Internal wall linings: original details

Scrim and wallpaper were found in early bungalows, but plasterboard became common from the mid-1920s.

In some early bungalows, interior walls were had match lining, which was covered with scrim and wallpaper. However, from the 1920s a range of sheet wall linings became available – such as plasterboard, compressed wood fibre boards, and asbestos-cement sheets. These were used in most bungalows from the middle of the decade.

In many bungalows, the hallway and sometimes the living and dining room walls had timber panelling to door height.

Service areas such as kitchens and laundries were typically lined with TG&V lining.

Plasterboard lining

Plasterboard was originally used externally as a rigid backing for stucco, but its benefits as an interior wall lining were soon recognised. It was easy to install and the surface could be stopped to create a smooth, flush finish over which wallpaper could be applied. Sheets originally had square edges rather than the tapered edges of today.

Plasterboard was invented in the 1890s and was first imported into New Zealand in the early 1900s. By the 1920s it was commonly used, and manufacture in New Zealand began in 1925. From that time, it quickly became the preferred wall lining for houses. The brand name ‘Gibraltar board’ was not coined until the early 1930s.

Plasterboard was available in a sheet size of 6’ x 3’ x 3/8” thick (1800 x 900 mm x 9.5 mm) although thinner sheets have also been found.

For wallpapering it was recommended at the time that stopping was all that was required, while for paint finishes a full coast of plaster was recommended.

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Scrim and paper

Prior to sheet lining materials becoming readily available, rough sawn timber boards formed the wall lining substrate. The boards were fixed in a closeboarded configuration over the wall framing before being covered with scrim and paper.

Wallpaper was glued over scrim, an open-weave hessian that was tacked to the timber boards with narrow tape to prevent it from sagging and causing the wallpaper to tear.

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TG&V consisted of narrow, 4” wide x ½” thick  (100 x 12 mm), tongue and grooved boards. The timber was often dressed and was used vertically to line the walls and ceilings in kitchens and bathrooms (Figure 1).

The TG&V was painted (often with white lead paint) or clear finished with varnish or shellac.

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Asbestos-cement sheet lining

Asbestos-cement sheet – which was considered a new, easy-clean lining – was sometimes used in service rooms. The joints could be stopped to create a smooth flush finish that could then be painted. It also provided a suitable substrate for tiling.

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Timber panelling

The hallway, and sometimes the living and dining room walls, often had timber panelling (Figure 2). This was typically to door height, which could be 6’6”–7’0” (1.98–2.13 m) and was usually finished along the top by a narrow, grooved plate shelf (Figure 3) supported by timber brackets.

The panel width was typically 1’ 6” (450 mm) with vertical battens covering the panel joints. The timber was finished with varnish or shellac but if a darker effect was desired, the timber would be stained before the application of the clear finish. The walls above the panelling were generally wallpapered, often featuring ornately patterned wallpaper.