How to Hang and Finish Drywall Like a Pro

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Installing drywall makes a room look like new.

Drywall is available in many different thicknesses: five eighths of an inch, half inch and three eighths of an inch. The size of the boards can be four by eight feet, four by twelve feet or four by sixteen feet. Professionals usually use four by twelve foot boards in order to cut down on hanging time and have fewer seems, but four by eight sheets are lighter and easier to handle, which makes them the choice of most do-it-yourselfers.

Cutting and Hanging Drywall

When hanging drywall, the sheets are attached to studs or ceiling joists with either screws or drywall nails. Most professionals use screws and a screw gun for installation because they are less likely to become loose later and cause damage to the painted/papered finish. When installing drywall, the heads of the screws/nails should be driven extra deep so that they leave a dimple or depression in the drywall board. These dimples can later be hidden by covering them with joint compound and then sanding them to a smooth finish.

Drywall can be cut in many ways, but the quickest and easiest way to make long straight cuts is with a utility knife. The procedure is simple: along the papered side of the board, use a T-square, chalk line or a length of 2x4 as a straight edge, then snap or draw your line. Then, using the utility knife, score the line with the blade. The board can then just be snapped along the seam. To cut holes to accommodate switches, receptacles and fixtures, a drywall or keyhole saw is usually the best option.

Hanging Drywall

When both the walls and ceiling of a room are to be covered with drywall, it is always best to do the ceiling first. This gets all of the harder work out of the way, and by hanging the ceiling first, the drywall boards on the walls will provide extra support for the ceiling.

The drywall hung on a ceiling is attached to exposed ceiling joists, but before it is put in place, cut outs for ceiling electrical fixtures must be measured and cut. But that`s the easy part, getting it up there is the hard part. But there is a solution.

 By using a few pieces of 2x4, you can make a simple brace to hold the drywall in place. This brace is called a T-brace or a dead man. Once you have it made, two people lift the sheet of drywall and the dead man can then be wedged between the floor and the ceiling, taking the place of the second person.

When hanging drywall on walls it is easier for one person to hang sheets vertically, but hanging the sheets horizontally will result in less waste and fewer seems.

Installing Corner Bead

Metal corner bead is installed on the outside corners and exposed edges of drywall to add protection. The corner bead strips are perforated and can be either screwed or nailed in place. They are then covered with joint compound and sanded for a smooth finish.

Applying Tape and Compound

For this step you will need compound (mixable or premixed), a wide putty knife and paper drywall tape.

Seams: When you are applying compound (commonly referred to as mud) it is best to work on one seam at a time. When applying the first coat, spread the mud generously over the seam about 3-4 inches wide. When the mud is in place, lay a strip of drywall tape on the mud making sure that  the seam is completely covered. Then, using the putty knife, work the tape down into the mud (the tape should be set deep into the mud). Next, smooth out the mud and gently feather it out and away from the edges of the tape. Repeat this process with all seams.

Tape is not necessary when filling the dimples left by installing the screws/nails. Just apply mud over the depression and smooth it out with your putty knife and leave it to dry.

Inside Corners: Run a line of mud down the inside corners. Then measure a piece of tape that is long enough to reach floor to ceiling and fold it in half along down the center so the it will fit. Work the tape into the mud as you did on the seams.

Allow the mud to dry completely before doing anything further.

Second Coat

When your first coat is completely dry, you can proceed with the second coat of mud. Simply apply a second coat directly over the first, but make it twice as wide. Do not use too much, as you will have to sand any excess off.

Final Coat

The third coat should be the final finish on the drywall. Start by sanding the existing coats with a medium and then a fine grade sand paper until they feel smooth (sanding blocks are perfect for this job). After sanding, apply a thin coat of mud that is 10-12 inches wide and feather it out at the edges. This extra wide strip and feathered edges makes it easier to hide the seams. Cover all dimples with extra wide strokes and feather them out as well.


After the third coat has completely dried, sand it out smooth with fine grade sand paper. When everything has been sanded, it is time to get rid of all the dust and get ready to prime and paint the walls.