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How to Install Drywall: A Guide for Beginners

If you knock down a wall and decide to rebuild it on the other side of a room, or if you damage a large part of a wall, you might need to hang your own drywall. It’s not as difficult as it sounds, but you’ll need the correct tools and knowledge to install drywall like a pro.

drywall basics

Gather all the tools and supplies you’ll need to complete the project, including:

  • Drywall saw
  • Drywall hammer
  • Screw gun
  • Utility knife
  • Screws and nails
  • Taping knife
  • Tape
  • Joint compound
  • Drywall sheets

Start With the Ceiling

Select the largest-possible pieces of drywall for the project so you have fewer seams to fill. Begin in one corner of the room with your first sheet of drywall and use your screw gun to fix the edge of the drywall to the joist. Continue working your way across that edge of the ceiling, then begin the next row.

Position the screws about half an inch from the edge of the drywall and keep them evenly spaced across the entire sheet (approximately 12 inches apart for ceilings and 16 inches for walls). Keep the seams tight and leave a 1/4-inch gap in the corners.

Image via Flickr by Forest Service - Northern Region
Image via Flickr by Forest Service – Northern Region

Cover the Walls

You’ll use the same process for the walls except that you’ll screw the sheets to studs instead of ceiling joists. Cut the panels to size if they won’t perfectly span the gaps between studs. Drive the screws into the drywall sheets so they don’t protrude beyond the surface. Operate the screw gun in spurts if necessary to drive them in far enough without tearing the drywall.

Stop about half an inch above the floor. Homes shift over time, and the floors might expand and contract with weather changes. If you hang drywall all the way to the floor, the material might tear or crack.

Tape the Seams

Apply drywall tape to the seams on both the ceiling and the walls. Smooth it flat with a drywall knife, especially on corners where you might see more wrinkles. Avoid overlapping the tape because it will make the surface of the wall uneven; instead, cut it just before you hit a cross-seam, then restart the tape roll on the other side.

Apply Joint Compound

Drywall mud or joint compound covers the tape as well as the screw heads. Apply it with a drywall knife, and don’t forget to feather the edges for a smooth surface. If it’s easier, you can apply joint compound to the screw heads with your finger, but smooth it out with the knife afterwards.

Three coats of joint compound will create the best finish, though you can use only two if you trust your ability to make the finish completely smooth. Let the compound dry at least 24 hours between coats. After the last coat, you can prime and paint your walls like normal.

It takes time to master the art of hanging drywall, but it’s a useful skill to have. When you decide you’ve outgrown the current configuration of your living room, you can change it yourself without calling in the pros.

Related Reading: Drywall 101: Getting Started with Drywall Basics

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