To observe the lather at work, arrange a field trip to a construction site with help from your school counselor. You may also want to consider exploring this occupation through a part-time or summer job as a helper or assistant to a skilled lather.
After a structural framework is built along walls, ceilings, and other foundations, lathers install a base to hold plaster, tiles, or acoustical materials in place. This base material is called lath. Metal laths are made in mesh form and are commonly used in kitchens and bathrooms, where tile walls are frequently installed. Gypsum lath is made of several layers of fiberboard, paper, or felt bonded to a hard plaster core. As a barrier against moisture and the cold, lath can also be made with reflective sheets of foil or hard plastic.
The metal lath process includes three steps. First, the lather builds a structural framework called furring that is fastened securely to the foundation of the building. Second, the lath is attached to the furring with screws, nails, wires, clips, or staples. Third, the lather cuts openings in the lath for air ducts and electrical outlets. The gypsum lath process is similar except that the material comes in large panels and must be custom fit by the lather to attach to small and odd-shaped areas.
Lathers use more than just lath to prepare surfaces for plastering and other materials. Metal, V-shaped reinforcements called corner beads are installed along the finished edges of outside corners for protection and guides for plasterers. Wood, metal, or plastic trim is often installed to cover floor, door, and window joints. Lathers also attach mesh to fireproof surfaces and install wooden support for acoustical ceilings and wall tiles.
Lathers are often known by the type of lath in which they specialize, such as metal lathers and gypsum lathers. They use many tools, including measuring rules and tapes, hammers, chisels, hacksaws, shears, wire cutters, bolt cutters, pliers, hatchets, stapling machines, wood and metal drills, and drywall tools.