After planning the drywall installation project and shopping for all the materials and tools you will need comes the moment when you have everything you need to start hanging the panels. Here are the rules you have to follow to get good results with minimum headaches. You already have the plan and the sketch so just start one panel at a time and soon this phase will be over.

Basic guidelines

  • Start with the ceiling. This way the panels applied on the walls will help sustain some of the ceiling panels and will help reduce sagging in time.
  • On the walls try to apply the panels horizontally where it makes sense from a joint reducing point of view.
  • If the wall panels are installed horizontally, hang first the top level panels pressed against the ceiling panels.
  • The lower (second) row of wall panels should be offset so you don’t have 4 panel corners meet in the same place.

Cutting panels

No matter how lucky you are your drywall panels won’t fit perfectly with the size of all your walls. As a result you will have to cut drywall panels. This is an easy job but you still have to think about it to get the best solution possible.

  • Measure first on the wall or ceiling the length you need.
  • Think about how can you minimize joints and at least avoid butt joints in the middle of the wall.
  • Mark the drywall sheet on its face (the light colored face for regular drywall) using a pencil.
  • Cut the panel face (the paper) with a sharp utility knife. Use the t-square to make sure you cut in a straight line on the mark. Be careful to keep the knife at a slight angle so you don’t cut into the t-square.
  • Break the core of the panel by snapping the board with a firm movement away from the already cut face. If you made a nice cut through the face paper you should get a clean cut edge.
  • With the utility knife cut through the back paper.
  • You should smooth the cut edges with a coarse sandpaper wrapped around a small block of wood or with a knife. Keep the edges square.

In most real drywall installations you will have to deal with cutouts for doors, windows, light fixtures and electrical boxes for outlets and light switches.

  • Measure from the panel edges to the close and far edges of the cutout. For round cutouts (light fixtures) enclose them in a square or rectangle or try to approximate the center and the radius.
  • Draw the shape in the right position on the drywall panel face. For electrical boxes you can use a spare one to draw the outline.
  • Cut with a drywall saw or keyhole saw. You can make a small hole first with a drill to avoid breaking the gypsum core of the drywall sheet.
  • For a round cutout you can use a special tool like these:

Attaching the panels to the ceilings and walls

Applying the ceiling panels should be handled by two people if possible. Always try to install drywall on ceiling first. Use the proper thickness of the drywall on ceilings to avoid sagging. A drywall panel that is too thin (under 1/2″) might not be able to support the weight of the water based texture, if you plan to apply it.

  • To support the weight of the panels you should use some simple (self made from wood) T braces that are longer with 1/2″ (13 mm) than the floor to ceiling distance. You can also use a drywall panel lift which will make your life a lot easier.
  • Press firmly the panel against the wall framing.
  • Nail or screw the panel to the studs in the wall.
  • Start with the center of the panel and the perimeter after that.
  • The distance between nails should be at most 7″ (180 mm) on ceilings.
  • The distance between nails should be at most 8″ (200 mm) on walls.
  • Drive the nails in straight and do not overdrive.
  • Don’t break the face of the paper.
  • Don’t fracture the gypsum core.
  • Use double nailing to avoid nail pops. This is recommended for ceilings. The two nails should be placed about 2″ (50 mm) apart.
  • The last blow of the drywall hammer should create a small shallow dimple in the face paper without braking it. this will hold the compound to mask the nail head.
  • Instead of nails you can use screws which are a better choice.
  • Use the proper screws for your drywall type and thickness and for your type of framing (wood or metal).
  • The distance between screws should be at most 12″ (300 mm) on ceilings.
  • The distance between screws should be at most 16″ (400 mm) on walls.
  • Try to avoid creating joints above or bellow the corners of doors and windows and other cutouts.
  • Use trims (metal or paper) where the drywall panels meet the windows and doors.

Using corner beads and trims

To protect the corners you should use corner beads and trims.

  • Measure the length of the corner.
  • Cut the corner beads at length using tin snips; cut each flange and then bend the nose to break it.
  • Nail the corner bead on the corner using special flat head nails.
  • Keep the distance between nails under 9″ (225 mm).
  • Make sure the nails are driven into the framing.
  • Don’t use screws.
  • You can also use paper or plastic corner beads and trims.

If you follow these rules consistently you will soon be ready for the next step – the joint finishing. Good luck!

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