When you watch a pro hang up drywall it doesn't seem that hard. The installer places a panel of gypsum board against the studs and then screws it into place. After the walls are finished there are a few swipes with a putty knife to put on the drywalling compound, sand the wall and then you're done.
Well, we all wish that drywalling was this simple but, of course, it is not. Like any skill a good drywalling expert makes it look simple.
However, any skill can be learned with the right instruction and hanging drywall and taping a wall is no exception. There are tricks and hints that will make the job so much easier and reduce the wastage of material and the unbearable clouds of gypsum dust that filters up through the home.
Drywall contractors will tell you that the process is actually two professions: hanging the gypsum board and taping and finishing the seams. Each process has its own skills and many companies have separate crews for each: hangers and mudders. And each skill takes time and effort to achieve proficiency. In this article we are going to explore the installation of the drywall sheets and how it is achieved.
The Right Drywall Tools
As with most jobs the operation goes a lot smoother with the right tools and some basic instruction on how to use them:
- Utility knife
- Screw gun with dimpling attachment
- Spackle tray (Basically a 12 X 12 board with a handle attached to hold the drywall compound)
- Keyhole saw
- Measuring tape
- Drywall T-square or long straight edge
- Foam sanding pads
- Sanding block with 220 grit sandpaper
- Screws, not nails: for 1/2 drywall use 1-5/8 screws; for 5/8 drywall use 2 screws
- T-Supports to hold sheets on the ceiling: These are 8' piece of wood with a cross piece nailed at the top to prop up ceiling panels for fastening
Prep the Surfaces
Since the gypsum board must be attached at all ends, as well as supporting areas across the sheet, the corners must have 2 supports for screwing the sheet. If no provisions were made for this an extra stud can be put in or blocks screwed in to support the sheet. This is also important around windows and doors.
Not all surfaces are true. This is because of the nature of drying wood and some of your studs may be warped. Take a string and nail one end to one corner of the wall and stretch it across and wrap it around a nail at the other end. When stretched tightly check to see which studs are sticking out or bowing in. The former can be planed with a hand planer and, with the latter, shims can bring out the surface.
Measuring and Cutting the Drywall
Measure: Start on the ceiling first then go to the bottom of the first wall, finish it and the second, etc. Most sheets of drywall are indented on the long sides to accept tape and compound. When measuring for a cut back off 1/8 on the measurement to make sure it fits in properly. This avoids having to take the sheet down and shaving off a strip, which is also messy. Use a drywall T-square to make the lines.
Cutting: To cut drywall lay it flat on the floor if you can. Draw the knife along the line or use the straight edge as a guide and just cut through the top layer of paper. Don't try to cut through the whole sheet in one pass or you might crush the edge. Now place you hand under the sheet along the cut and lift it a few inches off the floor. The weight of the board should break it but, if not, gently tap it. Now, adjust the board so it looks tent-shaped and place the utility knife underneath and cut the underside paper long the break line. You can also cut the board against the wall where, after the first cut is made, you push one end away from you and the board stands up on its own and the second cut is easy. In both cases smooth the cut edges before installing.
Outlets: Once you cut the sheet measure for the electrical outlets. Remember that the lip of the outlet will be above the surface of the drywall so cut it large enough for the sheet to compensate for the lip. Once you have the box where the outlet will be push the point of the keyhole saw into surface and saw toward the corners. When you place the sheet on do not force it as it will be weakened by the missing piece and will easily break.
The dimpling attachment for the drywall is a great investment. It will stop the screw from going into the board and breaking it. It also makes a shallow depression that' easy to fill.
Installing the sheets requires dexterity and is really a 2-man job. Otherwise you might miss the mark and miss the stud. A second pair of hands goes a long way. Also, if you miss the stud take out the screw. You can fill the hole later.