Internal Wall Coverings

Internal. It is important to know which walls are non load-bearing and which are load-bearing, i.e. integral to the structure of the house. Where a load-bearing wall is removed or substantially cut into, an RSJ (rolled steel joist) must be fixed horizontally to support the load above. Dealing with load-bearing walls is strictly for the professionals.


Standard. Lightweight, fairly rigid, smooth on one side. Tempered. ‘Stronger than Standard. Medium. Useful for partitions. Moulded. Finished with an embossed pattern (reeded, leather-grain, tiled. Linen – fold). Enamelled. Factory-finished in matt or plain colours, tile or plank patterns. Washable. Plastic-faced. With PVC or melamine in plain colours, patterns, wood-grains. Perforated. Standard, tempered, plastic-faced with punched holes or patterns. Useful for decorative ceilings, partitions, grilles.

Conditioning. Before fixing standard and tempered hardboard, stand it on edge for 72 hours in the room where it is to be used to allow air to circulate around it. Medium hardboard should be exposed for 48 hours. Fix the board immediately after conditioning.

Cutting. Use a fine-toothed saw. On pre-decorated boards avoid chipping by first scoring a cutting line with a sharp trimming knife.

Fixing. Fix to a framework of 2 in. by 1 in. (5 by 2.5 cm) softwood battens (broad side against wall). For 1/8 in. (3 mm) standard or 3/8 in. (9.5 mm) medium hardboard, provided vertical support at not greater than 16 in. (40.50 cm) centres. For in. (6 mm) standard and in. (12.5 mm) medium hardboard at not greater than 24 in. (61 cm) centres. Horizontal battens should be at not greater than 4 ft (1.2 m) centres.

Finishing. For unsurfaced boards, seal with proprietary hardboard primer before wallpapering or painting.

Insulating board

These rigid lightweight insulating boards provide thermal and sound insulation and can be surfaced with paper, textile, plastic sheet, wood veneer. Acoustic board is grooved and drilled to increase sound absorption.

  • Conditioning. Stand boards on edge separately in the room where they are to be used. Allow air to circulate around them for 48 hours.
  • Cutting. Use a sharp trimming knife. Special planes are available for grooving and bevelling.
  • Fixing. As for hardboard.
  • Finishing. As for hardboard, except that bitumen-impregnated board should be primed with two coats of aluminium paint.
  • Most of the common construction techniques used in building houses over the last two hundred years.


  • Plasterboard is in effect plaster enclosed in stout paper. Some plasterboard is foil-backed to give extra insulation. Some types are designed as a base for plaster skim; some come ready for decoration: some combine both characteristics on alternate sides.
  • Cutting. With a trimming knife score along the straight edge on one side. Break the board along the line and cut the paper on the other side.
  • Fixing. As for hardboard. Some ready-made partition panels and systems are available.
  • Finishing. Use a special plasterboard primer before wallpapering or painting.


Plywood comprises thin sheets of wood bonded alternately at right angles to the grain of adjacent sheets, in layers. Cutting. Thin sheets can be cut with a sharp trimming knife. Use a tenon saw for thicker ones. Score on both sides to prevent splintering.

  • Fixing. As for hardboard. Drill pilot holes first and use cups when screwing. Roughen the surface to give a good key when using adhesives.
  • Bending. Plywood can be bent to cover awkward places. Damp several thin sheets and bend to the angle required using G-cramps and shaped wood blocks. Allow the sheets to dry before glueing together between clamps.
  • Finishing. Seal and polish or prime and paint.


This comprises rectangular strips of wood bonded between one or more veneers. Cutting. Along the grain use a rip saw. Across the grain use a cross-cut saw.


Chipboard consists of wood chips bonded with resin sandwiched between one or more veneers.

  • Cutting. Use a panel saw.
  • Fixing. As for hardboard. Use screw cups for screwing.

Decorative facing boards

These are faced variously with PVC, melamine, enamel, paper, fabric, wood veneer etc., bonded on to hardboard, insulating board, plywood etc.

Ideas To Try Out

1. Panel one wall of a teenager’s room in nylon flock-faced board in brilliant plain colours.

2. Enhance the kitchen or bathroom with PVC or melamine-faced board. Try combining a tile pattern with a toning plain on adjacent walls. PVC woodgrainings are almost indistinguishable from real wood.

3. Panel the hall with linen-fold hardboard to give the impression of old panelling.

4. In study, workroom, garage or kitchen, fit part of the wall with perforated hardboard — useful for hanging things at arm’s reach.

Timber facing

Tongue and groove planking is the cheapest solution if you hanker for real wood. Planks can be nailed to battens just where the tongue joins the board. When the next plank is grooved on, the nail will be hidden. Treat planks with a sealer or coloured stain.


Texturing a wall is a challenge within the capabilities of a do-it-yourself enthusiast. Do not texture over wood.


1. Prepare the wall surface as for tiling. Seal plaster with a coat of cellulose wallpaper paste.

2. Use a slow-setting proprietary cellulose filler. Mix the filler to a fairly firm texture.

3. Apply the mixture to about 1 sq yd (1 sq m) of the wall with a trowel and spread to a depth of -k in. (3 mm).

Techniques. (a) Bottle. Press a base of a bottle gently into filler and withdraw with a rapid twisting movement. Repeat over the whole surface. (b) Brush. Dab with an old paint brush for fine stipple or with a scrubbing brush for coarse stipple. (c) Roller. A paint roller gives a fine stipple: a rolling pin a more raised pattern. (d) Comb. Use a broad-toothed comb to make semicircular overlapping swirls on the wall surface.

When the filler is dry, decorate with emulsion paint. Alternatively, tint the filler mixing water before you start.


The principal types of tiling suitable for walls are described below.

Ceramic tiles

Do-it-yourself tiles have spacer lugs to make fixing and grouting quite simple. Very thick tiles should be fixed into cement grouting by an expert. Large tiles are available. So are varying shapes and mosaic tiles with sheet backing.


1 Make sure the wall surface is even and free of dirt.

2 Starting half way along the wall, tile upwards from the skirting board if it is level. If it is not level, allow for the bottom row of tiles to be cut slightly. Nail a temporary wooden batten (check its straightness with a spies level) just under the level of the row above_

3 To mark the vertical Fine. Drop a plumb line down the wall_ 4 Apply adhesive over about 1 sq yd (1 sq m)

5 Lay the first tile in the angle of the flat batten and the vertical line. Continue up and along.

6 Check each row with a spirit level as you go.

7 Allow the adhesive to dry for 12 to 24 hours and remove the batten.

8 When adhesive is completely dry, rub grouting cement into joints between the tiles with a damp sponge.

To cut tiles to fit borders, score the glazed surface of the tile with a cutter. Place a matchstick on the floor under the score line and break the tile by pressing firmly on both sides of the score line.

Metallic tiles

These are lightweight and easy to fix. No grouting is needed. Stainless steel types are usually available in patterns and geometric effects. Aluminium types come in gold. Silver, blue colours, plain or patterned.

Decoration ideas.

Bring an ugly fireplace to life by covering it with gleaming metallic tiles in a geometric design. Or line an alcove with them. They subtly reflect flowers and ornaments. An interesting effect can be achieved by covering the top of an old coffee table with tiles.


Vinyl floor tiles are not in general recommended for walls because the strong adhesive makes removal difficult. However. The thinnest grade can be used effectively in a bathroom to carry the flooring up the walls.


Specially thin facings of stone. Brick or slate can be applied to walls They ate durable but expensive Stone and bad( facings are available multi- size in pacts for a random effect Slate usually comes in sheet form. Slate and Silicone composite facings are a little cheaper than natural facings. Marble can also be used as a facing (in a bathrc:— ‘7,r example) but is expensive.

Walls and Ceilings

Cork tiles

Cork tiles are easy to apply over plaster, board or ceramic surfaces. They provide insulation and some sound absorption. Fixing.

1. Spread a layer of contact adhesive on the wall and on the back of the tile.

2. Allow to dry (7 to 12 minutes). Then fit the tile carefully. It is immovable once the two adhesive surfaces have met.

3. Trim where necessary with a sharp trimming knife.

Decoration ideas. A block of cork tiles on part of any wall makes a good-looking pinboard. In the bathroom cork tiles can panel the bath as well as line the wall above the bath, but they must be sealed against condensation.

Removing a picture rail

Question whether it should really be removed. In a high room it may be better to leave it and paint the wall above it to match the ceiling.

If you decide to remove the rail:

1. With an old chisel, lever the rail gently away from the wall.

2. Cut through the rail at intervals to help with its removal.

3. Pull out nails or plugs with pincers.

4. Brush out loose plaster from area of removal. Damp the area and re-plaster


Damp-proof courses and overall damp-proofing:

  • Temporary solutions to damp on interior walls include the following methods. Sealing with damp-proof liquid. Proprietary damp barrier kits are available. They consist of liquids which you brush on to the affected wall. Some kits come with a lining paper which you apply with a waterproof liquid.
  • Lining with foil. You can use specially backed foil but ordinary foil will serve. You must treat the whole wall, not just the damp area. Apply the foil with an anti-fungicidal adhesive and, over the foil, white lining paper with an ordinary cellulose wallpaper adhesive.
  • Lining with sheet polystyrene. Hang lengths from roll of polystyrene vertically from ceiling edge downwards, having first applied polystyrene adhesive to the wall. Cover polystyrene with lining paper to take paint or wallpaper.
  • Lining with board. Building boards battened on to the wall disguise bad plaster, improve thermal insulation and provide a good surface for decorating.
  • Building boards. Can be used for cladding walls or making partitions. They disguise damp and poor wall surfaces. Some are decorative in themselves; others are a good base for paint or wallpaper. If the wall surface is flat, panels can often be glued on direct. But in most cases nailing or glueing to battens is preferable. Take care not to damage cables or pipes in the wall.

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