Design & DIY

5 tips for acing your DIY drywall job

Handyman smoothing drywall before painting when renovation the house. Photo by Lighthunter/Shutterstock

So, the memory of your last DIY drywall job has finally faded, and you’re ready to try again? Hanging boards and mudding joints really isn’t rocket science, but without practice, it can turn into a frustrating, messy nightmare. Here are a few smart tips that should spare your back and your sanity.

Use mesh joint tape, not paper
Pros use paper tape and special devices to soak it in compound before they apply it, but it’s much more finicky if you’re just using a knife. Self-stick mesh tape goes on quickly, makes for strong, crack-resistant joints, and won’t leave unsightly air bubbles underneath. Invest about $30 in a meshtape applicator gun if you’ve got some mileage to cover.

Get a corner trowel
It’s certainly possible to do inside corners with a regular 10″ or 12″ knife and some sanding, but why bother? With a couple of passes of a steel corner trowel (less than $15) over a good coat of mud on inside corners, you’ll leave a beautiful, near-finished joint behind. The trick is to start at the extremities of the joint and pull toward the middle in a long, smooth stroke.

Use a drywall lift
Although you can lift drywall with T-braces and beer-and-pizza bribery, it’s a law of DIY that you’ll run out of screws just as you and your buddy are jamming a 12′ sheet against the ceiling with your heads. A drywall lift lets you hang boards on a ceiling more quickly, safely, and accurately—and you can work alone. Rent one for about $100 for a weekend, or buy it for as little as $200—if you’ve got a big job or you like to take your time.

Load your knife correctly
When working at an outside corner, the mud should be thicker at the corner, tapering to nothing 8″ to 12″ out. But if you load your knife evenly, a lot of mud is going to squeeze out along the wall. Leave that mud in the pan: Pull a uniform bead out of your mud pan, but then scrape away a third of it on the pan’s edge. Remember to remove the mud from the side of the blade that will be away from the corner.

Use a plumb bob to mark ceiling fixtures on the floor
Then hang the drywall on the ceiling—right over any pot lights or electrical outlets. Be sure to tuck any wiring well up out of the way before you hang the boards. To find the centre of each fixture location, just hold the line of your plumb bob against the new ceiling over each floor mark (see previous page), and have a partner let you know when you’ve hit the bull’s eye. If you’re going over installed cans or boxes, you’ll need a drywall cut-out tool to remove the drywall at each location. If you’re installing retrofit pot lights after the ceiling goes in, use a hole saw of the proper size for your lights.

Featured Video