Drywall Installation Instructions

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Modern drywall materials make installing a wall far easier than it was in the days of plaster and lath. Drywall generally comes in 4x8 sheets, which is designed so it will always end up centered on standard wall studs that are 16 inches apart. It comes in many thicknesses. If you're drywalling over an existing wall (and marking the studs with a stud finder), use 1/4-inch thickness, but for bare stud installation, go with 1/2 or 5/8 inches. You'll need a helper to hold the drywall in place while you install it.

Planning

  • Determine from the layout of the room how to lay out your drywall. If your ceiling isn't higher than 8 feet, then you should install the 4x8 sheets vertically. If the ceiling is higher than 8 feet, which is most typical, then install it horizontally. For horizontal installation, start with the bottom row, making sure the top edge of the drywall is level, even if that means slightly raising one side or another off the floor. (The floor trim will cover it.) When you install the top row, stagger the joints so they don't form four-way intersections with the bottom row. In all cases, the edges of the drywall need to land in the center of the width of the stud, so the next piece can land on the other half.

Installation

  • Mount the sheets with a screwgun and drywall screws every six inches on the edges of the sheets and every foot in the middle. Use your level to draw guidelines on the drywall showing where the studs are behind it for the middle screws. Make sure to sink the heads slightly below the surface of the drywall. Make any necessary cuts at the edges of the wall, rather than in the middle. To cut the drywall, set a T-square on your mark, score it on one side with a drywall knife, snap it at the line, and cut through the paper at the back side. To cut around outlets or corner cuts for windows and doorways, use a drywall handsaw.

Taping and Sanding

  • Lay mesh drywall tape over all the seams, and spread a narrow line of drywall compound over them. Cover them completely. Spread a little compound over the nail holes as well. For the corners, spread compound along both sides, press your corner bead into place, and then put another layer of compound over it. When the compound dries, sand it by hand with standard drywall sandpaper. (Wear a particle mask.) Spread a second layer of compound over all the joints, making it wider but thinner than the first. Sand it when it dries, and then apply your final compound layer, wider and thinner than the other two. Sand it lightly at the end.

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