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Internal Walls: Stud or Solid?

2019-12-30

What options do you have for the internal walls of your self build, and how do you choose? And, how do you check whether an existing wall in your renovation is loadbearing or not? Mark Brinkley answers these questions and more

Most self builders never think about how their internal walls should be built. If they have hired an architect or a designer to draw up plans, they will happily go along with what they suggest. If they employ a system build approach, such as timber frame or SIPs (structural insulated panels), they will adopt whatever the package company offers.

 

There may be good sense in this, but it’s still worth considering the options.

 

Loadbearing or Not?

 

Internal walls are usually defined as walls that divide rooms, as opposed to the insides of the external walls. They come in two distinct types:

 

Ø Loadbearing

Ø non-loadbearing.

 

You often can’t tell the difference visually, but structurally they are very different.

 

A loadbearing wall acts as a support for a roof, a floor, a beam or another wall above it. It needs to be stronger than a non-loadbearing wall. Crucially, it also needs extra support under it, usually an additional foundation trench.

 

In a new build, the structural issues will be dealt with at the design stage and you shouldn’t have to pay too much attention to whether a wall is loadbearing or not.

 

However, it can have a major effect on renovations, especially when you want to take down an existing wall. In these cases, it is vital to know whether or not the internal wall is loadbearing:

 

If it is loadbearing,you will need to provide an alternative means of support. If you are in any doubt, get the building professionally surveyed so that you know what you are dealing with.

 

Non-loadbearing walls act as little more than room dividers and can be easily altered or even removed.

 

Stud or Solid?

 

Internal walls can be built up in a number of ways. In block-built homes, the most common method is to use blockwork for the load-bearing walls, and timber studwork elsewhere. Typically, this translates as blockwork walls downstairs and timber studwork upstairs, especially if the roof is built using trusses, which transfer all the weight to the side walls.

 

Of course, studwork can be used for load-bearing walls — in timber framed homes, timber stud walls are used everywhere.

 

Studwork doesn’t have to be timber. Many builders like to use steel channels, which are lightweight and fast to erect, making it ideal for partition walls where loading isn’t an issue.

 

Using blockwork for loadbearing walls is usually more straightforward whereas studwork requires more thought and possibly the doubling-up of uprights.

 

The downside of using blockwork for internal walls is that it is so much heavier that it usually requires extra support at floor level. You could:

 

Ø add foundations or beams

Ø use a reinforced flooring system strong enough to support blockwork walls; or

Ø switch to lightweight studwork instead.

 

Soundproofing internal walls

 

One of the main reasons people use blockwork for internal walls is that it offers better soundproofing between rooms.

 

The soundproofing levels between rooms are governed by the Building Regulations (Part E2 in England and Wales, 5.2 in Scotland), which call for a minimum sound reduction of 40dB (decibels) between rooms. This is not particularly onerous to achieve by using either of the main methods of construction.

 

Blockwork walls will naturally achieve this level, but 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 either 15mm or acoustic-grade plasterboard on the walls. This easily meets the 40dB standard. You can add a second layer of plasterboard, or use heavier boarding to further enhance the soundproofing.

 

Generally, studwork walls are cheaper to build than blockwork. If you choose to upgrade the soundproofing in them, it will cost a little more but it will still probably be cheaper than using blockwork.

 

You can go to great lengths to soundproof your studwork bedroom walls, but a bedroom is only as soundproof as its weakest link and that’s usually the door. Tips include:

 

Ø fitting an acoustic doorset (at considerable expense)

Ø placing built-in cupboards between rooms you want to isolate

Ø avoiding placing switches and sockets in noise-sensitive walls.

 

En suite bathrooms can be a problem as well because they are connected to the bedroom but exempt from Part E’s requirements for 40dB sound reduction. It is easy to upgrade the specification in stud walls not covered by Part E to meet the same standard. It is also relatively easy to improve on Part E’s requirements by using more or thicker plasterboard.

 

Wall Hangings

 

Another issue with timber-frame walls is that you have to plan ahead for items such as radiators, basins and mirrors. One approach is to install timbers (known as noggins) between the vertical studwork to carry the weight. This is simple enough if you know exactly where everything is going.

 

Alternatively, you can use loadbearing wall boards such as Fermacell or Habito at the plastering stage. These are much more expensive than standard plasterboard but you can fix heavy objects into them anywhere and they also act as good soundproofing. Lighter loads, such as pictures or wall hangings, can be easily dealt with by using plasterboard wall plugs.

 

A good tip is to photograph every studwork wall before it is covered up as it can be difficult to locate studs afterwards. Some self-builders will even keep records of where the studs are located, but most rely on a studfinder, a specialised metal detector that picks out the nails or screws used to fix the boards to the studs.

 

 

Extensive Knowledge about Internal Wall

 

The purposes of the walls in buildings are to support roofs, floors and ceilings; to enclose a space as part of the building envelope along with a roof to give buildings form; and to provide shelter and security. In addition, the wall may house various types of utilities such as electrical wiring or plumbing. Wall construction falls into two basic categories: framed walls or mass-walls. In framed walls the load is transferred to the foundation through posts, columns or studs. Framed walls most often have three or more separate components: the structural elements (such as 2×4 studs in a house wall), insulation, and finish elements or surfaces (such as drywall or panelling). Mass-walls are of a solid material including masonry, concrete including slipform stonemasonry, log building, cordwood construction, adobe, rammed earth, cob, earthbag construction, bottles, tin cans, straw-bale construction, and ice.

 

Depending on the nature of your existing floor, walls, and ceiling, you may have to peel away some surface materials to provide for secure attachment at the top, bottom, and ends of the new wall. If the new wall won’t butt into studs at the connecting wall or fall directly beneath a ceiling joist, you must install nailing blocks between the framing pieces.

 

A typical interior wall has a skeleton of vertical 2-by-4 studs that stand between horizontal 2-by-4 base and top plates. (However, if a wall will contain extensive plumbing, it should be built from 2-by-6 studs and plates.)

 

The framework is typically covered with gypsum wallboard or lath and plaster; in a bathroom, with water-resistant “green” wallboard and tile backerboard and tile.

 

 

Q&A

 

Which type of paint is best for interior wall?

 

Basically internal paint finishes are flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. Selecting the right paint quality for your interior project depends on the appearance & durability you want.

Flat texture: Available only in latex paint, It has a least glossy finish, it doesn't clean well and isn’t suited for kitchens, bathrooms

Eggshell texture: An eggshell finish is often used for decorative textures because it provides a low shine. It cleans up better than a flat finish

Satin texture: It has more shine than eggshell and cleans better too. This finish is a good choice for woodwork, walls and doors. It's also great for bedrooms and dining rooms

Semi-gloss texture: A semi-gloss paint will give your room a delicate shine. It’s good for doors, windows, kitchens, and bathrooms

High-gloss texture: A high-gloss finish has a shiny, polished look. It’s also stain resistant, which makes it a good choice for the areas of a home that get the most wear and tear, such as kitchens and bathrooms.


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