Hanging Drywall

Be prepared for strenuous labor when it comes time to hang drywall. The sheets are heavy, you’ll be working in awkward positions, and you’ll have to hold the sheets in place while you drive in nails or screws. It’s tempting to rush the job, but you’ll kick yourself later if you do sloppy work. Wide gaps between drywall sheets take a long time to tape, and nobody wants nails popping out later. Here’s how to do the job correctly the first time.

Nail or screw according to code. Local building codes specify how many nails or screws you should use to hang drywall and in what sort of pattern. Codes vary not only from region to region, but from room to room; for example, more fasteners may be required in bathrooms. Check with your building department. Many professionals don’t nail in pairs, but there is good reason to do so: If one nail pops through the paper, the other will hold. For ceiling panels, the general practice is to pair nails at 12-inch intervals around the perimeter and 12 inches along each joist. Requirements are less stringent for walls. If you don’t use adhesive, install two nails into the wall studs at 16-inch intervals and a single nail every 7 inches along edges. When using adhesive, install two nails at 24-inch intervals and one nail at 7 inches along the edge. Keep adhesive 6 inches away from top and bottom of sheet.

Set nailheads correctly. If you simply drive in a nail flush, you will not be able to cover over it with joint compound. If you drive the nail too deeply, you will break the paper on the drywall. When the paper is broken, the nail won’t hold; it tears right through the gypsum inner core. Try to drive the nail so the nailhead is set into a slightly dimpled surface. No portion of the nailhead should protrude above the surface of the drywall. To test if your nails are driven deeply enough, run a taping blade along the surface of the wall. You should not feel any nailheads click against the blade as you pull it across. Pull out any nails that miss a joist or stud. Swat the hole with your hammer to dimple it.

Attach drywall with screws. If you are using screws, the same principles apply as with nailing: The screw head must be set below the surface, but it must not break the paper. This is difficult to do with a simple screwdriver bit. Use a dimpler bit or a drywall screwdriver. Always drive in screws perpendicular to the sheet or their heads will tear the paper.

Install the ceiling sheets. Hang drywall on the ceiling before installing the wall sheets. Start in a corner and against one side of the room and work out from there, keeping the panels perpendicular to the joists. Take time before you start to locate joists and mark their locations on the sheet and the wall. Searching for joists while holding the sheet up with your head is no fun. The quickest, but most difficult, way to install drywall on a ceiling is to set the panel in place and support it with your head, leaving your hands free to hold and drive nails or screws. Wearing a baseball cap greatly minimizes pulled hair and a sore head. To make things easier, construct one or two 2x2 T-braces to use as props. Or, rent a drywall hoist. Either solution will make the process easier and result in a much neater job.

Drywall Hammer - There are hammers made especially for drywall installation. They are light, for easy handling; they have wide heads so it’s easier to make a dimple without damaging the paper; and their heads are tilted a bit for access into corners. You may not use one very often, but it will make hanging and, subsequently, taping easier.

Drywall Screwdriver or Dimpler Bit - A drywall screwdriver has an adjustable bit that, once set correctly, will drive the bit to the correct depth, then stop. A less expensive, and just as good, option is a dimpler bit that you can attach to a drill.

Install the wall sheets. Once the ceiling panels are up, hang sheets on the walls. If you are installing sheets horizontally, begin with the upper sheets, butting them firmly against the ceiling drywall. Make sure all vertical seams hit studs. Butt the lower panels firmly against the upper panels, tapered edge to tapered edge. Raise up sheets tightly with a wedge or lever. If you are installing sheets vertically, check the tapered edges to make sure they fall midway across a stud. If they don’t, either cut the drywall or attach pieces of lumber to the stud to give yourself a nailing surface for the next piece. Overlap pieces at corners, as shown above. Finish the job by adding the filler pieces, measuring and cutting each piece to size. Make sure each piece has at least two nailing members to support it.

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