Guide written by:
Michel, Soudeur professionnel passionné, Vendée
When it comes to fitting plasterboard, you'll need a range of tools including a plasterboard lifter, hoist, trolley, screwdriver and sander. Tin snips, crimping tools and nibbler shears will also prove very useful for building stud walls. Read on for more top tips!
- Measuring tools
- Handling tools
- Cutting tools
- Fitting tools
Over the past few decades, ceilings and partitions fitted in modern households and renovated buildings have generally been built using plasterboard. These partition structures are made up of a lightweight, cold-rolled metal frame that is filled with fibreglass insulation and covered by thin, broad pre-made boardsmade from processed plaster.
There are a number of valuable tools available to help make the fitting process run smoothly. These tools also allow the job to be carried out quickly by a single tradesperson. Here's our guide to choosing the right equipment.
Get started with the right tools
The key to success lies with properly preparing your work area and taking accurate measurements.
Drawing up a layout sketch of the partitions will help you to mark up your panels for cut-outs. While a standard tape measure, plumb-line and spirit level are often used, the following specially designed tools may also prove useful:
- a laser level: a powerful electronic tool that projects three lines in 360° laser planes (vertical and horizontal) allowing you to perfectly level your work at distances of up to 80 metres. Installing plasterboard on a sloping surface will be a breeze with one of these devices!;
- a rotating laser will allow you to trim your ceiling and partition boards down to the millimetre;
- a tripod and levelling staff can be used alongside a laser level;
- a scribing tool can be used to mark parallel lines along an edge;
- a profile gauge, or contour gauge, is a tool made up of movable pins which take on the shape of pipes, joists or any other obstacle that is difficult to measure. These measurements are then transferred to the plasterboard for precise cut-outs;
- a pair of compasses can be used to mark circular shapes.
Cutting metal stud sections and plasterboard
There are several ways to cut U channels, including:
- a 125 mm or 230 mm cut-off saw;
- a pneumatic or electric reciprocating saw: used to cut sections as you work;
- tin snips: used to cut most standard steel sections;
- guillotine-style bench shears: used to cut sections, channels, ceiling suspension fittings and angle brackets;
- manual or electric nibbler shears for straight and circular cuts;
- multi-purpose tin snips, aviation snips and offset tin snips are all very handy tools;
- crimping tools will help you to securely fit stud sections without screws.
The following tools can be used to cut plasterboard:
- a plunge saw with a guide rail system (allowing you to work right at the wall) is ideal for making cut-outs in the plasterboard itself;
- a handsaw, or compass saw;
- a hole saw or plasterboard saw can be used to install electrical junction boxes.
Installing a stud wall
The metal framework which holds the plasterboard and insulation must always be fixed securely.
A quality hammer drill fitted with SDS bits will usually be required for drilling into concrete or steel, depending on space you're dealing with.
Essential tools for handling plasterboard
At its thickest (13 mm), plasterboard can weigh up to approximately 30 kg. Measuring around 1.2 x 2.5 metres, they are also large in size which makes them quite fragile. As such, great care must be taken when handling plasterboard. Once delivered on-site, the following tools should be used in order to keep the panels in excellent condition until they are installed:
- a plasterboard splitter: a simple manual tool used to remove single panels from packs;
- plasterboard carrier handles will help you to spread the weight of the plasterboard without separating the pack;
- a plasterboard lifter makes it easier to install panels on a metal stud wall;
- board hoists are used to fit plasterboard to ceilings and sloping surfaces. A handy device for plasterboard fitters, this clever tool keeps the board in position as it is being fixed to the stud wall.
Fixing and jointing plasterboard
Plasterboard is fitted using two main techniques.
Screwing using fine thread, self-tapping screws.
A special type of screwdriver is required for these screws. A traditional plasterboard screwdriver or electric screwdriver will be best suited to this task.
And for the best results, choose a sturdy mains- or battery-powered model with an automatic screw feeder.
Glue is used on concrete walls, block or brick. The adhesiveis applied in dabs onto the existing wall surface using a trowel or applicator gun.
You can then fit the panel, checking there aren't any lumps. You should also make sure that the board is aligned with the other panels using an aluminium straight edge.
Jointing plasterboard panels
In order to set your joints and cover up plasterboard screws, you will need to use a paper jointing tape for flat surfaces and a reinforced jointing tape for exterior corners. This may be applied manually using a trowel or with the help of an automatic dispenser called a banjo taping tool. A jointing compound is spread onto the tape before the joint is smoothed over with a taping knife (these come in various sizes).
Once dry, it is time to sand the joints, using the following tools:
- a sanding block with handle (manual);
- an orbital plasterboard sander, used with a vacuum attachment;
- a long-reach sander for ceiling joints.
Working at a height: sanding the ceiling
Most ceilings are around 2.5 metres in height. Your arms won't be able to stretch that high! Save your energy by choosing from the following options:
- a plasterer's hop-up;
- a stepladder or platform;
- a step bench (if you are tall enough);
- scaffold tower (if you are on the smaller side);
- stilts are also becoming increasingly common for fitting and jointing plasterboard!
Professional plasterboard fitters require a wide range of tools, which must be regularly replaced with time and general wear. It is vital to choose reliable equipment. Additionally, don't forget to stock up on consumables like grinding discs, saw blades, sanding discs, etc.
It's also important to set aside a budget for personal protective equipment such as work clothes, gloves, glasses and safety boots.
The right type of vacuum cleaner will also help you to maintain a neat and tidy workspace.
Guide written by:
Michel, Soudeur professionnel passionné, Vendée, 184 guides
J’ai acquis une formation de tôlier, de tuyauteur/soudeur et après avoir parcouru pendant trente cinq ans les chantiers de France et du Benelux, je suis devenu responsable d’une chaudronnerie puis projeteur, ingénieur de projets pour finir chef d’établissement ingénierie. Retraité, j’ai aménagé et équipé un atelier où je réalise des sculptures métalliques : j’ai réussi à combiner et aménager un coin de paradis ou j’aime laisser libre cours à mon imagination. Les casses et les vide-greniers n’ont plus de secrets pour moi. J’y trouve des objets insolites et des vieux outils que je collectionne ou que je transforme en objet d’art.J’aime aussi la décoration, la peinture sur toile et le jardinage. Je suis l’évolution des nouvelles technologies concernant les outils. Faire partager ma passion et vous conseiller humblement dans vos choix de matériel est un réel plaisir.