Is there any value in installing drywall (plasterboard) on the ceiling before the walls or does it not matter?
If you do the walls first, you can end up with drywall that is unsupported along an entire edge.
Taking these walls for example.
If you add drywall to the walls.
Then add drywall to the ceiling.
The ceiling drywall will be unsupported along the entire length of the one wall.
Given the same walls. If you add drywall to the ceiling.
Then add drywall to the walls
The ceiling drywall will be supported by the wall drywall.
Blocking, or Extra Framing
If you add blocking; or some other framing, it shouldn't matter which you drywall first.
I was always told to drywall the ceiling before the walls so you can butt the wall sheets flush up against the ceiling so there is no need to fill gaps before taping the corner where they meet. If there is a gap at the bottom, that's no big deal as there is normally trim that would cover it.
Ceiling first is less work, otherwise I don't think it makes a difference.
Doing the ceiling first means you can lift the wall sheets to make a tight joint. By contrast if you do the walls first you would have to sculpt every edge to make it seat tightly, and/or end up with lots of voids to fill before you tape.
My crews going back 20 years have always done ceilings before walls. Tester has a really good answer that discusses the blocking issue but misses what I feel is the biggest piece of advice.
And that is leaving the perimeter of your ceiling drywall floating over the last 8-12 inches. You would not be able to do this without the walls holding up the drywall. By allowing ceiling to float you are gaining extra flexibility in the ceiling. Long-term this means less cracks in your ceiling and less cracks in the top corner. This is especially true for ceilings that are unfinished above (has attic above). The humidity and temperature changes will affect your gypsum board similar to the wood in your house. If you don't allow a slight buffer, it will crack.
The biggest issue is gravity and taping. When installing the first coat of taping compound, you are putting the corner compound directly up, then covering with paper. As it dries, it creates a bump as it settles down. If you put up the ceiling first, your taping compound is filling in the joint above the wall piece, with the wall holding up the compound as it dries, not creating a bump.
My expertise is in framing and it is good practice when framing to always put "nailers" in (something to nail the sheetrock or sheathing to). This is usually done by putting a piece on the flat (the larger dimension facing what is going to be nailed to it). I would not recommend using the sheetrock in the wall to support the sheetrock on the ceiling as there is still nothing stopping it from pushing upwards. You must be conscientious of the sheetrockkng and sheathing while framing.
There are many reasons to put the ceilings up first. I can't think of one not to. Most construction is time tested over years. It is unwise to go against the flow else your jobs become problematic. I have found that out the hard way many times. So stick with the program.
Doing the ceiling first is for fire safety. Fires go up, if you do the walls first then the vertical gaps left when you do the ceiling allow fires to directly heat the beams. If you do the ceiling first the gaps are horizontal and help control the spread of fire.