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Through the wall; stud or solid?

Internal partitions; plasterboard, blockwork or fibre gypsum?


Choosing the right internal wall specification, particularly for stud walls, can be both onerous and complicated, especially where a building has multiple uses. Here we’ve tried to outline some of the key issues to take into account when making your choice.
Structural support
A key consideration for any project is to what extent the internal walls need to provide structural support.  If your building is designed in such a way to require roofing elements, beams or floors above to be supported by internal walls, then load bearing solutions such as SFS or blockwork can be a good choice.
The downside of using blockwork for internal walls however is that it is so much heavier that it usually requires extra support at floor level, through extra foundations or beams. Due to such, allowing for forward planning is crucial in the early design stages to ensure the construction programme stays within time frames and to budget.
Flexible by design

Consideration of the potential changing use of space is also pertinent.  Will an estate owner want to convert that unused dance studio into a café perhaps, or add extra spa facilities at a later date?
Moving blockwork walls is no mean feat, causing major disruption and harder to co-ordinate building works, needing several trades on site.
Contemporary design often requires flexibility in future proofing the building use, and many designers therefore opt for non-loadbearing internal walls, which are in essence room dividers that can be easily altered or removed at a later stage.  In this latter case, dry lining systems would be the best, most flexible solution.
If dry lining stud partitions are your chosen route, there are principally two market offerings; the first, standard plasterboard systems.  The second option is performance board solutions such as fermacell dry lining.  Both these choices are lightweight and provide more flexibility than blockwork.
Interior finishing: fixtures and fittings
However whereas plasterboard requires additional strengthening through pattressing for any weight hanging requirements, fermacell® fibre gypsum does not. 

Lighter loads, such as pictures or wall hangings, can be easily dealt with by using plasterboard wall plugs.  However having to try and plan in advance for where items such as radiators, basics, mirrors or televisions are likely to be hung is an extra headache most designers could do without. Once again, it isn't just about the here and now either, it's about giving the building user the options for future requirements with hanging weights too.  

Therefore, for the ultimate design flexibility in terms of both the physical movement of rooms plus the movement of fixtures and fittings within an individual room space, only performance boards such as fermacell® dry lining provides the best of both worlds.


Quiet spaces
Another one of the main reasons designers opt for the use of blockwork over plasterboard for internal walls is that it offers better soundproofing between rooms. The airbourne acoustic performance between rooms is governed by the Building Regulations (Part E2 in England and Wales, 5.2 in Scotland), which outline minimum sound reductions between partitions.

Blockwork walls will naturally achieve the necessary acoustic level, but standard studwork walls require some additions to meet the standard. The key here is to pack acoustically enhanced wool insulation between the studwork and to use a second layer of plasterboard on the walls.  This can be both expensive and time consuming from a labour perspective.

However there is a performance alternative. fermacell® fibre gypsum board provides another option, by switching out the need for a two layer system to a simple single-layer boarding system that exceeds Part E of the Building Regulations.


Cost considerations
Generally, studwork walls are cheaper to build than blockwork. If you choose to upgrade the soundproofing in them (by double layering plasterboard or switching to performance boards), it will cost a little more but it will still probably be cheaper than using blockwork, given the labour costs involved.

Performance dry lining partitions such as fermacell® boards cost more than standard plasterboard as a straightforward material cost, however once labour is factored in, the ‘installed cost’ is much cheaper.  All in all, this gives a more cost efficient solution which out performs plasterboard in every respect.


Maximising room yields
It’s no secret that timber stud or metal stud walls are much thinner than solid wall constructions. However, even with dry lining there is a challenge presented with the vast array of construction systems to consider.  Bathrooms for example often require moisture resistance with acoustic insulation and fire protection making it more complex to determine which dry wall is best.
With standard plasterboard, having to utilise multiple layers is unavoidable, combining different board types such as sound board or fire board into one system to achieve the desired performance. This in turn creates thicker walls as well as the potential for confusion both at early drawing stages and with on-site management.
Single-layer boarding systems using fermacell® fibre gypsum wall board means fewer layers and less insulation, ultimately creating a thinner partition. This extra space saving can help to create additional rooms, particularly useful in high value spaces such as hotels or other residential accommodation. The use of one wall type also makes labour co-ordination on site a much more straight forward task.


In summary: the perfect partition build up
The benefits of blockwork are its strength, and its performance in respect of fire, acoustics and impact.  However if blockwork is specified, designers must consider additional programming time, and the management of additional trades (including the use of wet trades) on site.  The lack of design flexibility with blockwork solutions is also a serious downside to its use.
The benefits of standard plasterboard are primarily material cost, which is often competitive.  However this is often mitigated by labour costs, which rise steeply once any fire or acoustic requirements are factored into the building design.  Most commercial buildings especially require robust fire resistance and acoustic performance, to protect building occupants.
The third choice is to try and get the best of both worlds, impact and fire resistance and acoustic performance, coupled with speed and ease of install, design flexibility and strength.  When all are needed there is only one solution, fermacell® dry lining boards.

New Specification Guide: The Orange Book

We are pleased to share with you updated Orange Book - providing architects, specifiers and contractors with a single point of reference for solution-driven construction systems using fermacell®
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