How to Taper Drywall Edges Perfectly
Creating Your Own Taper for Smooth Drywall Joints
Hanging and aligning drywall perfectly can be tough. Whenever possible, it is preferable to align the two tapered (or angled) edges of adjoining sheets of drywall. When you have two straight edges that have no built-in tapered edges, it can be difficult to match the two edges and taper them with drywall tape and drywall compound. But with a little practice, you can taper two butt edges just like a professional drywall technician, without actually creating a taper at all.
Since for the sake of stability, drywall joints need to be staggered and drywall needs to end on a stud, you may encounter different scenarios where you'll need to finesse edge irregularities. For example, if you need to handle a drywall tapered edge against a ceiling that does not have molding, it's best to cut off any tapered edge and apply tape on the ceiling and on the drywall using a drywall corner tool.
If you need to handle a seam of a drywall tapered edge next to a non-tapered edge, you can eyeball the amount of drywall compound you need to apply or use a drywall bevel or tapered edge tool, called a rasp, to make a slight taper on the non-tapered side. The instructions below do not employ a rasp because trying to create a taper with any tool can be difficult. The method instead relies on relieving the butt edge by eliminating some excess paper on the edge.
How Do Drywall Tapers Work?
When you look at a piece of drywall closely and feel it with your hand, you will notice that on each of the long edges there is a taper. When two of these tapered edges meet, they form a flat V-shaped void that is easily filled in with joint compound or mud. This makes the joint invisible.
Unfortunately, it is not always possible to join a tapered edge to another tapered edge. Sometimes, two straight factory edges meet. Or other times, cuts will create straight edges. If this is the case, adjoining butt edges is your next best option.
Paper tape is adhered to the seam with drywall compound and allowed to dry. Next, the drywall compound is tapered over that seam to form a micro-thin ridge that covers up the seam.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Utility knife
- 12-inch wide drywall knife
- 6-inch narrow drywall knife
- Drywall sander and pole
- Breathing protection
- Paper drywall tape
- Drywall compound (mud)
- Drywall sanding screen
How to Taper Drywall Edges
Remove Stray Paper
Run a sharp utility knife at a 45-degree angle down the entire length of each butt edge that will meet. The purpose is not to try to create your own tapered edge as this is difficult to do by hand. Instead, remove stray paper sticking out from the drywall.
Apply the Tape
Cut off the correct length of drywall tape with the utility knife. With the broad drywall knife, apply a thin layer of drywall compound to the seam. Without delay, apply the drywall tape to the seam. Press the tape into the compound so that it sticks. Remove any bubbles or folds that may form under the tape.
Remove bubbles or folds and set the tape in the compound by lightly pulling the drywall knife at an angle over the tape. Pull it lightly enough to set the tape but do not push all the compound out beneath it.
Let It Dry
The tape should thoroughly dry and stick to the seam before you undertake subsequent steps. If not, the tape may slide around and become difficult to fix.
Apply the Drywall Compound
After the tape has dried to the seam, use the 6-inch drywall knife to apply a narrow band of drywall compound over the tape. This band of the compound should extend only 1 to 2 inches beyond the tape. Keep the compound low, working out any peaks and bubbles. Quickly scrape off any drywall compound that accidentally ends up beyond the seam.
Spot-Sand the Area (If Needed)
Excessive sanding will abrade the paper covering on the drywall. This initial sanding is designed to remove any peaks or bumps that may have developed earlier and which were allowed to dry. Do not sand the entire seam. Sand only the problem area, and apply only light pressure.
Apply More Drywall Compound
Use the broad, 12-inch drywall knife to apply more drywall compound over the seam. Extend beyond your earlier work. Feather out the drywall compound with the knife so that it seamlessly merges into the adjoining drywall.
Sand the Seam
After the compound has dried, put on your breathing protection and sand the seam. The goal is not to bring the seam down flat; there will always be a slight ridge so that it can cover up the tape. Instead, aim for creating a smooth transition from the seam to the drywall on either side.
Tips For Tapering Drywall
- Apply only as much drywall compound as needed. The more compound you apply, the more you will need to sand off later on.
- Use dust-control drywall compound for a cleaner worksite.
- Transfer the drywall compound to a mud pan. This long, narrow pan is designed to be used with drywall knives.
When to Call a Professional
Butting up and creating a smooth joint between two drywall sheets often can be more of an art than a craft. Many do-it-yourselfers find that they cannot master this trick—understandably so. If you find that you cannot do this, call in a drywall company to complete the work for you.
Why are the edges of drywall tapered?
Edges are tapered to allow room for drywall mud to be applied and sanded to create a smooth and seamless finish.
How wide is the tapered edge on drywall?
A tapered edge, also called a beveled edge, is only a slight indentation. Only the two long sides of drywall are tapered, but not the shorter ends. The beveled edge is only 1/8-inch thinner than the rest of the drywall, but it's enough to fit tape and mud to hide a seam where two tapered drywall edges come together.
How do you prevent butt joints in drywall?
You can try to prevent butt joints by using larger pieces of drywall in a room. For example, use 4-foot by 12-foot or 4-foot by 16-foot sheets for long walls to reduce the number of seams.