How to Properly Install Drywall in Your Home

Drywall, sometimes called sheetrock is a very common wall finish in most homes today.

Installed by pros, an entire house can be installed or “hung” in one day. Taping, spackling and sanding will take on average four to five more work days until it is ready for painting. With a little practice, any homeowner can install drywall and achieve an acceptable end product.

If you have a chance to watch someone either hanging the drywall or actually do the taping and spackle work it can be a great help in seeing how they do it. Drywall comes in several different thicknesses and there a several different types for special applications. The most commonly seen drywall is one half inch thick and is used in most areas of any home. Walls and ceilings both use half inch material. In my state, five eighths inch thick drywall or half inch fire code drywall is required in attached garages and over a house boiler or furnace located in a basement. Garages and boiler room drywall requires only a single coat of tape and spackle called a fire coat, to prevent a fire from penetrating the drywall at the seams and screws.


Bathrooms are generally considered wet areas and therefore special green or water resistant drywall is used in any wet area. If ceramic tile is going to be applied then the drywall is a special coarse rough surface cement drywall board. Drywall Contractors Sacramento, CA is available with lead linings for X-ray rooms, special insulation paper backing, printed decoration faces, and a myriad of other special applications.


Standard sheets of drywall come in four foot widths but lengths vary from eight feet to sixteen feet as common sizes. Longer special order lengths are available. Many box stores and lumber yards carry lengths up to twelve feet with fourteen and sixteen foot sheets being ordered. Homeowners typically will choose eight foot lengths due to the ease of handling the material but on a twelve foot wall, that causes an extra vertical four foot joint that must be taped and spackled. A twelve foot sheet would reach corner to corner. Do that in an entire house and you are looking at hundreds of feet of extra work taping and sanding. That converts into many extra hours of work.


Installing drywall is usually a two person job simply because handling the sheets is quite cumbersome. When installing drywall on a ceiling even a two person crew is not sufficient. With one person holding each end of the sheet the third installing either the nails or screws to fasten it to the studs or rafters, keeping the sheet tight to the wall and inline with the other sheets is a chore. I have seen experienced installers hang five eighths inch twelve foot sheets by themselves but this but it takes many years of practice. Renting a drywall lift that can raise and hold a sheet in place will allow you to work alone.


It is a much preferred practice to use screws when installing drywall on ceilings. Screws come in various lengths to suit the conditions but inch and five eights in length is the most common size used. Screws are available in galvanized and stainless finishes as well.


Purchasing a good quality drywall gun will save your arm muscles over a home owner’s quality gun and these guns can be used for hundreds of projects around the home. Invest in a good one. It is recommended that you place a screw every six inches around the perimeter of the sheet and double screws every eight inches on the field of the sheet. This screw pattern will help prevent and almost eliminate what are called “nail pops”. Nails over time tend to pull out slightly due to the weight of the drywall and good old gravity causing the spackle to loosen and pop out. Screws will not loosen over time. When installing the screws, drive them in until the head of the screw is just below the surface without breaking the paper face of the drywall. Practice a few times and good screw guns have a built in clutch that can be adjusted so that you may push as hard as you wish but the tip will only drive the screw just right. Once adjusted, your work speed increases as you are simply driving screws and not concentrating on each one as to how far it is driven, etc.


Use the largest pieces possible at all times. When figuring the drywall quantities, a standard room with a door and two small windows is figured as if all the walls were solid.


A ten foot by ten foot room with eight foot ceilings would take eight ten foot sheets for the walls and three sheets (2 1/2) for the ceiling if the drywall is installed horizontally. Installing the drywall vertically would take ten eight foot sheets for the walls and 5 sheets (4 1/2) for the ceiling. Can it be done? Yes, for sure but look at what extra work was created in the taping and spackling. The four vertical corners are the same either way at eight feet each so eliminate them from this count. If installed horizontally you would have four times ten feet each for forty feet total of wall joint to tape. If installing vertically you would have eight joints times eight feet each or sixty four feet of tape joint to do. More than fifty percent more work. The ceilings are the same way. Using ten foot boards there would be twenty feet of joints to do. Using eight foot boards there would


be thirty six feet of joints to do. Almost a hundred percent increase and you would also have three butt joints as well. Butt joints occur when ends of drywall sheets are butted together. These are avoided whenever possible. They are extremely difficult to tape properly and if not done correctly will produce a noticeable bump in the finished product.


It is pretty easy to pick out an amateur job when I see dozens of butt joints, small left over pieces used over windows and doors creating even more butt joints and an incorrect amount of nails or screws used. You cannot completely eliminate every butt joint but try to avoid them whenever possible. Install the drywall over the entire widow and cut it out after you’re done. The time and labor saved using this method will far outweigh a couple of extra eight dollar sheets of drywall. If a wall has a large amount of glass space of course deduct for that area. You may end up mixing a sheet or two vertically at the ends of a window wall and the balance of the room installed horizontally but each room is unique. Knowing now that you are trying to eliminate as many joints as possible when you order and install will come as second nature the more drywall work you perform.


Taping and spackling are an art form in a way. The tape itself is used in the base coat of spackle to provide a continuous sealed joint between the drywall sheets. Successive coats of spackle provide the smooth wall or ceiling finish we are use to seeing. Typically three coats of spackle are a normal application but sometimes the job simply requires more work. Architects design all kinds of curved walls, odd angles and so on and these shapes may require additional coats of spackle. Only one coat of tape is required and that is the base coat. Depending on the size of the job, buying spackle in premixed five gallon pails is by far the cheapest method. Paper tape is also the most economical to use. I strongly suggest you buy a tapers hand held tub for about ten dollars. It resembles a baker’s bread loaf cooking pan measuring approximately12 inches long, four inches wide and deep. You will place a couple of good dollops or spackle in the tin and work from it. You do not want to try and drag a five gallon pail around a room. You will be carrying a roll of spackle tape, a six inch and perhaps a two inch spackle taping knife and be climbing a ladder as well so even this smaller tub will get heavy enough as the day wears on. The base coat of spackle is applied quite heavily and about five to six inches in width. Take your paper tape and place it directly over the center of the joint below. Using the six inch knife pull the knife along the paper tape firmly pushing it into the spackle. If done correctly, the tape will have spackle on both sides of the tape and the tape itself will be wet with spackle. Do not pull the knife so hard that you remove all the spackle from the tape and leave the surface dry. The idea is for the spackle to encase the tape in a light blanket of spackle. Keep the spackle as smooth as possible as well. Do not leave ridges and bumps behind. When the spackle dries you will have to sand all the ridges out before you can apply the next coat. Keep the surface as smooth as you possibly can. Screws can be a trick as well.. Placing a small amount of spackle on the end of your knife, dab three or four screws in a row with enough spackle to infill and cover the screw heads. Using the knife on an angle to the drywall, pull the knife across all four screws heads in a straight line at once. This will fill in the screw head voids and leave a slight trace of spackle on the drywall between the screws. Besides saving labor and your arm by doing four screws at a time, the slight trace of spackle left behind on the drywall will help conceal the screw head locations later on when you are finished.