I'm diy-ing on an 80-year old+ house, putting drywall over damaged lath and plaster (can't save the plaster because reasons).

The wood lath is too weak/damaged to serve as effective backing, so I'm trying to nail off only to studs. Problem is, they're 17-19" on center 😞

So, should I cut the drywall down so the edges of each piece are on the studs like new construction? Or can I nail off with edges off-center?

The plan is a thick skimcoat and maybe a knife finish to try to get back a little of the plaster charm, but I'm afraid of the taped seams cracking.

  • 1
    I restore older homes as well. Are you sure the faces of the studs create a flat plane? Many of the old raw-cut 2x4s used in construction weren't uniform and they would compensate by making the plaster thicker over the 2x4s that weren't as large. If you try to secure to a 2x4 that has a smaller (relative) 4" dimension, your screw head may pull through. You may have add a thin strip of wood to some 2x4s to get them to make a flat wall. Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 12:10
  • Maybe a pro could get that done; nothing I could do will make this wall flat 😃
    – willoller
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 16:20
  • When it is that bad, I cover it with 7/16 (or so) particle board/plywood first. With non-standard stud widths, you can even tie the sheets of plywood together with a plywood backer at those seams overlapping maybe 3 inches. Then you can drywall over the particle board making sure your drywall seams do not match the plywood seams. Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 16:30

4 Answers 4


The edges of your drywall pieces must be on studs - at least two of them and preferentially all four. (some drywall guys will vastly disagree with needing 4 so not trying to start a war)

But two is a must. Your drywall should end on stud or be butted up in the center with another piece of drywall. Either cut your drywall or add more studs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with 17-19" on center which sounds like about 3 studs per sheet. I have run into this with old houses. Just buy 15 2x4s and throw them up where you need them.

  • Add runners where they make sense, +1 (cut it, where it doesn't). Floating is to be avoided if possible.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 23:10
  • What is a runner in this context?
    – willoller
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 3:13
  • @willoller - A "drywall runner" is any stud that's structurally useless. It's just an attachment point for securing drywall.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 8:46

I generally agree with DMoore about butt joints needing to be on studs, but the reason is simply that you need to keep the two sheets from moving with respect to each other. For that reason, you could probably butt join over just the lath. If you can hit enough solid lath with drywall screws to securely anchor the sheet ends together, you probably won't have issues.

As evidence of the viability of this claim, take the floating seam technique some tapers use to achieve very flat butt seams for smooth-finish walls. Thin backing is floated under the seams, tying the sheets together.

All that said, it's a fairly quick thing to zip an end off a sheet at the stud. It might ad 10% to your labor, all told. I'd do that before I'd add studs (especially since you have plaster in the way).


In addition to what DMoore said, you might also think about installing your drywall sheets horizontally. With odd stud spacing, this will mean fewer and shorter (4' vs 8') cuts.

I don't have all the info about your particular situation, but I would heartily recommend removing the existing lath and plaster and install the drywall directly to the studs.

  • It's standard practice to hang drywall horizontally except in the case of a firewall (where all seams must be blocked).
    – isherwood
    Commented Jun 28, 2016 at 21:16

All good answers but the best answer falls to number 0 or JS. I worked for years in fire restoration of old old homes that were almost always lath and plaster. Because our mud professional was extremely good at his job (it is very important to have a real expert professional who knows what he or she is doing with the new mud) we would always save time and money by tearing out the old and replacing where needed with new studs and new rock.

If your "muddy buddy" is a true professional you will have no problem tying the new wall into old walls depending on what your buildings plans call for.

  • What does "number 0 or JS" mean? Please don't use abbreviations or slang as we're an international community.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 3:41
  • @isherwood I think JJO is referring to [JS's answer ](diy.stackexchange.com/a/93413/9214) which currently has a score of zero (which JJO may have mistaken for an ID number) Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 6:48
  • Ah, then this should be a comment and not an answer.
    – isherwood
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 12:33

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