How to Plasterboard a Ceiling

Plasterboarding ceiling
(Image credit: Gerry Images)

Plasterboarding a ceiling is a satisfying if slightly awkward DIYjob that can save you a fortune on labour costs. Find out how to measure, where to start and what tools and materials are needed with our easy step-by-step guide on how to plasterboard a ceiling.

How to Plasterboard 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 — this should be the preferred option as it also results in less build-up.

Step-by-step plaster boarding

Using a trestle and a helping hand for support makes the process easier (Image credit: Unkown)

How to Plasterboard a New Ceiling

Plasterboarding a new ceiling is much easier with two people, one to support the plasterboard and one to screw into place, but it can be done by one person with the help of some lengths of wood.

  • 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 alumunium platform to stand on
  • Dust mask
  • Goggles
  • Knife (Stanley, preferably)
  • Electric screwdriver
  • Spirit level
  • Pencil
  • Wood saw

How to Plasterboard a Ceiling: Step-by-step Guide

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.

measuring the floor

Measure the floor to calculate the area of a non-sloping ceiling (Getty Images) (Image credit: Getty Images)

To cut the boards, measure and mark the board carefully. 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.

cutting mdf

Be careful not to leave an uneven or jagged edge after cutting the board (Image credit: unknown)

Starting from the corner of the room, position the first board. The end of the plasterboard sits half way across the joist to allow the next board to butt up to it.

Plasterboard needs to be well supported but 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.

plaster boarding diagram

(Image credit: Unknown)

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 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.

fixing plasterboard to ceiling

Take care not to drive the screws in too far (Getty Images) (Image credit: Getty images)

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

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 you're ever likely to use.

Use a rubber-bladed applicator or 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.

Plasterboarding ceiling

If done properly, the filler should leave a smooth, even surface after being sanded down (Getty Images) (Image credit: Gerry Images)

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.

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Natasha Brinsmead

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Content Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. Over the years Natasha has renovated and carried out a side extension to a Victorian terrace. She is currently living in the rural Edwardian cottage she renovated and extended on a largely DIY basis, living on site for the duration of the project. She is now looking for her next project — something which is proving far harder than she thought it would be.