Basic Drywall Materials You Need for Your Project

Taper Installing Corner Bead
GeorgePeters / Getty Images

One great thing about installing drywall is that it is so cheap. None of the materials will bankrupt you. This is simple stuff: paper, gypsum, metal, screws, and some strips of plastic.

You can tear out the existing drywall or plaster/lath in a room and re-wall it inexpensively. This cost even factors in your drywall tools but not insulating or running electricity.

It is a great feeling to have all-new walls in a room where before you only had crumbling plaster or moldy, saggy wallboard. All you need are five simple items.

  • 01 of 05

    Drywall Panels

    skhoward / Getty Images

    Drywall—often called wallboard—is cheap, and there is little reason why it should be expensive.

    Certainly, if you purchase a specialty product like ultra-light drywall or sound-proof drywall (representative brand: QuietRock), you can expect to pay more.

    But even those pricier materials, when you get down to it, are just gypsum sandwiched between two layers of paper.

  • 02 of 05

    Joint Compound (Mud)

    DIY - Drywall Repair
    tacojim / Getty Images

    Until some genius invents a better, cleaner, faster way to join pieces of drywall and cover up holes, you're stuck with joint compound.

    Commonly called "mud," this stuff comes either ready-mixed in plastic tubs or dry in paper bags. Don't minimize how great it is to have the water pre-mixed into your joint compound; correctly mixing mud can be difficult for DIYers.

    If you're mudding just a room or two, you will find it advantageous to buy pre-mixed mud; the cost savings is not enough to warrant mixing up the dry compound.

    Low-Dust Mud

    And if you want to get a bit fancier, low-dust joint compound will significantly reduce—though not eliminate—those classic far-reaching clouds of drywall dust that will crawl even to the opposite end of the house. It costs about twice as much as regular mud, but it is worth it.

  • 03 of 05

    Paper Tape

    Drywall tape
    razerbird / Getty Images

    The tape is used to join sheets of drywall. Embedded in the mud, it forms a hard connection after the mud has dried. The best thing about it, it's just paper—which means that it is cheap. If you think that paper tape isn't strong, think again. Just try demolishing an old wall joined with paper tape embedded into the mud: you'll find that the joints are just about as strong as the drywall itself.
    The paper tape serves to join all connections, except for one.

    • Butt-joining two sheets (two flat ends, no taper).
    • Joining two sheets that each has a tapered end.
    • Inside corners.

    Paper tape is not advised for outside corners (see below, Outside Corner Bead).

    Fiberglass vs. Paper Tape

    Alternatively, if you want to spend a bit more, flat fiberglass tape provides a super-strong joint and, the best thing of all, it self-adheres. Paper tape requires you to first lay down a thin coat of mud to get the tape to stick. But Fibatape already has an adhesive backing.

    The good thing about this—besides removing a step from the work process—is that the tape lays onto a perfectly flat board. With paper tape, there is the chance of embedding it into lumpy, less-than-smooth mud.

  • 04 of 05

    Outside Corner Bead

    Decorative Plastic Low Profile Corner Bead for Drywall
    skhoward / Getty Images

    With walls, you've got either inside or outside corners. Inside corners can be formed with paper tape. Embedded paper tape easily chips when sharply struck. Outside corners are prone to strikes. Moving a piece of furniture, or even hitting the corner with a coffee mug, can be enough to chip corners. That is why you use corner bead.

    How Corner Beads Work

    The secret behind corner bead is that the outermost edge of your outside corner is a material other than drywall compound. Depending on which type of corner bead you choose, that outermost edge is either metal or plastic. When painted, the transition from the metal/plastic corner to the joint compound disappears.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Drywall Screws

    Drywall Screws
    Greg Bethmann / Getty Images

    Renovating a house built before the 1980s? You might encounter nails affixing the drywall to the studs. Even if you're not tearing down walls, you may have noticed those distinctive "nail-pops": small circles jutting through the paint, just far enough to be annoying.

    This is the reason behind drywall screws. Nails pop out; screws don't. Make sure your screws are a coarse-thread, not fine thread, for surer grip in wood studs. Verify that these screws are phosphate-coated to resist corrosion. A good length is 1 5/8 inches for either 1/2 inch or 5/8 inch thick drywall.

    Purchase just one pound, to begin with, to ensure that you and these particular screws get along together well. If you like them, then buy in bulk. Otherwise, you'll be stuck with a broken-up 25 lb. box of screws that the store will refuse to take back.