6 Pro Tips for Hanging Drywall

Drywall Installers

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Unlike other home remodeling trades, such as electrical work or plumbing which require precision and exact compliance with certain standards, hanging drywall is a more forgiving activity, with no 100% right way to do it. Hanging drywall becomes something of an art form, and different professionals develop their own techniques for doing the work quickly and effectively. These tips, secrets, hints, and hacks can be very useful to DIYers.

Here are six tips from the pros that will make your DIY work go faster and produce better results.

Make Sure Framing Is Level, Plumb, and Flat

If the plane of a wall or ceiling is not flat from stud to stud or ceiling joist to ceiling joist—or if individual studs or joists are warped—the drywall panels will bow when they are attached, leading to a finished wall or ceiling with peculiar contours or even cracks. Before hanging panels, use a long straightedge and level to verify that the wall and ceiling members are flat, plumb, and level. This may require planing down framing members that extend out too far or shimming out others. But getting the wall and ceiling planes level, plumb, and flat is essential for a perfect drywall job.

Install Drywall Panels Horizontally

While pros typically install drywall panels vertically in commercial settings, they normally install them horizontally in residential construction. Installing panels horizontally means there will be fewer seams to finish. In many rooms, using 12-foot-long drywall panels means there will be no vertical seams at all—only a single horizontal seam between each pair of panels. And from an engineering standpoint, horizontal installation of the drywall increases the strength of the wall structure.

Mark the Position of Studs on the Ceiling and Floor

Before beginning installation, use light pencil marks to register the on-center positions of the wall studs on the ceiling and floor. This will make it easier to run rows of drywall screws down along the studs when securing them. Many pros snap a quick chalk line across the panels between the ceiling and floor marks, then drive drywall screws every 16 inches down the stud. Make sure to keep the line faint, or wipe it off after completing the work, to keep it from bleeding through the paint job.

Cut Panels by Snapping

The trick to cutting drywall length-wise is to first score one side of the board with a utility knife, then go to the backside and crack the panel with your knee. If you hit it in the right spot, it will easily separate right along the scored line. With the panel folded along the scored line, use the utility knife to slice down along the fold from the opposite side to complete the cut.

Use the Right Screws—and Drive Them Correctly

Pros take pains to use the right drywall screws—which means screws with coarse threads rather than fine threads. And make sure the length is correct—for standard 1/2-inch-thick drywall, use 1 1/4-inch-long screws. Coarse screws drive easier and have better holding power than fine-thread screws.

Make sure the screw heads do not puncture through the paper face of the panels. The fluted head of the screws should sightly dimple the paper so they are recessed below the face, but if the paper tears or the screw heads puncture through into the gypsum core, the screw loses its holding power. If this happens, drive a new screw adjacent to the failed one.

After driving all screws, run your hand or the head of the hammer over all surfaces where screws are driven. Even the smallest protrusion can ruin the finish, so if you find bumps or protrusions, cut away the paper and fill the dimple with drywall compound.

By the way, pros almost never use drywall nails when hanging panels, preferring screws driven in with a power drywall gun. If you want to hang drywall like a pro, give up your drywall nails and learn how to use drywall screws.

Use the Tools Preferred by Pros

If you have a lot of drywall to hang or must work alone, it can be especially useful to employ the tools that pros use. Most are available for rent at big home improvement centers or tool lease outlets.

  • Drywall screwgun: This special type of drill driver has a clutch that prevents you from driving screws too deep. They work much better than ordinary drill drivers.
  • Hydraulic drywall lift: This tool makes it very easy to hoist full panels of drywall into an overhead position when finishing ceilings. A drywall lift makes it possible to do this work even without helpers.
  • Drywall stilts: They can take some practice to master, but many DIYers who do a lot of drywall work learn the art of using drywall stilts, which make allow you to work overhead without a ladder.
  • Drywall rotary saw: Essentially a small rotary router, these tools make it easy to make cutouts for outlets and switches. The thin rotary blade slices easily through drywall.