All About Drywall

If you’ve reached the stage of dry walling during your home renovation, congratulations! You’ve likely successfully navigated some of the more difficult aspects of the remodel, but more is yet to come. Drywall, like everything in the construction industry is only as good as whoever installed it. Take your time, measure, measure, measure, and know that the drywall you install will affect how the final finish materials look on your walls and ceilings.

Gather Your Supplies

If you’ve noticed the very important pattern of preparing your work space and the tools needed, there is a reason why. There is nothing worse than entering into a project without enough materials or without the proper tools. While hanging drywall during a home remodel might not be as time-sensitive as, say, grouting tile, you still don’t want to have to stop halfway through and run to the hardware store. Measure the space to know your square footage, and plan to have some extra sheets of drywall on hand in the event one cracks or breaks irreparably. In addition to your basic tools, you will also need mesh and paper drywall tape, construction adhesive, joint compound, drywall screws and nails, a drywall saw and rasp, and drywall taping knives. Drywall sheets themselves come in several sizes, with 5/8” being the thickest, most soundproof, 3/8” for covering existing wall surfaces, and ¼” for intricate or curved surfaces.

Hanging The Drywall

The first physical step in handling drywall for a remodel is to prepare the stud walls. Wherever there is a plumbing or electrical line feeding through the boards, a metal guard plate is attached to the wood to prevent accidental screwing into the wire or pipe. Not everyone takes this extra step, but it will save you a lot of time compared to the work you will have to do to restring electrical wire through a wall. Once the plates are in position, you can start to hang your drywall. Using your construction adhesive, apply a generous bead along the studs where the drywall will sit. Align the board horizontally to the top corner of the wall and ceiling. Temporarily nail into place, making sure the nail heads are beneath the surface so they can be covered with joint compound later. Using drywall nails is not mandatory, but these nails are specifically designed to provide better friction in drywall compared to wood. Measure and fit the remaining drywall boards, leaving yourself ¼” margin of error to insure the boards will line up correctly. The drywall boards along the floor should be allowed a ½” gap, achieved with the use of an edger or a foot lift. It is important to stagger your drywall boards when possible. This creates stronger wall joints, provides better sound proofing, and will make your finish work look smoother.

Cutting Drywall

If you need to cut a piece of drywall to fit into place, and more than likely you will, mark your line on the front of the board and then score the board with a utility knife or drywall knife. Drywall is designed to “snap” at the score line, and you can smooth the edges using the drywall rasp. Be sure to mark outlets, electrical fixtures, and window openings on the drywall as you go. These can then be cut out using the drywall saw.

Taping Drywall And Apply

Once the drywall has been hung in place, go through and mark the stud lines so you can use screws for the final attachment. Drywall nails are an acceptable method, however, keep in mind that screws are designed to make replacement or removal of drywall easier down the road or as your project progresses. Tape the drywall seams using the mesh tape, which will hide large seams more effectively than paper tape. Press it firmly in place as you go with the tape knife, careful not to overlap the tap as you join seams to corners. Any imperfection may come through the finished product and make your wall look uneven. Once the seams are taped, you can apply the drywall joint compound, careful to make the edges as thin as possible, a process known as “feathering” in the industry. On the inside and outside corners of your drywall boards, you will perform this same joint compound application, however, an additional layer of paper tape will be applied over the compound to prevent visible cracks during the drying process. Allow your joint compound to set and then you will repeat the application process, this time making the application slightly wider than the first, always thinning out the edges as much as possible. After the second layer sets, a third finish layer is applied and then sanded down once dry to create a smooth surface.

The Skim Coat

Many experts suggest ending the entire process with a fourth, barely-there coat across more than just the seams to make sure any imperfections in the drywall itself are addressed. This coat, called the “skim coat” is done with a thinned version of the joint compound and applied using a paint roller. Excess should be immediately removed, and the skim coat should sit for 24 hours before being sanded down.

The Primer

When your drywall surface is clean and smooth, seal it with a drywall primer per the manufacturer’s recommendations. It is now ready for whatever finish work you wish to do.