What is the first thought that comes to mind when you hear the word drywall? To many it is the aches and pains they feel the day after lifting heavy panels onto the wall, the frustration of measuring and cutting panels only to have them not fit properly, cutting around electrical box in the wrong place, difficult angles, and the mess. There are countless stories of a drywall job going bad but hanging drywall doesn’t have to be a nightmare. By follow a few simple tips and techniques the installation of drywall doesn’t need to be a job that you approach with fear and worry.
Your first course of action should be to ensure that you have the necessary tools and the right amount of drywall panels and screws. The tools needed to hang drywall are as follows: a tape measure (I use a 25 foot tape measure), a four foot aluminum T-square (used for marking and cutting), a 24-inch farming square (can be used also for marking and cutting out small openings), a chalk line (used for making angles), a drafting compass (used to fit out of plum walls), a utility knife (used for cutting drywall), drywall rasp (used for trimming the jagged edge after cutting the drywall), a small drywall saw (used for cutting) or a drywall router such as Roto Zip. You will also need a drill (preferable a cordless drill), hammer and a 4, 6 or 8 foot ladder depending on the height of the wall. If you are installing drywall on the ceiling a drywall lift is a must have.
Now that you have your tools in place you’ll need to know how much drywall to purchase. First you need to determine the square footage of the area to be covered. To do this measure the length of the wall multiplied by the height of the wall, do this for each wall that will be covered. For instance if your room measures, 20′ x 12′ with 8 foot ceilings you would multiply 20 x 8 x 2 = 320 square foot and then 12′ x 8′ x 2 = 192 square foot for a total square footage of 512. Now that you know the square footage of the area to be covered you’ll need to decide the length of the panels needed as this will determine the total number of panels to purchase. Tip it is always a good idea to try to span the entire length of the wall with one panel as this will reduce the number of butted joints and seams that will need to be finished. Drywall comes in two standard widths 48″ (most common) or 54″ (used for 9′ walls) and various lengths with ½”x4’x 8′ being the most common in residential construction. Other lengths are 10′, 12′ and 16′ lengths. With this in mind we know that our wall is 20′ in length since we can’t span the entire length of the wall with one panel you would need to purchase two 4’x16′ panels and one 4’x8′ panel for each side wall.
For your end walls with a length of 12′ you can easily span the entire length of the wall two 12′ panels for each end wall. Total drywall needed to cover all the walls in this room would 4- ½” x 4’x16′, 2- 1/2″x4’x8′ and 4-1/2″x4’x12′ Now that you know the amount of drywall panels needed to cover the walls you’ll need to secure the drywall to the studs using drywall screws. Drywall screws are the best way to secure drywall to the framing as opposed to nails. There are several reasons as to why screws are better than nails: drywall screws hold the drywall tighter against the frame, screws do very little damage to the face of the drywall and screws are faster to install than nails. The type, size and amount of screws needed will be determined by the thinness of the drywall, number of sheets being installed and the spacing of the studs but for our example we will use ½” thick drywall with wall framing of 16″ on center. Drywall screws are sold by the pound on average there are about 300 screws per pound plan on using approximately one pound of screws per every 500 square foot. So for our example of, 512 total square footage you would need to purchase 1.5 pounds of 1 ¼” coarse drywall screws.
Now that you have assembled your tools, purchased your drywall and screws it is time to begin the installation of your drywall. The first step in hanging drywall is to make sure that the framing that the drywall will be attached to is straight. After a visual inspection you may need to lay a straightedge across the studs if you suspect one or more studs are out of line.
Once you are sure that the framing is straight you are ready to measure for your first panel. Tip when hanging drywall on the walls you should always hang the upper portion first. You should always make it a habit of marking the stud on the floor and on the ceiling if possible this will make it easier to locate the studs, also locate and mark any electrical boxes. When measuring for your first panel you should make two measurements. Your first measurement should be at the top of the panel to where the edge of the panel will be and the second is at the bottom of the panel to where the edge of the panel will be. Use the smaller of the two measurements. Use your T-square and utility knife to score the drywall on the face side (the white side) then snap the drywall away from the cut side. Using your utility knife to score along the back side of the drywall then snap the drywall forward separating the two pieces. Once you have separated the two pieces use your drywall rasp to smooth the jagged edge.
Dry fit the panel into place by lifting the panel into place with a helper. This allow you to see if the panel will fit squarely into place, making sure that the panel is square against the corner and that the end of the panel lands on center of the stud. From time to time it happens that the corner is out of plum (not square against the corner), to correct this cut the panel about 1″ (inch) longer, butt the panel against the corner, using a compass, run the compass along the out of plumb wall to mark the edge of the panel. After you have marked the panel cut the panel and it should fit squarely into the corner.
Now that the panel is square along the corner and the edge of the panel lines up with the stud you can secure the panel to the framing. Do this by first standing the panel against the framing exactly below where it will be attached to the framing, start a screw about 1″ (inch) down from the top of the panel lining it up with each stud. With a helper lift the panel into place making sure the panel fits tight against the ceiling and corner. Once in place drill the screws the rest of the way in. Once the top of the panel is secure you can now cut any opening for windows or electrical boxes. Once this has been done you can now finish securing the panel against the framing by spacing the screws about 12″ (inches) apart on every stud. Repeat this process for all of the upper panels on the wall.
To install drywall on the lower part of the wall the procedure is same except you may want to shorten the height by ½” (inch) so that the panel does not become damaged at the floor, this will also give some room to slip panel lifter underneath the panel so that you can press the top of the panel tightly against the panel above it. Good Luck
Ron Johnson (Owner)Lake City Drywall & Paint LLC