Dot and Dab Plastering (5 Key Steps for Successful Dry Lining)

February 25, 2021

The dot and dab technique remains a very popular method for attaching plasterboard to a wall. For speed, efficiency, and cost, dot and dab plastering can’t be beaten. However, the dot and dab technique which is also often referred to as dry lining has its detractors. Sometimes it is viewed as less stable and less reliable than traditional wet plastering techniques.

However, if you are a D.I.Y. novice who needs to attach or fix plasterboard, dry lining is perfectly fine.

This article will guide you through the dot and dab process. We have also included plenty of tips and trick to help you achieve great results the first time.  We’ll also explain the pros and cons of dry lining, to help you decide whether this plastering method is right for your D.I.Y. project. Think you'll hire a professional instead of DIY? Easily find top local plasterers near you!

What Is Dot and Dab?

First of all, be aware that dry lining and dot and dab are terms that are now often used interchangeably. Usually, these terms refer to the process of attaching plasterboard to a wall by dotting adhesive at various points across the surface.

When Is the Dot and Dab Technique Used?

The popularity of the dot and dab technique has risen alongside the popularity of plasterboard. Plasterboard provides a smooth, even surface that is easy to hang. Dry lining allows you to easily and quickly attach plasterboard to a wall.

Dry lining also allows you to avoid an excessive mess. This technique requires little water when compared to wet plastering.

Are There Any Disadvantages to Using Dot and Dab?

So, dot and dab is quick, cheap, and it is a great starter project for D.I.Y. novices. It sounds like the perfect plastering option, right? Well, there are some potential problems that you need to be aware of before you take the plunge at start dry lining your wall.

One of the biggest problems that people find with plasterboard that has been attached using dot and dab is that it provides little in the way of sound insulation. To avoid this problem, it is advisable to invest in some further insulation before you attach the final layer of plasterboard that you intend to decorate. Just be aware that this will be an additional expense, so add insulation into your budget.

To get more information on the costs of plastering check out our comprehensive Plastering Price Guide.

How to Identify a Dot and Dab Wall

If you have just moved into a new house or flat, you might not know what is going on behind your walls. What are they made of and how were they put up? You need to know the answers to these questions before you can start to make any changes. Don’t start decorating or drilling through the walls before you are fully informed.

One of the simplest and most effective ways of finding out if you have a dot and dab wall is to knock on the surface. You’ll need to knock the wall at various points. If you can hear a hollow sound at certain points, but a denser sound in other areas, you have a dot and dab wall.

Remember, plasterboard walls that have been attached through dry lining can be weaker and more prone to damage than traditionally plaster walls. Proceed with caution if you are going to drill through a wall that has been dry lined.

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Step 1. Choose the Right Plasterboard and Adhesive

Dot and dab is a fairly straightforward and simple technique to master. However, you need the right products in order to be successful. The right plaster and adhesive is essential, otherwise, you are setting yourself up for failure.

The thickness of the plasterboard needs to be 12.5 mm if you are plastering a wall. It is also a good idea to buy wide plasterboard, as this will minimise the number of joints you have to work with across your surface.

There are various types of plasterboard on the market, and it can be confusing to work out which one is right for you. The best advice is to opt for a foam backed, moisture resistant plasterboard. Choosing a plasterboard with these properties will be useful in the long run, as it will keep heat in, and all keep moisture out.

You also need to choose an adhesive that is suitable for dry lining. The name of the product can vary between different D.I.Y. stores, but anything called bonding compound or plasterboard adhesive is correct. Make sure that you only buy a product that explicitly says that it is suitable for plasterboard.

Step 2. Cut Your Plasterboard Down to Size

It’s really important that you measure your wall properly before you start. It’s likely that you will you need to cut the boards to the right size. Mark the plasterboard at the right point where you will need to cut. Use a sharp craft knife to cleanly cut through the board.

Be especially careful with end boards. It’s likely that you will need to significantly cut the end piece of plasterboard to make it fit onto the wall.

Mixing Plaster

Step 3. Mix Your Plasterboard Adhesive

Mixing plaster properly is an art that many people don’t manage to master. Luckily, plasterboard is a lot easier to manage, and it doesn’t require too much trouble to mix.

First of all, you need the right tools. A clean bucket is a must, otherwise, any dirt or debris left in the bucket will contaminate the plasterboard adhesive. Always follow the instructions on the plasterboard adhesive packaging. You will need to mix the adhesive with some water, but not too much, otherwise, you will compromise the mixutre.

Always follow the instructions on the plasterboard adhesive packaging. You will need to mix the adhesive with some water, but not too much, otherwise, you will compromise the mixture.

Keep stirring the adhesive using a mixing stick. You will know that the mixture is ready when you can see it has a thick and creamy consistency. Your mixing stick should be able to stand up in the adhesive unaided.

You should only mix enough adhesive at for one plasterboard sheet at a time. This will help you to make sure that your adhesive stays fresh and ready to use.

Dot and Dab Plastering Technique

Step 4. Apply Your Plasterboard Adhesive to the Wall

Now you are ready to actually start dotting and dabbing The good news is that you really don’t need to be too neat or precise when you apply plasterboard adhesive to the wall.

A paint scraper is a good tool for applying the compound to your wall. All you need to do is scrape up some adhesive and start to dab it onto your surface. Leave approximately 6 to 8 inches between each dot of adhesive. Don’t be afraid to add a fair amount of adhesive to each dot.

As with all plastering jobs, only add plasterboard adhesive to the area that you are actually working on at that time. Otherwise, you will find that the compound begins to dry and solidify before you get the chance to position the board along the surface.

You want to make sure that your plasterboard will be securely attached to the surface. The best way to do this is to apply enough of the compound to the length and width of the wall. If you do this, you will create a stronger foundation for your plasterboard.

You don’t need to apply the adhesive too neatly, however, you should try to create some consistency with where you are putting the adhesive. Draw a clear, straight line from the top to the bottom of the wall using dots of adhesive with small gaps in between. You should also use the same technique to draw a perimeter along the edge of the area where you will be placing your board.

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Step 5. Position Your Plasterboard

Once the adhesive has been applied, it is time to position your plasterboards onto the wall. Gently lift up the board and position it against the surface. You should lightly tap the board to get it to adhere to the compound. Make sure that the board is flat and level with the wall underneath it.

Use a spirit level to check your plasterboard has been applied in a straight line. Most compound adhesives begin to dry quite quickly once they have been applied to the wall. So, if you need to wiggle the board around to get it straight, you need to do this as soon as possible.

Your first piece of plasterboard is, in many ways, the most important piece. That’s because it sets the level and standard of quality for the rest of the wall. So, take some time to make sure that it really is level and flat. Otherwise, your other pieces of plasterboard will suffer.

Top Tips for Successful Dry Lining

The process of dry lining a wall isn’t too tricky or time-consuming. However, there are a few tips and tricks that you can deploy to make your project a huge success.

  • Be careful of your skirting boards. You need to make sure that you seal the area directly above your skirting board properly, otherwise, you will run into a whole host of issues later on. It’s easy to avoid this. Just make sure you add a decent amount of adhesive across the length of skirting board.
  • Alter the size of your dots and dabs in response to the size of your plasterboard. Different plasterboards will need different amounts of adhesive. If you are dry lining a wall, you have probably opted for larger boards to avoid joints from disrupting your wall. Generally, it is advised that the size of your dots should be around 25mm thick and 50mm in width. However, you may need to alter these measurements if you are using larger boards.
  • Use a feather edge tool. It is worth buying a feather edge tool for this project. A feather edge tool is swept across a piece of plasterboard to straighten and level it. Using a feather edge will also make sure that your plasterboard is securely in place and that it won’t start to come away from the wall before the adhesive has totally dried.

Next Steps

Once you have followed the five steps above, you will have successfully dry lined your wall! All you need to do next is wait a few hours to make sure that the adhesive has totally dried before you go on to decorating and finishing the wall.

You can skim the plasterboard once you are sure that the adhesive has properly dried. If you’re unsure about how to skim a wall, you can read our guide to plastering. Once you have done this, it’s time to start painting or wallpapering your plasterboard. If you want to paint your plaster, we have a step-by-step guide for you.

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