Drywall is used to create interior walls and ceilings. It comes in large sheets and is attached to the wall framing with screws or nails. The joints in between each sheet are filled with joint compound -- or mud -- and drywall tape. The tape helps prevent the joint from cracking once the compound has cured. Homeowners with average do-it-yourself skills can tackle mudding and taping with results that resemble a plastered wall.
Selection of Material
A good mudding and taping job can depend on the type of tools and materials you will be using on the job. The joint compound you will be using comes in two types: dry and ready-mixed. Dry joint compound may seem initially less expensive, but you need to factor in the time and materials it takes to mix the compound. Power mixer attachments for power drills are available to make the job easier. A large five gallon bucket is a suitable container for mixing. Ready-mixed compound may be more expensive, but no mixing is needed. Drywall tape comes in two different types as well: paper and fiberglass mesh. Paper tape may be the least expensive of the two but it requires a bed of compound applied on the joint to adhere properly. Fiberglass mesh tape may be a little more expensive but it is self-sticking and can be applied directly to the joint without a bed of compound.
Usually two lengths of drywall taping knives are needed. A smaller knife is used to apply the first coat of compound, while a wider knife is used to apply the finish coat. Make sure the knives are flexible -- necessary for a professional-looking job -- by holding the tool by the handle and bending the blade with your thumbs. Keep the knives clean at all times during the process, as small hardened chunks of compound tend to accumulate on the blades.
Apply compound -- whether as the first coat to embed paper tape or for the finish coat over the tape -- in one, continuous stroke to get a smoother job that will need less sanding. Apply the initial coat of compound with the narrower of the two knives -- usually a five- or six-inch model. This is wide enough coverage to create a bedding for paper tape or as a first coat over mesh tape. Add a finish coat using an eight- or 12-inch knife. The wider surface feathers the edges of the joint into the surrounding drywall better than a narrow knife.
Applying mesh tape is a bit easier than paper tape. Unroll the tape and apply the self-sticking side to the joint to be filled. Cut the tape to length with a utility knife. Taping can be completed for the entire job before applying compound when using mesh tape. Paper tape needs to be applied over a fresh bed of compound before it sets up. Fold the tape down the middle so that it fits into corners before applying it. Press the tape into the compound with the narrow knife in one continuous sweep. Apply another coat of compound over the tape so that it is completely covered.
Use a wider knife to apply the finish coat of compound. Keep excess compound from squeezing out from under the knife blade when covering joints in corners by loading the knife on one side only. Get the surface of the compound as perfect as possible with the wide knife to minimize sanding once the compound sets up.