How to Install Drywall (with 75+ pics): Hanging, Taping, Finishing
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll recognize this is the part of our Pro-Follow series with expert general contractor Steve Wartman. We’re following Steve as he and his crew remodel an unfinished basement. For any of our readers in the greater Baltimore area looking to hire a contractor, I highly recommend Wartman Home Improvements. To see more of Steve’s work, take a look at our how-to articles for building a deck and building a shed.
Now that the walls have been framed, the electric and plumbing are roughed in, and insulation is installed, it’s time to hang drywall. This is a crucial step, since drywall is a part of the final product that everyone sees. This article shares a step-by-step guide for hanging, taping, and finishing drywall with many Pro-Tips along the way to help you achieve a perfect finish.
How to Hang Drywall
Here are the materials that Steve used for this part of the install:
- 1/2″ Drywall (see below)
- 1-1/4″ Drywall screws
- Drywall adhesive (see below)
Drywall: Also called sheet rock or gypsum board, drywall is available in several sizes and thicknesses. Most walls have 1/2″ drywall, and ceilings are typically 1/2″ or 5/8.” For this install, Steve’s crew is using 1/2″ USG Ultralight panels because they are easier to work with overhead. They purchased a combination of 8′ (4′ x 8′) and 12′ (4′ x 12′) sheets to minimize the number of drywall joints.
Drywall adhesive: Each sheet of drywall will be glued and screwed, and the guys used OSI GreenSeries F-38 drywall and panel adhesive.
- Drywall saw
- Utility knife
- Driver (see below)
- Glue gun
- Tape measure
Driver: An impact driver, drill / driver or screw-gun can be used to place fasteners, and Steve’s crew used an impact driver with a DeWalt drywall screw setter to properly countersink the screws.
Step 1: Start with the Ceiling
It’s best to install drywall from the top down. By starting with the ceiling, Steve’s crew was able to hide gaps and cut edges along the corners where the ceiling and walls / bulkhead meet.
Step 2: Mark Joist Locations
Before the guys got started, they marked the locations of the joists on nearby framing so that they knew where to drive their screws.
Step 3: Snap a Chalk Line
Even on new construction, most walls and corners are not 100% straight and square. To make sure that adjacent pieces of drywall line up and that joints fall on the center of a joist, the guys snapped chalk lines to act as guides. Each line was perpendicular to the floor joists, and spaced 4′ off the previous line.
Step 4: Use Drywall Adhesive
Laying a bead of drywall adhesive on every joist and stud is very important because the adhesive provides long-term holding power. Nails and screws can come loose with vibrations and movement over time, especially if the fastener is driven too far through the drywall paper. The adhesive is what really holds the drywall in place. You can see, the guys laid a generous bead before screwing the drywall in place.
Step 5: Hang the First Sheet
Steve’s crew started hanging drywall in the middle of the ceiling, alongside a bulkhead. They choose this spot because it was relatively straight and square as compared to their chalk lines. Joists are usually placed 24″ oc (on center) which means an 8′ sheet of drywall will contact 5 joists, and the guys would place 4 screws per joist.
Step 5a: Continue Hanging Drywall
Adjacent sheets of drywall should meet at the center of a joist.
Steve’s crew staggered all the joints, and they matched like edges. What that means is that tapered edges were paired and cut edges were paired. This makes sense because otherwise the joint is at two different levels making it tougher to mud over.
Pro-Tip: Placing the screws close together makes it easier to finish the drywall because both screw heads can be concealed when the joint is taped.
Step 5b: Screwing Drywall
Screws should be countersunk just below the surface of the drywall, and that’s why it’s a good idea to use a screw-gun or screw-setter.
Step 5c: Cutting Drywall
The guys needed to cut the drywall at switches, receptacles, around corners, along walls, and more. Fortunately, cutting drywall is easy and doesn’t require any powered equipment.
They started each cut by marking out lines, and a T-square is very helpful for this because it ensures straight, square lines.
At other times they’d use a level or chalk line instead.
Next, they’d use a utility knife to score the face of the drywall.
When they put sharp pressure on the opposite side, the drywall would crack along the cut. Lastly, they cut through the paper on the backside.
Steve’s crew would use the drywall saw for making plunge cuts like around recessed lighting cans or receptacles. They’d also use a drywall knife when two different cuts intersect like around a corner.
Sometimes it was necessary to shave just a little bit off the edge. A drywall rasp is great for this, but a utility knife works in a pinch. Start on the backside of the drywall and cut at a 45° angle. Next, square up the edge by cutting straight across.
Not all cuts were made before hanging the piece of drywall. In fact, it’s a lot easier to glue and screw the drywall in place, and then cut along the framing.
Step 5d: Add Extra Blocking
At times, the guys would need to add additional framing to provide a nailing surface. For instance, the end of this piece of drywall has no anchor behind it until Steve’s crew adds a small 2×4.
Step 6: Continue to the Walls
After the ceiling was finished, they continued onto the walls, starting at the top and working down. Drywall is secured to the walls just like the ceiling.
It’s important to leave about 1/2″ gap below the bottom of the last piece and the concrete floor to prevent moisture from contacting the drywall.
Taping & Finishing Drywall
- Lightweight setting compound (see below)
- Mid-weight joint compound (see below)
- Strait Flex medium inside corner tape (see below)
- Mesh drywall tape
- Corner bead
- Drywall nails
Setting compound: Setting compound (a.k.a. hot mud) is a powder that needs to be mixed with water. Unlike joint compound which dries through evaporation, setting compound dries through a chemical reaction, shrinks very little and dries very hard. Setting compound is differentiated by setting time (in minutes), and you’ll find 5, 20, 45, 90, etc. Setting compound is nice because you’re able to apply a second coat without waiting too long.
Joint compound: Steve uses pre-mixed joint compound for the second and third coats because it provides a better finish, and the pre-mixed tubs save time. He uses medium-weight because it’s easier to sand than All Purpose mud.
Pro-Talk: Joint compound is often referred to by the color of the lid. For instance, mid-weight compound is called purple-top and regular weight compound is called green-top.
Strait Flex: Strait Flex is a plastic tape, and Steve uses the medium tape for inside corners. It’s about 4x more expensive, but the additional cost is worthwhile because Steve is able to finish corners in less time.
- 4″, 6″, 10″ and 12″ drywall knife
- Drywall mud pan
- Drill/ driver with mixing paddle
- Utility knife
- Metal snips
- Drywall sanding block / pole-sander
Step 1: Check Screw Heads
Steve started each section by running a drywall blade over the screw-heads to ensure they were countersunk below the surface. Where a screw had been backed-out, Steve used the heel of his drywall knife to indent the surface.
Pro-Tip: A good drywall knife is made from stainless steel to avoid rusting and 4″ or 6″ knives should have a metal heel.
Step 2: Tape Joints
There’s plenty of debate online about mesh tape versus paper tape. Steve has been finishing drywall for 25 years and he prefers mesh tape. Either choice can develop problems if the drywall or tape is improperly applied, and Steve feels that mesh tape is easier to work with.
Pro-Tip: Drywall joints can crack due to wall movement from settling and extreme temperature changes. However, the most common reason you find cracks is drywall shifting because the installers did not use drywall adhesive.
The mesh tape has adhesive on one side making it easy to tape over joints.
Steve made sure the tape was fully adhered, and he also doubled-up the mesh on wider joints.
Pro-Tip: After opening a roll of mesh tape, store the roll in a sealed bag to prevent the sticky side from drying out.
Step 3: Apply the First Coat of Mud
Joints and Screw Holes
Steve mixed up a batch of setting compound, adding water until it was a thick, “cake batter” consistency.
Steve started with all the tapered joints because they result in a relatively flat surface after the first coat, and that makes mudding the cut, butt joints easier. He made the first pass with a 6″ knife.
Next, he cleaned up the excess with a 10″ knife.
After the compound had set, he started on all the butt joints with the 10″ blade, and you can see how wide he applied the first coat.
Pro-Talk: Mud that has “set up” is dry enough that you can work on an adjoining seam without creating problems. However, it’s not fully dry, and you should not attempt to sand it.
Steve used a 6″ knife to go over all the screw holes, taking care to remove excess mud.
Steve used purple-top and Strait Flex tape for all the inside corners. He prefers Strait Flex despite the higher cost because he can finish corners in two coats which saves time.
Pro-Tip: Even pre-mixed compound should be mixed again at the job site. Use a mixing paddle at low-speed to avoid introducing air bubbles.
First, Steve filled any large gaps and followed that up with a layer of mud with a 4″ knife.
He cut the Strait Flex at an angle to avoid overlapping the tape where corners intersect, and he folded it along its length.
Steve pressed the tape into the corner by hand.
Using a 6″ knife, Steve made two passes on each side of the corner. The first pass was to push in on the corner, and the second pass was to remove excess mud.
This is how the corners looked after the first coat.
While Strait Flex does make an outside corner product, Steve prefers to use corner bead. The first step for outside corners is to check that the drywall doesn’t overhang.
Steve used snips to cut the corner bead to length and to cut angles such that all transition points overlap except in the very corner. You’ll see how in a moment.
Pressing equally on both sides, Steve drove nails through the tiny holes in the corner bead every 16″ or so. The larger holes are to help the mud take hold.
Steve paired nails opposite each other to better prevent the corner bead from buckling.
Pro-Tip: Corner bead that has been bent isn’t worth installing because it will be significantly more difficult to finish.
You can see in the pictures below how cutting both sides of a transition creates an overlap except in the very corner.
Steve’s goal for corner bead was to create a smooth edge along the corner and a small gap on either side that will be filled with purple-top .
Step 4: Apply Second Coat
After letting the first coat dry overnight, Steve applied the second coat using a 10″ and 12″ knife, further feathering each joint to about twice as wide.
Pro-Tip: Add a tiny amount of water to the pre-mixed mud to make it easier to smooth out.
For inside corners and screw holes, he used a 6″ knife to smooth away any bumps before applying mud.
Step 5: Apply Third Coat
Often, Steve can omit applying a third coat. However, he did apply more purple-top after the second coat dried. This last application was just a thin skim-coat over the edges of some of the joints.
Step 6: Sand Until Smooth
Steve and his crew used sanding blocks and pole-sanders to smooth over all the screw holes, joints and corners.
In the picture below you can see the difference between the surfaces that have been sanded and those that have not.
The guys have primed the walls with a tinted primer, and it really demonstrates how good everything turned out.
I hope you find this walk-through useful as you work with drywall. If you enjoy learning from professional contractors, take a moment to become an email or RSS subscriber. If you’d rather connect with us on Facebook, like the OPC page to see what we’re up to.
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