Latest project: replacing a small bathroom ceiling, the casualty of an old leak from the days before we put a giant rubber diaper on the roof.
I'm not a fan of exposed lath. Something's hiding behind there in the dark. It makes me think of every horror movie I've ever seen. I don't even want to say their names—you know the ones I mean, the ones that resonate with the theory popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point that broken windows and other signs of dereliction correlate with increased crime rates.
I think about this a lot, because I live in a neighborhood where the homes run the gamut from kempt to unkempt, words that derived from the Old High German for "combed." The fanatically tidy properties are just that: they look like their caretakers comb the lawns, paint constantly with a nail brush for added accuracy (though you never see them do it), and buff their windows with rabbit muffs. In their way, they make me as uneasy as the unkempt places.
We lie somewhere between on the kemptitude scale. Having read that health favors a grown-in lawn, I keep ours at four or five inches, mowing with my rotary pusher from Sears,leaving the cuttings as fertilizer, and I gotta say our grass is lush. Our yews are tangled, with shoots of lime green waiting to be lopped off. We are capable of leaving a frisbee on the lawn or a scooter on the porch. It's the 'lived-in' look you want in a community. You want evidence of human habitation, and broken windows and empty half-inch lawns, abandonment and sterility, say the same thing: nobody is around.
I'm trying to imagine a movie in which broken drywall is as scary as exposed lath, but I can't. Broken drywall isn't scary. Drywall is scary when it's perfect and new.
Going back to our kemptitude scale, the horror genre has, on the one hand, unkempt broken lath horror films, and on the other, fanatically kempt one-inch grass horror films.
Lath-and-plaster aren't scary when they are perfect and new because they are never perfect and new, the imperfections of form and surface are what make these materials sing.
That said, I think we're about to cover that ceiling lath with a big piece of plywood.