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Walls: Hanging Drywall

While many are apprehensive about the prospect of hanging drywall, it is a task that can be accomplished by the average handy-person. I wouldn’t recommend tackling finishing a basement; but for those who might want to finish a closet or small storage room in a basement or bonus area, it’s probably not as difficult as you imagine.

The key is to plan how you will hang the space you need to cover and to determine how many pieces and of which size you will need—drywall normally comes in 4 x 8, 9, 10, 12, or 14. While there are other odd sizes, those are the sizes most available to homeowners. If you’re hanging more than a couple of pieces, especially if they are larger than 4 x 8, I’d suggest recruiting some help.

Also, if the area where you plan to hang the drywall is subject to moisture, you might consider the new “paperless” variety. It’s much less prone to mildew problems since it has no paper on which mildew likes to grow.

For your project you’ll need a sharp utility knife, pencil, 4’ or longer straight edge, hammer, drywall nails or 1-5/8” drywall screws (or both), and a cordless drill or screw gun. If you also plan to finish the drywall, you’ll need enough mud and tape for the quantity of drywall you plan to hang, and a 3” and either a 10“or 12” taping knife. Other helpful, but not essential tools are: chalk line, drywall or “key-hole” saw, and a drywall mud pan.

If you are hanging both walls and ceiling, hang the ceiling first. Unless you’re experienced, you’ll need some help holding it in place while you secure it. If no help is available, you can construct a support “T” of 2x 4 or whatever scrap material you may have that is strong enough, allowing one end of the drywall to rest on the T while you attach the other. In a small room you could also attach a 2 x 4 about an inch below the ceiling and one foot off the opposing wall, slide the drywall on top, and begin securing the other end.

Once you are ready to hang the walls, you must choose whether to hang it horizontally or vertically. The choice is up to you. Professional hangers install horizontally, for fewer joints, in almost all applications, but for small jobs, just go with your preference.

Screws will hold the material better and are less likely to cause the small dimples that sometimes occur when nails back out, but if you’re only hanging a piece or two it doesn’t matter. If I were doing a room I’d use screws. Be careful not to sink either the nails or screws too deep; you don’t want to break the surface of the paper, only to set the screw or nail just below the surface to allow for the application of drywall mud. On the perimeter of an 8’ piece, I’d place a fastener about every 12,” and in the center, about every 24.”

If you have to cut out for switches, light boxes, or receptacles, you’ll have to do a good job of measuring to determine where to cut (this is where a drywall saw comes in handy, but you can do it with the utility knife). If it’s possible to access the back of the drywall while holding it in place, you can mark the location of cutouts with a pencil; otherwise you must measure. Some have recommended tapping the drywall against such boxes to create a mark of where to cut, but you usually have to bang on it so hard you wind up damaging the surface.

For finishing recommendations, see the section, Repairing Holes in Drywall.


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