Home Drywall Installation Guidelines


These days, most homes have walls finished with drywall, often known as sheetrock.

The entire house can be “hung” daily if done by professionals. It will take another four or five workdays to complete the preparation work (taping, spackling, and sanding) before painting can begin. Any homeowner with any experience can hang drywall and get a good result.

You may learn a lot by observing a pro at work, whether they are hanging drywall or finishing the job with tape and spackle. Different types and thicknesses of drywall exist for use in various contexts. Half-inch drywall is the standard and is utilized in most parts of any house. Half-inch material is used for the walls and ceilings. Over a boiler or furnace in the basement and adjacent garages, the drywall must be at least half an inch thick or comply with state fire codes in my home state. To prevent fire from spreading through the seams and screws in drywall, only one coat of tape and spackle, known as a fire coat, is needed in garages and boiler rooms.


Wet places, such as bathrooms, require special green or water-resistant drywall. The drywall is a cement board with a coarse, rough surface if ceramic tile is to be installed. Drywall has various customized finishes, including lead linings for X-ray rooms, specialized insulation paper backing, printed decorating faces, and many more.


Drywall sheets are typically between eight and sixteen feet long and can be found in standard widths of four feet. Custom lengths can be made to be much longer. Sheets of 14 and 16 feet are typically ordered and not stocked by most big-box retailers and lumber yards. Because of its manageability, many homeowners prefer eight-foot lengths, but a twelve-foot wall requires an additional four-foot vertical joint that must be taped and spackled. A sheet measuring twelve feet would wrap around the room. If you did it throughout an entire house, you’d have to tape and sand hundreds of feet of extra wall. That’s a lot of additional hours on the clock.


Because drywall sheets are so large and heavy, installing them is typically a two-person process. Even a small crew of two won’t be able to do the job regarding drywalling a ceiling. Keeping the sheet tight to the wall and aligned with the other sheets is a hassle when three people are needed to connect it to the studs or rafters (one person holds each end of the sheet, and the third person installs the nails or screws). I’ve seen professional installers manage to hang twelve-foot, five-eighths-inch sheets on their own, but it takes a lot of skill to get to that point. You can do the job yourself if you rent a drywall lift that raises and holds a sheet.


Using screws to attach drywall to a ceiling is the recommended method. Screws come in various lengths to adapt to different environments, but one-inch and five-eighths are the standard. Galvanized and stainless steel screw options are also readily available.


You can save your muscles and money by investing in a high-quality drywall gun, which can be used for dozens of different household tasks. Get yourself a good one. You should use one screw every six inches around the sheet’s perimeter and two screws every eight inches in the open area. Using this screw pattern, “nail pops” should be much less frequent. Spackle loosens and pops out around nails over time as drywall’s weight and gravity strain at them. No loosening of screws will occur over time. To prevent the paper face of the drywall from being damaged, the screws should be driven in until their heads are just below the surface. Good screw guns feature an adjustable clutch that allows you to exert as much force as you like while the screw is being driven, so all it takes is a little practice to get the hang of it. Once fine-tuned, you may speed up your job by just driving screws without paying attention to how far each one is gone, etc.


Always opt for the most significant available pieces. A typical room with a door and two tiny windows is treated as though all walls were solid when calculating the drywall amounts.


If the drywall is laid horizontally, it will require eight ten-foot sheets for the walls and three and a half sheets (2.5) for the ceiling to finish a space that is 10 feet by 10 feet. Ten eight-foot drywall sheets would be needed for the walls, and five sheets (4 1/2) would be required for the ceiling if the drywall were installed vertically. If so, how? Undoubtedly, but consider the additional labor needed for taping and spackling. The lengths of the four vertical corners, eight feet apiece, can be disregarded in this calculation. Taping the wall joints over a horizontal installation would involve four times ten feet or forty feet. Eight joints times eight feet each equals sixty-four feet of tape joint if installed vertically. There’s an increase in effort of more than 50%. The same may be said about the ceilings. If you’re working with ten-foot boards, that’s twenty feet of joints. Eight-foot panels would be used to


Consist of 36 feet worth of moving parts. A rise of about 100 percent, with three butt joints. When the edges of two drywall sheets are butted together, a butt joint is created. When possible, these are avoided. They’re a pain to tape correctly; sloppy work is a hump in the final output.


When I examine a project and notice several butt joints, tiny scraps put above windows and doors to create even more butt joints or an inadequate number of nails or screws, I know I’m looking at the work of a beginner. Although it is impossible to get away with butt joints totally, it is best to minimize their occurrence. Put up the drywall over the whole window and then cut it out. Spending an extra $8 on drywall is not worth the time and effort you’ll save by going this route. Glass in walls should naturally be counted as negative space. You may install some sheets vertically at the ends of a window wall and the rest of the room horizontally, but that’s because every room is different. It will become automatic practice the more drywall work you do to order and install to minimize the number of seams.


Spackling and taping are like miniature works of art. The spackle’s first layer includes the tape, creating a watertight seal between the drywall panels. Spackle is used in multiple applications to provide the flawless appearance of finished walls and ceilings. While applying three applications of spackle is usual, occasionally, the job needs more effort. When construction is complete, curved walls, unusual angles, and other architectural features often require more spackle. The tape only needs a single layer, the base coat. The most cost-effective way to purchase spackle, depending on the size of the project, is in pre-mixed five-gallon pails. The lowest cost per usage can be found in paper tape. A taper handheld tub may be offered for just $10, which is highly recommended. Its dimensions resemble a standard bread loaf pan bakeries use: around 12 by four by 2 inches. To begin, put a few generous dollops of spackle into the container.

Do not attempt to maneuver a five-gallon pail in a crowded space. Even this smaller tub will get heavy enough as the day progresses because you will carry a roll of spackle tape, a six-inch and possibly a two-inch spackle taping knife, and ascending a ladder. The first application of spackle is spread thickly across a 6-inch wide area. Put the center of the paper tape over the junction down below. To embed the paper tape into the spackle, use the six-inch knife to drag along the tape’s length firmly. If you do it well, the video will be moist with spackle and have spackle on both sides. To avoid drying out the area, avoid pulling the knife so hard that it hurts all the spackle off the tape. The goal is to have a thin layer of spackle cover the video completely. Make sure the spackle is as even and smooth as possible. Avoid leaving any ridges or lumps. After the spackle dries, any bumps must be smoothed down with sandpaper before applying a new layer. Maintain the smoothest surface you can. There are also screw tricks. Using a dab of spackle on the tip of your knife, infill and cover the heads of three or four adjacent screws. Pull the blade across all four screw heads at once while holding it at an angle to the drywall. This will smooth down the drywall between the screws and fill in any gaps caused by the screw heads. You can save time and energy by driving in four screws at once, and the spackle you leave behind will help hide the screw heads once you’re done.


Apply the first coat to the entire room simultaneously, including the ceiling, walls, and corners. When finished, give all the equipment a good wash in warm water and a good drying. If they are not dried, they will rust. Pitting will develop at the rust locations, ruining your tape job. If you invest in high-quality instruments, they will serve you well for decades if you treat them respectfully. You will also need sandpaper, a sanding block, and a pole. You can’t use regular sandpaper on drywall spackle because these sheets are specifically designed for that purpose. Using the bar will make your life easier because you can sand the ceiling without getting on your hands and knees. We can begin applying the second coat after the first one has dried and been ground.


Prominent ridges or lumps left from the initial layer require more vigorous sanding to smooth off. After you’ve sanded the entire space, you may clear up the debris and apply the second coat. Applying this application is much easier because you’re only using spackle and not tape. This layer is applied to hide the video, make the joints less noticeable, and smooth over any blemishes. Don’t rush applying this spackle. The better the outcome will look, the smoother you apply it. To get the broadest possible joints in this coat, I use a knife that is twelve inches wide. The seams between the sheets will be less visible as a result. The sheets are tapered at their edges for this spackle application to result in a smooth surface rather than a hump. This second coat will require significantly less spackle than the first. Wait for the spackle to dry.


We’ll apply a third and final spackle application as soon as it dries. Sand the second coat lightly once more to remove any blemishes from the first. The second coat should have even less than the first. The third coat, applied after sanding, is used lightly to cover and fill any small dimples or voids, resulting in a smooth surface. No ridges or lumps should be seen at this stage. This is the completed item. Finish off with a light sanding once it’s dry.


Applying drywall primer to all of the drywall is the next step. Primers, typically white but can be colored to match the paint’s final color, seal the drywall’s paper face so that the paint’s texture is more consistent across the surface. However, they also reveal any flaws in the drywall paper or spackle that were previously undetected. It’s time to finish up the finishing touches on the drywall. A little spackle here and there won’t be noticeable after you paint over it. After the space has dried, thorough vacuuming is necessary to remove any remaining spackle dust and protect the final paint finishes from contamination.


Painting is a separate discussion.




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Pete Ackerson has worked as a building inspector in the private and public sectors for over 30 years. He has experience in both the office of building design and the field of construction in the Eastern United States, having worked on a wide range of projects from schools to treatment plants, individual residences, and condo projects to major residential landscaping projects. Together with two other building inspectors, he established Wagsys LLC in 2006, which developed applications for local governments’ building departments, planning boards, and zoning appeals commissions.

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