How to Hang Drywall
Hanging drywall is a crucial skill that you keep returning to over and over when you remodel a house. With a small financial investment, you can substantially alter the look of unfinished spaces in little time. Garages, basements, attics, and other rooms are transformed by hanging this simple, low-cost slab of paper-faced compressed gypsum: drywall.
Successful drywall installation hinges on correctly anchoring the drywall panels to the framing members. Once you master the technique of hanging drywall, you can inexpensively finish rooms.
The term hanging drywall is sometimes used to refer to the entire process of installing drywall. Technically, hanging drywall is only the part of the process where drywall sheets are fastened to the walls and ceiling—all the work prior to applying joint compound and sanding.
After hanging the panels, you will need to finish the joints. This includes traditional dry-sanding with sandpaper or a sanding screen or wet-sanding with a sponge to reduce the large amounts of dust that drywall compound creates when sanded. Hanging drywall the right way is critical for reducing the amount of drywall compound that you apply to the walls. Drywall that's hung well needs very little drywall compound.
Choose a Drywall Fastener: Screws or Nails
Drywall is attached to framing either with drywall screws or nails. Though drywall screws have become the fastener of choice for most drywall installations, do-it-yourselfers without access to drywall screw guns may like the speed and convenience of nailing up drywall.
Drywall screws have a fluted head designed to recess slightly below the surface of the drywall paper without breaking it. Choose coarse thread screws for the best hold through the gypsum core of the drywall and into the wood behind. Use fine thread screws for metal studs.
For do-it-yourselfers, the best tool for attaching drywall is a cordless drill with an adjustable clutch. Or use special drywall screw bits that fit into a drill chuck. These bits are designed to stop turning when the screw hits the desired depth.
Since many professional drywall installers use drywall screw guns, fewer installers use a hammer and nails to nail up drywall. That's because the chief advantage of nailing up drywall is that it's fast.
If you have a lot of drywall to hang and don't own or wish to rent a drywall screw gun, nailing is a good, low-cost alternative.
Hammering drywall nails can actually be a more forgiving technique than driving drywall screws. Drywall screws tend to rapidly penetrate the drywall paper and tear through instantly. But with hammering, the broad, smooth head of the hammer allows for several hammer blows before the paper tears. While you can use the same process on the ceiling and on walls, it's easier to nail drywall on walls than on the ceiling.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Cordless drill
- Step ladder
- Tape measure
- Drywall square
- Utility knife
- Level or long straight board (optional)
- Planer/power planer (optional)
- Drywall lift
- Drywall sheets
- Drywall fasteners (screws or ring-shank nails)
- Wood glue or hot glue
Check Wall Studs
Before you start hanging the drywall, check the studs and joists for bows or twists. The finished walls will look best if the studs are as flat as possible.
Visually inspect the studs or joists to see if they are aligned in a straight plane. To confirm alignment, hold a long, straight board or level across the framing. If any framing members stick out, trim them with a saw or a power planer (especially for a large installation). Then, fill in low spots with shims attached with nails or glue.
Run the head of the hammer up and down the studs (for remodels, not new-construction drywall installation) to check for stray screws or nails that will impede the drywall.
Hang the Drywall on the Ceiling
If you are covering both walls and ceiling with drywall, begin with the ceiling. Wall drywall should overlap ceiling drywall.
When attaching drywall to ceiling joists spaced 16 inches on center, fasteners should be spaced 12 inches apart. Drive screws or nails into each joist behind the panel. Attach fasteners every 8 inches along the untapered edges, but keep them at least 3/8-inch from the edge to avoid damaging the gypsum core.
If using nails, plan to drive a second nail 2 inches from the first at each fastener location, along the face of the drywall.
Lift Wall Panels Into Place
With wall panels, start at the top and work downward. If working alone, rest the bottom edge of the panel on two screws driven temporarily into the studs about 50 inches below the ceiling. Lift the panel onto the two screws. Slide the panel up. Drive a screw at the bottom of the panel into a center stud, then work your way out and up the panel.
Continue to lift each panel into place on the screws. Continue to grab your drill in one hand while sliding the panel into position with your other hand and shoulder. Bottom panels should fit snugly against the top panels.
Prepare to Place Drywall on the Walls
After covering the ceiling with drywall, you will attach the top sheets of drywall to the wall. When installing drywall that is horizontally-oriented, start with the top and work your way down. The idea is to make your cut side facing the floor, where it will be later covered up with baseboards.
Mark the locations of the wall studs on the edges of the ceiling drywall with a pencil. This will make it easier to find the stud centers when driving screws into the wall panels.
Drive Screws Into Drywall
Use the same process for screwing in drywall panels on the ceiling and on the wall.
Screws need to be driven below the surface of the drywall so that they can be covered with joint compound and sanded to create a smooth surface. Do not drive them in so deep as to tear the paper surface and damage the gypsum core. Once the paper is torn, much of the holding power of the fastener is lost.
A properly driven fastener is slightly countersunk beneath the surface. Screw depth can be controlled on a cordless drill with an adjustable clutch. Screws should penetrate the framing at least 5/8-inch, which means that easy-to-find 1-1/4-inch screws will suffice for both 1/2-inch and 5/8-inch drywall panels.
Drive Nails Into Drywall
As with screws, nails need to be driven below the surface of the drywall so that they can be covered with joint compound and sanded to create a smooth surface.
Use a hammer that has a curved face which will leave just a small dimple around the nail head. Use ring-shank drywall nails only, as these have a broad head that helps hold the drywall in place. Nails should penetrate the framing at least 3/4 inch.
Tips For Laying Out Drywall
- Place the same edges with each other: Wrapped edges should be paired with wrapped edges. The butt ends that are not wrapped with paper should be paired up with other butt ends.
- Hang perpendicular to the studs: With walls, hang the drywall sheets horizontally so that the long edge of the sheet is perpendicular to the studs. Do the same for ceilings: long edges at 90-degree angles to the joists.
- Stagger joints: Avoid the joints meeting in a cross-like manner. Instead, make sure that the joints are staggered as this increases the wall's overall strength. Use your drywall square to cut pieces to fit.