Editorial Feature

Non-Load-Bearing Timber Stud Partition Walls - A Construction Guide

Image Credits: Veronika Yeroshenko/shutterstock.com

A non-load-bearing partition wall can be an ideal, cost-effective, and simple way of making the most of the available space in a room. For example, it can allow the construction of a separate shower area inside a bedroom or a secluded play or study area for kids. Non-load-bearing walls can also be used to create rooms within buildings.

By definition, a non-load-bearing partition is any wall that divides a space but does not carry any vertical load from above. Its sole purpose is to physically create a barrier to sight, noise (to a certain degree depending on specification) and heat.

Typical Timber Frame Construction

Non-load-bearing walls can be constructed from all sorts of materials, depending on the specification required. Building a timber frame of stud work and then fitting plasterboards on either side of the framework is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to construct a non-load-bearing partition wall.

Conventional timber-framed methods use timber to build the framework, as the name would suggest because it is considered quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive to assemble. Timber stud partitions can be built using plasterboard and sometimes Rockwool insulation.

To construct a basic timber stud partition wall, you start by securely fixing a sole and head plate (a piece of timber, sometimes referred to as the sill) horizontally to both the floor and ceiling along the length of the wall you require. Timber studs are then secured vertically along the length of the wall at approximately 600mm centers.

Tools Required for Construction

Such a simple form of construction requires minimal specialist tools. However, the addition of power tools can make the process a lot quicker. The key tools required for building a non-load-bearing timber stud partition are listed below:

  • Saw
  • A plumb bob and line
  • Spirit level
  • Caulking tool
  • Nails
  • Hammer
  • Gloves
  • Tape measure

Materials Required

The typical materials required for building a timber frame non-load-bearing stud partition are listed below:

  • Plasterboard
  • Timber studs – Wood (typically 4’x2’)
  • Plaster/jointing compound
  • Skirting Boards
  • Architrave
  • Sole plates (typically 6’x2’)
  • Acoustic sealant
  • Paint/wallpaper

Undertaking the Work

A simple process to construct a non-load-bearing stud partition is outlined below:

  1. Fix head plates and floor soleplate
  2. Fix the studs
  3. Fit the plasterboard
  4. Skim/Jointing compound
  5. Fit Skirting/Architrave/Coving
  6. Sand joints/acoustic seal wall-floor and wall-ceiling joints
  7. Decoration/Finishing touches

Building a timber stud non-load-bearing partition is a relatively simple construction project. The trick is to plan ahead and prepare your materials prior to starting. For example, by pre-cutting all of your timber into a kit form of the wall, and laying this out on the floor, you can quickly construct the wall once you start.

Fix Head Plates and Floor Sills

In a typical residential/domestic property, you will need to fix the new wall to the joists both in the ceiling and on the floor, via the sole plates. In the ceiling, locate the position of joists at roughly the spots where you want to have the partition.

After fixing the head plate, use a plumb bob and line and mark out the ceiling, walls, and floor clearly. Nail a floor sill/soleplate with the same thickness as the wall to be used for the partition and the same length as the planned partition wall.

Fix the Studs

On the floor sill, mark the position of the vertical studs. One stud against the end wall and the remaining studs at 600 mm intervals along the length of the wall. Be careful when measuring and cutting all the studs as they should fit in tightly at both ends (top and bottom).

Next, nail or screw the studs in place onto the floor and ceiling timbers. Mark the floor and the wall at the stud centers so as to easily locate them while fixing the plasterboard.

Fit the Plasterboard

Fix the plasterboard in a perfectly vertical position and make sure it touches the ceiling well by lifting it using wedges. Leave a small gap – a minimum of 30 mm - from the floor to prevent any cold bridging (heat loss) or damp being sucked up from the floor into the plasterboard. A skirting board can then be utilized to fill any possible gaps at the bottom.

Use screws to secure the boards by driving in the screws just beneath the surface. Be careful not to damage the plasterboard and make sure you securely fix the plasterboard to the vertical joists.

Avoid overfilling the gaps to prevent unwanted rubbing down after the filler is dried. However, to achieve a smooth finish, some rubbing down using fine sandpaper is necessary. Cover all nail heads and fill up joints between the old wall and the new wall. The plasterboard can either be decorated directly, or you may wish to wet plaster the entire wall for a perfect finish.

Fitting a Door

It is fairly easy to fit doors into this non-load-bearing partition wall. For this, just leave an opening with studs on both the sides and also a noggin on the top, while constructing the wall. Fit the interior door casing by securing them to the studs directly.

A new doorway within a stud wall can be constructed with the help of the process outlined below:

  1. Cutting through a block wall or brick.
  2. Fitting the door lining.
  3. Making an opening in a stud wall for a door aligned with one stud.
  4. Making an opening in a stud wall for a door centered between studs.

Cutting Through a Block Wall or Brick

  1. Check whether the wall is loadbearing or non-loadbearing.
  2. Mark the opening on one side of the wall and study the coursing of the blocks or bricks.
  3. The height and width of the opening should be measured in such a way that the door fits into the opening without any difficulty.
  4. Cut the skirtings on the sides of the wall.
  5. Fix the lintel by supporting the wall and let it rest overnight, allowing the mortar to set.
  6. The next day use a bolster chisel and club hammer to remove the individual bricks starting from below the lintel.
  7. Slice the wall using a masonry saw or an all-purpose saw if lightweight blocks were used to build the wall.
  8. The masonry should be chopped out from the bottom of the door.

Fitting the Door Lining

  1. Next focus on attaching the architrave, stop bead, and door to a timber frame.
  2. Use timber with 25 mm thickness and ensure that the width of the timber is equal to the depth of the wall.
  3. Fix the lining to the sides of the opening using metal frame cramps or ties plastered into the slots on the brickwork.
  4. Wooden wedges should then be attached to the mortar joints, after which the frame should be nailed to the wooden wedges.

Making an Opening in a Stud Wall for a Door Aligned with One Stud

  1. Locate the position of the studs to fix the position of the doorway and mark the position on the wall.
  2. The cladding should then be removed to expose the studs.
  3. For a door aligned with one stud, you will have to cut the next two studs to match the level of the door head in order to create the new door opening.
  4. The height of the new door opening should be marked on the studs.
  5. The new door head should then be leveled and nailed between the full-height studs.
  6. The width of the door opening should be marked on the floor plate.
  7. Cut through the floor plate and then remove it.
  8. Cut a new stud and place it between the door head and the floor plate followed by skewing nails into the plate. This will fasten the joint without using clamps.

Making an Opening in a Stud Wall for a Door Centred Between Studs

  1. Make the opening and fit the new door head into it as mentioned above.
  2. Two new studs should then be cut and nailed between the head and the sill.
  3. Noggings should be placed between the original and new studs.
  4. Cut through the floor plate according to the width of the new door opening and then remove that section.
  5. Use nail plasterboard panels to fill gaps between the new studs and the original wall cladding. All of the joints should be taped and filled.
  6. The door lining should be cut and placed within the new door opening, and the door stops added.
  7. Cover the edges of the doorframe by fitting the architraves and then replace the skirting boards.
  8. Hang the new door.

Lintel Installation

  1. Mark the position of the lintel and use a bolster chisel and hammer to remove the plaster.
  2. Make a hole above, place a supporting needle and adjustable props or metal supports, and cut the slot below to insert the lintel.
  3. Take three parts of sand and one part of cement and make a mix. Apply this to the sides of the slot.
  4. Use the same mix to fill up the gaps and replace the loose bricks.
  5. Remove the needle and then fill the hole.

This article was updated on the 19th August, 2019.

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