Home Improvement: How to Hang Drywall on a Wall or Ceiling

One of the first experiences I ever had- and it won’t be my last- with hanging drywall was a few years ago. I volunteered to help a friend of mine hang drywall up in his house that he was remodeling. Drywall, which is also known as “Sheetrock” and “Gypsum”, is a common covering for inside house walls and ceilings. It’s actually sheets of plaster that are covered on both sides with heavy gray paper. Except for the water-resistant type of drywall. It’s covered with a blue or green covering. It’s recommended, of course, for use in bathrooms or in other high-moisture areas.

Drywall comes in either four by eight foot sheets, or four by twelve sheets, and in thickness of 3/8, 1/2, and 5/8 inch. You’ll need to check your local building codes to find out what thickness(es) you’ll need to use.

After my friend got his building permit, he ordered several sheets of gypsum from his local building supply store. A truck delivered it to his house and set it out on his lawn. Drywall is sturdy to a certain degree, but it can be broken if it’s not stored or handled properly. It has to be laid flat in a dry area until you use it so it doesn’t break or warp.

We started this project in his living room. The existing drywall had already been torn out. So all that remained was the insulation between the wall and ceiling studs. Fortunately, the walls and ceiling were eight feet tall. Since the drywall is four feet wide and eight feet long, we didn’t have to cut any for most of the job. It was just a matter of placing it and nailing it down at first.

The ceiling is the best place to start in a room because the edges of the sheetrock on the walls will help to hold up the sheets on the ceiling.

Note: Drywall is heavy; and, as I said earlier, since it can easily break, two people should handle the full sheets. Not only that, but moving the sheets with a helper will help save your back!

The first step in this home improvement project is to put your protective goggles or glasses on. Then, it’s time to get to work. We naturally started in a corner of the room. Before you hang a piece of sheetrock on a ceiling or wall, you must check the area first to make sure there are no obstructions in the way. Common examples are light fixtures.

Now, with your helper, place the first sheet of gypsum in the corner of the room so it runs across the ceiling studs. My friend held it in place while I used drywall screws and a cordless screwdriver to secure it into place. Then, work your way across the room until you have the entire ceiling covered with the sheetrock.

To place a sheet of drywall around an obstruction such as a light fixture, we first made sure the electricity to the room was shut off. Then, use a measuring tape to measure how far in the obstruction is from the wall on all sides. Mark these measurements onto a sheet of drywall. Next, measure and draw an outline of the light fixture base, et cetera, onto the drywall.

You can use a sharp utility knife or a razor blade to easily cut the backing on drywall. Then, it can be snapped off. We used a drywall saw instead. It’s pretty handy because it has a pointy end that can be used to pierce through the material so you can start cutting in the middle of a sheet. Cut the waste piece out, then dry fit the piece. Finally, hang the sheet in place with drywall screws or nails.

After the ceiling is drywalled, begin in a corner to start on the walls of the room. Follow the same initial steps to hang sheetrock on the ceiling. Then, push the first piece up to the ceiling and screw (or nail) it into place. Here’s a good rule of thumb to follow: you’ll want to hang the sheets of gypsum so there are the least number of seams.

Measure and cut out any windows, electrical outlets, switches, and other obstructions.

Finally, once the entire room is finished, you’ll need to tape and mud the seams.

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