22nd Nov 2022 -

Welcome to our handy guide on dry lining and plastering; designed to give you all the information you need for hassle-free construction. Did you know that this page is part of a series all about dry lining, plasterboarding and other related tasks? If not, make sure that you check out other sections of the guide online here, or download the full guide in a convenient PDF format. At Building Materials Nationwide Ltd, we know so much about building and construction materials that we could fill a book - and we have!

Partitioned Walls: Main Uses, Types and Costs

Partition walls are used when you want to partition an internal space into multiple rooms. You might also use them to create separate areas within rooms. Constructing a stud wall and lining it with plasterboard will allow you to create a space within a space - so it is an important construction method once the initial structure of a building is complete. Partition walls are one of several very popular building techniques that use plasterboards and dry lining accessories.

What Are Partition Walls Used For?

A partition wall is a non-load-bearing wall within an existing internal space. As the partition exists to create a separate area, they are chiefly used because they are private, versatile and convenient.

You most commonly see partition walls in the internal layout of the following types of buildings: 

  • Purpose-built flats, particularly high-rise buildings, as well as flat conversions
  • Large commercial buildings, such as office complexes
  • Hospitality settings, including hotels and other forms of accommodation
  • Healthcare sector, notably surgeries and hospitals but also care homes or hospice care
  • Commercial settings, such as retail, food service, operations and logistics

Partitioned walls are also used for some of the following reasons:

  • Soundproof solutions: A soundproof wall will make a space much more livable in the case of a block of flats. In some types of buildings, Building Regulations may require a minimum level of sound insulation.
  • Fire resistance: Fire-resistant plasterboards can prevent a fire from spreading, which is important for safety in areas such as office partitions or residential spaces where a lot of people are likely to be present at one time.
  • Moisture resistance: Problems with mould and moisture can be mitigated with a stud partition wall. If you use the right kind of specialist plasterboard you can protect any partition from high levels of moisture or vapour.
  • Thermal insulation: Properly insulating a partition wall is essential for making the environment comfortable for the occupants. Insulating between the gaps in the new partition is a simple and fast way to do this.
  • Mixed-purpose: Many high-quality kinds of specialist boards will combine features, such as moisture and fire resistance, so often partition walls are used as they are cheap and simple to install but deliver a high standard.

As they are not load-bearing walls, partition walls are relatively thin. In blocks of flats or a hotel, a different type of partition wall may be used for the internal living spaces (such as bedrooms and bathrooms) than the walls between common areas - as there is usually less need for thicker walls or any special plasterboards.

What Types of Partition Walls Are There?

All partition walls rely on a type of frame system. The most suitable frame will depend on what you need from your new wall. Your desired frame choice might be completely unsafe for the space, other times it may be unnecessary or more expensive. The two main types of internal partition walls include the following:

Metal Stud Frame Partition Walls

A metal frame is a system that uses a form of wire mesh and often features in apartments and office block partitions, especially in very large buildings. Metal frame studs may be required by Building Regulations or the decision of a structural engineer.

Timber Stud Frame Partition Walls

By using a timber frame you can get a lower-cost partition, suitable for the individual rooms within the partitions of a block of flats. Timber is very versatile and the partition will be sturdily fixed to the floors and ceiling, using the same principles as a metal frame.

Certain walls, such as those featuring very heavy bathroom fixtures may not be suitable for timber-framed partitions. However, thicker, stronger, metal-framed partitions with specialist boards are only necessary when Building Regulations, planning laws or wall specifications demand it.

Timber stud walls in new build home

Glass Partition Frames

Many offices also feature glass partitions, such as between separate departments or at front-of-house or reception areas, bridging the common areas of a large commercial building. This is a less common type of partition that is often also quite a lot more expensive, due to the large amounts of glass required.

Office partitions

What are the Regulations and Specifications of Partition Walls?

There are certain standards when it comes to a partition wall, whether it’s in an office or any other location. Some of the specifications can be quite complex and demanding - or even subject to rigorous building control standards and testing.

However, the good news is that for most general purposes the partition planning rules are quite straightforward. Two things to remember include the following:

  1. No planning permission: You will be relieved to hear that you do not usually need any form of planning permission, provided you are installing a non-load-bearing wall. However, in many flats changes to the layout of a unit may require approval from a board of residents managing the block.
  2. No standard wall thickness: The thickness of the partition wall is also fairly flexible, a frame is generally only 75 mm or 100 mm thick. However, you must calculate the entire partition wall space. Make sure to allow enough room for all the additional wiring, insulation, plumbing and plasterboards. 

The most stringent regulations exist for the safety features of a partition wall. Generally, the outer walls of an individual dwelling have the highest standards and regulatory requirements - most notably fire safety. Sound insulation requirements are also common in flats.

Partition walls have few exacting standards if they are forming a room within an existing partition, such as a bathroom or bedroom within an existing flat. 

What are the Costs of Partition Walls?

How much a partition wall costs depends on several factors. Most notably, the size of the installation. Partitions between separate units in large blocks have stricter regulations and can cost quite a lot - especially if they use specialist boards such as fire boards and a lot of materials for metal frames. Timber frames are comparatively cheap on paper.

However, there may be some annoying unexpected costs in many cases. These are normally caused by the following:

  • Types of plasterboard: If you are hoping to get a particular feature in your walls then you may pay a premium for it. For example, some plasterboards can resist fire for up to 2 hours, but this requires a lot of effort as well as very expensive fire-resistant additives. Better boards always cost the most.
  • Finishing: Decorating and plastering the boards can cause project costs to spiral out of control, particularly if you are going to have a lot of areas to cover. You can try to save on costs by choosing boards that come ready to decorate or tile, and this will also help in reducing preparation time.
  • Plumbing: Strong plumbing skills may be required when creating a partition wall. Any kind of pipework or plumbing fixture can easily become a headache. You will need moisture resistant boards for this type of wall, and you will have to make sure that your boards navigate any pipes. 
  • Electrical and wiring: Whether it’s an ethernet cable to a new office partition in your own house or thick, highly-insulated office block services cabling - partition walls can present a challenge for any kind of wiring. Electrical work and safety certifications often affect installation costs.

Independent trade site Checkatrade says that the average costs involved are about the same for both a metal or timber frame - approximately £55 to £65 per square metre. Overall, it is a very effective and low-cost method of creating walls - perhaps explaining why partition walls are such a common construction practice.

Costs may increase depending on the above criteria but also if you have an unreliable supplier. You can avoid the extra expense caused by delays or a lack of stock by only choosing merchants with fast delivery times and varied products.

In Summary

Partition walls put a partition between existing walls, to create a new space. A partition wall is often useful in separating different units of an office or residential building - after the structural phase of the construction is complete. These walls are usually metal or timber-framed and will feature many types of plasterboards - such as soundproof or fireproof.

Partitioned walls may be subject to Building Regulations or have to adhere to standard wall specifications, such as the frame system or the type of plasterboards used. However, most non-structural partitions have only a few regulations. Installation and material costs of partition walls are usually quite low.

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