What materials did people use to build walls before drywall?

Before the days of drywall, plaster was the go-to material for constructing walls and ceilings. Here are some of the materials and techniques used in plaster construction:
  • Lath: Thin wooden strips called laths were nailed horizontally across the framing of walls and ceilings; the spaces in between the laths were then filled with plaster.
  • Plaster: Made from a mixture of lime, sand, and water, plaster was applied to the laths in multiple layers until a smooth finish was achieved.
  • Horsehair: Horsehair was often added to the plaster mixture to add strength and help it adhere better to the laths.
  • Wattle and Daub: A technique used in older homes, this involves weaving thin branches (wattle) together to create a lattice, which is then plastered with a mixture of clay, straw, and water (daub).
  • While the use of plaster is less common today, it’s still considered a high-quality option for those seeking a classic or historic look in their home’s interiors.

    Plaster: The Predecessor of Drywall

    The interior walls of modern homes and buildings are most commonly made of drywall, a material that is cheap, easy to work with, and relatively durable. However, this wasn’t always the case. Before the widespread use of drywall, interior construction was made out of plaster. Plaster has been used for centuries in interior construction and has a long history of durability.
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    A Brief History of Interior Construction

    Interior construction has been a part of human history since ancient times. The Romans, for instance, used a type of plaster made of lime, sand, and water to construct walls and ceilings in their homes and other buildings. In medieval Europe, wealthy homes usually had walls made of stone, but most people had walls made of wood or wattle and daub. These materials were covered with plaster, which was a mix of water, sand, and lime.

    What Exactly is Plaster?

    Plaster is a type of material that is made by mixing gypsum, lime, sand, and water. The mixture is then applied to a surface, such as a wall or a ceiling, to create a smooth and even finish. Plaster can be used to create a wide range of textures and designs and is a versatile material that has been used in interior construction for centuries.

    The Lath: An Essential Component

    One of the key components of a plaster wall is the lath. A lath is a thin strip of wood, typically about an inch wide and several feet long, that is nailed or screwed to the wall studs or ceiling joists. The plaster is then applied to the lath to create a solid and durable wall or ceiling. The lath provides a strong foundation for the plaster and helps to distribute the weight of the plaster evenly across the surface.

    The Process of Plastering Walls and Ceilings

    The process of plastering walls and ceilings is a skilled trade that requires a lot of experience and practice. The first step in the process is to prepare the surface that the plaster will be applied to. This involves cleaning the surface, repairing any cracks or damage, and ensuring that the surface is level and smooth. The laths are then nailed or screwed to the studs or joists, and the plaster is applied in several coats. Each coat is allowed to dry before the next one is applied, and the final coat is sanded smooth to create a uniform finish.
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    Advantages and Disadvantages of Plaster vs. Drywall

    Plaster and drywall have their own advantages and disadvantages. Plaster is a durable material that can last for many years and is highly resistant to fire and sound transmission. It can also be used to create a wide range of decorative finishes. However, plaster is more expensive than drywall and requires a lot of skill and experience to install. Drywall is cheaper and easier to install than plaster, but it is less durable and more prone to moisture damage and fire damage.

    The Legacy of Plaster in Modern Construction

    Despite the widespread use of drywall in modern construction, plaster is still used in some applications. For instance, plaster is sometimes used to create decorative moldings and trim work in high-end homes and buildings. Plaster is also used in historic renovations to maintain the historical accuracy of the building. The legacy of plaster in modern construction is a testament to its durability and versatility as a building material.

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