Tommy’s Tips: Partition Walls 101

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I was recently forced to unpick some refurbishment work that was carried out only ten years ago!  There were issues with the plumbing and heating, even though it was a new and well-designed system.  I thought the problem was the installation, which appeared poorly executed and wasn’t performing as it should.  My fears were well founded, as I removed plaster board boxing in, opened ceilings and stud walls, the quality of the work revealed, was depressing.  Pipe runs whether on show or boxed in, should be installed in plumb, vertical and horizontal lines, all previously planned out on a drawing and clipped onto 2”x1” battens fixed at 1mtr intervals, and every pipe, should be marked what it is in a permanent marker. This is sensible future proofing, for any further alterations, so what’s gone before is clearly marked and makes any changes easier! 

The stud work and boxing, was also poorly carried out, so I am going to run through some do’s and don’ts, that will hopefully make life a little easier! 

First thing, I always mark out the wall position in actual size, on the floor, transferring those lines onto the walls and ceiling, to make sure the wall doesn’t interfere with anything else, and if so, assess how difficult to move the obstruction!  The standard stud wall timber size is 4”x2” (100mm x 50mm) but can be reduced to 3”x2” (75mm x 50mm) or 2”x 2” (50mm x 50mm) if boxing in, or space is a problem!  I always use pressure treated timber, the small extra cost is well worth the peace of mind, knowing problem’s like woodwork and dry rot are a lot less likely to be a concern when using treated timber. I also rarely use nails, (unless a nail gun for speed on large works!). I always use good quality screws, like Spax or Timco which are anodized and self-piloting. 

First cut two pieces of timber to length, taken from what’s drawn on the floor, which are known as the sole-plate and top/ceiling-plate, which are normally fixed with plugs and screws, if concrete or screed, or just screws if timber! I couldn’t risk screwing down a sole plate on this job, because there was underfloor heating, and I didn’t know where or how deep the pipes were.  Instead I laid the sole-plate in position to the marks, then marked vertical stud position’s onto the sole plate using an off cut and a set square.  The stud positions reflect the plaster board size, and have to allow half the stud (25mm) to support fixing the plaster board edges, with vertical studs at approx. 2ft centre, for strength. 

All the vertical studs are squeezed into place, between the sole and ceiling plates.  These vertical studs, are cut a couple of mm over length to ensure they wedge tightly into the space, before piloting and fixing, with 60mm screws, at a 45 degree angle through the studs, into the top and bottom plates.  It’s crucial that the two end vertical studs are screwed to the wall they abut. Fix the new stud wall using plugs and screws if masonry, or just screws if timber, use wooden packers between stud and wall, if there are gaps, rather than force the stud out of vertical alignment.  Next cut and fix noggins between the vertical studs and into the sole-plate, which will stabilise and fix the sole-plate to the wall structure, and also create fixing grounds for the skirting’s. Carefully measure and mark, all the studs for noggins, set out to catch the plaster board edges and strengthen the stud wall, these are normally cut a mm or 2 longer to be squeezed into position to stiffen and strengthen the wall, all piloted at 45 degrees and fixed with screws into the studs. Plasterboards should be fixed horizontally (at right angles) across the vertical studs, with plaster board screws. Once the boards are fixed into place, the wall becomes very strong, and resists any racking.  I scrim-taped all the joints ready for plastering, and applied a thistle board plaster finish. (I prefer to plaster finish my walls, enabling me to strip wall paper in the future, without demolishing the plaster board when I want to change the paper).  When cutting and fixing the skirting, I always sit the skirting on 2mm packers, whilst fixing, to allow for expansion, then apply a mastic seam between skirting and floor around the entire room!  I used a sound resistant acoustic plaster board to help stifle any noise, from the new pump assisted plumbing system.


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