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How to fit a new plasterboard ceiling

Skill Level: Intermediate

Introduction

There could be a number of reasons for wishing to fit a new ceiling in your home. It could be as a result of damage, either water damage through a leak, or perhaps you have been working in the roof space…and put a foot between the wooden joists! Or, it may be an older property with an aged and cracked ceiling that suffers from years of over painting, perhaps it’s covered with horrible and dangerous polystyrene tiles, whatever your reason, it is not as big or difficult a job as you might think to do it yourself.

 
You are faced with two scenarios here, two options, either board over the existing ceiling, if you can – or take down the old one and start from scratch. If one sounds easier than the other, you’d be right.

 

Fixing new plasterboards over an existing ceiling.

This is of course the simplest and fastest way of getting your new ceiling – and far less mess.
 
Take note however, you are advised to follow this method only if the ceiling you’re fixing to isn’t sagging, deformed through moisture, or crumbling. A few cracks aren’t harmful. If your ceiling is covered with polystyrene tiles then there is no need to try and remove them…no need for millions of little poly balls everywhere, simply fix the new plasterboards straight over them.
 
You will have no indication where the joists are for fixing the new boards if there are tiles, but this is easily achieved by either going in the roof space, or lifting a floor board above the ceiling. You can do it from your side of the ceiling with a hammer and bradawl; any holes you make are going to be covered. Make sure you buy nails long enough to go through the layers of thickness and a good bit into the timber joists.

Taking down an existing plasterboard ceiling

If the mess it causes is not an issue, or the ceiling has come to down, regardless, then doing it this way ensures you get good fixings for the new boards and clear visibility of electrical cabling and any pipe work. 
 
This is also a good chance to check the condition of the timber joists for woodworm and general wear and tear.
 
When taking down the old ceiling you are going to need a few basic tools, and a couple of items of personal safety equipment if you are to do this properly and without causing damage to your home, furnishings, or eyesight!
 
You are probably going to need some form of elevation to reach the ceiling. For most homes a simple plastic upturned milk crate or small plastic step-up will give you that needed extra height.
 
When you have the dust sheets in place (where required), have your face mask and safety goggles in place, you are ready to start removing the old boards. This is done by simply smashing a hole up through the ceiling between the joists, once you have this start; it’s just a matter of pulling and levering off the boards from their fixings. When you have it down you’ll then need to go around with a claw hammer and remove all the old plasterboard nails from the joists. Only when the joists are free from old nails and any electrical cabling is secured and out of harms way, are you ready to start putting things back together again.

Fitting the new plasterboards

Actually fitting the plasterboards isn’t too difficult; it’s just a bit awkward at times. Make sure you remember to keep the ivory face of the board facing inwards; it is this surface that can be painted or wallpapered.
 
Fitting new boards is a great deal easier if you have a helper. This is definitely one of those occasions when an extra pair of hands is most welcome. If you don’t have this luxury, then you can make a helper!
 
To make a wooden helper take a length of square timber, something like 50mm or so, and nail a short piece of floorboard or timber off-cut, to the ceiling end. This T shaped prop will help lift and support the board while you position and fix with nails.
 
Remember also to fit the plasterboards with the long edge at right angles to the joists. Stagger the rows so that adjacent boards don’t meet on the same joist.
 
Use galvanised plasterboard nails in the same way you would for a plasterboard stud wall. Try and keep the nail heads straight and therefore flush when hammering them in.
 
When the nailing is finished it only remains to finish off by filling in the gaps at the joint area.

Tools you will need:
Marksman Retractable Safety Utility Knife - Red
Marksman Retractable Safety Utility Knife - Red
- Estwing 450g (1lb) Surestrike Curved Claw Hammer
Estwing 450g (1lb) Surestrike Curved Claw Hammer
- Faithfull 1.8Kg / 4Lb Fibreglass Handled Club Hammer
Faithfull 1.8Kg / 4Lb Fibreglass Handled Club Hammer
- Set of 2 Plastic Trestles H820mm x W570mm
Set of 2 Plastic Trestles H820mm x W570mm
- Advent 5m 2-In-1 Gap Tape - Double Sided 25mm Blade
Advent 5m 2-In-1 Gap Tape - Double Sided 25mm Blade
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