just nail plasterboard over the old lath ceiling but that is a bit of a bodge although saves a lot of cost.
Based on my own experience and what I have done in old houses.

Is your solid wall 1920's rendered or bare brick? If it's bare brick, any damp in the wall through any means will evaporate away, in which case IMHO you would be OK to use plasterboard internally. If it's rendered, then there is an argument to have a breathable internal skin, because if both faces of the wall are impermeable to moisture, anything that gets in can't get out. If you are going to PB the walls, use an insulated board - even the thinnest 25mm will help, and use foam adhesive rather than water mixed dab adhesive.

Just to check - it really is a solid wall, and not an early cavity? - our current 1902 semi has a ventilated cavity wall. It is fully insulated with insulated PB, and the cavity remains well ventilated. So far all my theory has borne out in practice and our house is both toasty and free of condensation and damp on external walls.

Also IMHO there is a fair bit of hogwash talked about "breathable" internal surfaces. Back in the day, when houses had draughty windows, open chimneys and no central heating, water vapour in the house tended to ventilate away. Any condensation that appeared on/in the internal walls had ample opportunity to evaporate in to the ventilated space, but as houses were colder (and hence the air was drier) condensation was a lesser risk . Now we fit double glazing, seal up the chimneys, have much warmer houses (and warm air can carry much larger quantities of water vapour). All this warm, humid air WILL condense on any surface that is below the dew point, whether it is a "breathable" surface or not. For example, modern "normal" room air at say 22 degrees and 60-70% RH will have a dew point as high as 12-15 degrees. If the surface is permeable, the condensation will be both on the surface and in the wall fabric, so IMHO the strongest argument is to stop that wet air getting to the cold wall (so a non-permeable barrier) and keep the surface above the dew point - use internal insulation. The remaining danger is interstitial condensation within the wall fabric and/or penetrating damp not being able to evaporate away to external when the external humidity is low enough.

To access a high ceiling over stairs what you can do is build a temporary "scaffold" out of 4x2 to support a couple of builders planks resting between the landing and across the scaffold creating a temporary floor - it's a little bit better than the plank and ladder approach and can be full width of the space and a 2-3 planks wide - it should be solid enough for you to use hop-ups etc from it.

Pull it all down, refix PB securely with screws, adding noggins on joints as required. Ready for your plasterer.

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