Dry lining is a form of cladding for internal walls, and sometimes ceilings, to prepare them for painting or covering (for example in wallpaper). Plasterboard is attached to create a smooth surface.

You may have heard of plastering, which is a similar, yet slower process we will explain later, but dry lining is both quicker and uses specialist materials that can save time and money. Dry lining requires less water than plastering, hence the term ‘dry’ lining.

This guide will tell you all about dry lining, including more about the materials, why it might be used and where.

If you’re looking for a career in dry lining, we can help you understand which qualifications and experience will help you secure a role.

Why is dry lining used?

Put simply, dry lining is much quicker than traditional plastering and achieves a similar result: a wall or surface that is ready to paint or cover. The plasterboard used in dry lining can hide pipes and wires, create insulation space, and even provide soundboarding.

Dry lining is also suitable for a wide range of applications as it can be added to surfaces that include brickwork or uneven surfaces. It can create curved walls too, which allows for creativity or to help manage smaller or uniquely shaped spaces.

Newer properties are often built with stud walls to create separate living spaces, and dry lining plasterboard can easily be added to these walls to make them smooth, sturdy, and safe.

Where is dry lining used?

As mentioned, dry lining can be used on internal walls and ceilings, including brick walls and uneven surfaces, plus on internal stud walls.

Depending on the type of wall or surface the plasterboard is being fixed to, two standard thicknesses of plasterboard, 9.5mm and 12.5mm, can be used. Dry lining is also possible around a door frame, with specialist door kits available to fit most standard frames.

Dry lining can be used in bathrooms and kitchens, although moisture resistant plasterboard or specialist insulation may be required to cope with condensation and moisture from the activities in these spaces.

What materials are used in dry lining?

As well as the plasterboard (which comes in different shapes, sizes, thicknesses, and types) that is affixed to create the smooth finish, there are other materials required for the various fixing techniques. These include adhesives, nails, and screws.

Dabs of quick-drying adhesive can be used to attach plasterboard directly to the internal wall until it sets, called the ‘dob and dab’ method. Plasterboard can also be attached to metal or timber walls using nails, in a technique known as tacking. Typically, however, as screws support plasterboard better than nails, a technique called screwing is also a possibility.

Tape is also required for covering any joints between the sheets of plasterboard, or, if there are screw or nail heads protruding, a powder is mixed with water and used around these to paste over them. Once the wet substance is dry, it can be sanded to a smooth finish.

What’s the difference between dry lining and plastering?

Plastering uses a wet substance, called plaster but made from different materials depending on the finish required, to cover a wall. Once it dries it can be painted over or covered in wallpaper. Because it is wet, it takes far longer to plaster a wall or ceiling than to use plasterboard and dry lining techniques, but for some older properties, it is preferred to keep in with the style.

Plaster can be used to create architectural moldings too, such as detailed cornices, or ceiling roses, something that is not possible with dry lining.

Advantages and disadvantages of using drywall

As with any method, there are upsides and downsides. Let’s start with the benefits of dry lining:

  • Dry lining is generally faster and easier to install than wet plaster
  • Specialist insulation can be glued to the back of the plasterboard to help keep the heat in and the cold out
  • Dry lined walls are easier to change, making buildings more flexible
  • Dry lining creates lightweight walls and ceilings, which generally means the overall construction weighs less.

And the downsides:

  • The technique known as ‘dot and dab’ has been criticised for leaving air pockets behind the plasterboard which can impair the performance of the wall
  • Dry lining can have less load-carrying capability that traditionally finished walls, which may be a problem for fixing wall-hung cupboards or shelves
  • Dry lined walls can be easier to damage.

Find out more about a career as a dry liner

If you’d like to be a dryliner, we can tell you what your typical working hours might be and the potential salary. Head to our dryliner job page which can also help you find the right apprenticeship or qualifications you need for the role.

We can also help if you’d like to know more about becoming a plasterer.