From concrete workshop to plywood-lined office

Turning a former mechanic’s workshop into a high-end office space was quick and easy using PlyPlay.

An old building in the inner Auckland city suburb of Kingsland was going to be the new location for Craig Geldard’s maritime electronics company, but its original state needed a lot of work.

‘Obviously we needed to cover up the concrete blocks, because it was going to have a fairly dramatic change of use, but we also had to adhere to the Building Code for bracing requirements.’

PlyPlay not only provided the structural element for the bracing walls, it also produced an immediate decorative finish that would shorten the project time frame.

‘Working with plasterboard means you need three contractors, which can become a moving target trying to get all the trades in a sequence and on time. With pre-finished PlyPlay, I only had the builder to deal with. And he could complete an area then move onto the next. It was far more efficient than any other process.’

Craig was also after a quality finish and style for the completed space, not only for his team, but for potential tenants too. He knew he would be leasing the upstairs area and wanted to attract a tenant that would be seeking a good design aesthetic.

‘I knew I wanted to make it a little edgy – with a design element – and PlyPlay was spot on. We soon found a tenant who loved the space and they signed up straight away.’

It works for Craig, too, who after many years in nondescript, painted plasterboard interiors, wanted his new space to have character and style.

‘The blonded plywood panels help to break up the large walls, and look great alongside the black joinery. Upstairs, instead of a typical office suspending ceiling, we were also able to install PlyPlay. This detail gave us another 20–30 cm of height, so the top floor feels a lot roomier, and it has definitely created a powerful look.’

PlyPlay transforms a garage into a play space

With the trend toward smaller lot and house sizes, it’s time to revisit the humble garage. Its potential as a multifunctional space is largely untapped, but with the right materials, fittings and design it can be transformed into an attractive and versatile room. In addition to storing cars, it can also serve as a family breakout space, workshop or project space. It can even change use according to the season. Whether you have tots or teens, or an empty nest, the garage is ready to be viewed as a space that can be used for more.


Interior designer Sonya Cotter has styled this Auckland garage three ways: as a secondary living room, as a games room and for a practical yet comfortable gardening workspace. To the existing dark blue polypropylene carpet, she has selected pre-finished PlyPlay™. “The plywood immediately transforms the room with the warmth of timber,” she says. “It feels more welcoming, which is important for a family space, but also because garages are inadvertently used as another entry into the home.”

PlyPlay™ provides equal measures of style and practicality making the space as desirable as it is functional. Glued and panel pinned to the existing plasterboard lining, the plywood offers a strong surface for hooks and fittings. Whether storing bicycles from the ceiling, hanging gardening tools or a bean bag, hooks and brackets won’t rip out like they can from plasterboard. And if a hook is removed, the hole hardly shows due to the texture of the wood.

Being prefinished also means the construction time is quick and relatively mess-free. Builder Phil Hays lined this garage in under two days. “It took me about half an hour per sheet to install,” he explains, “and because they are pre-finished, I was the only contractor required. No need for plastering or painting trades. The protective plastic on the PlyPlay surface allowed me to easily mark my cut lines, which sped up the installation.”

Maintenance is also an important consideration for garages, as anyone storing sports or gardening gear can attest to. Bumped and marked plasterboard is not attractive and takes a lot of work to keep clean. PlyPlay™ by contrast, has a strong Ecoply substrate and durable UV-cured polyurethane finish. It handles more knocks, wear and tear and is easy to clean with a soft wet sponge.

Transform your garage interior DIY-style with PlyPlay

Even the humblest of garages can be transformed over a weekend into a stylish hobby or games room with prefinished PlyPlay.

Standing inside his 1960s garage one day, eyeing the lawn mower and collection of tools, Jake Raines decided the space could be put to better use. It had a concrete floor, timber framing and metal cladding, all in reasonable condition. By making it dust-free and insulated, he could use it as a home gym and store his kids’ sports and hobby equipment, all without the risk of things going mouldy.

Keen on a bit of DIY, Jake discussed lining options with a builder friend – comparing plasterboard with PlyPlay plywood – and decided on the prefinished product. This meant he could do the whole job himself and didn’t need to book plasterers or painters. Plywood would also stand up better to the knocks and bumps of a games or fitness room and allow him to fix shelf brackets and hooks directly into the panels. If there had been existing plasterboard, he could easily glue and screw ply over the top.

So, armed with cordless power tools, two sawhorses and a drywall lifter, he set to work to transform the space over two weekends.

Step one: the clean-up

A 50-year-old garage comes with a bit of history. Jake ripped out old work benches and removed nails, brackets and shelves added over the years. It took him a day – including a trip to the dump – to strip it back to bare studs, nogs and rafters.

Step two: lights and insulation

He measured out where he wanted the new downlights for effective night lighting and got an electrician in to install the cables. Then he spent an evening fitting the insulation between the framing – a nice and easy DIY job.

Step three: ceiling battens

With raking rafters, the third stage was to fit ceiling battens for a nice flat surface on which to fix the lining. Prior to deciding on PlyPlay, Jake installed Rondo battens for plasterboard. So instead of nailing off the PlayPlay, he simply screwed it straight to the battens.

Step four: installing the wall panels

Jake chose two different colours for the walls: PlyPlay Double Trouble (charcoal) for the rear and front walls and PlyPlay Blond Ambition for the side walls. First, he painted every second stud black to enhance the negative detail between sheets – it worked a treat. He then trimmed each panel to fit the stud centres using the two sawhorses and a power saw.

Because he was working alone, Jake used a glass pane lifter (with suction cups) to carry each 2400 mm x 1200 mm PlyPlay panel into place. With a cordless nail gun, he put one 40 mm panel pin on the top edge to hold it in place, then used his spirit level to get it plumb before nailing off the full sheet at 150 mm centres around the edges and 300 mm centres on intermediate supports.

He installed all 15 wall sheets of PlyPlay by himself in one day.

Step five: installing the ceiling panels

Jake knew lifting the ceiling panels on his own was going to be a challenge, so he hired a drywall lifter from Hirepool. He booked this for 8.30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, allowing himself all day and all night for the job.

With eight sheets to install, he measured and cut for a symmetrical layout. Placing one at a time onto the lifter, Jake wound the handle to raise each panel effortlessly into the right location. Using his spirit level and square to position them accurately, he then screwed each sheet to the ceiling, and lowered the tool for the next one. A step-ladder was helpful, but he didn’t need any scaffolding. To his surprise, he had the job done by 2 p.m.

Step six: lights, power plugs and skirting

With all the linings in place, he marked and drilled 10 downlight holes for the electrician and marked where he wanted the surface-mounted power points.

While he had the wall and ceiling central joints neat enough, not being a builder, he decided to finish the floor and ceiling edges with a pine skirting and cornice, both pre-painted black. It took him only 15 minutes to nail these in.

Step seven: carpet is the finishing touch

With the linings fitted over the weekend, the carpet was booked for installation on Tuesday. Covering the old slab, it keeps the space soft underfoot and dust-free.

From start to finish, this DIY job took only 28 hours of his labour and cost $7000 in materials. Jakes reckons that if he had employed a builder, it could have been done in two days.

Adding value to his property and family lifestyle

After doing some online research, Jake found that a basic garage costs around $35,000 to build, while a mid-range garage is around the $50,000 mark. So he was pretty happy with his $7k spend to achieve a really useful space, not to mention the value it has added to his property.

What was an underutilised vintage garage is now a comfortable space to spend time in for hobbies or exercise. It is well insulated, clean and dust-free, and has good acoustics, a warm timber finish, carpet underfoot and good lighting.


Project budget

Please note: This work and pricing was undertaken in 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. Please check with a local building firm in your area to confirm what pricing would be likely for this type of project in your area before going ahead. The table is in New Zealand dollars.


Product enquiries & samples

Phone: 09 579 4392


PlyPlay™ is an indent product with a three-week lead time and available through CARTERS.
Visit to find your nearest branch.

SIT Ceiling

Tertiary training kitchen features hygienic ceiling tiles

A new kitchen in Queenstown provides students and tutors with the perfect training environment. The Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) has five campuses around New Zealand and recently completed a full refurbishment of its hospitality school training kitchen and classrooms in Queenstown. In a tight construction schedule, work began after the final teaching week of 2017 and had to be completed and commissioned ready for the 2018 academic year.

Designed by Bill Mackintosh of Beattie McDowell Architecture, the training kitchen caters for 18 students and is fitted with all the latest gear. The equipment list includes nine Waldorf electric ranges, a six-tray Turbofan demonstration oven, and a 12-tray Turbofan oven for teaching a range of speciality bread and pastry recipes, along with other specialised appliances.

The Queenstown layout is similar to SIT’s Invercargill training kitchen, which works well for students and tutors, offering good sightlines for demonstrations and a safe operating environment for trainee chefs. Kitchen finishes meet B2 Durability and G3 Food Preparation requirements of the New Zealand Building Code for commercial kitchens.

HardieGlaze Premium and Invibe by James Hardie line the walls, and ceilings are the Fenta ceiling tile by Bates Surfaces in a suspended ceiling grid. The high-gloss, light-reflective surfaces of both the white Fenta tile and HardieGlaze panels means light is bounced around the room for maximum energy efficiency, providing excellent lighting conditions for the precise work required for food preparation and presentation.

Made in New Zealand for over 30 years, Fenta ceiling tiles are specially designed for the

humid conditions and cooking residue of commercial kitchens. They feature a 100% UV-cured painted surface on a 4.5mm James Hardie cement board. The antibacterial, scratch-resistant and non-porous surface makes them a benchmark product for these environments.

Product details

The tiles fit into all standard suspended ceiling grids and come in white high-gloss or white satin finish. They can be ordered in any colour when the project meets the minimum order size. Contact Bates Surfaces for further information on or phone 0800 269 251.

Fenta distributors:

Forman Building Systems |
Potter Interior Systems |
T&R Interior Systems |

Dad’s Pies

Hygienic ceiling tiles printed with a timber pattern

In a refurbished bakery café, Fenta Digital ceiling tiles create a warm plywood look, while complying with fire rating and hygiene best practices.

The Baker’s Son café in Silverdale sits out front of Dad’s Pies bakery, a purpose-built food factory that makes a range of savoury products for retail outlets around New Zealand, and for its main export markets of Australia and Japan.

‘We have always had a café or lunch bar as part of the bakery,’ says owner and founder Eddie Grooten. ’It’s how we trial our products and get customer feedback. It’s a good stand-alone business in its own right, too, so we recently renovated the café interior and extended the range of food. It’s a lot more comfortable, spacious and modern.’

After initially considering a plywood finish, they were introduced to Bates Surfaces who make PlyPlay and Fenta. Fenta commercial ceiling tiles became the natural choice, as they provide a good fire rating and hygienic finish. Normally a white satin or gloss, Fenta tiles can also be digitally printed. Eddie chose a printed plywood image to get the character and aesthetics of timber, but with all the benefits that Fenta brings in terms of durability, maintenance and compliance.

‘We wanted a hygienic ceiling,’ says Eddie. ‘In any food premises, it has to be easy to maintain and easy to clean.’ Coated in Auckland on an advanced UV line, the tile coating has antimicrobial bio silver molecules. This makes the surface uniquely suitable for ceilings in food-prep areas, laboratories, commercial bathrooms and laundries – spaces where hygiene is critical.

The printed ceiling tiles are laid in the suspended ceiling grid so the grain pattern flows from tile to tile. The metal ceiling grid is powder-coated a light tan colour to tone in nicely with the print. Against white walls, and with black and gold accents, the interior feels modern, warm and elegant.

Digital printing onto Fenta tiles – encapsulated within the coating – is a product innovation affording greater design creativity in functional commercial ceilings.
High-resolution printing gives designers enormous scope to communicate identity and personalise interiors with innovative graphics and large-format images.

Product description: Made in New Zealand for 40 years, the Fenta tile is based on a 4.5mm James Hardie fibre cement board, which is cut to 600 x 1200mm tiles (nominal) and then coated with a hard, high-gloss UV-cured paint system by Bates Surface Solutions, New Zealand’s largest coatings applicator for building panel products and a leader in UV-cured paint technology. The Fenta tile drops into standard commercial suspended ceiling grids.

Key features:

• 100% UV-cured and VOC-free paint (primers and topcoats).
• Hygienic and fire-resistant.
• Durable, hard and scratch-resistant.
• Highly light-reflective for brighter spaces.
For further details contact Bates Surfaces at or phone 0800 269 251.


Forman Building Systems |
Potter Interior Systems |
T&R Interior Systems |

Project: Baker’s Son café
Product: Fenta ceiling tiles
Photos: Bryce Carlton

Burwood Hospital commercial kitchen, Christchurch

Fenta commercial kitchen ceiling tiles: for high performance

The new $215 million Burwood Hospital in Christchurch features a state of the art commercial kitchen. Fenta Ceiling Tiles by Bates Surfaces were selected as part of the high quality and durable material palette.

Designed to provide meals for over 280 patients a day, the Burwood Hospital catering kitchen had to be robust, easy to clean, low maintenance and highly efficient. Fenta ceiling tiles perform on all fronts due to their unique UV-cured painted surface and strong substrate.

The Fenta tiles hard-wearing surface provides the longevity required in a busy hospital environment. And the specialist paint system, developed by Bates Surfaces, means excellent light reflectance for
the window-less kitchen spaces.

Ingredients for optimal light reflectance

The project brief required a high gloss level on the walls and kitchen ceiling, both for easy-clean and a high light reflectance value. The glazed Fenta tiles are about the best option on the market for these requirements because of their non-scratchable surface and unique paint finish.

The UV-cured polyurethane provides a luminous surface. Lighting is amplified in the space, making the artificial lighting more efficient. This leads to improved working conditions and lower energy costs. “We have no natural light,” says food service manager Hellen Donnithorne, “so they help make the kitchen light and bright and easy on the eye.”

A durable surface and a flexible solution

The James Hardie compressed sheet substrate makes the Fenta tiles incredibly tough, while the UV-cured high-gloss paint surface is smooth and hygienic. This makes them very easy to wipe down and maintain in this busy commercial kitchen.

Sheppard and Rout architect, Tim Dagg, describes them as “one of the better options for durability and flexibility, where you can pop out the tiles from the ceiling grid to access and maintain services concealed above.”

Fire retardant where heat sources are used

In addition to hygiene and light-reflectance, the other key feature required for a kitchen environment is fire safety. The fire rated ceiling tiles achieve the maximum New Zealand Building

Code Fire Safety Standard – Code 1-S – and also meet the New Zealand requirements for non-sprinkler environments, making them an ideal choice for food prep and commercial kitchen areas.

Product details

The tiles fit into all standard suspended ceiling grids and come in white high-gloss or white satin finish. They can be ordered in any colour when the project meets the minimum order size. Contact Bates Surfaces for further information on or phone 0800 269 251.

Fenta distributors:
Forman Building Systems |
Potter Interior Systems |
T&R Interior Systems |

Changing rooms at the EA Networks Centre, Ashburton

The Fenta Ceiling Tile: for hardworking spaces

Bates Surfaces Fenta Ceiling Tiles feature in a new, state-of-the-art sports centre where hygiene,
durability and easy maintenance are essential.

Complete with an aquatic centre, indoor stadium and gymnasium, Ashburton’s EA Networks Centre
is a stunning new multi-sport facility designed by Warren and Mahoney. Fenta Ceiling Tiles feature in
the café and changing rooms where a stylish but hardworking surface was needed. Made from a
premium James Hardie fibre cement board, the tiles have a non-porous, glossy surface coating,
which is highly resistant to mould and mildew, and has excellent reflectivity to enhance areas with
little or no natural light.

“The Fenta Ceiling Tiles were selected because of the need for a durable, hard-wearing, easy-clean
and moisture-resistant ceiling,” says project architect Alex Head. “Changing rooms in aquatic centres
are prone to high abuse, high moisture levels and regular cleaning, and therefore the selection of a
prefinished fibre cement–based panel was an obvious choice.”

A New Zealand product with a 25-year history

The Fenta Ceiling Tile is the original Hardiglaze Ceiling Tile, renamed in 2005 when the product passed from James Hardie to Bates Surfaces. Specified in New Zealand projects for over 25 years, it is seen by many as the industry standard for ceilings in hygiene areas.

Bates Surfaces has retained the 4.5 mm James Hardie substrate, a premium board made of Portland
cement with a hard, smooth surface. This forms the base of the Fenta Tile, which is finished with an UltraLightTM Technology primer and overcoated with a 100% UV coating system that is tough and
environmentally friendly.

A wide range of applications

Their hygiene, durability and light-reflective qualities make these tiles suitable for a wide range of situations: changing rooms and bathrooms, commercial kitchens, general utility rooms, retail fit-outs, laboratories, hospital and health-care environments. The tiles meet the maximum New Zealand Building Code Fire Safety Standard (Code 1-S), as well as code requirements for non-sprinkler environments, making them ideal for commercial kitchens and laboratories.

In the EA Networks Centre changing rooms, one year on, the tile is easily standing up to the high-intensity environment, and proving to be very easy to clean and maintain. “I like the tiles,” comments Dave Folley, who handles plant maintenance at the centre. “They’ve been in twelve months now and are very easy to clean and they reflect light around.” More than simply a practical finish, the tiles’ crisp, modern aesthetic also enhances the architecture of the building.

Product details

The tiles fit into all standard suspended ceiling grids, and come in white high-gloss or white satin
finish. They can be ordered in any colour when the project meets the minimum order size. Contact
Bates Surfaces for further information on or phone 0800 269 251.
Fenta distributors:
Forman Building Systems |
Potter Interior Systems |
T&R Interior Systems |

EA Networks Centre, Ashburton

Fenta Ceiling Tiles: ideal in sports centre café

The hygienic, light-reflective Fenta Ceiling Tiles feature in EAT café servicing a state-of-the-art new sports centre designed by Warren and Mahoney.

EAT café at the new EA Networks Centre seats up to 100 customers, catering for large sports tournaments as well as regular swimming pool and gym users. Like the fitness areas, the café environment has to be high-performance and low maintenance to be able to run efficiently seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.

Hygienic for food prep areas

Fenta Ceiling Tiles are installed in the café’s commercial kitchen and counter service area where hygiene standards are critical. The tiles’ hard, high-gloss surface makes them resistant to moisture, bacteria, mould and mildew, keeping them pristine years after installation. When cleaning is required, their smooth, non-scratch surface makes this effortless.

Light-reflective for windowless rooms

The stylish tiles have a high-tech appearance due to their glossy white, light-reflective finish, which is designed to maximise illumination inside artificially lit spaces, a common situation for commercial kitchens. To achieve a high durability, ANZAL use a premium James Hardie fibre cement board finished with patented UltraLight™ Technology – an eco-friendly, UV curing process.

Low maintenance to lower running costs

Café manager Kim Jamison says the kitchen has to cater for a range of foods “from gourmet burgers to raw foods popular with gym goers. We have a good extraction system to deal with moisture and heat, and the ceiling tiles still look brand-new a year after opening. They’re amazing – they stay clean and are very low maintenance.”

Fire retardant where heat sources are used

In addition to hygiene and light-reflectance, the other key feature required for a kitchen environment is fire safety. The Fenta tiles achieve the maximum New Zealand Building Code Fire Safety Standard – Code 1-S – and also meet the New Zealand requirements for non-sprinkler environments, making them an ideal choice for food prep and commercial kitchen areas.

Contact Bates Surfaces for further details or phone 0800 269 251.

Fenta distributors:
Forman Building Systems |
Potter Interior Systems |
T&G Interior Systems |