Before I show you how I proceeded with attaching the plasterboard to the framework, I need to talk a bit about plastering. When I mentioned to friends that I intended to do the plastering by myself, there were very few of them that didn’t raise an eyebrow or two. It seems that there is a feeling that plastering is one job that shouldn’t be attempted buy the average DIYer, as it’s a skilled job, some may even say an art form. Whilst I’m sure that’s right, the problem with me is that when someone tells me I can’t do something, I tend to take that as a challenge. So I figured if I’m going to do my own plastering, I’d better find out – what exactly is plastering?
What surprised me is that when I went onto YouTube to find out, there were very few videos showing me how to install and finish plasterboard. After delving a little deeper I realised why – I was typing in the wrong word. Apart from the little country I live in, hardly anybody else in the rest of the world calls it plasterboard – they call it drywall. And not only do they have a different name for it, but they have a completely different way of using it. Here in England, what most people generally do is hang the plasterboards on the wall and cover the entire thing with a single coat of wet plaster. Just about everywhere else as far as I can tell uses a system called taping and jointing, whereby instead of covering the entire board, you just cover the joins between the boards, using paper tape and jointing compound, which is similar to plaster, but more suitable for sanding to a smooth finish. The plasterboards used are also tapered at the edges which makes a subtle V shaped groove, to accommodate the tape and jointing compound without forming a bulge.
So the big question for me was, which method should I use? It was virtually impossible to ascertain which method was better, because invariably when you read about the opinions of professionals, the system they think is better is the one they use, which equates very much to: British plasterers think their method is better and American tape and jointers think theirs is. There are arguments raging in forums all over the internet between British and American plasterers about the pros and cons of each. After reading as much of these as I could tolerate, I came to two conclusions. Firstly, both methods can produce a great finish if done well and both can produce a poor finish if done badly. Secondly, of the two methods, taping and jointing is possibly slightly more forgiving in that with enough patience, any imperfections can be corrected through a combination of sanding and re-coating. So for that second reason, I opted for the taping and jointing method and from now on, instead of plasterboard, I’ll be calling it drywall. Luckily, all of materials and equipment for ‘drywalling’ are available in places like Wickes, which I guess might suggest that this system is beginning to catch on over here.
With the decision made, and the tapered drywall delivered, I started the process of attaching the panels to the wooden framework, using drywall screws. The tapered edges on drywall panels run along each of the two long sides. The short sides are not tapered, so are not ideal for joining to adjacent pieces, because you don’t have that v-groove and would end up with a bulge of mud. Luckily, the length of the panels, 2.4 metres, is more than enough for reaching from floor to ceiling in our living room when fitted vertically. This way, the only places where the panels would need to be joined to adjacent panels, there would be a tapered edge. (For some reason, I’ve seen a lot of people fitting these panels horizontally, which as far as I can tell is completely bonkers, because you end up with lots of non-tapered joints, or ‘butt joints’ and hence end up with unsightly bulges at the seams. But hey, each to their own). Cutting rectangular pieces of drywall was actually quite easy – you just score a line where you want to cut it with a Stanley knife, and then snap it by hand, and it breaks neatly along the line. Fitting all the pieces on was a bit like doing a large jigsaw puzzle.
For the alcoves, to minimise the number of joins, I chose to mount the panels whole and then cut out the holes once in place. This was a doddle using a Dremel with a special drywall cutting attachment. I plunged the Dremel through the drywall roughly into the middle of where the alcove was to be, and then cut sideways until it was stopped by the wooden framework behind (the vey end of the cutting attachment is not sharp so it doesn’t cut through the wood). Then I effectively traced around the inside of the alcove, working anticlockwise all the way around, using the wood behind as a guide, and ended up with a perfect rectangular hole. Really quick, and really neat.
And with that, it’s time to put away my woodworking tools and replace them with my newly acquired drywalling tools.
The blue plastic container is called a mud pan, and is used for holding the jointing compound, or ‘mud’. The collection of black handled spatula type things are called taping knives, and have slightly flexible steel blades. The larger ones have slightly offset handles; this makes it easier to apply more pressure to one side of the knife than the other when you want to feather out an edge. Here’s one of the many videos I watched on taping and jointing. This one deals with joining two adjacent pieces of drywall – there are plenty of other videos showing you how to do other things like internal and external corners.