How a Forgotten 18th Century Wiring Technique Could Save Your Home From Electrical Fires

Electrical fires are a serious threat that can quickly destroy a home. According to the National Fire Protection Association, electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in over 40,000 home fires per year from 2014-2018. These fires resulted in 420 civilian deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries, and $1.4 billion in property damage annually. However, a long-forgotten 18th century wiring technique called lathing and plastering may offer a safer way to run wires through your home that dramatically reduces the risk of electrical fires.

What is Lathing and Plastering?

Lathing and plastering is a historical wiring method that was commonly used in the 1700s and early 1800s. It involves running electrical wires through wooden lath strips mounted on the wall studs, then covering them with a base coat and finish coat of lime plaster.

The lath provides a solid backing to adhere the plaster. Meanwhile, the plaster completely encapsulates the wiring, protecting it from damage while also acting as an insulator and fire retardant. This creates a safer way to run wires through walls compared to modern Romex cabling mounted directly against the studs.

Why Lathing and Plastering Prevents Electrical Fires

Running electrical wires through lath and plaster is an extremely effective fire deterrent for several reasons:

Real-World Examples Where Lathing and Plastering Prevented Disaster

While lathing and plastering began fading away in the late 1800s, there are some dramatic real-world examples of its fire-resistant abilities:

Should You Consider Lathing and Plaster for Your Home?

While reviving centuries-old wiring techniques may not be practical, there are some lessons modern homeowners can learn from lathing and plaster:

Ultimately, the plaster-encased electrical designs of the past can inspire safer wiring for the future. With some fire prevention wisdom borrowed from the 1700s, we can better protect our homes in the 21st century.