Install drywall (or Sheetrock) yourself and save a lot of money. We'll show you everything you need to know about hanging drywall, from the tools and materials you'll need to the finishing touches.

Steps
34
Difficulty
Moderate
Time Required
3Days
Estimated Cost
$$$

What You Need to Know About Hanging Drywall

Drywall is simply panels of pressed gypsum plaster placed between heavy paper. It's also known as plasterboard, wallboard, gypsum board, and Sheetrock (Sheetrock is the registered trademark of the company that makes drywall).

Drywall comes in three basic thicknesses:

  • 5/8 inch is the heaviest and most soundproof.
  • 3/8 in. is the best at covering existing walls.
  • 1/4 in. is what you'd use for curved walls and arches.

When hanging drywall, your goal should be to have as few seams as possible, so choose the largest drywall panels and pieces you can safely work with.

Good to Know

Vertical joints in drywall are also called "butt joints", or the joint that's formed where non-tapered ends of drywall meet. Make sure to blend these with joint compound at the end for a smooth, seamless appearance.

Tip: Leave a 1/2 in. gap at the floor so the floor and wall can expand without cracking the drywall. This gap also helps prevent moisture wicking if the floor floods.

Caution

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

Prepare the Room

Before you begin, cover electrical and plumbing lines with nail protector plates. Doing so means you won't drill or nail into utility lines.

How to Hang Drywall

STEP ONE

Apply Adhesive

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 TWO

Put the First Sheet 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.

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

STEP THREE

Prepare the Second Sheet

Measure the remaining space, adding 1/4 in. 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.

STEP FOUR

Gently Secure the Second Sheet

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 FIVE

Mark the Studs

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

STEP SIX

Drive in the Screws

Drive screws into the studs — roughly 16 in. apart in the middle and 8 in. along the vertical joints. Keep the screws 3/8 in. from the edge.

Note: The screw heads should be just below the surface so you can cover them with joint compound later on. Drywall drills are specifically designed to make this happen every time.

STEP SEVEN

Start on the Bottom Row

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

STEP EIGHT

Mark for the Electrical Box

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.

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

STEP NINE

Cut for the Electrical Box

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.

Tip: Test the tightness of the fit around the electrical box, If the fit is too snug, shave away a little more drywall so it doesn't crack and break.

STEP TEN

Elevate the Panel

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

STEP ELEVEN

Drive in the Rest of the Screws

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

STEP TWELVE

Make Window & Door Cutouts

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 THIRTEEN

Make a Cutout in the Bottom Panel

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

STEP FOURTEEN

Leave a Bit of Space for Inside Corners

For inside corners, don't force the pieces tightly together — this will cause crumbling and breaking later. Cut it to leave about 1/8 in. of wiggle room, which you'll fill with joint compound at the end.

STEP FIFTEEN

Finish Outside Corners

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.

Joint Compound: The First Coat

STEP ONE

Apply & Feather

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 TWO

Start with Inside Corners

On the inside corners, apply joint compound to each side and crease paper tape along the centreline. 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 THREE

Move to Outside Corners

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.

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

STEP FOUR

Finish the First Coat

Finally, using a drywall knife, coat the fasteners with a layer of compound. Let the first coat dry for 24 hours before starting the second coat.

Joint Compound: The Second Coat ("Fill" Coat)

STEP ONE

Cover the First Coat

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

STEP TWO

Blend with the Wall

Use a 10 in. knife to feather the edges wide so that it blends with the wall, then lightly run the knife over the middle. When finished with the second coat, the compound should be 10-12 in. wide.

STEP THREE

Start with Inside Corners

For inside corners, use a 6 in. drywall knife to feather the compound along one side only. The other side will get feathered on the third coat.

STEP FOUR

Move to Outside Corners

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

STEP FIVE

Finish the Second Coat

Apply a second coat of compound over all fasteners. Let the second coat dry 24 hours before moving on to the third coat.

Joint Compound: The Third Coat ("Finish" Coat)

STEP ONE

Sand the Joints

The third coat is called the finish coat, which means you should leave no tool marks. To get started, lightly sand the joints with 120-grit sandpaper.

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

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

STEP TWO

Work on the Seams

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

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 THREE

Finish the Inside Corner

Return to the inside corner left alone in the second coat, and apply compound to the other side of it.

STEP FOUR

Finish the Third Coat

If needed, cover the fasteners again with a layer of compound. Let the finish coat dry for 24 hours and lightly sand for a smooth finish.

Note: 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.

Skim Coat

STEP ONE

Prep the Skim Coat

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

STEP TWO

Apply

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

STEP THREE

Remove the Excess

Immediately remove the excess with a 12 in. drywall knife.

STEP FOUR

Let Dry, Then Sand

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

Prime & Paint

STEP ONE

Start with Primer

Apply a drywall primer or sealer and let it dry thoroughly. The amount of time needed for it to dry will depend on the brand or manufacturer you use.

STEP TWO

Finish with Interior Paint

Finish the job with a coat or two of interior paint. Depending on the type, brand, and colour you choose, the number of coats needed will vary. Make sure to let each coat dry thoroughly before applying the next one.

How To Terms

Tools, products, materials, techniques, building codes, and local regulations change; therefore, Lowe's assumes no liability for omissions, errors, or the outcome of any project. The reader must always exercise reasonable caution, follow current codes and regulations that may apply, and is urged to consult with a licensed professional if in doubt about any procedures.

Join The Workbench a home improvement community and share your ideas and tips

Related Articles