How to Make a Deadman for Drywall

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Things You'll Need

  • 2-by-4-inch or 1-by-4-inch lumber

  • 16d or 8d nails

  • Saw

A do-it-yourself hands-free support, sometimes called a deadman, holds drywall in place against the ceiling. This allows the builder to use both hands for the process of nailing or screwing the drywall to the ceiling joists. The deadman brace resembles a large letter T and is useful only for ceiling work. Commonly built on the job site of available materials, the deadman brace takes on many actual designs with the same basic function.


Step 1

Cut an upright out of a 1-by-4 or 2-by-4 piece of lumber. If you build the brace out of 2-by-4 lumber cut the upright to 1 inch less than the distance from the floor to ceiling. If using 1-by-4 lumber, the upright can be the same length as the height of the wall.

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Step 2

Cut a cross member for the top of the deadman brace. This piece should be at least 3 feet long but no longer than 4 feet.

Step 3

Fasten the center of the cross member to the top of the upright using 16d nails for 2-by-4 lumber or 8d nails for 1-by-4 lumber. Set the nails deep enough so no portion of the head extends above the wood. This prevents scratches to drywall during installation.

Step 4

Cut two braces to fit from 1 foot down the upright to the cross member 1 foot from the center connection. Fasten these braces in place with the same nails used to fasten the cross member to the upright. The completed deadman brace should measure about 1/2 to 3/4 inch longer than the height of the walls of the room.


Wedge the deadman brace between the drywall placed against the ceiling joists and floor. The tension created by wedging the slightly longer deadman into the space holds it in place. Once the drywall is fastened in place a quick kick with the side of the foot at the base of the deadman removes the tool.


This type of do-it-yourself deadman brace works only on ceilings where the floor is bare wood. Remodel projects with a finished floor may require a soft wrap around the bottom end of the deadman to prevent slipping.


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