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Types of Wall and Ceiling Finishes

Drywall, Lathe and Plaster, Button-board and more

By Jud Menshal | Jan 17 2024 | Drywall and Mudding

What Are My Walls Made Of?

In this guide we’ll go over the different types of finishes and how to identify them. For the purpose of simplicity, we will be leaving out certain types of high end finishes not commonly found in your average home, such as decorative veneer plaster, among others.

In addition to the different types of finishes, there is also different ways to super-impose them on the pre-existing surface. We will talk about this.

-Lathe are slim slats of wood varying only slightly in size from one home to the next. These serve as horizontal bracing to hold up the plaster which is pushed in between and spread over the surface.-

While Lathe and plaster is rarely used anymore, we will talk about it first for 2 reasons. The first is chronology, as this method was the first to be used, and second, by explaining the complexities of this method, you will understand why Gypsum board / Drywall was so widely welcomed into the industry as it came with many more benefits than Plaster.

Let's start with the lathe. Pronounced differently by everybody you ask; lathe are slim slats of wood varying only slightly in size from one home to the next. This lathe is nailed into the studs, each one individually and serves as a mounting base for the plaster.

Once all this lathe was nailed in place, the plasterers were able to come in with a thick plaster that would adhere to the wood lathe and they would spread it over these wooden slats. One could only imagine that if a plasterer or his assistant did not mix that plaster to the right consistency, it would not adhere properly. So, the proper mixing is a skill in itself, without question.

To make matters worse, the wet plaster would cause changes in humidity levels of the wooden lathe it was mounted to which would force expansion and contraction of the wood. This in turn would crack the plaster under the wrong conditions. This is why metal mesh was preferred, once it was available. If you have terrible Wi-Fi reception in your home, it could be just lathe and plaster, but for the worst possible reception, a possible cause can be the metal mesh, which forms a metal cage for each room. We're no scientists, but we've heard of this issue over the years.

Now, once the first coat was on, it was time to add 2 more coats to smoothen out the wall as best possible in order to be able to paint or paper (eye-roll). The second coat is another rough coat and the third is a light 1/8" finish coat.

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What Is Drywall?

Picture of a wood stud wall before drywall has been hung. progress picture patchboyz

-Drywall is a form of particle board composed of several different minerals, wood pulp or other materials and is usually used to form interior walls of homes and businesses-

Now let's talk about the most commonly found product in new homes dating as far back as 1916, when it was first invented by USG (The U.S. Gypsum Company), or so they say. By 1945, Gypsum board or drywall, as it is commonly known, was the predominant material used for building walls.

Remember how with the lathe and plaster, they had to mount tiny individual slats over the studs, on every wall and ceiling? Then they had to have a perfect mixture to cover the potentially expanding and contracting slats? And remember how they had to trowel every square inch of that house to build walls?


Drywall is used due to its rapid ability to cover lots of square footage in minimal amount of time. With sheets coming in 4x8 or larger, workers are now able to hang a sheet of drywall and cover 32sq.ft. in a minute. Then of course it's up to the mudders or Plasterers to tape and finish the seams.

Now, when talking about hanging drywall on ceilings, there is one more commonly practiced step. It is not always used, but highly recommended for multiple reasons. Strapping. What is strapping, you ask? These are slats, hung perpendicular to the ceiling joists, usually 16" on center. These are also sometimes called furring strips. You usually won't see these throughout the main part of your house. You'll usually see this when a basement was finished after the fact.

We want to make sure you understand that there is nothing wrong with hanging drywall directly onto the ceiling joists. They're more than capable of supporting the weight. If there're two drawback to doing so it is that there is one layer less of protection against drywall cracks as the foundation sets and electricians have to make more holes to run wire.

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Why should I use strapping?

  • Larger surface to hang your drywall on
  • Leaves a gap for you to run wiring, without having to drill through each joist
  • Cavity creation = better air circulation (beneficial if ever water leaks)
  • Sound attenuation properties.

What is Resilient Channel?

Resilient Channel is a construction material installed perpendicular to the joists on the ceiling. It has a Z profile shape and is used to suspend drywall ceilings while adding sound attenuating properties.

By adding wood strapping, you may get a little bit of sound attenuation, but where you can really pull this feature in is when you buy resilient channel, a metal form of strapping. Resilient channel, when looked at from its profile, is shaped like a Z. It bends and flexes. Sound creates waves and the resilient channel flexes under these sound waves a little more than regular wood would. This means that the resilient channel passes on less of these sound waves to the floor above and bounces some of it back into the room instead.

The Mudders or "plasterers" of today are only required to cover the seams where each sheet meets as well as the screw holes used to mount the drywall to the studs. There is no need for lathe backing or troweling every inch of the home, just the seams, the corners and the nails.

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The Problem

Image of a drywaller and doctor hanging drywall together

This, however, created a problem in the construction industry. The need for plasterers went way down, as the time for this process was cut down by more than half. This combined with the information age pushed more and more potential construction workers / plasterers into other types of careers. As the population grew, however, the amount of new homes needed to grow as well. Today a Plasterer or mudder who is good at his trade need not advertise and need barely negotiate his price per square foot as long as it is reasonable. But if you're looking to have patchwork done by a mudder that does large square footage, it's nearly impossible, he is demand. This is why we started PatchBoyz, to address the little projects.

We hope you've enjoyed this article and we were able to shed light on what these 2 types of finishes look like.

If we can be of assistance, please don't hesitate to reach out.


To read more interesting articles, click here.

Article By

Jud Menshal | 📚

Jud is a 14 year Asbestos Removal Type 3 & Supervisor certified remediation technician with additional experience and certifications in Mold, Lead and Finishing. He holds all mandatory safety credentials important for running a safe project site.

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