The ultimate guide to partition walls

Partition walls are all walls in your apartment that are not load-bearing. They are usually thinner (8-15 cm) and easier to take down. It is often possible to remove entire partition wall since it won’t affect the structural system. However, in older buildings and during a certain amount of time, even partition brick walls might start to behave as load-bearing walls which is something that can create structural problems and extra costs in apartment reconstruction.

If you’re planning an apartment reconstruction, you probably have a new layout in mind which usually means taking down old walls and building new ones. Choosing the right material for partition walls can have a big impact on your budget, duration of reconstruction, and in the end, your everyday life.

These are some basic requirements for partition walls:

  1. soundproofing – ”thin walls’ is a fact, not just an expression, it is hard to soundproof a room with thin walls
  2. wall function – plumbing system, for example, can only be installed in wider walls (remember how a wider wall can help you design an amazing bathroom?)
  3. building duration
  4. adaptability – you’ll change your mind, have a bigger family or sell your apartment, so choosing the type od partition walls that is as easy to take down as possible might be a good idea
  5. flexibility – if you can’t decide whether to separate two rooms or join them in the big one, do both
  6. light – not enough windows in the apartment can result in amazing layout solutions by using translucent partition walls
  7. finishing texture – if natural, textured look is not important to you, you can have perfectly smooth walls
  8. weight – you are adding new weight to the load-bearing structure so it is good idea to use light materials

What should you choose?

1. Clay hollow block

Pretty common, natural material, usually plastered (which adds about 2 cm on each size of the wall). That is, in fact, a big deal when installing fixtures – as we said when we talked about designing a shower if something is 90 cm wide, it just won’t fit in 88 cm.

PLANO BFW Aluminium Skirting board - PROFILITEC Plano Line®
PLANO BFW Aluminium Skirting board – PROFILITEC Plano Line® // source:

You can choose between few different widths of prefabricated clay elements: 8, 10 or 12 cm (for plumbing system, 12 cm is minimum). There is no need for wider blocks since those are used only in very high spaces. This option is slow in comparison to others, not because of building process but because of drying process of the plaster.

That being said, a standard material like this is perfect for being used in a new, creative and inspired way. We love what  RÄS did in apartment la Carme. Painting unplastered wall (made of clay hollow bricks) white, they got neutral but textured, warm and natural-looking partition wall in the hallway. That wall being in front of the old-fashioned brick wall, also painted white, is just out of this world.

Partition walls tips and ideas | brick walls in interiors

2. Aerated concrete blocks

The masonry-based wall can be made of aerated concrete blocks. This is relatively light, easy to handle and low-waste material (which is an important fact when we’re talking about apartment reconstructions). The building process is quite simple because once the block joints have been cleaned up and any irregularities have been filled, you are left with a smooth finish.

Aerated concrete blocks possess greater inherent sound insulating properties that one would expect based on the weight of the material. This gives the material excellent noise insulating and noise absorbing properties when used in the interior.

When following simple manufacturers guidelines for hanging objects and for mounting plumbing fixtures in the home, it is possible to attach objects to interior walls made out of this material. However, specific types of fixing will probably be required for hanging those objects.

3. Drywall

The biggest flaw of drywalls is the fact that you can’t hang on them anything heavy that wasn’t planned, including shelves.

Drywall consists of a substructure, cover boards (usually plasterboard), and mineral wool between elements of the substructure that provides sound insulation. Anything that has to be fixed on the drywall, has to have its own part of the substructure installed behind the plasterboards.

Installing drywalls is fast and economic. Drywalls are quite adaptable since they are relatively easy to tear down, installation is clean and low-waste. Wall surface is perfectly smooth.

In our post about a bathroom remodel, we talked about installation walls and masks in front of the load-bearing walls, specifically built to provide hidden space for the plumbing system. Drywalls are definitely the simplest solution for installation systems and there is a number of manufacturers who design fixtures and their substructures to use with drywalls.

Common plasterboard is not meant to be used in wet spaces like bathrooms, but there is a great selection of, so-called aqua boards or aqua panels, that will do the job.

4. Glass

Glass block may be old fashioned, but contemporary interior walls made of glass blocks can be quite spectacular.

This is not an option that fits in many different styles of the interior, but it is great if you need a translucent wall to bring natural light into a room in the middle of the apartment that has no windows and when intimacy is not an issue.

The ultimate guide to partition walls: i.s.m.architecten - LVDV: glass partition
Glass wall // i.s.m.architecten – LVDV // photo: © Luis Díaz Díaz

Glass wall also can be an option. Think about translucent one instead of transparent (transparent glass can be really dangerous as a partition, just like glass doors). This kind of partition has a minimum width and can separate the kitchen from the living room (you can still have visual contact without smells in the entire apartment), working area from a bedroom or even entrance area from the rest of the apartment. It is a good idea to organize good entrance space.

5. Movable wall panels

This is as flexible as it gets. If you can’t decide whether to separate two rooms or join them in the big one, leave both options available. Wouldn’t it be great if you could use the living room as an extra bedroom when necessary, but have it connected to the rest of the apartment  most of the time? Or to be able to have separate rooms for your kids with a possibility to join them for kids birthday parties and play dates? Good thing is that in most cases, these types of panels are basically hanging from the ceiling, so there is no guideline on the floor when you open up. Remember to leave enough space for panels to fold. When folded, they should be ‘invisible’ and not in your way.Partition walls tips and ideas | movable wall panels

Partition walls tips and ideas | movable wall panels

Movable wall panels can be quite expensive, mostly depending on sound insulation requirements and main material of the panels. However, investing in adapting your apartment to your needs will be worth it.

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