Hanging drywall is not a very complicated job but this doesn’t mean it is trivial. It involves a fair amount of steps, using many specific tools and making various decisions based on project specific conditions. As in any other situation a man with a plan is way better off than any man without the plan. By planning your DIY drywall installation project you will be more efficient and you will avoid many traps and mistakes.

Why should you plan ahead drywall hanging

  1. To select the right kind of materials for your situation
  2. To calculate how much of any materials you need
  3. To check the quality of the framing and studs and make sure you will get good results
  4. To minimize joints and finishing work
  5. To make sure everything you need and want behind the drywall is there before you hang the drywall
  6. To make sure everything behind the drywall is safe
  7. To make sure you have all the tools and materials you need and minimize the number of trips to the hardware store

Analyze specific conditions for your drywall project

  • Measure and make a sketch of each project area
    • lenght of walls
    • height of walls
    • doors and windows sizes and positions
    • the position of each stud and the distance between the center of the studs
    • mark the position of each outlet and switch
    • dimensions of the ceiling
    • mark the position of each light fixture
  • Think about the caracteristics of each area covered by drywall. Consult the building codes and decide if you need any special type of drywall:
    • greenboard (water resistant drywall) for bathrooms, kitchens or other areas with increased moisture
    • type-X (fire rated drywall) for example in the furnace area and the garage
    • concrete board (Wonderboard or Durock) for bathroom areas where ceramic tiles are going to be installed (shower and bathtub areas)
    • you might need to consider foil backed drywall for outside walls in high moisture conditions
  • The distance between the studs and the shape of the walls will influence the thickness of the drywall you will buy.
    • thin 1/4″ drywall for curved walls (you might need two layers)
    • normal 1/2″ drywall for regular framing with studs at 16″
    • thick 5/8″ drywall for walls and ceilings with studs at 24″
  • The size of the drwall panels will be influenced by the lenght of the walls, placement of studs and how high the ceiling is in various areas.
    • for 8 feet ceilings regular 4×8 feet panels are a good choice
    • for 9 feet ceilings you might want to try to find 4.5 feet wide panels to minimize the joints
  • Plan to minimize the joints and the amount of finishing work. Most beginners don’t realize most time is spent in finishing the joints not in hanging the panels. Here are some ideas:
    • install panels horizontally and try to use the longest possible panels to cover the walls with fewest number of joints
    • install panels vertically for small walls less than 4 feet wide
    • avoid as much as possible butt joints (joints where the non-tapered ends of the panels meet) because butt joints are harder to finish because you will have to create a bump when you add the tape and the compound.
    • plan to stagger but joints so they don’t run from floor to ceiling

Calculate the amount of materials your drywall project requires

  • Calculate the number of drywall panels you need for each area of your project. After considering all the details you might need more than one type or one size of drywall. For each area decide on the type and calculate the number of drywall panels sing the sketch
    • you can make a very precise calculation and come up with the exact number of srywall sheets of each type
    • you can make a rough calculation based on the area you want to cover divided by the surface of a panel
    • in both cases you should order a few extra drywall sheets (5-10%) for inefficienties and mistakes
    • don’t forget to check if you can bring the panels inside the house through the existing doors or windows
  • Calculate the number of drywall screws or drywall nails
    • the size of the screws or nails depends on how thick the drywall sheet is; for normal 1/2″ drywall use 1 1/4″ screws or nails
    • for the number of screws or nails per panel consult the recomendations from the manufacturer; usually you will need 32-40 screws or nails for a normal 4×8 feet panel (1/2 pound of nails for 3 panels)
  • Calculate the lenght of paper tape or fiberglass tape you will need to finish the joints
  • Calculate the amount of compound you will need to finish the joints; usually 12-14 pounds per 100 square feet of drywall
  • Calculate the lenght of corner bead you will need; keep in mind you need special flat head nails to install corner bead

Prepare the walls and ceiling for installation

  • Fix problems in the walls before hanging drywall
    • correct any dampnes problem in the walls or ceiling (due to poor ventilation or faulty plumbing)
    • fill any cracks in the concrete walls
  • Add insulation and vapor barrier
    • insulate exterior walls following the buildind code in your area
    • on outside walls use vapor barrier or use foil backed drywall
    • in cold climates vapor barrier is installed between insulation and drywall
    • in warm climates the vapor barrier is installed between sheathing and insulation
  • Make sure everything you want in the walls is installed before hanging drywall
    • do any soundproofing work before you add drywall.
    • install all boxes for electrical outlets, light switches and light fixtures; electrical boxes should extend 1/4″ from the stud
    • run all the wires for cable television, telephone and in-house communications and networking and secure them in place protected from nails and screws
    • make all the desired changes and additions to the plumbing system
    • check the duct work and make sure they are in place along with the fresh air returns
    • consider adding metal protection plates where wires and pipes go through the studs
  • Check and fix the alignment of the wall studs
    • inspect all of the framing carefully to be sure it is striaght creates smooth walls
    • make sure that nailers or double studs (2x4s) are installed at each corner and header
    • correct small variations with shims stappled to the studs
    • make sure all studs are spaced at 16″ on center; add studs where you need them
    • remove warped and twisted studs and replace with good straight lumber
    • remove obstructions on the studs like framing nail heads or wood knots
  • Install ceiling strapping
    • apply ceiling strapping every 16″ on center perpendicular to the joists
  • Mark the location of all wall studs on the ceiling and the floor for vertical nailing reference
  • Consult the local building codes and bylaws and make sure the building inspector has approved
    • framing
    • plumbing
    • electrical
    • insulation

Proceed to drywall hanging

  • Install the boards on the ceiling first
  • Install the boards on the walls after the ceiling is finished
  • Try to install the panels horizontally on the walls starting with the top row

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