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We just bought a old house built in 1910. The house seems built as brick load bearing. We broke plaster away along the side of a window, and there are no studs, just old wood strips and plaster on top. Is this normal? Should I strip down all the plaster? How do I add drywall?

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    Can add 2x4s or 2x6s studs to the brick and add insulation. You will lose some floor space, so it depends on the room size if you want to loose 4 or 6 inches on the outside walls. There are also foam insulation panels that take less space, but I do not know their insulation values.
    – crip659
    Commented Jun 9 at 11:50

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It seems that you have lath and plaster, which are thin strips of wood laid parallel, leaving a small gap between them. A first coat of plaster is applied, pushing the plaster through the gaps, and creating a hook that will hold the plaster wall. These thin pieces of lath must be nailed to something, which in your case seems to be rough-sawn wood 2" thick.

If you want to add insulation, here are your options, from least to most expensive:

  1. Leave the walls alone and concentrate on the low hanging fruit: your old house probably has a leaky basement, drafty windows, attic without insulation, etc. Do those first.
  2. Blown-in insulation: you or a contractor makes holes in the wall to reach the stud cavity and puts recycled fibers inside. You will have to make a lot of holes trying to guess where the studs are, the insulation value is not great, and over time the fibers will settle and leave the top part of the wall uninsulated. But it will add something, and it's not all bad, considering the alternative (see next point.)
  3. Remove the lath, install new studs, and add new insulation. This is basically making a new room within the room, and will make your living space smaller. It's labor intensive, you won't be able to live in the house for a couple of months (at least), will require dumpsters, and will most likely require permits. Once the walls are open, it will make sense to update the electrical and plumbing, etc. This will mission-creep into a whole-house remodel going into the six figures.
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  • The contractor is going to make holes in a brick-framed wall and put fibers inside?? Commented Jun 9 at 20:57
  • @RobertChapin I could be wrong, but I think that the picture shows 2" rough-sawn pieces of wood attached to the brick wall, then lath nailed to that. So the fibers would fill the 2" of space between the lath and brick. Or maybe I'm confused by the picture and there's no space between the lath and brick? It's hard to tell.
    – Cheery
    Commented Jun 9 at 21:08
  • Looks more like furring to me. Commented Jun 9 at 23:40
  • @RobertChapin "Furring" refers to a function, as in "furring strips", which are normally 1x3 strips of pine.In this case, it seems that 2" pieces of wood are used for furring (as opposed to acting as studs, which imply holding the top plate). So yes, these pieces of 2" are there to hold the lath, but they sill make a 2" cavity that can be filled.
    – Cheery
    Commented Jun 9 at 23:46
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What you are seeing is plaster over lath. That's his plaster was done before wallboard. The studs are behind the lath.

It was pointed out that this is a brick-framed wall. If that's the case blown-in insulation from outside won't work... But you can blow insulation into stud cavities from inside. Which might let you avoid redoing the plaster entirely; all you'd have to do is patch and paint the holes opened for the blowing process.

Of course if you want to rip out the plaster and lath, that opens the stud bays and you can do whatever insulation you want. Whether that is worth the additional work depends on what other renovations you are doing.

("Open the stud bay, HAL." "I'm sorry, Dave. I can't do that.")

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  • Sorry, misread, will fix.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jun 10 at 1:57

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