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:
- Stick directly onto walls with adhesive
- Nail/screw to a timber/steel frame attached to the walls
In this post, I’ll cover #1.
Dry Lining Pros and Cons
Dry lining is well within the reach of a handy homeowner, as it doesn’t require any special skills as you need for wet plastering. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a simple job for a novice. As an 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|
Tools and Materials
Important safety tip – always wear safety goggles and a dust mask when carrying out this work. Also, remember to use gloves when handling plasterboard.
For Preparing And Fitting Plasterboard
- Tape measure and spirit level
- Chalk, marker pen, marker spray and pencil
- Knife with replaceable blades. I recommend using specialist plasterboard blades as these are quicker, safer and give you a cleaner cut
- Plasterboard rasp
- Combination square
- Plasterboard saw (for difficult cuts)
- Bucket for mixing adhesive
- Mixer (either standalone mixer or attachment for your power drill)
- Builder’s float and pointing hawk
- Heavy batten to tap the board flat against the wall (a long piece of 50x100mm timber)
- Board lifter
- Step ladder
- Plasterboard sheets (see common sizes in step 2 below)
- Plasterboard adhesive
- Masking tape
For Taping and Jointing
- Bucket for mixing jointing compound
- Taping knife
- Decorators sponge
- Filling knife
- Internal and External corner trowel
- Jointing compound
- Jointing Tape
- 220-grit sanding block
- Paper-faced metal angle bead
Storage and Handling
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 the cost (you must buy more boards) and time (you must fit more boards).
Preparing To Dry Line A Wall
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.
1. Measure Board Widths
- Measure the width of all four walls to work out how many vertically fixed boards you will need.
- Start by first measuring away from a window opening. Place an off-cut of plasterboard against the window reveal and measure the full width across. Allow for an extra 10mm of adhesive that will fix the window sections to the reveal. Repeat for the other side of the window reveal.
- Measure the width of the other three walls. Remember to allow for the thickness of the plasterboard (12.5mm) and adhesive (10mm) where ends butt up against each other.
2. Measure Ceiling Height
Measure your ceiling height and purchase plasterboard that will cover the 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.
3. Mark Vertical Plumb Line
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.
4. Draw Vertical Chalk Line
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.
5. Mark A Line Across The Ceiling
Mark a line across the ceiling which is 25mm from the wall. I mark 25mm as 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.
Measuring And Cutting Plasterboard To Fit
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.
How To Make Simple Cuts
1. Measure And Mark
Lay the sheet flat on the floor. Using the measurements you made previously, mark your dimensions on the board.
2. Cut Through Outer Paper Layer Only
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.
3. Break Cleanly Along The Cut Line
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.
4. Cut Through Paper Layer On The Other Side
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
How To Make Difficult Cuts
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 go 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.
1. Measure Window Sill/Plasterboard Overlap
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.
2. Mark Window Sill Height And Overlap On Plasterboard
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.
3. Cut Window Sill Slit Out Of Plasterboard
Using a plasterboard saw, cut out the windowsill slit.
Pro Tips: Cutting Holes For Sockets
- Run red lipstick around the perimeter of your mounting box
- Hold and push the plasterboard in position against the outlet to leave a clear outline of where the socket will go
- Create a pilot hole in each corner of the outline
- Turn the board around and join up the holes with a pencil
- Cut the square with a plasterboard saw
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
1. Mark Position Of Adhesive Dabs
Use a marker spray to mark the position of the adhesive dabs 400mm apart (or whatever the adhesive manufacturer’s instructions advise).
2. Mix Plasterboard Adhesive
Mix your plasterboard adhesive according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It dries fast, so only mix enough for one wall.
3. Dab Adhesive On Walls
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.
4. Lift Plasterboard Into Place
Lift your plasterboard into place so that it is in-line with the chalk lines on the wall and ceiling.
5. Tap Board Flat Against Wall
Use a heavy batten to tap the board flat against the wall. A long piece of 50x100mm timber will be perfect to do this.
6. Check Board Is Level
Check the board is vertical with a spirit level. If not, adjust the board’s position before the adhesive dries.
7. Fit Board Tight Against Ceiling
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.
1. Measure the Gap
- Measure the gap between the top corner of the wall and the closest sheet of plasterboard
- Make a small off-cut the same width as measured above
2. Trace The Corner Shape
- Position a sheet of plasterboard half the width of the off-cut away from the top corner of the wall. For example, if the off-cut is 500mm, place the sheet 250mm away from the top corner of the wall
- Place one end of the off-cut against the top corner of the wall and the other end overlapping the sheet. In the example above, 250mm of the off-cut should be overlapping the sheet
- Slowly move the off-cut down to the floor, while tracing the shape of the corner on the sheet while you go
3. Cut Along The Trace Line
- Cut along the traced line you made. You should now have one side of the plasterboard matching the shape of the wall
- Use a plasterboard rasp to neaten the edge
Fitting Window Recesses
For a neat look around your windows, you’ll need to cut pieces of plasterboard to fit around the window reveal.
1. Cover Side Of Window Reveal
- Measure the height and depth at the side of the window reveal
- Cut plasterboard sheets to size and stick them in place with adhesive
- Use masking tape to hold the plasterboard in position while the adhesive dries
2. Cover Top Of Window Reveal
- Measure the width and depth at the top of the window reveal
- Cut a piece of plasterboard to size and stick it in place with adhesive
- Use timber supports between the plasterboard and window sill to hold the top part of plasterboard in place while the adhesive dries
Taping And Jointing
Tape and joint the plasterboard joins for a smooth finish
1. Mix and Apply Jointing Compound
Mix the jointing compound in a bucket and smooth it along the joint with a taping knife
2. Apply Jointing Tape
Cut a piece of jointing tape the length of the joint with scissors, and then press the tape in place
3. Cover Tape With Jointing Compound
- Use a taping knife to spread and press jointing compound along the taped joint until the compound is flush with the surface of the tape. The tape should end up encapsulated in jointing compound
- Quickly smooth the surface with a clean and slightly damp decorating sponge
Pro Tip: Keep rinsing the sponge and wringing it thoroughly, as too much moisture will weaken the joint
4. Smooth Joint
- Leave the compound to dry
- Lightly sand any bumps with a 220-grit sanding block
For more information on how to tape and joint, here’s a great video from Silver:
Finishing Internal Corners
To get a neat finish along internal corners, use a paper-faced metal angle bead stuck in place with a jointing compound.
1. Measure and Cut Angle Bead
- Measure the height of your wall
- Cut the angle bead 12.5mm less than the height of your wall
2. Mix and Apply Jointing Compound To Internal Corner
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.
3. Press Angle Bead Into Internal Corner
4. Cover Internal Angle Bead with Jointing Compound and Smooth
- Cover the angle bead with a top coat of jointing compound
- Smooth the top layer of jointing compound with an internal corner trowel
Finish Along Wall-Ceiling Join
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.
Finishing External Corners
Use a paper-faced metal angle bead to make sure you get strong joints on external corners.
1. Apply Angle Bead To External Corner
- Measure the height of the corner
- Cut the angle bead to fit
- Apply jointing compound to the external corner and stick the bead in place
2. Cover External Angle Bead With Jointing Compound And Smooth
- Cover the angle bead with a top coat of jointing compound
- Smooth the top layer of jointing compound with an external corner trowel
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