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Lather


Description

Without a solid foundation, we would not have structures that last for more than a couple of years. Lathers assemble and install support framework for gypsum materials (plaster) in buildings such as ceiling systems, interior and exterior walls and building partitions. Their initial work is done to prepare for the installation of interior drywall or plaster walls and ceilings. Lathers also install curtain walls, perform acoustical installations, and install shielded walls.

Lathers fasten metal or rockboard lath to walls, ceilings and building partitions. Lath is what forms the support base for plaster, fireproofing and soundproofing a building. Lath used to be made out of wooden strips, however these days, lathers work with metal mesh, wire or rockboard lath. Metal lath is especially used where the plaster or stucco application will undoubtedly be exposed to water, weather conditions, or on curved or abnormally shaped surfaces where drywall cannot be used.

Lathers use hand tools and portable power tools, lathers nail, screw, staple, or wire-tie the lath directly to the structural framework. They erect horizontal metal framework to which laths are fastened, using nails, bolts, and a studgun. After the lath is cut, wired and bent into position, lathers may install metal casings around openings, metal window stools, and metal trim and plaster grounds nailed to studding to provide guide for a plasterer. Sometimes, lathers have to weld metal frame supports to steel structural if no other adhesive methods work.
 
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
$20,301
 
Median Salary:
$33,717
 
Highest 10% of Earners:
$58,302

  Interests and Skills  
Lathers must have excellent manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination and steady hands. They are perfectionists, therefore they pay close attention to detail, sometimes never satisfied with their work. They can read blueprints and follow guidelines very easily, yet maintain an ounce of creativity to put their own personal touch into their work. They also enjoy working with people and have great communication skills.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Prepare wall and ceiling layouts
  • Read blueprints and examine the existing structure to decide how to proceed with the project
  • Erect metal or wood frameworks for walls, partitions, ceiling systems and ornamental shapes
  • Install metal stud framing and furring for interior drywall or plaster walls and ceilings, using hand and power tools
  • Attach metal or gypsum lath to studs or furring using nails, screws, clips or wire ties
  • Cut openings in lath for heating and ventilation piping, ducts and electrical outlets
  • Install corner beads and wire mesh around beams to which plaster is to be applied
  • May install acoustical tile, hangers for suspended ceilings or metal studs for composition wallboard or lathe
  • Lathers usually work indoors, sometimes on ladders or scaffolds. There is some risk of injury from falling or other construction site hazards. Most are employed in urban areas where there is enough work to keep them employed full time. In rural areas, the work normally done by lathers may be done by carpenters. Lathers work year-round, 40 hours a week except when longer hours are required to meet construction deadlines.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Most lathers are employed by independent contractors working on construction or alteration jobs. Some lathers are self-employed and contract their services for smaller jobs or to architects. In smaller towns and city centers, lathers may also work as drywall tapers and wall board applicators.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for lathers? Skilled lathers may become supervisors, or they may start their own business. They could also do similar jobs that deal with the application of materials of finishes, such as exterior finishing with stucco. A large number of lathers are self-employed, especially in small towns and rural areas.
 

  Educational Paths  
Lathers receive their training either through informal, on-the-job training or through an apprenticeship program. Trade certification can be obtained either through an apprenticeship program or after several years of work experience. While trade certification is not mandatory in all areas to become a lather, it can be a requirement for many employers and can also help secure employment.

Apprenticeship programs involve a combination of on-the-job training with classroom instruction. A pre-apprenticeship course may also be available which takes about five to six months to complete at a community college and is designed to help you get connected with a good company to apprentice with. It is important to apprentice with a reputable company as that is your education. While some apprenticeship programs may not require a high school diploma, it is important to note that employers generally prefer to hire high school graduates.

Apprenticeships can vary, however a typical apprenticeship lasts four to five years. The apprenticeship is a paid position, however wages are about 50 percent of what an employer pays the journeyperson, with yearly increases. After successfully completing the apprenticeship requirements, their industry training and apprenticeship office awards the lather a certificate of completion.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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