Hanging drywall is a task that needs a certain amount of planning. You can’t simply expect to grab your materials and tools and just jump right in it and achieve a satisfying end result. Yes, hanging drywall is more DIY friendly than plastering. However, there are a couple of key tricks that you have to know in order to do the job well. Simple mistakes can cost you a fortune to fix. And even if your imperfections are not that serious it might not cost you much financially but it will consume a lot of time and you will make a mess in the process. On top of that, any corrections you do afterward will show at least for a couple of weeks, maybe forever. A fresher layer of plaster will always be slightly lighter than the rest.
In this article, we want to point out the most common mistakes that even some pros do. The reason is not only to give you a couple of tips in order for you to do a better DIY try of hanging drywall, we also want to inform you on things you should keep an eye out if you have handyman performing the service for you. This way you can demand a certain level of performance from the handyman and be more confident in the endurance of your drywall. Most of those mistakes result in cracks in the walls. Which we believe is not what you want for your interior walls.
There are a lot of different types of drywall, which are suitable for different conditions. You have to choose the one that will cover all of your requirements. You have two basic standards of drywall which differ from each other in thickness. You have your 9mm thick drywall boards which are used for hanging or ceilings and you're 12.5mm thick drywall which is used on walls. In most cases, the 9mm thick drywall is cheaper than the 12.5mm one and often people tend to buy 9mm drywall for their walls in order to cut costs. The problem comes with the very fact that this sheet is just not strong enough to stand vertically hanged. It often bends under its own weight resulting in massive cracks. A professional will almost never pick 9mm sheet for walls unless maybe they are bound to do so because of budgeting reasons. However, if that is the case it would be necessary to do the correct calculation and invest in better support in order to prevent the sheet from bending. A professional would know how to support the sheets without any problems, at least for a couple of years maybe. Whether or not cracks will show is solely a matter of execution. If you are planning your DIY drywall project, just use 12.5mm drywall sheets for your walls and save yourself the trouble and potential setbacks.
A key element in hanging drywall is performing the art of proper joints. No matter how big sheets you buy it is impossible to cover a room with only one sheet of drywall. You will have joints. It is the spot where two sheets of drywall meet each other. Once the whole room is covered and the finishing coat is being applied you have to cover the joint with a special compound of plaster. This compound is more flexible. If you ever lean on a wall or hit it while moving furniture etc. there will be a slight movement in the wall. If your joints are not well filled with special joint plaster they are likely to crack, resulting in visible cracks on the finishing coat. The special compound has a better chance of standing that movement thanks to its flexibility and other supporting tricks which we will discuss further in this article. This compound “setting compound” even dries fast and it does not shrinks, making it perfect for the task. You can apply your skimming coat almost immediately after finishing the joints and corners. As a DIYer, you may or may not know about this compound which will leave you with the option to fill gaps in joints with ordinary finishing plaster. That plaster is just not flexible enough, as a matter of fact, it is mostly made out of gypsum, which is a pretty fragile material when applied in thick layers. So keep that in mind while doing your material shopping. If professionals run out of skimming compound on the construction site they tend to use other compounds just to finish the job quicker, so keep an eye on them.
Another weak point in your drywall is the corners. Corners and joints are the spots where usually cracks are being seen. It is a key moment to lay a joint tape. We have mentioned how a potential movement of the wall can show as a crack above the joint. The tape will add extra protection. Paint and the skimming coat stick to the tape, preventing the showing of cracks even if the joint filling is damaged. You may think it is enough that you filled the joint with the correct compound and skip this step. That would be a mistake! And professionals may not apply tape when they just don’t have any on the site or time is pushing them.
The tape for joints has its own varieties. You may see on the market a “net like” tape with huge holes. That tape is not for drywall! It is used for outside jobs and it is supposed to be used only when working with plaster that has a rougher structure or with stucco. If you use this kind of tape on interior walls you will have to apply a thick layer of coating on top of it. And once again, thick layers = bigger chance for cracks. The tape to use while hanging drywall is almost like cloth with super small “breathing” spores.
One more thing for your corners. Use corner profiles. They are usually 2.5m long “L” shaped profiles made out of thin metal or plastic. They may or may not have setting tape on their ends. It would be easier for you to buy the one with setting tape and shoot two rabbits with one bullet. Those corner profiles will prevent the edge of your corners from breaking down.
We think it is already clear that the more joints and corners you have the more chance there is to show cracks in future. So it is a key moment to calculate how much sheets of drywall you are going to need and optimise the process as well as you can in order to limit the number of joints you gonna have. This will not only save you time, it will save you trouble and disappointment in the future.
Number six is especially important for around windows and doors. Basically, if you slam the door or window the joints that are near will crack. The slam can occur because of ear flow, not anger management problems… No one can predict those. To prevent this from happening, carefully measure the window or the door. Draw the door or window on the drywall sheet, secure it in place only on the top side and cut with utility knife following your lines. Carefully bring the sheet to the ground and make a clear opening where your door or window will be. This will assure a solid background and more sturdy wall, which will isolate vibrations and prevent cracks.
As you are covering your walls it is a key moment to carefully mark the centers of your supporting profiles. Usually 2 by 4 or metal profiles on which you actually screw down your drywall sheets. This also saves time. If you mark the center of the profile, put the sheet on trace the marking on the sheet, you can then start securing the drywall and you will always know where the center of your support is. This will ensure more efficient work process and a cleaner end result. If you end up with a lot of holes in your drywall you will later have to patch them up and the whole process will turn into a nightmare.
The length of drywall is finished with a slight curve and is often a bit thinner. This gives you the perfect condition for joints, but what about the shorter sides. Well, they don’t have any finish at all. Usually, it is just a clean cut and you can see the gypsum inside. If you have to do a joint with those sides it is important to cut the edge that will be facing towards you. Cut the edges of both sheets so when you secure them on the support you end up with a “V” shaped joint. This is done in order for the joint compound to easily enter and make a secure well leveled joint. If you skip this step you will end up with two flat surfaces barely touching each other and no compound could enter between them.
Don’t cut every sheet of drywall with the exact measures you took from the wall. You should always leave a bit of gap. You can easily hide it under the skimming coat or if it is in the corner you can hide it while doing the next wall. If you always try to cut your pieces to perfectly fit their spot, it is almost impossible. You can’t do a surgically precise cut of gypsum. It will break and it is natural, it will leave you with a rough edge, so always leave ⅛ inch gap.
If you have to cut holes for light switches or power sockets, don’t try to slam the drywall in place. It will break. Just like you used to draw the door frame and the window frames. First secure the sheet with a couple of screws, draw your socket or light switch on the drywall and then get the sheet on the ground. Now you can carefully cut out the piece you don’t need. After that secure the sheet again on the wall, level it with the socket and remove any excessive gypsum with a utility knife until you achieve the perfect cut. Yes, it is a bit of a hassle but it is harder to patch broken edges of drywall around electrical points.
So, in essence, those are the rules you need to follow. And those are the mistakes you need to keep an eye out when you have construction contractors working on your property, or you are engaging the task yourself. If you are planning to drywall a room all alone, please don’t even start. We are not against DIY efforts, don’t get us wrong, we are just thinking about you! If you are going to give it a try get a pair of helping hands, you son or a friendly neighbor with a bit of experience of his own. Don’t risk your health, the sheets are heavy enough! On top of that, you will be working with power tools. And in order to become a "Pro" in drywall installation, you will have to read a lot of articles like this one, plus proving your new skills in action.