Plasterboarding a ceiling is a satisfying if slightly awkward DIY job that can save you a fortune on labour costs.We show you how with this easy to follow step-by-step guide including a full list of materials and tools needed.

Plasterboarding an existing ceiling

It is possible to fix plasterboard over an existing ceiling, but you’ll need to determine where the joists are first. For upstairs rooms this can be done by measuring the joist gaps in the loft. Downstairs you’ll have to prod the ceiling with an awl or lift the floorboards in the room above. Mark the joist gaps on the wall with chalk and you’re ready to go. The other option is to strip off the existing ceiling to reveal the joists.

Materials Needed:

  • 50mm x 50mm sawn wood for noggings
  • Lengths of wood to help support plasterboard
  • 12.5mm plasterboard (tapered edge)
  • 38mm drywall screws
  • Perforated plasterboard tape
  • Joint filler
  • Sand paper (120 grade)

Tool List:

  • Tape measure
  • Rubber-bladed filler applicator or plastering trowel
  • Trestles and planks or alimunium platform to stand on
  • Dust mask
  • Goggles
  • Knife (Stanley type)
  • Electric screwdriver
  • Spirit level
  • Pencil
  • Wood saw
Fitting a plasterboard ceiling steps 1 and 2

1. For non-sloping ceilings you can get a pretty accurate area measurement of the ceiling by measuring the floor.Multiply the width of the room by its length (in metres) and this will give you a square metre figure. Plasterboard is commonly available in 2.4 x 1.2m (2.8m2), 1.8 x 1.2m (2.1m2) and 1.2 x .9m (1.08m2) sizes at most builders merchants and DIY stores.

2. Plasterboard needs to be well supported. If there is no wood between the joists where they meet the wall, nail in some noggings made up of 50mm x 50mm wood. You should also nail in noggings between the joists where the long edges of the plasterboard will fall (AS SHOWN). The end of the plasterboard sits half way across the joist to allow the next board to butt up to it.

Fitting a plasterboard ceiling steps 3 and 4

3. Starting from the corner of the room, position the first board. Lengths of wood can be used to prop up the board.

4. Use 38mm plasterboard screws to fix the board to the joists and noggings. Screws are a better bet than nails for renovation projects, where hammering can potentially disturb or damage the joists. Fixings should be made every 150mm. Keep fixings at least 13mm away from board edges that have been cut; 10mm away from factory-bound edges. Be careful not to drive the screws in too deep or you’ll damage the board. Once the screw head dips just below the face of the board, stop tightening. Staggering the boards (NOT SHOWN) makes for a stronger ceiling and prevents any cracks that may develop in the filler from running the full width or length of the room. Leave a 3mm gap between boards: this helps the filler to get a good grip.

Fitting a plasterboard ceiling step 5

5. To cut the boards, measure and mark the board to be cut. Lay a spirit level along the line and use a sharp Stanley-type knife to cut through the paper. Bend the board the opposite way to the cut and then cut through the paper on the other side of the board. You should now have a very neat cut board.

Fitting a plasterboard ceiling steps 6 and 7

6. Once all the boards are in place, tape over them with perforated plasterboard tape.

7. Mix up the joint filler so that it makes a smooth, but fairly stiff paste. This filler is mixed by pouring a measured amount of water into a bucket and then adding the filler in powder form. Follow the instructions or you’ll end up with more filler than youre ever likely to use.

Fitting a plasterboard ceiling step 8

8. Use a rubber-bladed applicator or, alternatively, a traditional metal plastering trowel to fill in between the joints and screw head dips. This wide-bladed applicator helps to feather out the filler so that there is only a tiny ridge to be rubbed down when its dry. Once you’ve finished filling, leave the ceiling to dry for 24 hours before lightly sanding down with 120-grit paper. The filler creates a very fine dust that is particularly unpleasant to be showered in, so open all windows and put on goggles, gloves and a good dust mask before you start this job.

Click here for more DIY advice and step-by-step guides

Main image: iStock

Articles like this Comments
  • Anonymous 16 Feb 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Great help full of useful tips , thanks

  • richardp 22 Aug 2010 at 5:00 am

    Well laid out info. Eady to read and folllow. Given me confidence to tackle re-boarding kitchen ceiling. Thanks.

  • blondie 1 Aug 2011 at 4:36 pm

    My floorboards are squeeking and creaking lie mad …
    I am having new carpets soon and would like the opportunity to put this right …
    Please Help

  • Samuel Joy 2 Aug 2011 at 8:25 am

    Hi Jan,

    I’ve reposted your question in the forum as I think you are more likely to recieve a response there. The link is

    Regards, Sam Joy (Online Editor)

  • Mr C S Patel 5 Sep 2011 at 2:36 pm

    I have a large lounge and over a year now noticed cracks
    in a straight line at few places.The plasterboard is bulging out between the craks. The plaster board seems to be coming off the joistas i can feel it when i push the plasterboard towards the joist.
    Can you please advise what i should do?

  • Samuel Joy 5 Sep 2011 at 3:19 pm

    Hi Mr Patel,

    I’ve reposted your question in the forum as I think it is more likely you will get a response there. The link to your question is

    Kind regards,
    Sam Joy (Online Editor)

  • C S Patel 6 Sep 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Many thanks Mr Sam Joy.

  • bob h 23 Oct 2011 at 6:45 pm

    I was wondering if i could tackle this myself. I am quite handy and was actually concerned about the finishing. The tips are exactly what I was looking for . THANKS.

  • marie-t 31 Dec 2011 at 5:09 pm

    do i have to make a hole for the screw with a drill before fixing the screw with the screwdriver. If i screw directly without making a hole first i am afraid i’ll split the wood that the plasterboard is screwed to.
    Thanks in advance,

  • andy999 4 Jan 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Im putting plasterboard on an existing ceiling with ROCKWOOL underneath it,to help with soundproofing from the noisy t***s upstairs in the flat above brill…

  • David Wood 5 Jan 2012 at 10:51 am

    I am in the process of building a newbuild timber frame house, and am ready to put up the internal plasterboard wall myself and use an experinced plasterer to skim finish at a later time.
    I am confused as to what type to use for walls and ceilings 9mm or 12.5mm Square edge or Taper edge, whats the difference?

  • carpet fitting glasgow 25 Jan 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Buenas Noches! I would just like to offer my thanks for the cool information you have here on this post. I will be coming back to your website for more awesome information soon.

  • noggin 1 Feb 2012 at 5:24 pm

    Hi there
    The difference between square and tapered edge is that the square edge is used if the walls are to be plastered and the tapered are when the joints only get filled called taping and jointing. You would be better paying for the 12.5mm boards rather than the 9mm as this will give a better sound and acoustic rating also this will be better for impact if the walls where to get knocked.

  • A Potter 29 Jul 2012 at 6:25 pm

    If it helps at all I came across a new tool recently to help install plasterboard onto ceilings. I’ve done plenty of DIY over the years and the one thing that was always a pain was trying to get the plasterboards up to the joists before securing them. This clever little tool let me do a whole ceiling on my own. It’s called a ‘ceiling board hanger’, you should perhaps do an article on it if you can, i think a lot of other people would find it useful like I did.

  • B O'Mahony 12 Nov 2012 at 1:49 pm

    I think you should make it clear in these instructions that the plasterboard should be tapered edge. I am putting up a new ceiling and intend to use jointing compound and to paint directly on to the board. I was just about to buy square edged board when I realised I need tapered edge board. Otherwise I would have humps where the jointing compound was.

  • Samuel Joy 12 Nov 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention B O’Mahony, the article has now been amended.

    Kind regards,
    Sam Joy (Online Editor)

  • Christine Murray 15 May 2014 at 2:58 am

    I have some odd ceilings in my house which i think are plasterboard and wooden slats. They are about 6 x 5′. Someone has sugested that they may have asbestos in them. Any ideas. Thanks

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