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Hangin' Drywall For Beginners
Mon 10/15/07 11:11:53 am
by James Gzemski

If you have ever taken the time to watch a skilled tradesman hang drywall, you marvel at how fast and easy it seems to be for them. I have seen friends in the trade use nothing more than a tape measure and a utility knife to make all the necessary cuts and cut-outs. For the average homeowner who may want to save a few bucks on a home construction project by doing it himself or with a helper, hanging drywall can be very intimidating, especially if you have never done it before.

There is real physical labor involved here, especially if you are by yourself. I just remodeled my own bathroom recently which wasn't bad since it was only 8 feet x 8 feet. What about a larger room such as a new family room in the basement? I have good news for you. It can be done by yourself or with a helper with a little patience and instruction. The goal of this article is to help those who may be just starting out or who are a novice. It will cover the basics of drywalling.

The experienced veterans and tradesman have their own way of doing things and have developed their own techniques, shortcuts and trade secrets. If you are just starting out, I would suggest buying an extra sheet or two of drywall when estimating your job. You will make mistakes and there is no better teacher than experience. If you have a friend who is skilled at drywall, I suggest you by him a case of his favorite beer and have him come over and give you some pointers as you work.

Lets start out by looking at what tools and supplies you will need to complete your job. First thing on the list is the drywall. we need to understand that with drywalling, there is a certain amount of waist involved. We always want to use the largest pieces possible to create the least amount of seams. The less seams there are to tape and spackle the better off you will be and the smoother your walls will look. For instance, if I am building a 10 feet x 10 foott room in my basement, if at all possible I want to purchase 12 foot drywall boards. Sure you lose two feet to waist but imagine how many more seams there would be if you used 8 foot boards.

Next we need a good cordless drill/driver along with at least 2 or 3 batteries. I also like to have two chargers so I always have one battery charging and one battery at full charge. My personal preference is an 18 volt cordless drill. Some people prefer 14.4 volt for this project. I have found that a good 18 volt variable speed cordless drill can take care of just about any job around the house, big or small. You can find anything you need in regards to a cordless drill at

A good supply of magnetic screw gun bits are needed also. With 1/2 inch sheetrock, I like to use 1 1/2 or 1 5/8 sheetrock screws. I also like to glue my boards to the studs, especially the ceiling so a couple of tubes of adhesive such as Liquid Nails and a caulking gun is needed. For the beginner, invest in a 4 foot sheetrock square. This tool will prove invaluable in making your cut-outs for electrical boxes, exhaust fans, etc. Other items that you will need are a tape measure, a utility knife, some carpenter's pencils, a hand held drywall saw, a ladder that will be long enough to get you to the ceiling and if you can get one, rent one, or borrow one: a sheetrock lift or jack. This tool is not necessary but will make your job so much easier when doing ceilings. It is especially useful and almost essential if you are alone and have a high ceiling.

The last thing that you need to make you job easier is a good set of saw horses to lay you drywall boards on when measuring and making cuts. Lets assume that your room is studded and all the rough electrical, plumbling and duct work is in place. Your room is ready for drywall. When installing drywall, always start with the ceiling first. This allows the drywall used for your walls to butt up against the perimeter of the ceiling drywall to help support it. Make sure that the perimeter of your ceiling area has enough stud showing to secure drywall all around. If not, you need to install what are called "nailers" around the ceiling perimeter to allow the edges of your ceiling drywall to be secured with drywall screws. A nailer is a board that allows you to attach the drywall board edges when a stud or choice is not present.

When doing the ceiling, we need to go perpendicular to the ceiling joists and make sure the ends of the drywall around the ceiling perimeter always land on a ceiling joist or nailer. Also we need to stagger our ceiling joints as much as possible. If you have a 14 foot x 14 foot ceiling and are using 12 foot drywall boards, you are going to need one 12 foot board and a 2 foot piece to cover the 14 foot span. A drywall board is 4 foot wide so when you install the next 14 foot span of drywall, install the 2 foot board first and then the 12 foot board so that the 2 foot boards are on the opposite end from each other. Always make sure that the end of a drywall board that is going to be continued ends in the middle of a joist, stud or nailer.

Now measure the diameter of the recessed light. The diameter is length across the light. Divide the diameter by 2 and use this measurement to draw a circle equal distance from your centerpoint. Use your drywall saw to caught out the circle on the drywall board so when you install the board the cut-out will line up with the recessed light. On both length-wise sides of the drywall board, you will see a slight bevel. Make sure you butt your next drywall boards bevel to bevel whenever possible. Now that you have the cut-outs for your drywall board in place, it is time to hang the drywall board. Use your caulking gun to line all the ceiling joists with adhesive where the board will be plalced. If you have a drywall lift, place the board on it and lift it into place.The lift will hold it there so you can start securing it with drywall screws. If you don't have a lift, I recommend having a helper to do the ceiling.

A nifty little device that you can make is a "T" out of 2x4s. Make the top part of the "T" about 4 feet long, the width of the drywall board. The length should long enough for someone to stand the "T" upright from the floor to the drywall board at the ceiling You can make two or three "T''s" to help support the drywall board while you start fastening it with drywall screws.

Fasten the board on all ceiling joists with drywall screws using your cordless drill. Make sure you fasten the drywall board around the perimeter of the ceiling either to the ceiling joists or nailers that you installed. I usually install my drywall screws about 6 inches apart on the length of the joist. Repeat this process until you have the whole ceiling done.

Before we start the walls, let's talk about cutting a piece of drywall to length. Suppose that you need to cut your 8 foot drywall to 7 feet. Mark the front of the board at 7 feet.Use your drywall square to draw a straight line.Now take your utility knife and score the line that was drawn. I like to get about halfway through the board with my score. Next bend the board away from the score. This will leave the paper on the back of the drywall board to cut through. Go to the back of the board and cut through the paper. Your cut is complete.

When hanging the walls, you want to start at the ceiling and work your way down. You also want to hang the drywall horizontally. This will give you a beveled edge that butts up against the ceiling and the next piece of drywall that is placed under it. Remember to use the longest piece that you can to create the least amount of seams. Also make sure that you butt the drywall as tight as you can to the drywall on the ceiling.

Use your caulking gun to place some adhesive on the studs. This is not necessary but it helps hold the board in place. If your board is not long enough to cover the enitre length of the wall, make sure the end of the drywall board on the continuation side ends in the middle of a stud. Secure the ends of the board while your helper holds it in place. Once the board is secure and won't move, insert drywall screws about six inches apart over all the studs that are covered.

Cut-outs for electrical boxes are done similiar to the ceiling. For example, lets take a 2 inch receptacle box. We need to measure the height of the box (top and bottom)from the floor and the width (both sides) from the corner where the board will start. Mark the measurements on the drywall board. Use your drywall square to draw straight lines until they intersect and make the outline of the box. Use your drywall saw and cut out the box so when you hang the board it will line up with the receptacle box.

Repeat this process untill all the walls are covered. You ae now ready for spackle and tape but that's another lesson and this is about cordless drill projects. I hope that this article gives you some insight and helpful hints to help you hang drywall and effectively make use of your cordless drill.

About the Author

James Gzemski has been involved in industrial maintenance for the past 20 years. His insight and knowledge has been an asset to companies that strive to stay on the cutting edge of power and hand tool technology. His hobbies include Harley-Davidson motorcycles, home improvement & the outdoors. He currently operates a hand & power tool information website called as well as two ecommerce websites: www.justcordlessdrills


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