How to Hang Drywall

Hanging drywall isn’t as difficult as it seems at first look. It does however require a little bit of know how. Take a few tips from the professionals to make the job easier. The first thing to do before starting a drywall job is to make sure you have the proper tools. Most of these hand tools are relatively inexpensive and can be used on other projects as well so they make a good investment for Do-It-Yourselfers.

Tape measure
T-square
Drywall hammer or drill with drywall bit (depends on if using nails or screws)
Drywall nails or screws
An all purpose utility knife
Keyhole saw (drywall router -optional
Carpenters pencil
Mudding knives (4″, 6″, 10″ and a corner knife)
Mud tray
Handsaw
Paper mask
Eye protective gear
Nail bar (for removing old nails in areas that are not new construction)
Tool belt with nail pouch (-optional to hold all your small hand tools and nails or screws and minimize legwork, really useful if your doing it by yourself)

Materials: You will also need the proper amount and type of materials.

Drywall paper tape or mesh tape (enough to cover all the seams you will have where the drywall connects together, mesh is also better for patching)
Drywall mud (enough to cover all the seams you will have where the drywall connects together)
Prefab Drywall corners for inside and outside corners (count how many you have and buy the appropriate amount – optional)
Sanding paper (medium grade optional) or sponge for smoothing mud after application
Drywall

Choosing your drywall:

This is not too difficult. First you want to choose the appropriate thickness. The thicker the drywall the more damage resistant it will be. Thicker drywall is a little more expensive but it will also help minimize noise from high traffic areas and hold heat in the room better so is probably a good investment.

Next choose what type of drywall you will need. For rooms that are prone to moisture such as bathrooms, basements or laundry rooms you will need moisture resistant drywall called green board. For areas prone to high heat such as walls around a fireplace or kitchen areas (at minimum around the stove or other heating appliances) you will need fireboard. Fireboard is also recommended for ceilings that adjoin second story floor structures as they help slow fire damage in the event of a fire on the first floor and in most places it is required by building codes.

Finally decide how much drywall you will need. This is done by measuring the length and width of the walls and ceiling. You need to know the area space of each wall and the ceiling to know how much space you want to cover. You will also have to decide if you want to hang it horizontally or vertically. Buy for maximum coverage of the area as well as ease of installation. If you don’t want to have a lot of seams to cover, horizontal hanging is probably the best choice. If you’re pretty confident in your mudding skills you can choose to hang vertically. Keep in mind that hanging vertically may result in having to use more pieces, more seams to cover and more pieces to cut. Also try to choose pieces that will minimize cutting. If you buy pieces so that they come together at the factory cut it will be easier to cover the seams than if you choose pieces that have to be cut before installation.

Prepping:

Before you begin hanging the drywall, make sure the area you are hanging is free from any obstacles. Remove any old wall covering in the area. Remove any nails or screws that are in the wall studs or ceiling joists. Check the wood to make sure there are no damaged or weak pieces of wood. Any wood that is severely damaged by water or pests will need to be replaced prior to hanging the drywall. Make sure the wall is straight and all the wood is even. Make sure all loose electrical wires are pushed back inside the wall space area and attached to the studs. Remove obstacles like light switch coverings, electrical outlet coverings and lighting fixtures, these will be replaced over the drywall once it is installed.

Cutting and Hanging:

You want to cut the drywall as you go. Cutting all your pieces before hand may result in waste as when you get to the end of a wall or ceiling section you may find that you have cut the pieces to the wrong size and it is too small to use. If you have pieces that are longer than you need, use a handsaw or circular saw to cut the piece appropriately. You can smooth the edge of the cut with a router or sandpaper if you want but this isn’t really necessary unless it is extremely jagged. When you come to a piece of drywall that will need a spot for an electrical outlet or lighting fixture, measure and mark where the outlet will be on the piece of drywall before cutting it out and hanging. Measure from where the last piece of drywall was hung to the first side of the outlet and mark on the piece of drywall to be hung. Repeat this step but measure to the second side of the outlet and mark. Then measure from the top of the wall to the top of the outlet and mark. To get the bottom of the outlet measurement, measure how long the outlet is then mark from your top mark on the drywall to the bottom of the outlet measurement on the drywall. (This is because you don’t hang drywall all the way to the floor and measuring from the floor could result in the wrong measurement and make the hole too big or too small.) Use a keyhole saw or router to cut out the holes needed in the drywall.

Always start with the ceiling when hanging. This makes the ceiling sturdier because the wall pieces will help strengthen the ceiling when they are hung. Hanging ceiling drywall may be difficult for beginners. You can create T braces to help hold the drywall up and in place while hanging. These are easy to make with a couple of pieces of 2×4 nailed or screwed together to forms a T shape. Have a helper hold the drywall in place with the T brace while you nail or screw it to the ceiling. If you don’t have a helper, use a longer piece of wood for the base of the T to brace the drywall against the ceiling at the far end while you nail or screw it in. Ceilings should be hung with drywall nails or screws spaced every 16 to 24 inches apart across to hit the ceiling joists when hanging (this depends on how your roof is built as to how far apart your joist are) and one every 8 to 10 inches going along the joist to ensure stability of the piece.

Next, start hanging the drywall on the walls. Always start at the top and move down. Screws or nails should be placed 16 inches apart going across making sure to hit the studs in the wall for strength. Screw or nail every 8 to 10 inches going down along the wall studs to ensure stability of the piece. Hang so that the drywall does not touch the floor when finished. You want to leave about an inch gap at the floor. This helps eliminate any damage that may occur from water damage etc. Once the room is finished the baseboard will cover the gap. Try to hang the drywall pieces so that the end of each piece falls across the center of a wall stud or ceiling joist in order to insure maximum stability and strength. To minimize waste, save all your scrap pieces from cutting until the job is done. You can always use a small piece to patch a hole or fill in a small area that wasn’t covered by a full piece. Make sure to place each additional sheet of drywall flush with the last piece hung in order to avoid gaps and create a smooth finish.

Once all of the pieces are hung, go around the room and inspect it to make sure all the proper holes are cut for outlets, switches and light fixtures or other obstacles that will stick out from the wall (stove pipes, gas heating pipes etc.). Inspect to make sure all the pieces fit snuggly together. You don’t want to get all the way to painting and realize a piece needs to be rehung because of a small gap. Make sure each nail or screw is sunk in just below the surface of the drywall. This is so that when you finish the room the walls wont be blemished by extruding nail or screw heads.

Mudding and taping:

Always use fresh mud. It comes in a tub, bucket or box at any home repair or hardware store. Pour out about a half of tray of mud at a time into your mudding tray. Make sure the tray is clean and free of debris before starting so that no foreign objects mix with the mud. Make sure to cover the mud tightly when not in use so it doesn’t dry out. If you’re not very experienced at mudding use less mud at one time until you get comfortable with it. Use your 6 inch blade to place a thin coat of mud across the seam you are mudding. Then apply the tape. Start at one end of the seam and go all the way to the other for a smooth seam with the tape. Go back over the tape with a 10″ blade. Use just enough mud to cover the seam and fill in any gaps. Try to smooth it out as you go. Let dry for at least 12 hours. Go back and feel for smoothness. Use sand paper or a damp sponge to smooth out any raised spots and feather the edges of the mud onto the wall. Once you finish the seams, apply a small dab of mud to the nail or screw heads. Fill in the nail or screw indention to make the wall smooth. Let dry and smooth out with sand paper or a damp sponge as needed.

To do corners, nail up the prefab corners by pushing them down into the wall with the nails or screws causing them to be slightly indented into the wall as was done with the nail or screw heads. Go over it with mud using a corner knife, fill in any gaps. Let dry and go back over with sandpaper or a damp sponge to smooth out, feathering the edges of the mud onto the wall. If you choose not to use the prefab corners, you can apply paper tape in the same manner as for the other seams, simply fold the tape long ways in half and insert into the wet mud at the corner.

To patch small holes you need mesh tape. Cut the tape to where it overlaps the hole by about �½ an inch. Apply mud, then tape then mud again. For large holes you can buy a metal patch kit at a home repair store.

If you want to texture your walls, now is the time to do it. To texture you will need to mix the mud with the color of paint you are using until you get the desired consistency then apply. Once the final coat of mud dries for at least 12 hours you are ready to apply the rest of your wall covering!


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