Essential Tools You Need For Drywall Work

  • 01 of 10

    Introduction

    Drywall mud
    Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

    You will need to purchase some specialized, as well as some non-specialized, tools for your DIY drywall project. Fortunately, you can walk out of your local hardware store with a full complement of drywall tools—without having broken the bank.

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  • 02 of 10

    Drywall T-Square: Expensive But Crucial

    Empire Adjustable T-Square
    Empire adjustable T-square. Empire

    A drywall T-square is unlike other types of straight edges or squares that you can buy, in that it has a full 48-inch length which allows you to cut the entire width of a sheet of drywall.

    Not only that, but the head (the cross-end) of the square fits neatly over the edge of the drywall and is long enough that you can be assured that the square is perfectly in place. The t-square is by far your largest investment in DIY drywalling, but there is no acceptable substitute. You had better just suck...MORE it up and enjoy it. Your consolation here is that the drywall T-square can be used for things other than drywalling.

    Some drywall T-squares, such as those manufactured by Empire, have a head that adjusts to 30, 45, 60, and 75 degrees. While not crucial to have an adjustable cross-bar, but it sure is nice.

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  • 03 of 10

    Drywall Knife In 12, 6, and 4 Inch Sizes

    Drywall Taping Knife
    Drywall taping knife. Hyde Tools

    Drywall knives are specialized, so other types of putty knives that you may have in your shop will not work.

    The good thing is that drywall knives are not expensive. My advice is that you purchase low-end knives because, if you are like me, you eventually will toss them out and replace them. Perhaps if I were more fastidious I would not have this problem. Yet no matter how hard I try to clean off my drywall tools, they eventually get gunked with impossible-to-remove drywall residue.

    The 6-inch...MORE knife and the 4-inch knife are used for slopping the mud into place and for taping. The 12-inch knife is used for feathering and final coats. You will need either the 4 or 6 inch (they are fairly interchangeable) and the 12-inch knife.

    Hyde Tools sells a nice, off-the-shelf 4-inch drywall knife, perfect for taping.

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  • 04 of 10

    Utility Knife

    Stanley Utility Knife
    Stanley utility knife. Stanley Tools

    If you already own a utility knife, it should work for your drywall project. The only type of utility knife that would not be suitable is the type that has the snap-off blades. You want to make sure that your utility knife has interchangeable blades that set into a screw-down handle for greater stability.

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  • 05 of 10

    Cordless Drill For Fastening (Not Hammer and Nails)

    Hitachi 12V Cordless Drill Set
    Hitachi 12V cordless drill set. Hitachi Tools USA

    Back in the old days, drywall was fastened to studs with hammer and nail.  Today, professional drywall installers use screw guns that automatically load up a new screw whenever they are ready for the next one. You would be lucky if you had such a type of screw gun.  Certainly, for any major drywall installation project, you may want to rent such a screw gun from a rental yard.

    For all other types of drywall work, an ordinary, off-the-shelf 12V or 18 V cordless drill will work. The 12V cordless...MORE can do the trick; if you want more power, the 18 V drill can easily draw screws into wood studs hundreds of times over.

    It is also nice to have a clutch on the cordless drill so that the bit will stop turning at a certain point, rather than stripping the screw head. Corded drills will cause you frustration if trying to use them for drywall projects for two reasons: the cord and the difficulty of controlling torque on the drill.

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  • 06 of 10

    Sanding Pole and Sanding Sheets

    Drywall Sanding Head
    Drywall sanding head. Warner Tools

    Mesh sanding sheets fit on the end of the sander with wing nuts. Then, the sander and a sanding pole screw together.

    Tip: I have found that regular broom handles have the same thread and will work, rather than having to buy a specialized “sanding pole.” After all, who needs yet another pole floating around their garage?

    The sanding sheets come in two types, both of which you will need: coarse fiberglass mesh with open holes, and sheets that look just like ordinary sandpaper. The fiberglass mesh...MORE allows the drywall dust to pass through so that you do not cake up the sanding surface. The sandpaper type of sheet is necessary for finer sanding. It takes much longer for the drywall dust to cake on this fine surface, and it is possible to occasionally clean it with a whisk broom.

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  • 07 of 10

    Drywall Sanding Sponge, Abrasive and Non-Abrasive

    Drywall Sanding Sponge
    Goldblatt

    A sanding sponge oddly enough looks like one of those kitchen scrubbers for pots and pans. Yet it has a very abrasive surface on one side, and a smoother surface on the other side. Do not rely on the sanding sponge for all of your sanding purposes; it is just for touchups.

    The other type of sanding sponge is, literally, a sponge. It has no coarse surface. It is a large sponge that is specific for dry walling purposes (though in a pinch you can use an ordinary kitchen sponge) and is used for wet...MORE sanding.

    One basic type of the non-abrasive sponge is the Goldblatt Drywall Sanding Sponge. It has a smooth side and a slightly coarser side.

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  • 08 of 10

    Drywall Screws

    Drywall Screw
    Milwaukee

    No longer do drywall installers use drywall nails: specialized screws are the drywall fastener of choice today.

    Drywall screws come in either coarse-thread or fine-thread varieties. Coarse-thread screws draw effortlessly into the wood, and in fact are so useful that you will find yourself using them for other home improvement projects.

    The only thing I do not like about coarse thread screws is that they have metal burrs which eventually embed in your fingers and are impossible to remove, even with...MORE tweezers. Since you cannot do drywall work with gloves, there is little alternative but to accept becoming a human pincushion. The 5/8 inch screw tends to be the most practical length for all drywall projects. Fine thread screws are used for metal framing; coarse thread for wood studs.

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  • 09 of 10

    Jab Saw

    Jab Saw
    Jab Saw. Lee Wallender

    Most people buy a jab saw because they need it for a specific purpose, such as cutting drywall. Then, as with many other tools in the toolbox, the jab saw gets converted to other uses because it is such a wonderfully useful multi-purpose tool.

    Jab saw manufacturers would like you to believe this fantasy but I don't believe so.  A jab saw is one of those tools that is so incredibly indispensable for one job--cutting drywall--but practically worthless for other tasks.

    Even so, this is one tool that...MORE you absolutely must buy.  Here's why.

    What It Is

    A jab saw is a hand saw with a six-inch blade (depending on the model), sharpened tip, and coarse teeth. It works almost like a "knife with teeth," like a very tough and sturdy form of a serrated kitchen knife.

    The tip is sharp enough to penetrate drywall, but not so sharp that it will cut your finger when you apply light pressure.

    The "jabbing" function is the main feature of the jab saw. When you don't have an edge to start your cut, place the sharpened end of the saw perpendicular to the cutting surface and smack the handle with the heel of your free hand. A strike with a hammer or rubber mallet will also do.

    How Well Does It Cut Drywall?

    Jab saws are made for small cuts only: squares for electrical boxes and circles for recessed lights.

    Jab saws were made for cutting holes in drywall. Plunge in the saw and rip away!

    You can favor the forward direction for a softer, easier, and less dusty cut.  Whenever I make box cut-outs in this manner, I find that the drywall dust quietly drops straight down to the ground, with only a few airborne particles escaping.  Contrast this with the insane drywall dust blizzard that the RotoZip kicks up, and you'll love the jab saw's gentle nature.

    But the jab saw isn't good for cutting more than six to eight inches. Beyond that, the wobbly nature of the jab saw's blade really comes to fore. Your cut becomes ragged and anything but straight. A sure hand can mitigate this problem, but you'll get straighter drywall cuts with a utility knife or jigsaw.

    But What About Its Other Uses?

    There are few other uses for this tool.  

    While product literature for the Stanley FatMax Jab Saw says that it is "[d]esigned for drywall, wood, and plastic work," you'll do 95% of your jab saw work in that first category of materials. Its teeth are too coarse to produce a neat cut on most thicknesses of plywood.

    While I never have occasion to cut styrofoam blocks, I imagine that the jab saw's coarse teeth would work well for this.

     

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  • 10 of 10

    Drywall Saw, Electric or Manual

    Manual Drywall Saw
    Manual drywall saw. Stanley Tools

    Two types of drywall saws you may need: jigsaw and manual saw. A Roto-Zip or jigsaw fitted with a coarse or drywall-specific blade helps you cut circles and other curved lines.

    If you do not have a jigsaw, no need to buy one just for drywall. You can easily get the job done with a manual saw. The manual drywall saw is actually quite useful. It has a sharp point and an unusual set of coarse teeth that feel smooth to the touch. At first, you think that this saw could never cut drywall--but it does,...MORE and quite well, too. The basic yellow Stanley saw available at nearly every hardware store or online is good enough for your drywall project. No need to break the bank on a simple tool like this.