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Installing Drywall: Best Practices

Jun 4, 2020 | DIY

Installing drywall is generally an easy DIY project. All you have to do is cover all the metal or wood studs in a given room with large panels of drywall, aka Sheetrock (which is actually a brand name) or plasterboard. But like most DIY projects that seem simple on the surface, there’s a little more to it than just nailing up the panels.

The way you choose to lay out your drywall beforehand can make it much easier to tape and finish, and it also makes the drywall stronger and more resistant to cracking. Here are the best practices to consider for planning the placement of your drywall before you begin to install it.

Hang Drywall Sheets Perpendicular to Studs

Wall studs are framed perpendicular to the floor, and that’s how you should hang your drywall sheets as well. Hanging your drywall perpendicular to the floor creates more holding power within the sheets across the entire wall. Drywall seams that land directly on a wall stud have less holding power and are more likely to crack. Metal studs are not as likely to cause this problem. However, metal studs are mostly used in commercial construction and are unlikely to have been used in your home. Your home most likely has wood studs, which may not be perfectly straight. The difference in the placement of each wood stud impacts the stability of a drywall seam when the drywall is hung parallel to the studs rather than perpendicular.

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Bound to Bound, Butt to Butt

The “bound edge” refers to the long edge of a drywall sheet. It’s called the bound edge because the drywall paper on the front of the sheet overlaps the paper on the back of the sheet; causing the gypsum to be “bound” together. Approximately 3 inches from the “bound edge”, the drywall on the face of sheet becomes roughly 1/16 of an inch thinner. When bound edges are placed together, it creates a shallow trough for the tape to rest in. It’s easy to smooth over the seam with drywall mud after taping.

The “butt” of a drywall sheet refers to the short edge where the paper does not wrap around, leaving the gypsum exposed. On a butt, the thickness of the gypsum does not change. Therefore, placing a butt next to a bound edge creates two uneven surfaces. If this happens, you will have to even out through taping and finishing. Fixing with taping and finishing is definitely more difficult than placing two butts against each other to create a level surface.

By planning to place butts next to butts and bound edges next to bound edges, you’ll be making the rest of your drywall installation much easier and more effective.

Stagger Your Butt Joints

Butt joints create a weaker area that may be prone to cracking as the building settles. Staggering them limits their length and helps prevent cracking. It also makes taping and finishing more manageable and improves the overall strength and stability of the wall. This principle applies to installing drywall on ceilings as well.

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Install Drywall From Ceiling to Floor, Left to Right (or Right to Left)

Hanging drywall on the ceiling before the walls makes the edges of the wall sheets lie flush along the ceiling and helps hold the ceiling sheets in place. The joints at the ceiling angles will therefore be tighter and easier to tape and finish. 

Likewise, hanging drywall sheets from the ceiling down keeps ceiling joints tight. Measure the first wall ¼ of an inch short. Doing this will allow the sheets on the second wall to hide the edges of the first wall’s sheets. Do the same with the sheets on the third wall to hide the sides of the second wall’s sheets. Measure the fourth and final wall to fit precisely between the first and third walls. With that, you will have a freshly drywalled room full of nice, tight corners.

Installing drywall is a favorite DIY project for many. We hope these tips help you make the most out of your DIY drywall installation. If you have questions on this or other home improvement projects, Reach out to us on social media or call any of our East Tennessee locations. We’re here to help!

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