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

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.

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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