David Hanson

Older homes present more of a challenge to a carpenter’s abilities than today’s run-of-the-mill spec houses. There aren’t as many of them in our area (Washington state) as there are on the East Coast, but we enjoy working on them whenever we get the chance. On a recent project, we were contracted to remove a 1970s family room that had been grafted onto a classic 1920s house and replace it with a more architecturally appropriate addition. Coved ceilings were a prominent feature in most of the rooms on the main floor, and the home­owners wanted to replicate this detail in the addition.

As in most houses built before the mid-1930s, the home’s walls and ceilings had been finished with cement-based plaster applied over wood lath nailed to the framing. After World War II and up until 1959, houses around here were still plastered, but with a composition rather than wood lath — my father’s favorite was “gyp lath,” which was sold in...

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