Internal wall and ceiling linings: original details

Walls were typically lined with plasterboard and ceilings with softboard, but other linings were sometimes used.

Wall and ceiling linings

Living areas – typical linings

In 1940s-60s homes, the wall linings of habitable rooms were typically plasterboard, although fibrous plaster was sometimes used and finished with wallpaper, and a manufactured board was also available.

The ceilings were commonly lined with softboard sheets (sometimes called Pinex) and trimmed with softboard scotias or with plasterboard. Fibrous plaster was occasionally used.

By the 1960s, plasterboard trimmed with either a concave plaster scotia or a timber bead had become more common. Canterbury houses sometimes had a tight stopped wall/ceiling junction – these houses also had an 8’6” (2.6 m) ceiling height.

Other internal finishes/linings available in the period included exposed concrete block, painted concrete block, plywood, and TG&V timber.

Kitchens, bathrooms and laundries – typical linings

The kitchen, bathroom, laundry and toilet wall and ceiling linings were generally hardboard (sometimes called Masonite) finished with enamel paint. Some houses built during the 1960s had a curved finish to the external corners of internal walls.
Cement plaster was also sometimes used in these areas.

Architect-designed houses

In architect-designed houses, interiors were generally lined with plasterboard or softboard, but other materials such as plywood and TG&V timber were also used.

Where plywood was used, studs were typically erected at 36” (900 mm) centres.

Although plywood was a relatively expensive material at the time, the cost was offset by using half the number of studs, and eliminating the need for skirtings, architraves or cornices.

Architect-designed houses sometimes also featured exposed internal rafters and beams.

Foil backing

During the 1960s aluminium foil was marketed as being suitable for fixing to the inside face of the framing before the lining material to provide some increase in insulation. How often it was used is difficult to estimate.

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Common lining materials


Square-edged plasterboard was typically used to line the walls of the living room, bedrooms and the hallway. Fibrous plaster may have been used in more expensive construction.

Plasterboard was available in sheet widths of 3’ or 4’ (900 or 1200 mm) to suit fixing centres of 18” and 24” (450 and 600 mm), and lengths from 6-10’ (1.8-3 m), and was 3/8” thick (9.5 mm). Some ½” (6 mm) plasterboard was used as a ceiling lining.

Sheets were fixed by nailing with galvanised, flat-head nails at 4–5” (100–125 mm) intervals and approximately ½” (12 mm) from the sheet edge around the outside of the sheet, and spaced at approximately 9” (230 mm) centres across the middle. All nail holes and joints were then stopped. Early sheets had square, not tapered edges, the latter developed in the 1960s to facilitate a flush finish to the stopping.


Hardboard, usually oil-tempered, was used because of its moisture resistant properties as a painted wall and a ceiling lining for wet areas such as kitchens, bathrooms and laundries. Standard hardboard was also available with a patterned surface finish, a finish imitating tiles and as perforated sheet known as pegboard (which was sometimes used as a soffit lining to allow roof space ventilation).

Proprietary plastic laminate and other factory finished hardboard, such as Formica laminate, Riotone and Seratone, designed for use in wet areas, became available during the 1960s.

Sheets were available in sizes that were typically 8 x 4’ (2.4 x 1.2 m) and a range of thicknesses including 1/16” (1.5 mm), 1/8” (3 mm) and ¼” (6 mm). For use as a wall lining, the hardboard sheet thickness was generally ¼” (6 mm).

Joints were covered by half round mouldings, butted with alight arris, or later, especially for use in wet areas, plastic or aluminium jointers.

Low-density softboard

A low density, lightweight sheet fibreboard, the most common known as Pinex softboard, was often used as a ceiling lining, particularly after 1941 when New Zealand manufacture began. It was available in sheet sizes of 10 x 4’ (3.0 x 1.2 m) and 8 x 4’ (2.4 x 1.2 m) x ½” (12 mm) thick. The sheets were fixed with flat-head nails, and joints were covered by half round timber beading and painted. Softboard beads and cornices were also available.

Softboard has good thermal and acoustic properties. If there are softboard walls or ceiling linings that are in good condition, it is recommended that they are left in place and lined over with plasterboard.

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Colour schemes/finishes

State houses were originally painted in a limited range of colours. Colours were typically pale such as off-white, buff or cream, and were offset with a contrasting trim colour.

Spray textured ceiling finishes applied to plasterboard ceilings became available during the 1960s.