[lath, lahth]

A lath is a thin, narrow strip of some straight-grained wood or other material, including metal or gypsum. 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 lath and plaster, which was used to make interior walls.


The word stems from Old English laett, Mid. Eng. lappe, 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 of wood or other material used in building to form a base or groundwork for plaster, or for tiles, slates or other covering for roofs. Such strips of wood are employed to form lattice-work, or for the bars of venetian blinds or shutters.

Historical significance

A window with a lattice painted red was formerly a common inn-sign (cf. Shakespeare, 2 Hen. IV. ii. 2. 86); frequently the window was dispensed with, and the sign remained painted on a board.

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 was safer than wood lath as it wasn't combustible, was easier to use, and gave better results. The lath and plaster method declined in the 1950s, as it was replaced by the more efficient drywall.

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