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How to Hang Drywall

Save money on your remodel by installing your own drywall. Our video covers the basics of hanging drywall on studs.

Introduction to Hanging Drywall

Drywall is panels of pressed gypsum plaster between heavy paper. Drywall is also known as plasterboard, wallboard and gypsum board. Some people call it “Sheetrock,” but Sheetrock a registered trademark of the company that produces drywall – much like Kleenex produces tissues.

Drywall comes in three basic thicknesses:

  • 5/8 inch is heaviest and the most soundproof
  • 3/8 inch is best to cover existing walls
  • 1/4 inch is the choice for curved walls and arches.

When hanging drywall, the ultimate goal is to create the fewest number of seams possible. This means working with the largest drywall panels and pieces you can handle safely.

Good to Know

Vertical joints in drywall are also called "butt joints."

Caution

Always leave a 1/2-inch gap at the floor. This allows for floor and wall expansion without cracking the drywall. It also helps prevents moisture wicking if the floor floods.

Caution

Wear work gloves, safety goggles and a dust mask when hanging drywall.

Prepare Your Room

metal plate covering electrical lines to prevent drilling or nailing into the utilities

Cover electrical and plumbing lines with nail protector plates. This prevents accidental drilling or nailing into utility lines. Watch our Video: When Do I Use Nails vs. Screws?

Hang Drywall

Step 1

a bead of ahesive on studs to help hold drywall in place

Starting with the top row, apply adhesive to the studs. A wall stud is the vertical frame that holds the wall structure in place. The adhesive helps prevent popped nail heads by helping to hold the drywall panel in place.

Step 2

nails hold the first place of drywall in place

Holding the first sheet horizontally across the ceiling and close to the corner, align both vertical sides with studs. Hammer in a few nails to hold it in place.

Caution

Make sure the nail heads are beneath the surface of the drywall. You will cover the nails with joint compound later.

Step 3

utility knife cutting the paper backing on a drywall panel

Measure the remaining space, adding 1/4 inch for easier installation. Mark and score the front side of the second drywall panel. Snap the front side (gypsum) and cut the paper backing with a knife; smooth rough edges with a rasp. A rasp is a rough file that scrapes away the edges of hard materials.

Step 4

driving nail into the drywall with a hammer

Tack the second piece into place with ring drywall nails. Ring drywall nails are powerful fasteners characterized by rings around the nail to create more friction with the wood, holding it in place better than traditional nails.

Step 5

marking the studs on the outside of the drywall panel with a square

Mark the studs so you know where to drive the screws.

Step 6

driving screws through the drywall into the studs to secure the panel

Drive screws into the studs – about 16 inches apart in the middle and about 8 inches along the vertical joints. Keep the screws 3/8 inch from the edge.

Caution

The screw heads should be just below the paper. You will cover them with joint compound later.  Drywall drills are specially designed to make this happen every time.

Step 7

smoothing the outside edge of drywall with a rasp

Measure and cut the height and width for the bottom row using the score-snap-rasp method above.

Step 8

measuring tape from bottom of top drywall panel to the top of the electrical outlet

Mark electrical boxes on the bottom row of panels. To do this, measure from the bottom of the top panel to the top of the electrical box. Transfer the mark to the new piece of drywall.

Caution

Turn off electricity to the room before working around electrical outlets.

Step 9

serrated drywall knife cutting outlet pattern on drywall panel

Measure the height and width of the electrical box and create a pattern on the new piece of drywall. Using a serrated drywall knife cut out the rectangular pattern for the electrical box.

Good to Know

Test the tightness of the fit around the electrical box. If necessary, shave away a little more drywall. A too-snug fit may cause the drywall to crack and break.

Step 10

footlift supporting drywall panel

Hold the panel into place using a foot lift. Keep it 1/2 inch off the floor and tack some nails in to hold it.

Step 11

drywall drill putting screws into studs through the drywall panel

Hang the next piece and go back to drive all the screws into place.

Step 12

hang top row of drywall and cut out door or window with a saw

To cut out windows and doors, hang the top row of drywall and make the cutout with a saw. Avoid creating a joint at the door or window corner. This will increase the odds of cracks later.

Step 13

hang bottom panel of drywall and cut out doorway or window with a saw

 Hang the bottom panel, avoiding seam creation at window corners, and make the cutout with a saw.

Step 14

inside corner with expansion gap between drywall panels

For inside corners, don’t force the pieces tight together – this will cause crumbling and breakage later. Cut it to leave about 1/8 inch of wiggle room. You will fill the gap with joint compound later.

Step 15

drywall panel extended beyond corner stud

For outside corners, let the panel overhang the corner on one side. Hang the adjacent panel, touching the back side of the overhang, and secure it. Cut away the excess.

Tape Drywall Seams

mesh tape applied to drywall seams

Using mesh tape – which hides seams more effectively than paper tape – cover the vertical joints, or butt joints, first, pressing it firmly into place with a drywall knife. Then cover the horizontal seams. Finally, cover the corners.

Good to Know

Do not overlap tape. Cut it where the horizontal line meets the vertical and begin again on the opposite side of the line.

Joint Compound: First Coat

Good to Know

The first coat doesn’t have to be perfect. Just don’t leave any excess behind.

Step 1

feathering joint compound across the drywall panel

Following the same vertical, horizontal, corner pattern, apply pre-mixed joint compound over the mesh tape with a drywall knife. Feather the edges to manage excess compound.

Feathering is an application technique that increases the pressure and angle of the drywall knife as it moves towards the edge of the compound. This creates the thinnest possible layer of compound at the outer edges of the seams.

Step 2

pressing paper tape into inside corner coated with joint compound

On the inside corners, apply joint compound to each side and crease paper tape along the centerline. Press it into place with your fingers. Without cutting the tape, run your knife carefully down one side and then the other to create a firm fit.

Step 3

securing paper corners to outside corners coated in joint compound

On the outside corners, apply a layer of compound to either side of the corner. Cut paper beading to fit the height of the wall and press it into place with your fingers. Run a drywall knife over the beading to ensure a tight fit and simultaneously remove excess compound.

Good to Know

Beading is available in a variety of materials, including metal, paper and vinyl.

Step 4

covering nails and screws used to attach the drywall panels

Finally, using a drywall knife, coat the fasteners with a layer of compound.

Step 5

Let the first coat dry 24 hours.

Joint Compound: Second Coat

The second coat of joint compound is sometimes called the fill coat.

Step 1

joint compound applied to center seams

Use a 6-inch drywall knife to cover the first coat of tape and joint compound about 3/16 inch thick on the vertical seams.

Step 2

feathering joint compound wide so that it blends with the drywall

Use a 10-inch knife to feather the edges wide so that it blends with the wall, and then lightly run the knife over the middle. When you’re finished with the second coat, the compound should be about 10-12 inches wide.

Step 3

applying joint compound to one side of the inside corner

For inside corners, use a 6-inch drywall knife to feather the compound along one side only. You’ll do the other side on the third coat.

Step 4

joint compound on both sides of outside corner

For outside corners, use a 10-inch knife to apply compound to both sides. Feather the second layer out past the first layer to blend the edges with the wall.

Step 5

two coats of joint compound over the nails and screws holding the drywall in place

Apply a second coat of compound over all fasteners.

Step 6

Let the second coat dry 24 hours.

Joint Compound: Third Coat

The third coat is called the finish coat, which means you should leave no tool marks.

Step 1

sanding drywall seams with a hand sander

Lightly sand the joints with 120-grit sandpaper. Watch our video: How Do I Use Sandpaper?

Caution

Wear safety goggles and a dust mask. Open windows and cover doorways with plastic to reduce the mess in other parts of the house.

Good to Know

Use a vacuum sander or wet sponge to reduce the amount of dust produced.

Step 2

Feathering joint compound for a smooth finish with no marks

Apply joint compound to the seams and feather the edges again.

Step 3

trowel against the vertical seams to check width and feathering

Check the vertical seams by holding a flat-edge trowel with the blade perpendicular to the wall to see how far you need to feather out the coats.

Step 4

applying joint compound to the incomplete side of the inside corner

Apply compound to the other side of the inside corner.

Step 5

third coat of compound on nail and screwheads holding the drywall panel to the studs

Cover the fasteners again, if needed.

Step 6

Let the finish coat dry for 24 hours and lightly sand for a smooth finish.

Skim Coat

For a professional finish, apply a skim coat. A skim coat is a thin layer of joint compound or “mud” that camouflages any rough areas left after the final coat of compound.

Step 1

skim coat mixed in a bucket with a wire whisk

Mix the skim coat according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Step 2

applying skim coat with a paint roller in small sections

Using a paint roller, work in 4-foot sections to roll on a finish compound.

Step 3

using a drywall knife to remove excess skim coat from the drywall

Immediately remove the excess with a 12-inch drywall knife.

Step 4

sanding skim coat for a smooth finish

Let the skim coat dry for 24 hours, then lightly sand.

Prime & Paint

Step 1

applying drywall primer with a paint roller

Apply a drywall primer/sealer, and let dry.

Step 2

applying a coat of interior paint to the new drywall with a paint roller

Finish the job with a coat or two of interior paint.