FPDC’s technical consultant Steve Halcrow takes a look at the use of fibre and paper tape for plasterboard jointing.

One of the most repeated conversations I have as I carry out my technical role for FPDC is the issue of fibre tape versus paper tape to reinforce joints in plasterboard finishing.

The use of fibre tapes has proliferated over the last 15 years or so and they are now a common part of daily drylining life. The reason is obvious; they are simple and cost effective to use. We do, however, see more failures (in the form of joints cracking, tapes ‘grinning’) than with paper tapes, by a comfortable margin.

In essence there is nothing intrinsically wrong with using fibre tapes. Correctly applied they will provide all the necessary reinforcement required for a typical plasterboard joint. The issue, where there is one, lies in the application.

It is vital that when the tape is applied, care is taken to ensure the first-coat material is thoroughly pressed through its mesh and into the board joint behind. This is the part that gets missed the most. Operatives, in trying to complete the task quickly, will often coat the tapes too fast, with the result that the material ‘hangs’ on the face of the mesh rather than going completely through as it should, effectively leaving the body of the joint ‘hollow’.

Once this has set and the finishing coats are applied, all looks normal, but if sufficient movement takes place in the background plasterboards the likelihood of cracking of that joint is greatly increased.

The nature of paper tape is such that, in the act of bedding the tapes the joint will be fully filled with material and therefore there is no chance of the hollow being present. This makes the joint far more tolerant of any movement and the chances of cracking are minimal.

Please take care. Select the right material for the right job and MAKE SURE if you use fibre tapes that they are being installed correctly and with care. I love visiting our members, but I would rather not be coming to one of your sites to clear up why there is widespread cracking, only to find poorly applied fibre tape!

Help us keep up the standards of workmanship. This is something our members have held dear for some years and continues to be one of the key benefits of membership.