How to Drive and Sink Drywall Screws

Drywall screw
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    Basics of Driving and Sinking a Drywall Screw

    Screws and wall fixings
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    One key component of hanging drywall is driving the drywall screws and sinking the heads below the surface—but not too far below.

    Professional drywall installers often use drywall screw guns. If you are installing drywall in more than a couple of rooms, renting a screw gun may be your best option. Drywall screw guns can be pre-set to sink screws at the perfect depth.

    But most homeowners opt to use a tool that they may already have on hand: a cordless drill. Cordless drills are perfect for hanging drywall on a limited scale.

    The Perfectly Sunk Drywall Screw

    The aim is to secure the drywall sheet to the studs. Yet, unlike a screw driven into wood, deeper is usually not better.  You have to hit a certain sweet spot of depth: deep, but not too deep.

    • Just below the paper: You want to drive the drywall screw below the surface of the outer paper covering. You want to create a dimple in the paper. Higher than the paper surface will make it difficult, if not impossible, to apply the drywall compound and finish the walls.
    • But not too far: Should you drive the screw too far, the screw head will completely puncture the paper and end up in the gypsum part of the drywall. This means that the screw is not properly holding the drywall to the stud. The fateful "pop" you hear when the head pulls through the paper means you need to drive another screw nearby.

    There are drill bit extensions you can purchase that help with sinking drywall screws. However, these tools tend to be hit-or-miss, and it's usually best to do this manually.

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    Helpful Tips

    ​Here are helpful tips to remember for driving the drywall screws to create a good dimple in the paper.

    • Choose coarse screws: Coarse-thread screws are the proper screw for biting into wood. Finer thread screws are made for metal. Coarse screws aggressively bite into the wood, reducing the physical effort of pushing with the drill.
    • Choose screws that are the right length: Shorter screws may seem like a better idea, but not so. Short screws will barely reach the wood and begin biting in, and it's already time to stop. Longer screws will establish a consistent draw-in speed so that you can better predict when to stop.  Drywall screws that are either 1 1/4" or 1 5/8" work well for half-inch drywall.
    • Bracing reduces stripping: Bracing your body creates pressure between the drill and the screw. Without enough pressure, the bit will strip the screw-head as it gets farther into the wood. You brace by resting the back of the drill against your body. Or you can grasp the back of the work area with your free hand and pull the drill toward the drywall. Whatever you do, the more pressure you can create, the better control you will have as the screw head reaches the paper. If your drill has a handle, attach it for improved grip.
    • Watch at an angle: Viewing the drilling operation from a high angle ensures that you will better see when the dimple begins to form. By contrast, if you were to view it from behind the drill, it would be difficult to discern when the screw begins to sink into the paper.
    • Use light to your advantage:  Place a work light to the side of the drywall.  This will create shadows on the board and make it highly evident when the screw begins to dimple.
    • Slow, consistent speed wins the game: The best option, if you can do it, is to drill all the way and sink the screw-head without stopping the drill. As soon as you stop the drill, you lose momentum. Should you need to stop, no fear. Just make sure the driver bit is secure on the screw-head, give the drill some pressure, and slowly begin screwing again.
    • Adjust torque: Torque is one of those features found on all cordless drills, and one which is often ignored. Yet it can help out immensely when hanging drywall. Turn down the torque to its lowest level.