How to Install Your Own Drywall

Kennith Bogan

Do it yourself drywall installation is one of the more practical jobs you can tackle as a homeowner.. Whether you’ve got a ceiling that’s been damaged by a leaking roof or air conditioner pan, or some new walls that are part of a remodeling project, at some point, you’ll need drywall work on your home. The great thing is; with the right knowledge, the proper tools, and some practice; just about anyone can do it. The basic thing you need to know include:

Materials-This may seem pretty obvious, but there are a few different options.

  • Thickness-Drywall or sheetrock comes in 1/4″, 1/2″, and 5/8″ thicknesses. The most common in residential is 1/2″. 5/8″ is more commonly used in commercial work and is a requirement of building codes in many areas due to it’s higher fire resistant rating. 1/4″ is mostly used over other materials such as paneling or plaster when a different type of wall surface is desired. If you’re doing a patch or repair; check the thickness of the existing drywall before buying your new material to insure that it matches.
  • Application-Most walls and ceilings will have standard gray sheetrock. However, in high moisture areas, such as bathrooms and kitchens; use the more water resistant green rock. There is also, now, a drywall that contains the same type of cement fiber materials used in tile backer boards for use on walls that will finish with tile.
  • Joint Compound-Also called sheetrock mud, this is the key element to a successful do it yourself drywall installation. This will come in pre-mixed paste like form in boxes or buckets or powdered, in bags, that must be mixed with water. There are also fast drying kwikset materials that can be used for patches and repairs.
  • Joint Tape-This can be purchased in the traditional paper form, which must be applied with joint compound or in fiber tape, which is commonly used in repairs because it eliminates one step of the process.
  • Nails or Screws-Traditionally, nails have been used in residential work and screws in commercial (due to the use of metal studs. However, screws have become more in residential due to the speed of screw guns.

Tools-Just a few basic tools will take care of most any type of of do it yourself drywall installation.

  • Drywall Knives-These types of knives are not used for cutting, but for spreading the mud, taping the seams, and floating and skimming; and, actually resemble a spatula more than a knife. They come in a variety of widths from about 3″ (used for taping seams) up to 12″ (for floating and skimming). You will, most likely, need at least 3 sizes for any job, as each skim coat gets a little wider.
  • Mud Pan-These long rectangular pans come in metal or plastic and are used for holding the joint compound. They’re narrow enough to hold with one hand, while using the knife with the other.
  • Utility Knife/Sheetrock Saw-Most of the cutting of sheetrock is now done with utility knives with interchangeable blades. Change them as often as needed for a clean easy cut. Sheetrock saws are long (about 10″) triangular saws with small handles and are used mostly for cutting holes for plumbing and electrical.
  • High Powered Drill & Paddle Bit-If you’re doing a small repair; you can mix the mud by hand with a drywall knife. But for larger do it yourself drywall installation projects, it’s essential that you have a strong enough drill to mix the mud with a paddle for the proper consistency and to eliminate lumps.

Hanging-This is pretty self explanatory. Nail or screw it to the wall or ceiling. Just a couple of tips.

  • Secure it Good-Don’t skimp on nails or screws. You don’t want movement when someone leans against the wall. Failing to properly fasten it will lead to cracks in the mud.
  • Watch For Cutouts-Keep a close eye on switches, plugs, and phone jacks. They’re easy to cover up and difficult to find later.
  • Have Enough Help-Sheetrock is heavy. Make sure you have someone to help you hold it while you get the screws or nails in. This is especially true when hanging ceilings.
  • Countersink the Fasteners-Make sure the nails or screws penetrate beyond the surface so that they can be covered with mud.

Finishing-The process of finishing drywall is called taping and floating and it’s the most critical step of do it yourself drywall installation.

  • Tape the Seams-This can be done with either the paper or fiber tape. With paper, spread a thin coat of mud over the seam, the, using a drywall knife; press the tape into the mud and over the seam. Then use the knife to remove the excess mud. When this process is completed; you must wait for the mud to dry before applying the first skim coat. The advantage of the fiber tape is; it adheres to the sheetrock without the need for mud. So, you can immediately apply a skim coat.
  • Float and Skim-This may be done in one coat or it may take 2 or 3. The idea is to have an even surface without rises, bumps, and dips. One of the keys to a successful do it yourself drywall installation is mixing the mud to the right consistency so it spreads easily. The other is just good old fashioned practice. Some people take to it quicker than others. But, the more you do it, the better you’ll be.

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