What is Roofing Lath? (Foundational Things You Must Know)

You’ve probably heard a lot about roofing lath, but are you really sure what it is?

Well, let’s get to know it a little better—and then we’ll tell you why you’re going to need it!

What is a lath roof?

A lath roof is a type of roof that was commonly used in the past but is now quite rare. It is made up of a series of wooden laths that are laid close together and nailed to the roof rafters. The laths are typically thin and narrow, and they are spaced a few millimeters apart to allow for ventilation.

Once the laths are in place, a layer of tar or asphalt is typically applied over them to make the roof waterproof. The finished roof is usually quite durable and can last for many years, although it requires regular maintenance to keep it in good condition.

Lath roofs were popular in the past because they were relatively inexpensive to construct and provided good ventilation for the building’s interior.

But modern roofing materials like asphalt shingles, metal roofing, and concrete tiles, which are easier to install and require less maintenance, have mostly taken their place.

Is there any difference between roof battens and roofing lath?

People often use the terms “roof battens” and “roofing laths” interchangeably to talk about similar parts of roofing systems.

Both roof battens and roofing laths are typically thin, narrow strips of wood or other materials that are installed horizontally across the roof structure and serve as a foundation for the roof covering.

However, there can be some differences in the size and spacing of battens and laths, as well as the materials used to make them.

In modern construction, roof battens are usually wider and thicker than traditional roofing laths. They are also usually spaced farther apart to give the roof covering more support, especially in places where there is a lot of wind or snow.

Roof battens may also be made of materials other than wood, such as plastic or metal, which can offer improved durability and resistance to rot and decay.

Overall, the main difference between roof battens and roofing laths is their size, spacing, and the specific application for which they are used.

While the terms may be used interchangeably in some contexts, it’s important to understand the specific requirements of your roofing system and choose the appropriate component for your needs.

What are the benefits of using lath roofing? (you can wipe these out and instead let chatgpt write its own)

Durable

Lath roofing can be very durable if it is installed properly and maintained regularly. Most laths are made of high-quality wood that won’t rot or decay, and the roofing material that goes on top of the laths can offer even more protection from the weather.

Easy to install

Lath roofing is relatively easy to install compared to other types of roofing systems. The laths are lightweight and easy to handle, and they can be quickly nailed to the roof structure. This makes lath roofing a good choice for DIY roofing projects or for contractors who need to install a roof quickly.

Aesthetically pleasing

Lath roofing can be very aesthetically pleasing, especially when it is made of high-quality wood that is finished with a stain or varnish. The narrow gaps between the laths can provide an interesting texture, and the overall look of the roof can be very rustic and charming.

Energy efficient

Lath roofing can be energy efficient because the narrow gaps between the laths provide natural ventilation that can help regulate the temperature inside the building. This can reduce the need for air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter, which can save energy and lower utility bills.

Lightweight

Lath roofing is lightweight compared to other types of roofing systems, which can make it easier to install and may also reduce the overall weight load on the roof structure. This can be especially important in older buildings or in areas with heavy snow loads.

Drainage

Lath roofing can provide good drainage because the narrow gaps between the laths allow rainwater to flow freely off the roof. This can reduce the risk of water damage to the roof structure and the building’s interior.

Types of lath roofing materials

  • Metal lath: Metal lath is a popular alternative to wood lath, as it is lightweight, durable, and easy to install. It is typically made of galvanized steel, which is resistant to corrosion and can last for many years.
  • Synthetic lath: Synthetic lath is made of materials like fiberglass, PVC, or composites, and can be a good option for those who want the look of wood lath without the maintenance. Synthetic lath is lightweight, durable, and resistant to rot and decay.
  • Cementitious lath: Cementitious lath is made of a mixture of cement, sand, and other materials, and is often used as a base for stucco or other types of exterior finishes. It is durable and fire-resistant, but can be heavy and difficult to work with.
  • Asphalt impregnated lath: This type of lath is made of wood that has been impregnated with asphalt or other waterproofing materials, making it resistant to moisture and decay. It is a good choice for areas with high humidity or frequent rainfall.
  • Composite lath: Composite lath is made of a combination of wood and synthetic materials, and is designed to provide the benefits of both types of materials. It is lightweight, durable, and resistant to rot and decay, but can be more expensive than other types of lath roofing materials.

What materials are used in roofing lath?

  • Wood: Wood is a traditional material used for roofing lath. It is sawn into thin strips and nailed to the roof structure with small gaps between each strip to allow for natural ventilation and drainage. Although it is a natural and renewable resource that is relatively inexpensive and provides a classic look, it does require maintenance to prevent rot and decay and is vulnerable to fire.
  • Metal: Metal roofing lath is typically made of galvanized steel or aluminum, which are lightweight, durable, and resistant to corrosion. Metal lath is often used for roofing applications in areas with high wind or heavy snow loads.
  • PVC: PVC roofing lath is made of polyvinyl chloride, a synthetic material that is lightweight, durable, and resistant to rot and decay. PVC lath is often used in areas with high humidity or frequent rainfall, as it can provide good drainage and prevent water damage to the roof structure.
  • Composite: Composite roofing lath is made of a combination of wood fibers and plastic, and can be a good option for those who want the look of wood lath without the maintenance. Composite lath is lightweight, durable, and resistant to rot and decay.
  • Cellulose fiber: Cellulose fiber roofing lath is made of recycled paper or other plant fibers that have been treated with fire retardants and other chemicals to make them resistant to decay and fire. It is lightweight, easy to install, and can be a good choice for green building projects.

How to install lath roofing materials

  1. Measure and cut the lath materials to the desired size using a saw or cutting tool.
  2. Lay the first row of lath along the eaves of the roof, making sure it is level and properly aligned.
  3. Secure the lath to the roof deck using nails or screws, spacing them according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  4. Continue installing additional rows of lath, overlapping each row by a few inches and securing them in place.
  5. Install any necessary flashing around roof penetrations, such as chimneys or vents, using appropriate sealing methods.
  6. Apply a waterproof underlayment over the lath, making sure to properly seal any joints or seams.
  7. Install the final roofing material, such as shingles or tiles, according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Are there any safety considerations when using roofing lath?

  • Sharp edges: The edges of roofing lath can be very sharp and can cause cuts or puncture wounds if handled improperly. It’s important to wear gloves when handling roofing lath to protect your hands.
  • Heavy lifting: Roofing lath can be heavy and difficult to lift, especially if you are working on a steeply pitched roof. Use proper lifting techniques and consider using a hoist or pulley system to lift the lath to the roof.
  • Slipping hazards: Roofing lath can become slippery when wet, so it’s important to wear non-slip shoes or boots and use caution when working on a wet roof.
  • Electrical hazards: If you are working near electrical wires or equipment, be aware of the potential for electrical shock or electrocution. Stay at least 10 feet away from power lines and make sure all equipment is properly grounded.
  • Fall hazards: Working on a roof can be dangerous, especially if you are not properly trained or equipped. Always use appropriate fall protection equipment, such as a safety harness and lanyard, and make sure your ladder is securely anchored to the roof.

Table: Pros and cons of lath types

Lath MaterialCharacteristicsProsCons
Wooden LathMade from wood, such as spruce, pine, or firNatural, traditional lookCan be susceptible to decay and insect damage without treatment
Durable with proper treatmentRequires regular maintenance and replacement over time
Good for historic restoration projectsNot as strong or fire-resistant as metal or PVC/composite lath
Metal LathMade from galvanized steel or aluminumResistant to rust and corrosionCan be noisy during heavy rainfall or hail
Strong and durableCan be more expensive than wooden lath
Fire-resistantCan transfer heat more readily than wooden or PVC/composite lath
PVC/Composite LathMade from PVC, fiberglass, or other synthetic materialsResistant to weathering and fadingMay not have a natural appearance
Low maintenanceMay be less durable than wooden or metal lath
LightweightMay not provide as much ventilation as elevated wooden lath
Can be recycledCan be more expensive than wooden lath
This table explains the pros and cons of the different types of materials used in roofing laths

Table: Characteristics of different types of laths

CharacteristicsWooden LathMetal LathPVC/Composite Lath
Lifespan25-40 years50+ years25+ years
Best Size1″ x 2″ or 1″ x 3″Varies by type and gaugeVaries by type and manufacturer
Cost$0.60-$1.25 per linear foot$0.60-$2.50 per square foot$0.50-$2.50 per linear foot
Spacing6″-12″ apart8″-12″ apart8″-12″ apart
TreatmentRequires treatment with preservatives to prevent decay and insect damageResistant to rust and corrosionNo tre
This table explains the characteristics of different types of laths including lifespans, size, costs, spacings, and treatments

How long does roofing lath last?

Traditional wooden lath can last for decades if it is properly installed and maintained. Wood lath needs to be treated with preservatives to keep it from rotting, and the roof covering material needs to be put on correctly to keep water from getting in.

Metal roofing laths, such as galvanized steel or aluminum, can also last for many years with proper installation and maintenance. These materials are generally more durable and resistant to corrosion than wood lath, which can make them a good choice for areas with harsh weather conditions.

PVC and composite roofing lath materials are also relatively durable and can last for many years with proper installation and maintenance. However, the lifespan of these materials may be shorter than that of wood or metal lath, as they may be more prone to cracking or warping over time.

What is the best size for roofing lath?

Wooden lath

Traditional wooden lath is typically sawn into strips that are about 1 inch wide by 3/8 inch thick. The length of the lath can vary depending on the size of the roof, but is typically around 48 inches.

Metal lath

Metal roofing lath, such as galvanized steel or aluminum, is typically available in rolls that are 8 to 12 inches wide and up to 50 feet long. The exact size of the lath will depend on the specific product and manufacturer.

PVC and composite lath

Lath made of PVC and composite materials usually comes in different sizes, depending on the product and the company that makes it. Common sizes include 1 inch by 2 inches or 1 inch by 3 inches.

How much do roofing laths cost? (based on size?)

Wooden lath

The cost of wooden lath can vary depending on the type of wood and the thickness of the strips. On average, you can expect to pay around $0.50 to $1.50 per linear foot of 1-inch by 3/8-inch wooden lath.

Metal lath

The cost of metal lath can vary depending on the type of metal and the size of the rolls. On average, you can expect to pay around $0.20 to $0.50 per square foot of 8-inch by 50-foot galvanized steel lath.

PVC and composite lath

The price of PVC and composite lath materials can vary based on the product and the company that makes it. On average, you can expect to pay around $0.75 to $1.50 per linear foot of 1-inch by 3-inch PVC or composite lath.

How do you determine the spacing of roofing lath?

Wooden lath

For traditional wooden lath, the spacing should be approximately 2 and 1/2 inches between each strip. This spacing makes sure that the weight of the roof covering is spread out evenly and that the lath can support it well.

Metal lath

The spacing for metal lath can vary depending on the type of metal and the size of the rolls. Usually, there should be about 6 to 8 inches of space between each strip to make sure there is enough support.

PVC and composite lath

The space between PVC and composite lath can be different depending on the product and the company that makes it. Typically, the spacing should be around 16 inches between each strip to ensure proper support.

Does roofing lath need to be treated?

Wooden lath

Most traditional wooden lath is treated with chemicals to keep it from rotting or being damaged by insects. The manufacturer may apply the preservatives or they may be added on-site prior to installation. It’s important to use a preservative that is appropriate for the specific type of wood being used and to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for application.

Metal lath

Lath made of galvanized steel or aluminum has already been treated to stop rust and corrosion. But in some situations, extra coatings or treatments may be needed to protect against damage from weather and water.

PVC and composite lath

Most PVC and composite roofing lath is treated with UV stabilizers and other additives to make it less likely to fade and wear down over time. But in some cases, it may be necessary to add more coatings or treatments to protect against damage from water and weather.

Elevated vs. traditional roofing laths

Elevated roofing laths, which are also called counter-battens, are put on top of regular roofing laths to make a space between the roof covering and the underlayment.

Laths for traditional roofs are put right on the roof deck or rafters and serve as a base for the roof covering.

The use of elevated roofing laths can provide several benefits, including improved ventilation and drainage, increased energy efficiency, and a reduced risk of moisture damage.

The elevated laths create a space between them, increasing airflow and decreasing the likelihood of mold and rot. Additionally, the air gap can help reduce heat transfer and improve energy efficiency.

Traditional roofing laths are a more common and traditional method of roofing installation.

They are typically made from wood, metal, or synthetic materials and are installed directly onto the roof deck or rafters. Traditional laths give the roof covering material a solid base and can help make sure the weight is spread out and the roof is strong enough.

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Author: Logan

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