Lath seen from the back with hardened plaster from the other side showing through
A lath is a thin, narrow strip of straight-grained wood. A lattice, or lattice-work, is a criss-crossed or interlaced arrangement of laths, or the pattern made by such an arrangement. Lath is the basic material used in the formerly common building technique known as citation needed]
Lath may also refer to wire mesh, typically with a paper backing, that is applied to a wood or metal framework as matrix over which citation needed]
The word stems from Old English laett, Mid. Eng. laþþe, a form possibly due to the Welsh liath; the word appears in many Teutonic languages, e.g. Dutch lat, German Latte, and has passed into Romanic, cf. Italian latta, French latte), denoting a thin, flat strip made of wood or possibly another material.
Inch-wide laths after the plaster has been knocked off
Gypsum lath consists of gypsum plaster sandwiched between two sheets of absorbent paper. It was invented in 1910, and multiple variations were developed in the 1930s. Gypsum lath is commonly used in place of wood since it is noncombustible, easy to use, and gives better results. The popularity of the lath and plaster method declined in the 1950s, as it was replaced by the more efficient drywall method.
Today, wooden-slat laths are still used in building construction to form a base or groundwork for plaster (modern lath and plaster applications are mostly limited to conservation projects),tiles, slates, and other coverings (such as roofing). Such strips of wood are also employed to form lattice-work, or are used as the bars of venetian blinds or shutters. Riven lath is the stronger forerunner to sawn lath, as it was traditionally split with the grain from chestnut, oak, or similar hardwoods. Laths were also used to fix reed to a timber structure before plastering.
Wire-mesh lath is used extensively with stucco in home and commercial construction. In these applications the lath adds strength and rigidity in addition to providing a matrix to which the stucco can adhere. (This is similar to the way rebar is used to strengthen some concrete and masonry appications.)
Lath cut from spruce or balsam fir trees are used for building wooden lobster traps.
Lath is also used on many Connecticut Valley as a means to carry and hang the plant in barns. This is achieved by using one of two methods, hooking or spearing. A "spear" lath is just a regular lath that is held in an upright position, the worker then mounts a spear on top and "spears" the tobacco onto the lath. The other form of lath is called Hook Lath, which just has small hooks attached that allows a worker to hook the stems of tobacco plants onto the lath.