Drywall Screw Spacing Guide

USA, Utah, Lehi, Drywall worker applying tape to corner between wall and ceiling
Tetra Images - Mike Kemp / Getty Images

How far apart should you space drywall screws?  If you want to start an argument in a group of drywall pros, just ask about screw spacing.  

Like the fable of the blind man and the elephant, you will get different answers from every single person that all amount to the same thing:  hung drywall.

To muddy waters even more, official prescriptions from drywall manufacturers and building codes sometimes run counter to advice from people who work with drywall on a daily basis.

Is consensus possible?  Following are the most agreed-upon drywall screw spacing stats for 1/2" drywall on framing members that are 16" on-center.  The introduction of adhesive affects screw placement, as noted at the end of this article.

Drywall Screw Spacing for Walls

Edges:  8"

With drywall edges, you want to create a continuous seam so that you can tape and mud it.  Continuous, in this case, refers to reducing lippage between the panels.  

Lippage is a tiling term that refers to the annoying trip hazard when one tile edge is higher than an adjoining tile.  Here it means a variation of protrusion between panels.  

When one panel protrudes farther than its neighbor, the finishing process--taping, mudding, sanding--becomes impossible to do correctly.  

So the cure is usually to tightly space screws along the edges.  The more screws, the better?

Not necessarily.  Close screw spacing on the edges can cause the edges to crumble.

 While finishing can fix the occasional chipped or gouged edge, you want the hanging process to be as perfect as possible in order to reduce those post-process fixes.

Field:  16"

Drywall field is the inner section of your drywall.  It is everything but the edges.

The field is considered a more stable area.

 Both International Residential Code (IRC) and USG, manufacturer of Sheetrock, say that maximum field screw spacing for wall drywall is 16".

Some builders like to space fasteners tighter than that, so they go down to 12".

Drywall Screw Spacing for Ceilings

Horizontal (ceiling) placement creates far more stress on drywall and on drywall screws than vertical (wall) placement.  The entire weight of the sheet is now carried by upside-down screws.  

As with any other material, drywall pulls off of screws when moving in an outward direction far easier than when the weight travels perpendicular to the screws.  

Edges:  7" to 8"

Industry pros often recommend 8" edge placement--the same as for wall edges.  Others like to reduce that number to 7".

Field:  12"

Both IRC and USG recommend that ceiling field spacing should be no greater than 12".

When Adhesive Is Involved: Cut Placement By 50%

Construction adhesive such as Liquid Nails can be used on studs and joists in conjunction with (not as a replacement for) drywall screws.  

Running a bead of glue on the stud or joist prior to screwing on the panel increases exponentially panel-to-member strength.

Generally, with the screw-and-glue combination, screws can be placed at twice the distance as with screws only.

 

This is not recommended for DIYers because, unless you are experienced with drywall, there is a high likelihood that you may need to readjust a board or even reinstall.  Once glue binds the panel to the joist or stud, it is very difficult to remove.