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HOW TO: Use plasterboard

In this 'How To' you'll learn the basic techniques for dry lining a wall
with plasterboard. You can then apply these techniques to a multitude
of useful DIY jobs.

The uses for plasterboard are numerous. It can be use to make new walls, cover
walls in bad condition and make an inner leaf to an outside solid wall (dry lining),
giving both heat and sound insulation. Plasterboard is also used to renew ceilings,
add interest to a room by making bays for shelving, wardrobes or work areas.

What you’ll need

Materials Tools & equipment
Blackboard Chalk Plasterboard switch and socket boxes Block Surform
Glasspaper Timber battens – at least 38mm thick and Board lifter – made from timber 20 x 100
47mm wide, impregnated with preservative x 225mm see (fig. 1)
Joint filler and straight sawn
Chalk line
Joint finish
16oz or 20oz claw hammer
Jointing scrim – self-adhesive
Clean bucket and stirring stick
Offcuts of moisture-resistant plywood – 3mm
and 6mm Combination square
Panel/skirting adhesive Cork sanding block
Plasterboard corner beads Craft knife
Drill with hammer facility plus masonry bits and
Hammer fixings – for fixing battens to: jobbers HSS drill bits
Wall type Fixing length Dustpan and brush and/or vacuum cleaner
brick or blockwork 20mm longer Electric screwdriver with No.2 Pozi bit
than batten
thickness Filling knives 100mm
plastered wall 20mm longer Fine-toothed, hard-point handsaw or jigsaw
than thickness of
plaster plus batten Frame gun for panel skirting adhesive
Plasterboard nails:
Gauging trowel
Plasterboard thickness Nail length 200mm Joint filler applicator or caulker
9.5mm 30mm Large sponge
12.5mm or 15mm 40mm Metal shears
2nd layer of 9.5mm/12.5mm 50mm Pencil
Plasterboard screws: Plasterboard saw (utility saw) or padsaw
Plasterboard thickness Screw length Plasterer's small tool leaf and square
9.5mm 32mm Plastering hawk
12.5mm or 15mm 42mm Spirit levels 225mm/1200mm
2nd layer of 9.5mm/12.5mm 50mm Steel tape measure
9.5mm onto lathe and Straight edge – a 2440mm length of 25mm
plaster ceiling 65mm or 75mm x 75mm planed timber, knot-free, straight
depending on and true
ceiling thickness

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HOW TO: Use plasterboard
What you’ll need (cont.)

Types of plasterboard

• Plasterboards
An aerated gypsum core encased in and bonded to thick paper liners. They usually
have a grey surface, which you can plaster, and a cream surface, which you can paint
directly. Don’t wallpaper the cream surface, as it's virtually impossible to remove the
paper later without damaging the plasterboard.

The plasterboard may have either a tapered edge, for smooth seamless jointing, or a
square edge, for cover strip jointing (fig. 2) or for applying a finishing coat of plaster. fig. 1

Thickness 12.5mm, 9.5mm

Width 600mm, 900mm, 1200mm
Length various
• Baseboards
Two grey surfaces with square edges for plastering.

Thickness 9.5mm
Width 900mm fig. 2

Length 1200mm, 1219mm, 1350mm, 1372mm

• Foil backed plasterboard
A vapour-resistant reflective film bonded to standard plasterboard. The film acts as a
reflective insulator when facing into a wall or roof cavity.

Sizes as for normal plasterboard.

•Thermal wall boards

Plasterboards bonded to an expanded polystyrene backing.

Thickness 15mm, 32mm, 40mm, 50mm (the gypsum thickness is always 12.7mm)

• Special boards are available for fireproofing or sound insulation.

fig. 3
• 12.5mm boards need less support and are therefore usually more economical to
use. They also give greater insulation.
• Plasterboards will absorb water. Never use them to line a shower cubicle or walls
beside a bath, even if you plan to fix tiles afterwards.

Before you begin

Clear the wall surface
Isolate the electrical circuits at the consumer unit, then remove sockets and switches.
Install any new cables and insulate all bare cable-ends with insulating tape before you
turn the electricity back on.

Remove skirtings, picture and dado rails, and architraves.

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HOW TO: Use plasterboard
Before you begin (cont.)

Check whether the plaster is sound. If not, remove the plaster completely and brush
down the brickwork. If you spot any sign of dampness, you must treat the problem
before lining the wall.

Wear a suitable face mask that protects from dust when undertaking this task.

fig. 4

Realign pipework
If you want to conceal any pipework, you may need to do some replumbing. Chase
any large pipes into the brickwork. Give the pipes adequate support and keep them
clear of the bricks and mortar. Only use solder joints. Adjust radiator pipes forward to
allow for the thickness of the new battens and plasterboard.

Complete any ceiling works

If you're planning a new ceiling, carry out this work before tackling the walls. fig. 5

Dry lining a wall

1. Mark guidelines
Most walls, especially brick, tend to be uneven. You need to correct this if the finished
wall is to be ‘plumb’ and flat.

Working away from door and window openings, mark the wall in board widths and
then board centres (fig. 3). Use a long spirit level and chalk to mark these positions
vertically onto the wall.
fig. 6
Use the straight edge and spirit level to find any high spots on each vertical line.
Mark the vertical position for each line on the ceiling and floor. Measure forward
from these positions by the thickness of the battens and mark the outer positions
of the battens on the ceiling and floor. The ceiling line must be 'plumb' over the
floor line (fig. 4).

2. Attach battens
Fix a batten along the bottom of the wall, 30mm up from the floor. Where necessary,
pack out the batten to match the line on the floor. Fix it at 400mm intervals using
hammer fixings (fig. 5).

Fix another horizontal batten at the top of the wall, aligning the front edge with the
ceiling chalk line.
fig. 7
Fix the vertical battens, packing them out as necessary to keep them in the same plane
as the floor and ceiling battens.

If the room is taller than the plasterboard, fix further horizontal battens (noggins)
centred on the height of the plasterboard (fig. 6).

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HOW TO: Use plasterboard
Dry lining a wall (cont.)

Handling plasterboard
Always get someone to help you carry large boards. Store boards flat if you've got
the space. Otherwise lean six or seven wide, stout battens of the same length against
a wall and lean the boards lengthways against the battens (fig. 7).

3. Fix plasterboards
If the battens are firm on a flat surface, use galvanized or zinc plate jagged plaster-
board nails with 7.5mm diameter heads. If the battens are on an uneven surface, or
if you're fixing thermal wall boards, use plasterboard or drywall screws.
fig. 8
Starting from one end, place a board in position resting it on the board lifter. Press on
the lifter with your foot and raise the board by 30mm. The edge of the board should
line up with the centre of the vertical batten.

Put in two or three fixings to hold the board, then insert screws or nails at 150mm
centres, 13mm from the edge. Drive the fixings home until the head dimples the
board surface without fracturing it. Remember to fix to the intermediate battens.

If you need to fix an additional top strip, run it horizontally across the lower boards.
Make sure that the joints don't match up (fig. 6).

Cutting plasterboard
A fine-toothed, hard-point handsaw is accurate but messy. As an alternative to
sawing, mark the board and deeply score one side using a craft knife and straight
edge. Place the board over the straight edge, snap it, then cut through the paper
with the knife (fig. 8). Trim the edge with the block Surform or glasspaper.
fig. 9
Cut holes for switch or socket boxes with a utility or padsaw before fixing the boards
(fig. 9).

Dealing with corners

Use one of the following options for dealing with corners:

• taper edge plaster (fig. 10A)

• thermal wall board (fig. 10B)

• plasterboard corner bead (fig. 10a).

For vulnerable corners, cut plasterboard beads to length. Spread some joint filler
down the corner and press in the bead. Use a spirit level to ensure the correct
position (fig. 11). Wipe off excess filler and leave for at least 3 hours to dry.

4. Fill and finish

fig. 10
Press self-adhesive plasterboard joint tape firmly over the joint (fig. 12). Use a filling
knife to push the tape into internal corners. Apply the first (100mm wide) coat of
filler, pushing it well into the joint (fig. 13). Wipe off any excess filler with a damp
sponge and wash your sponge clean each time you use it.

When the joint filler has set (1-2 hours), apply a strip of joint finish 50mm wider than
the filler. Feather the edges with the sponge.

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HOW TO: Use plasterboard
Dry lining a wall (cont.)

After another 1-2 hours, apply another 200mm wide band of finish and, after 60-70
minutes, feather off with the sponge.

The next day, lightly sand down the joints with fine abrasive paper wrapped around a
cork block. Don't roughen the adjacent paper surfaces.

Nail/screw heads
Spot fill first with filler then finish. Do this between dealing with the joints (fig. 14).

fig. 11
Smooth the corners off with filler and finish once the bead has set.

5. Fix skirtings
When the filler and finish are dry, fix skirtings, architraves and any other mouldings.
Use either countersunk screws into the battens or a panel/skirting adhesive.

6. Seal
Use a foam or fine lambswool roller to apply a coat of plasterboard sealer
before decorating. HB

fig. 12 fig. 13 fig. 14

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