Fixing and cutting plasterboard — the easy way

Fixing and cutting plasterboard - the easy way

Fixing sheets of plasterboard

The pictures below are of a wall that is being plastered. If the joints are only being taped and jointed the boards are better installed vertically (one board from floor to ceiling) so there are only vertical joints to finish.

You can screw plasterboard to the studs with a drywall screw-gun, normal battery drill/driver or an auto-feed screw-gun. The auto-feed screwdriver

I haven’t drawn a door frame in the picture, but when a board is installed it should be tight up against a door lining or other wall but half lap onto a stud and noggin where boards join, like below. Don’t screw too close to the edge of the boards and no boards edge should be without timber behind it to fix to.

When fixing 1200mm wide boards (4ft), I put 5 screws (or tacks) across the width and screw into the bottom plate and noggin in between the studs too. So the screws should be no more than 250-300mm apart.

When installing the next board stagger the joints for strength wherever possible. Sometimes like above a doorway a notch needs to be cut so that the sheets all land half on a stud.

If you are cutting plasterboard in an L shape, or need to cut a corner out of a board you will need to first cut one line (I normally do the shortest) with a handsaw and the other you can scribe with a knife and snap like before. Rather than buying a saw, I just use an old hand saw. Cutting plasterboard with your best hand saw will dull the teeth really quickly and you’ll soon need another one.

How to cut holes in plasterboard

For perfectly round holes in plasterboard for things like spotlights and soil/waste pipes I use a plasterboard circle cutter. Alternatively you can use a jab-saw (sometimes called a pad-saw) which is also good for cutting holes for electrical cables etc. that need to be brought forward too.

Trimming the cut for a better fit

If you need to shave a bit of the board off, when scribing to an irregular shape for example instead of cutting plasterboard with a saw or knife you can use a Surform, otherwise known as a Rasp. This tool works like a plane but has a replaceable blade that looks a bit like a cheese grater.

How to fix plasterboard

Plaster-boarding used to be called ‘tacking’, because boards were nailed to the studs or joists with tacks. These would often ‘pop’ the plaster off themselves if they weren’t fixed tight to the ceiling joists or studs and the board then moved. Instead, boards are now screwed with drywall screws that almost eliminate this problem — provided they are not wound in too far. The screw heads need to finish just under flush with the surface of the board. If they are proud, not only are they not doing the job but the plasterer will catch and dent his trowel on them (then he’ll probably moan like f#@k).

You can buy auto-feed screw-guns and collated screws to fix plasterboard, special drywall screw guns or just use an ordinary cordless drill with a plasterboard bit that has a depth stop that means you can quickly screw to the right depth each time.

Special drywall hammers are available for fixing plasterboard too. They have a large milled face for extra grip on the nail heads and also have a sharp flat claw that can be used like an axe for quickly and accurately cutting plasterboard for electrical boxes and cables etc. Click here for loads more info on hammers .

Tiling on plasterboard

Plasterboard is also a good sheet material to tile onto because it doesn’t expand and contract like plywood. Whenever I build pipe boxing’s that are going to be tiled in a kitchen or bathroom for example I use 12.5mm plasterboard to cover them. If the boxing needs more strength I’ll ply it first then fix plasterboard onto that for the tiler.

Sizes available

There are varying thicknesses and specifications of boards available ranging from 6-25mm (1/4in to 1inch thick). The most commonly used boards on site are 2400×1200(8×4) and 1800×900(6×3) but longer boards (6m) are available for commercial projects. The 1800×900/600 boards are perfect for loft conversions because they can easily fit through Velux windows.


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