View Full Version : Plaster/Sheetrock History

09-12-2004, 08:25 PM
Am currently doing a kitchen remodel on a pre 1900 farmhouse in west-central Ohio, and have noticed 3 different "phases" of plaster/sheetrock work in the house; lath and plaster, 16" backer with plaster over top, and what we know now as sheetrock or drywall.
Does anybody have any approximate dates/history on when they switched from lath to the 16" backer with plaster skimmed over, and when sheetrock came out on the market?

John McElwee
09-13-2004, 11:15 PM
Wood lath and plaster were replaced in the late forties by gypsum lath. In houses it was ususally 3/8" thick and the plaster including the finish is about a half inch. When drywall replaced plaster gypsum lath largely went out of use. The timing of this varied in different parts of the country and in some places I think drywall replaced plaster over wood lath skipping gypsum lath completely. Some older gypsum lath is perforated. This is called buttom board It was thought that some mechanical bond was necessary to hold the plaster. The porous paper finish on the gypsum lath lets the plaster's gypsum crystals bond with the gypsum core so well that it is hard to separate the lath from the plaster. I think there is a history of the progression of plaster over wood lath to metal lath to gypsum lath to drywall but I don't remember where it is.

09-14-2004, 05:12 AM
Just be thankful that you don't have to contend with gypsum block. We're remodeling an apartment in NYC and it's a nightmare to run new wiring and plumbing.

Any history known on this product?

09-14-2004, 09:36 AM
I am in a house exactly 100 years old now with gypsum under horsehair/lime plaster. The owner knows the history of the house well and it is all original. I have not yet seen any indication of the manufacturer. This is in Oradell, NJ (Bergen County).

09-14-2004, 05:52 PM
Horsehair, eh? Some of the plaster on the wood lath seems to have fibers/hairs embedded it it. What will they think of next?

John McElwee
09-15-2004, 12:20 AM
There is an inteesting article on the history of fire resistant and protective wall systems here: http://www.usg.com/Design_Solutions/2_2_1_protectfire.asp

Gypsum tile was introduced in 1904. It is very fire resistive with plaster on both sides. it's soft and could be cut with a hand saw. It was laid with gypsum mortar. I don't think it was used in bearing walls. It is easy to cut when remodeling but hard to work anything else to. I think the hollow cores might line up from block to block and flexible conduit could be run through them but it's still necessary to make holes for access to the cores and they only run horizontally though I have seen some blocks laid vertically if they fit a certain need.

10-10-2004, 11:30 AM
If you look further at the USG web site, you'll find that they began using the "Sheetrock" trade name before World War I. The following site (http://www.danoline.com/html/gypsum_uk.htm) gives 1901 as the date for the construction of the world's first gypboard mill, in the US.

I, too, have been trying to grock likely renovation dates for an old house - 1880's Victorian near Philadelphia. I'd always believed (based on stories our drywall sub, now in his late 80's) used to tell, that it was post-WW II that the stuff came into use as a stand-alone wall finishing system (no longer "rock lath" with skim coat, etc.). Not true, though; it's older than that

OBTW, one of the reasons the under-layers of plaster were called "brown coat" was because of the horsehair.