Dry lining is fixing plasterboard to walls, which, if done correctly, produces a nice smooth finish that you can decorate straight away.
There are two main ways to fix plasterboard to your wall:
1. Stick directly onto walls with adhesive
2. Nail/screw to a timber/steel frame attached to the walls
In this post I'll cover #1.
Dry lining is well within the reach of a handy homeowner, as it doesn't require any specialist skills like you need for wet plastering. However, that doesn't mean it's a simple job for a novice. As any experienced builder will tell you, there are still plenty of gotchas that can trip you up when it comes to dry lining.
Fear not though, in this guide I will walk you through the process step-by-step, but first, let’s look at the pros & cons of dry lining when compared with wet plastering:
Faster to install, especially when stuck to walls using adhesive. I.e. the dot & dab method
Plasterboard may not support heavy items attached to the wall
No drying time required. This can save you weeks in waiting time
Boards can be fragile
Little moisture is introduced into your home
Boards can be expensive
Much easier to produce a smooth finish, which in turn makes decorating easy
Important safety tip – always wear safety goggles and a dust mask when carrying out this work. Also, remember to use gloves when handling plasterboard.
Most plasterboards will come with a protective plastic coating, which should be left on until you're ready to carry out the work.
Store the boards in a dry environment and on a flat surface to prevent bowing. If the boards do get damp, wait until they've completely dried out before commencing with the job.
When it comes to handling the boards, always carry the boards on their edge to minimise the risk of damage.
It's also worth having a second pair of hands, as even the most experienced plasterers can damage boards when working alone. If you cannot get anybody to help, another option is to buy smaller boards that can be handled by one person. The trade off is cost (you must buy more boards) and time (you must fit more boards).
To make sure your plasterboard is straight when it's on the wall, you need to mark guidelines on the walls and ceiling to help you align boards in the right place
Before you start, clean your wall and dampen it to remove any dust and dirt.
Measure your ceiling height and purchase plasterboard that will cover floor to ceiling with one board. Typical plasterboard sizes are as follows:
Most UK ceilings are a standard height of 2.4m, so this shouldn't be a problem for the majority of homes. If it is, you may want to consider fixing the plasterboard horizontally.
Using a laser spirit level or plumb bob, mark a vertical plumb line from floor to ceiling. Extend the marks onto the ceiling and floor.
Draw a vertical chalk line down the marked plumb line. This line will act as your guide for the first board. Continue marking the board positions across your room.
Mark a line across the ceiling which is 25mm from the wall. I mark 25mm because this factors in 12.5mm for board thickness and another 12.5mm for adhesive.
As you start sticking boards to the wall, this line will help you keep the face of the boards level.
For simple straight cuts, follow the four steps below. For more complicated cuts (e.g. around window sills), follow the three steps under ‘How to make difficult cuts’.
Make sure you have all your cuts ready before moving onto the fixing stage.
Lay the sheet flat on the floor. Using the measurements you made previously, mark your dimensions on the board.
Using a knife against a straightedge (e.g. steel ruler or spirit level) cut through the top paper layer, but no deeper. You may find that you have to run the knife over the cut line two or three times to achieve this, so don’t try to force it on the first attempt.
Lift the sheet off the floor and firmly push one side of the cut. You should find that it snaps cleanly along the line you cut.
Use the knife again to cut through the paper layer on the other side. If necessary, use a Plasterboard rasp to smooth any rough edges.
Pro Tip: Cut larger pieces first and then use off-cuts to fill gaps
To produce a professional finish, it's essential that you make clean cuts in the plasterboard to fit around obstacles like window sills.
A Plasterboard saw is an ideal tool for making intricate cuts. Its pointed narrow blade can easily cope with awkward shapes, and its coarse teeth quickly goes through plasterboard.
In the example below, I go over how to make a slit in the plasterboard so that it can fit around a window sill.
Make a mark on the wall where the width of the plasterboard sheet will end. Measure from the mark to the window sill edge by using a combination square and tape measure.
Stand the plasterboard next to the windowsill so you can see the height at which the slit will need to be cut.
Mark the plasterboard sheet with the measurements you made. Add a little bit extra so you have room to play with. Note: You can fill any additional space after you have fitted your plasterboard..
Use a plasterboard saw to cut out the windowsill slit.
Pro Tips: Cutting Holes For Sockets
The seven steps below explain how to stick plasterboard directly to a brick wall using adhesive. Remember, plasterboard adhesive sets quickly, so it's a good idea to do just one area at a time.
Pro Tip: If your wall is uneven, attach timber studs to the walls and nail the plasterboard to the studs. If your wall is very uneven or in poor condition, attach a framework of timber studs before dry lining.
Another benefit of using timber studs, is that it provides an opportunity to fit thermal insulation between the timber studs and plasterboard. You could also use sound-deadening plasterboard to make your wall soundproof.
To learn more about fixing plasterboard to stud walls, check out Dry Lining Stud Partition Walls - A Beginner's Guide
Use a marker spray to mark the position of the adhesive dabs 400mm apart (or whatever the adhesive manufacturer's instructions advise).
Mix your plasterboard adhesive according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It dries fast, so only mix enough for one wall.
Using a builder's float and pointing hawk, put dabs of adhesive on the walls. The dabs should roughly be 250mm x 50mm and no thicker than 25mm.
There should be lines of dabs running from top to bottom of the wall, but don't bridge the joins between sheets of plasterboard.
Lift your plasterboard into place so that it is in-line with the chalk lines on the wall and ceiling.
Use a heavy batten to tap the board flat against the wall. A long piece of 50x100mm timber will be perfect to do this.
Check the board is vertical with a spirit level. If not, adjust the board’s position before the adhesive dries.
Make sure the board fits tight against your ceiling. If it doesn't, lift it up with a board lifter. Repeat for the other sheets of plasterboard.
You'll find that walls and corners are rarely straight. If you want a neat fit, you'll need to cut a plasterboard sheet to the shape of the wall.
For a neat look around your windows, you'll need to cut pieces of plasterboard to fit around the window reveal.
Tape and joint the plasterboard joins for a smooth finish
Mix the jointing compound in a bucket and smooth it along the joint with a taping knife
Cut a piece of jointing tape the length of the joint with scissors, and then press the tape in place
Pro Tip: Keep rinsing the sponge and wringing it thoroughly, as too much moisture will weaken the joint
For more information on how to tape and joint, here's a great video from Silver:
To get a neat finish along internal corners, use a paper-faced metal angle bead stuck in place with a jointing compound.
Mix the jointing compound in a bucket and spread it over the corner with a filling knife, covering just beyond where the angle bead will fit.
Using a stable stepladder, finish the joins between your walls and ceiling by following the same method for internal corners (see directly above). For more info on dry lining ceilings, check out How To Plasterboard Ceilings.
Use a paper-faced metal angle bead to make sure you get strong joins on external corners.
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