Plasterboarding a ceiling is a satisfying if slightly awkward DIY job 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.

supporting plasterboard

Using a trestle and a helping hand for support makes the process easier

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.

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 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

1. Measuring Up

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)

2. Cut the Plasterboard

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 plasterboard

Be careful not to leave an uneven or jagged edge after cutting the board

3. Where to Start

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.

4. Support the Plasterboard

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.

how to plasterboard a ceiling

5. Screw to Fix

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.

screwing in a plasterboard ceiling

Take care not to drive the screws in too far (Getty Images)

6. Tape the Joints

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

7. Use Joint Filler

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.

plasterboard on ceiling finshed

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

8. Lightly Sand

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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  • Anonymous

    Great help full of useful tips , thanks

  • richardp

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

  • blondie

    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
    Regards
    Jan

  • Samuel Joy

    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

    http://www.homebuilding.co.uk/forum/diy-advice/squeaking-floorboards

    Regards, Sam Joy (Online Editor)

  • Mr C S Patel

    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

    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

    http://www.homebuilding.co.uk/forum/building-structure/cracks-ceiling

    Kind regards,
    Sam Joy (Online Editor)

  • C S Patel

    Many thanks Mr Sam Joy.

  • bob h

    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

    Hello
    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,
    mariet

  • andy999

    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 me.works brill…

  • David Wood

    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

    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

    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.
    regards
    Paul

  • A Potter

    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

    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

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

    Kind regards,
    Sam Joy (Online Editor)

  • Christine Murray

    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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