How to build plasterboard walls

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Plasterboard walls, also known as partition walls or stud walls, are relatively simple to construct and can help you make better use of the space in your home. For example, you could erect a plasterboard wall to divide one large bedroom into two smaller rooms.

Bear in mind that plasterboard walls can only be used to divide space; you must not use plasterboard to build load-bearing walls. Essentially, erecting a plasterboard wall involves constructing a wooden framework onto which you attach sheets of plasterboard.

Measure out the space where you will erect the wall. You need to know both the height and width of the space. Multiply the height and width together to find the area of plasterboard you will need.

Locate the joists in the ceiling above the space you plan to erect the wall. You will be attaching the new plasterboard wall to these supportive joists. If the new wall will run at right angles to the direction of the joists, mark each joist with a pencil so you remember its position. If the joists run in the same direction as the new wall, mark both ends and a point in the middle.

Buy enough timber to construct the framework for your new wall. Plasterboard sheets typically measure 1,200 mm across, so at the very least you will need a vertical timber support, also known as a stud, every 1,200 mm. Adding an extra stud every 600 mm will make your wall stronger. You will also need to join each pair of vertical studs together using a horizontal piece of timber, known as a noggin. Consult staff in the hardware store for advice on which type of timber is best in your specific situation.

Secure a head plate to the ceiling joists. This is a length of timber running horizontally, to which you will attach all the vertical studs. You can use either screws or nails to do this, but Wickes advise inserting a nail or screw every 405 mm.

Drop a plumb line and mark the point on the floor directly below it, when you have attached the head plate. Attach another length of timber along this line. This is known as the sole plate. If the floor is timber, you can nail the sole plate directly to it, but if it is a concrete floor, you will need to drill holes and insert rawl plugs and screws to support the sole plate.

Measure the vertical distance between the head and sole plates immediately beside the existing wall. Cut a piece of timber to this length and insert it into the gap. It should be a tight fit at both top and bottom. This is the first stud. Use the spirit level to check the stud is perfectly vertical before securing it to the head and sole plates using 100 mm oval nails, hammered in at an angle.

Measure 600 mm across from the first stud and mark this point on both head and sole plates. Measure the vertical distance between the plates and cut a piece of timber to this length. Insert it into the gap and secure it at both top and bottom.

Repeat this process until you reach the opposite wall. Make a small pencil mark on the floor on each side of the wall at the centre of each stud to make fitting the plasterboard easier.

Measure the horizontal distance between the first two studs, approximately halfway down the studs. Cut a piece of timber to this length. Insert the piece of timber into the gap to form a noggin and secure it with nails in the same way you attached the studs to the head and sole plates. Repeat this process across the wall until each stud is attached to its neighbour with a noggin.

Attach the first sheet of plasterboard to the studs immediately adjacent to an existing wall, starting from the top. Use the spirit level to check that each sheet of plasterboard is perfectly vertical and that it meets the next sheet along at the centre of a stud. Attach the sheets to the studs and noggins with drywall screws, spaced 300 mm apart. In the corners of each sheet you should place the screws 200 mm apart. Each screw should be inserted until it is slightly below the surface of the plasterboard. Don’t worry if there is a small gap between the bottom of the sheet and the floor; you can cover this later with a skirting board.

Fill in the small joins between each sheet of plasterboard with jointing compound. When the compound is dry, rub it gently with a fine-grained sandpaper to create a perfect finish.