Partition plasterboard and stud walls

Putting up a new wall is as difficult as putting up the frame and plasterboard, then plastering and painting.

Level of difficulty

Level 2: Intermediate

Things you’ll need

Tape measure
Plasterboard
Pad saw
Plumb line
3-in or 4-in screws
Drywall screws
Battery-operated screwdriver
Scrim tape
Plaster and plastering equipment

Partition walls, also called stud walls or non-load bearing walls, are most often used to divide off a space. These walls usually consist of a timber frame, a plasterboard and a coating of plaster. The timber is either 100mm x 50mm or 75mm x 50mm, depending mostly on the space that is available, and many people prefer to use sawn timber instead of prepared timber. The size used and the kind of timber is personal preference.

Once the timber frame is in place, you can use either 9.5mm or 12.5mm-thick plasterboard. Whatever the thickness, the plasterboard is usually 1.22m wide. When using 9.5mm board, your studs should be no more than 400mm apart, and when using 12.5mm board, your studs should be no more than 600mm apart. With these distances, you can move the studs a tiny bit, so a piece of plasterboard can be centred on a stud those times when a join is needed.

when the plasterboard is up, you may want to finish off the wall with a coating of plaster – this is put up the same way plaster is put up on any other wall. A partition wall that consists of 100mm timbers, a 12.5mm plasterboard and a 3mm coating of skim plaster will be 131mm, or a little over 5 inches.

The steps to follow

The easiest way to put up a partition wall is to install a timber frame and cover it with plasterboard, so that is the method outlined below.

  1. Measure the room, and decide where the wall will go
  2. Use these measurements to plan out where the studs and noggins will be. From this, you can figure out how much timber, plasterboard and other materials you will need
  3. Once you have everything planned, you can put the head timber in place. If the ceiling joists are perpendicular to the wall (as it will be when finished), the head timber can be secured to the joists through the ceiling. However, If the joists are running parallel you will have to do a bit more
    a. Mark the position of the head timber on the ceiling
    b. Cut the plasterboard out using a pad saw where you made the marks – be aware of cables and pipes when you cut
    c. Insert timber noggins every 400mm between the joists. This will create the perpendicular timbers that you need to attach the head timber to Source
  4. Once the head timber is in place, attach a plumb line to the side of it and mark where the sole plate will be on the floor. Do this in at least three places along its length
  5. Attach the sole plate to the floor, using 3-inch screws if you have a wooden floor and 4-inch screws on a concrete floor. Do not put the screws more than 600mm apart
  6. In the same way, attach the two end studs onto the existing walls
  7. Cut the vertical studs to length and fit these between the head timber and sole plate firmly
  8. Fix the studs into place with 4-inch screws, making sure you attach each stud to both the head timber and sole plate. You can do this one of two ways:
    a. Either, put screws into the studs at an angle, which is called side fixing
    b. Or, insert a noggin between the studs, and screw everything to each other. This option gives you a larger area should you want to add skirting boards
  9. Cut the plasterboard to size, cutting as little as possible
  10. Fix the plasterboard into the studs and noggins using drywall screws and a battery-operated screwdriver. Make sure the screws are no more than 400mm apart, both vertically and horizontally
  11. Cover the joints of the plasterboard with a plasterboard tape called scrim tape
  12. Plaster over the wall, following the instructions in our plastering DIY project
  13. Paint and decorate your new wall

Additions to the wall

If you want to have a door in the new stud wall, you can buy door frame kits from home improvement shops. They come in either 105mm or 131mm widths, so they can be as wide as your wall. You can also select between the two standard door widths: 2ft 3in or 2ft 6ins.

Switches and sockets can be installed quite simply. First, get some plasterboard switch and socket boxes. Then drill holes through the studs and noggins to let the cables through. The switches and socket boxes can clip directly to the plasterboard, so they do not need to be fixed to any of the timber.

You can also install insulation in the wall before putting up the plasterboard, though insulation should be kept away from wire cables. This is a great option for retaining heat or soundproofing. If you need to feed pipes through the wall, you can cut notches in the studs to accommodate these as well.

If it goes wrong

Just about anything that can go wrong is easily fixed. Simply tear down the plasterboard and add timber where necessary. If the wall leans, install wedges to straighten it out. If the wall needs to be wider, attach some more timber to the studs. Then add more plasterboard, re-plaster and repaint the wall.

Please note that all our DIY guides and ‘Expert answers’ advice have been written strictly for reference only. Rated People do not accept any liability for any damage caused to an individual, property or anything else as a result of following our DIY guides and using our ‘Expert answers’ advice.

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