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How to Install Drywall

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How to Install Drywall

Installing drywall, which is also known as Sheetrock, is an important part of building a house (or anything, for that matter).


Drywall typically comes in 4'x8' sheets and is normally installed horizontally but can be installed vertically if desired. Larger 4'x12' sheets are available however they are hard to work with unless you are a professional with a few extra hands. These larger sheets tend to break easily during transport to the job site but are great because the larger sheets mean fewer joints to tape.

Thicknesses range from 1/4" - 5/8" with 1/2" being the most popular. The 1/4" sheets are often used as overlays to existing drywall and are not intended to be used in new construction. Check your local building code for requirements in your area.
Composition is another factor when selecting drywall as there are various moisture resistant products commonly called 'green rock' designed for installation in high moisture areas such as garages and bathrooms. Check your local building supply store before committing to purchase. Green rocking the whole house may be overkill but is great because of it's moisture resistant properties.

Prepare the wall for your new drywall by removing all old drywall, nails, screws and anything else that will prevent the new drywall sheets from laying flat on the studs.
Now is a good time to inspect and repair hidden damage such as loose blocking, moisture damage, termites, etc. Don't be surprised to find steel studs instead of wood. This is really a good thing since steel has many good qualities such as added strength, termite-proof, and fire retardant. The only difference is that you have to use drywall screws instead of nails that is better anyways.

Inspect insulation that is stapled to the studs. Use Kraft tape to repair tears in the paper backing to maximize your energy efficiency.

Use triple expanding foam to seal cracks and gaps on exterior walls.

Be advised that drywall has a mud cavity along the length wise seams to give the mud a place to adhere without forming a mound that will be unsightly on your finished wall.
Measure the wall where you would like to install drywall. Most likely you will have to cut some pieces. When cutting drywall, use a razor knife and score a line on one side of the drywall paper. Place your knee on the opposite side of the cut and quickly pull the drywall piece towards you while at the same time pushing your knee outward to snap the drywall in a clean line. Then simply use your razor knife to cut the remaining paper along the newly formed crease.

Cut the pieces being very careful, because the knife or saw that you use always somehow seems to want to go off the line. I recommend using a straight edge as a guide for the razor knife. Remember that you don't have to press any harder than required to cut one side of the paper since you will snap the drywall along your cut line.

Use a hand drywall saw to make cuts along irregular openings such as arches.

A good practice when installing drywall over protruding pipes is to place the drywall against the pipe and lightly tap with a flat block of wood to dimple the back, then pull the drywall away and use a drywall circle cutter or drywall hole saw and cut a perfect hole that should be much easier to finish out than if you punch out a large hole that requires 3-4 coats of mud to finish.

Locate the studs with a stud finder if they are not visible. Don't trust that your studs will all be on 16" or 24" centers. Mine were often 1/2" off in either direction most likely due to sloppy carpentry work by the builder. A good idea is to run a length of masking tape along the floor while you have the studs exposed and mark the center line of each stud with a high visibility marker.

Make sure to use a spring loaded drywall screw dimplier since they are designed to automatically countersink each drywall screw to precisely the same depth before ratcheting the screw bit as a sign to quit and back off the drill.

Have someone help you hold the drywall on the wall, and using the drill, install the screws in the at approx 8" centers on the vertical studs. Extra screws may help in some situations however they are usually overkill and will require extra mudding and sanding that will detracting on the overall finish.

When possible, install the screws closer to the edges that will be trimmed so that the screw heads will be covered by baseboard or door frame trim.

Use at least a 6" drywall knife to apply a liberal amount of mud to each seam.

Have your drywall tape pre-cut and lightly dampened with clean water. Don't need to soak it down too much.
Recommend avoiding the perforated and fiber tapes as they don't produce a flawless finish and require gobs of extra mud and sanding to get the job done right.

Put drywall tape over the joint you just applied the mud, then use your 6" or 8" drywall putty knife to flatten the tape by starting at one end and pulling towards you to hte other end in one smooth motion.

DO NOT REAPPLY THE MUD THAT IS LEFT ON YOUR BLADE. It is critical to clean your blade after each swipe to ensure a professional finish. Dip it in water in between each swipe and wipe it on the mud tray edge to ensure a clean application. The putty knife will collect small dust particles that will cause streaks in your finish so you will want to discard this excess mud after each swipe.

Inspect your recently tapped joint for air bubbles. Wet your blade and flatten then out with another swipe if needed.
Repeat for each joint untill all joints are taped.

Don't apply any mud over freshly tapped joints! Allow them to thouroughly dry for one day between coats unless you are using hot mud that will dry in an hour. A great idea is to use pink mud that drys white indicating it is ready for another coat.

For corner beads you may want to use a corner tool that is available for both inside and outside corners to give your job a professional finish.

Apply at least 2-3 more coats using a slightly wider putty knife for each application letting it dry between each coat. It will bubble if you rush it!

Don't forget to apply a swipe coat over each screw. You shouldn't notice any edges after screeding the mud over a joint line or screw dimple. Make sure to hold the blade flat against the drywall and pull towards you in smooth but firm strokes. Practice on an old piece of drywall to refine your technique.

Also screed some mud over any small imperfections in the drywall that may occur during installation such as missed nail/screw holes.

Many thin coats of mud will give you better results but patience is required to let it dry.

Use a pole sander with drywall sand paper to sand the joints after the final coat has dryed. Don't get carried away and sand until you expose the paper. This step goes quick as the mud will sand off really quick.

Contrary to urban legend, you don't have to sand everything such as mud over screws or nails if you created a smooth screed of mud when you put on your top coat.

Drywall breaks very easily, so when you carry it, don't let the middle bow down too much.

Things You'll Need
Measuring tape
Drywall screws (coarse screws for wood, fine thread screws for metal studs)
Drywall screw dimpler
Drywall tape (paper tape is preferred)
Drywall mud
Drywall mud topcoat for final coat
Plastic or metal drywall mud tray
Razor knife
6" putty knife
10" drywall putty knife
Drywall pole sander
Medium grit drywall sand paper
Fine grit drywall sand paper for finish coat