How to Install Drywall: A Guide for Beginners

Learn the basics of drywalling, with help from step-by-step diagrams, instructions for building a homemade drywall jack, and tips on tools and supplies, sizing, and edging.

| January/February 1990

  • 121-087-05
    Sighting down the long edge of a drywall panel, you'll notice that the face is tapered toward the edge.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
  • 121-087-01
    Drywall is well suited to those who expect to make mistakes, because it's relatively inexpensive.
    PHOTO: MICHAEL SOLURI
  • Drywall fig. 4
    For overhead work, you can construct T-braces by nailing 4' 1 × 4s to 2 × 4 uprights cut 1/2" longer than the floor-to-ceiling height.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
  • 121-087-03
    It's generally accepted that fewer end (untapered) joints make a cleaner surface, so wallboard set across the studs in full 12' lengths should be the best choice.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
  • Drywall figure 3
    Once the adhesive is dry, the inside piece will serve as a backing, and you can hold the new section in place with another bead of glue.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
  • Drywall fig. 8
    Outside corners should be lapped, with the second board over the end of the first. If the corner isn't square or plumb, let the second board extend beyond the joint and trim it after you've fastened the panel ends to their common stud.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
  • Drywall fig. 9
    When installing the lower row, set the tapered edges against those of the panels above. The cut edge should always be toward the floor, both to keep the worst part out of sight and to prevent the baseboard from angling back into the taper. Try to leave about a 1/2" gap between the panel edge and the floor so a foot lever can be used if needed to lift the lower panel into place.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
  • Drywall figure 5
    You'll know you've gotten the knack for nailing gypboard when you can repeatedly seat the head into a shallow dimple with the final rap of the hammer.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
  • Drywall fig. 6
    To get holes for overhead fixtures and wall outlets right, measure from the point where the side edge of the panel will be to the near and far sides of the electrical box. Then do the same again, measuring from where one end of the panel will rest. Transfer the marks to the drywall sheet, then pencil in the outline of the box. You can then drill out the corners and cut between the holes with a keyhole saw.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
  • Drywall fig. 7
     To join panels at an inside corner, butt the second panel against the first, and secure the end of the second sheet to the stud. In this way, the first panel will be held in place without your having to nail its edge.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
  • 121-087-07
    Outside corners and metal trim are first filled using the small joint knife. Let one edge of the blade ride the metal and the other the panel itself. To clean any compound from the metal bead, run the tool up the corner before mudding the opposite flange.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
  • 121-087-04
    If you've got a big drywall job ahead of you, Dennis's homebuilt jack will handle the heavy work.
    WILLIAM WALDRON
  • Drywall fig. 10
    Before moving on to taping and finish work, the outside corners need to be protected with corner bead. Install any finish trim where a clean juncture might otherwise be a problem—such as against metal-framed windows or concrete block. Both these metal trims need to be nailed (not screwed) into wooden framing members, with the nails spaced every 9". The heads should be flat to the flange, but not driven deep enough to bend the metal.
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
  • 121-087-08
    Tear off the correct length of tape and lightly press it into the wet compound with your fingers. Then, with the blade, immediately push the strip flat, in the process removing any bubbles by drawing them out. Excess mud from the edge can be added to fresh to spread a thin layer of compound over the tape, holding the blade at a steeper 45° angle to produce a smoother finish. 
    KAY HOLMES STAFFORD
  • 121-087-12
    This jack was meant to be made quickly from random 2 × 4 scraps and such common hardware as door hinges, pulleys, and plumbing parts. The tool is compact (28" wide by 30" long by 65" tall), but it telescopes upward to a full 8 1/2' height.
    DON OSBY

  • 121-087-05
  • 121-087-01
  • Drywall fig. 4
  • 121-087-03
  • Drywall figure 3
  • Drywall fig. 8
  • Drywall fig. 9
  • Drywall figure 5
  • Drywall fig. 6
  • Drywall fig. 7
  • 121-087-07
  • 121-087-04
  • Drywall fig. 10
  • 121-087-08
  • 121-087-12

You may know it by any of its many names—drywall, gypsum, gypboard, plasterboard, or the familiar brand name, Sheetrock. Whatever the label, it can be heavy, cumbersome, and tedious to work with. Yet over 400 billion square feet of the mineral-based material have been wrestled into place in homes and buildings in our collective lifetime.

Gypsum—the earthbound sulfate of calcium to which plaster of paris owes its existence—has been around forever. But it's been only since the turn of the century that an enterprising soul named Sackett developed a method of layering it between sheets of felt paper to produce a "plaster board" that made the hand-troweled wall a thing of the past.

Plasterboard has come a long way since that time, but one thing hasn't changed: It still looks best when installed or repaired according to Hoyle. And even though you may not know a putty knife from a plaster pan, you can learn how to install drywall with a small investment in tools and an honest go at it. Actually, gypboard is well suited to those who expect to make mistakes, simply because it's relatively inexpensive.

Even if you didn't know it at the time, you've probably seen an unfinished drywall sheet somewhere. Its face (the side that goes toward the interior of the room) is finished in a cream- or natural-colored paper. The back is usually gray, and the edges are trimmed with folded tape to protect them.



Typically, you'll see 1/2"-thick paper-faced panels measuring 4' × 8' or 4' × 12', though they're available in lengths up to 16' . In better-quality construction, 5/8" board is used; conversely, 3/8" panels are suitable for economy or two-layer work and when bending radii, while 1/4" drywall is reserved for surfacing existing plaster walls.

But the choices don't stop there. Aside from the standard drywall, there's also a 5/8"-thick fire-rated sheet (used on walls common to the garage and house and in commercial work), a water-resistant board with specially treated facings and core (for bathrooms, and as a backing for tile and plastic wallboard), and a foil-backed gypboard that incorporates a vapor retarder.

Dennis_20
6/19/2007 8:59:57 AM

Hello, I am looking for the plans on how to make the drywall jack but I am unable to find them. Any help woul dbe greatly appreciated. Thank You   Mother Responds: the illustrations for the jack are in the Image Gallery to the top right of the article, under "Related."







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